Can you really blame religious skeptics, here in the West, for their doubts? Don’t Christians have to wear some of the blame? Have we really been doing a great job of that whole “ambassadors of Christ” thing? They don’t think God is great (no surprise) — but do we? Truly?
Militant Islam deserves most of the criticism heaped on it. Even so, one thing is certain. Right or wrong, they believe their god really is “Great”. Isn’t that the last phrase on their zealots’ lips: “allahu akbar”? They are saying their god isn’t merely great, but “greater”. Greater than other religions and greater than no religion at all.
You see the same thing with militant atheism — mouthpieces explicitly denouncing the goodness of God. They sell books, set up billboards, create campus groups, troll the internet, loudly proclaiming what it is they (don’t) believe.
Are the “New Atheists” timid, and afraid to offend? Do they try to duck behind subjectivism and relative truth claims (ok, sometimes they might do that last one), but they are convinced their position is true.
They’re not bothered that it’s logically impossible to prove a universal negative. Or that they “might” be wrong. For them, being personally convinced they are right is enough. As with Islam, this confidence of their “rightness” leads to boldness. (This can also lead to less desirable things, but that’s a separate matter.)
What about Christians? If we claim to be Christians, we are declaring the truth of certain things. We are declaring the divinity of Jesus Christ, and that He is True and Good.
Being Christian is not about adopting the moral philosophy of one god among many. It is a declaration that God is, and that he alone is God. You can come to him as friend or foe, but there are no other options. With that as a starting point, other non-negotiable truths follow naturally.
But do skeptics believe it? No — why would they?
Scripture tells us that on account of (believers) the name of God is blasphemed among the gentiles. (In today’s context, you could say blasphemed among non-believers.)
If God’s own children don’t live as though he is great, should anyone else think he is? If your friend was a chef, but refused to eat food from his restaurant, would you trust it?
Isn’t that what’s happening today?
If you accidentally turned on “christian” television, you’d find hucksters promising that Christ will grant you a more comfortable life. Your health will improve, you’ll have more money, a better job, happier marriage, kids that listen — the whole shebang.
Is that why Christ came?
Did he come to feed your ego, and sense of entitlement? Did he bleed and die so you could watch the game on a 110” flat-screen, with a house full of Precious Moments figurines? No!
Bottom line: some of you don’t believe God is Great because you only want him to be your cosmic butler. Being Christ’s disciple isn’t about me-monkeys chasing blessings.
There’s another way to take Him for granted, in Jesus’ day they were Sadducees. Today, they’re liberal theologians.
These are the “reasonable” men and women who don’t actually believe their faith. They might reduce Christ to the level of Buddha, or the Dali Lama, or Oprah. Has some good things to say, you know, but you can’t take these things too seriously.
Like miracles, for instance. You can’t say the man Jesus was actually God, can you? They have … issues … with statements that claim exclusive truth. Because that calls all counter-claims wrong, and even rebellion against the truth. How obscene! Often they don’t even believe in sin. Or that Christ went to the cross as a propitiation for our sins. Or even that a righteous God can have any problem with our sin. Don’t even mention Hell or the afterlife. No, the Bible, to them is just a useful book telling us all how to get along while we live here on terra firma. Or so they might think.
Really, that’s more pathetic than the atheists. Atheists and these guys both believe the same thing, but at least atheists have the courage of their convictions to turn their backs on God. The other guys want his institutions, but not Him.
Don’t look to either of these groups for encouragement, they have none to offer.
Instead, hear what real men said about this God:
…waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Saviour Jesus Christ — Apostle Paul
For the Lord your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great, the mighty, and the awesome God — Moses
Therefore you are great, O Lord God. For there is none like you, and there is no God besides you — David
How great are his signs,
how mighty his wonders!
His kingdom is an everlasting kingdom,
and his dominion endures from generation to generation.
— King Nebuchadnezzar
The common denominator: these great men were convinced of the greatness of God. And being convinced of that changed who they were as people — as it must.
If you are suffering from a diminished view of God, go back to the source. Spend time with Him, marvel at his greatness.
Then, like Daniel, we’ll be able to say “the people who know their God will stand firm, and take action.” (Daniel 11:32) And that’s way better than whatever it is we’ve been doing lately.
Image: Courtesy of: http://www.flickr.com/photos/fmsc/7971828404/