The problem with Atheism

I have an old acquaintance I occasionally interact with on Facebook. We went to secondary school together, but since I left home over 20 years ago we’ve not had the chance to meet in person.

One of the things we discuss, usually amicably, is God. I believe, he doesn’t.

This is not a new debate for me, and probably not for him either as we are both in our 40’s now – I’m not sure how that happened – and have built lives. I have travelled, and indeed settled on another continent, in another hemisphere, whilst he has remained local to where we grew up.

I have no problem with moving or staying put. Both my parents moved away from their home towns, their parents stayed fairly local to theirs. Both are valid life choices.

What I am troubled by is my friend’s inability to conceive that God exists. Our debates, for the sake of our friendship, generally end at a stalemate where each of us agrees to terminate the discussion for the sake of the friendship.

The problem is the ultimate meaning of that stalemate. If I am wrong and I choose to live as if God exists despite that, I lose nothing ultimately. If he is wrong, he loses everything.

No argument seems to hold sway, and not just with my friend, but with all the professing atheists I’ve talked to at length. I see the order in the Universe and ask how it could have come to be by chance. I look at the most intricate patterns in nature, the symmetry in a fractal pattern and finally at life itself. Science can do many things, but it cannot do just one simple thing. A chemist can mix together the exact proportions to mimic the size, smell, taste and appearance of a grain of wheat, yet when planted in the ground it produces nothing. There is no life in it.

Atheism, literally the absence of God, is without life, since God is the source of Life. Everything that exists is held together by that life given by Him. Yet atheists claim He doesn’t exist.

My friend denies the existence of Christ as a man but accept the existence of Julius Caesar – despite there being many times the number of primary source documents other than the Bible showing Jesus existed than that of Caesar. People doubt miracles, yet there are many hundred of documented occurrences through the centuries that science cannot explain where the Name of Jesus was called on. These are dismissed by atheists as they cannot explain them.

Christians are referred to as hypocrites, while their accusers celebrate Christmas and Easter – surely a greater hypocrisy than someone acknowledging they have weaknesses in (in my own case) a short temper? I cannot fathom the notion of using someone else’s beliefs to gain selfish unearned prizes in the form of gifts I neither need nor desire. I would rather wait and buy them myself – something my wife gets very frustrated by I might add.

Atheists are worse hypocrites than Christians. I never once met a Christian who wanted to take a day off work because it was Lenin’s birthday or to celebrate the publishing of Darwin’s “Origin of Species”.  It seems ridiculous that the year numbering system had been forcibly changed from BC (Before Christ) and AD (Anno Domini -The Year of our Lord) to BCE (Before Common Era) and CE (Common Era) without resetting the numbers to zero. I was studying for my degree and actually had to ask my lecturer what BCE and CE meant as it made no sense to me.

Atheism falls short and poses more questions than it can ever hope to answer because it can only pose questions. No answers are possible without God for many of the questions it poses. Why do people get sick? In theory, the human