Flatlander Faith

Apologetics from an Anabaptist perspective

Tag Archives: atheism

Refuge

Yesterday morning, one of our ministers preached on the subject of refuge. Before the children of Israel entered the promised land, God gave them detailed instructions for establishing cities of refuge. They were to be located throughout the land in such a manner that no one would be more than a half day’s journey from a city of refuge.

The purpose was that if anyone caused the death of someone else accidentally and unintentionally, he could flee from the avenger and find safety. It was part of the law that a family member of the person killed could and should avenge the death of the one slain. Eye for eye, tooth for tooth and death for death, that was the Old Testament law; I’m sure it exercised a powerful dissuasion on most people. But in a case where the death was not intentional, it would have been contrary to justice to avenge that death upon a person who was in reality innocent.

Despite his innocence, the one who had caused the death of another was only safe within the confines of the city of refuge. If he ever strayed beyond those bounds, he was fair game for the avenger. The person who caused the death of another could not return to his home until the high priest died.

The protection of the cities of refuge was not only for the children of Israel. Numbers 35:15 says: “These six cities shall be a refuge, both for the children of Israel, and for the stranger, and for the sojourner among them: that every one that killeth any person unawares may flee thither.”

There was even a measure of mercy in the law about the avenger of blood. In other societies of that era, the death of a member of a clan might very well lead to all out clan warfare and the deaths of many more. The law of Israel limited the vengeance to the one who had killed. Once that was done, justice had been accomplished and there would be no ongoing feud between clans. The city of refuge went beyond that and was a wonderful example of hope and mercy in a time of harsh and immediate justice.

Whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we . . . might have hope (Romans 15:4). All these things happened unto them for ensamples: and they are written for our admonition (1 Corinthians 10:11 ).

What then are we to draw from this example for our benefit today? The New Testament tells us that we are all guilty and worthy of the most severe judgement. “As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one” (Romans 3:10 ). “For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). Therefore we are all guilty, is there yet a place of refuge for us in our day?

Hebrews chapter six reveals that the mercy of God has now provided a refuge for the guilty. “That by two immutable things, in which it was impossible for God to lie, we might have a strong consolation, who have fled for refuge to lay hold upon the hope set before us” (Hebrews 6:18). Reading further in the chapter, we see that Jesus Christ is that refuge and that he is called a high priest forever after the order of Melchisedec. That is, He has once died to set us free, now He lives forever to be a permanent refuge for all the sinners who will flee to Him.

Saturday I had a conversation with a brother that I believe ties into the theme of refuge. He was talking about people who had lived in iron curtain countries. They recounted how their children had to go to the public schools where they were subjected to atheist propaganda day after day. Therefore the parents, day after day after their children came home from school, taught diligently from the Bible the Christian way. All of their children chose the Christian way, rather than the way of atheism.

Then they came to America, where there was no more persecution. And the children raised in America chose the way of the world. There is a lesson there for all of us. Our supposedly free nations are not a refuge for us from the attacks of our spiritual enemy. It is not time for parents to relax their teaching program and assume all will be well. We need the same single-minded fervency as those parents had when living under Communist rule. This vile world, however friendly it may seem, is not a friend to grace, nor a refuge from Satan.

The Rage Against God

The rage against God, how atheism led me to faith, © 2010 by Pe ter Hitchens is a personal memoir of the writer’s rejection of God in his youth and his return to faith years later. He tells how the rejection of God in British society has led to moral decay and gives a rebuttal of some of his brother Christopher’s diatribes against God and Christianity.

Since the Church of England is the official state church and was closely tied to the political and military establishments, the faults and failures, real and perceived, of these establishments also brought the church into disrepute. The church’s attempts to become more relevant have only accelerated the decline. Having grown up in the Anglican Church of Canada myself, I  readily identified with his description of the strengths and weaknesses of Anglicanism.

Here is a quote from the introduction to whet your appetite:

“The difficulty of the anti-theists begin when they try to engage with anyone who does not agree with them, when their reaction is oftem a frustrated rage that the rest of us are so stupid. But what if that is not the problem? Their refusal to accept that others might be as intelligent as they, yet disagree, leads them into many snares.

“I tend to sympathize with them. I too have been angry with opponents who required me to re-examine opinions I had embraced more through passion than through reason. I too have felt the unsettling lurch beneath my feet as the solid ground of my belief has shifted. I do not know whether they have also experienced what often follows—namely, a long self-deceiving attempt to ignore truths that would unsettle a position in which I had long been comfortable; in some ways even worse, it was a position held by almost everyone I knew, liked, or respected—people who would be shocked and perhaps hostile, mocking, or contemptuous if I gave in to my own reason. But I suspect that they have experienced this form of doubt, and I suspect that the hot and stinging techniques of their argument, the occasional profanity and the persistent impatience and scorn are as useful to them as they once were to me in fending it off.

“And yet in the end, while it may have convinced others, my own use of such techniques did not convince me.”

 

Atheism

Rossetti makes the point somewhere, bitterly but with great truth, that the worst moment for the atheist is when he is really thankful and has nobody to thank.

G.K. Chesterton

Heaven and hell

Atheists consider the teaching in the Bible about a place called hell to be a conclusive argument against Christianity and its belief in a loving God.  As a Christian, I consider hell to be part of the good news.  I don’t any vindictive feelings against other people, but if heaven is to be a good place, there must also be a place for all the bad things in this world.

And the world is full of bad things: hatred; envy; jealousy; greed; lust; terror; anger; bitterness; and the pain. suffering, sorrow and grief that they cause.  We understand from the Bible that these things have their origin in Satan, who rebelled against God and was cast out of heaven, along with the host of angels who followed him.  It was for them that the everlasting fire of hell was prepared.

The hatred of Satan and his demon angels for God and all that is good drives them to attempt to destroy all the works of God.  But they do not present themselves to us as enemies, but rather as our most reasonable friends.  “And no marvel; for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light.  Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also be transformed as the ministers of righteousness; whose end shall be according to their works” (2 Corinthians 11:14-15).

Atheists have no explanation for the existence of evil.  Nor do they have any explanation for good.  Since man is purely an accident of natural forces, there can be no objective moral basis for right and wrong.  All is rationalized as man’s instinct for self-preservation.  Thus it would be perfectly natural for me to try to preserve myself at the expense of someone else.  Societies therefore must make laws to create order and protect the weak, but their is no objective moral foundation for those laws.

Thus our world becomes more and more chaotic, with numberless special interest groups shrieking out their demands for recognition of their rights and for protection from everyone else.  The Bible’s claim that all this is happening because the devil knows that his days are numbered and has sent out his spirits to deceive the whole world begins to seem the best explanation for what is happening.

Hope is offered to us in a most paradoxical way.  God sent His Son into this world who went about doing good, and healing all that were oppressed of the devil; therefore Satan stirred up so much hatred against Him that He was nailed to a cross and left to die.  Yet it was precisely by His death on the cross that Jesus won the victory over Satan and his powers.

“Blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross;  And having spoiled principalities and powers, he made a shew of them openly, triumphing over them in it” (Colossians 2:14-15).

This is the source of the hope of heaven for a Christian who has repented of his allegiance to the forces of evil and turned with all his heart to follow Christ.  However, in order for heaven to be a place that is holy and pure, free from all the toxic effects of Satan’s realm, there must also be another place for all these spirits that have had such a toxic effect on mankind.  Unfortunately, this means that in order to maintain the purity of heaven, all people who have willingly contaminated themselves by their allegiance to these toxic forces must also be sent to hell.

This is not vindictiveness on God’s part.  He has made a way for all mankind to avoid such a doom, He is calling all men, everywhere and not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.  The most horrible part of the eternal torment of hell will be the knowledge that one is there by his own choice.  The memory of the time, or times, that the way of escape was offered in this life will be forever engraved upon the memory of the damned.

Yet this terrible reality is not the reason that most people turn to God for salvation.  It is not the fear of hell, but the longing for something better than this world has to offer that leads us to search for answers to the troubles of this life.  And the only answer that makes any sense is that we are made in the likeness of God and there is something within us that continually searches to be reunited with our Creator.  To attempt to deny this leads to alienation from anything that would give life meaning and purpose.

 

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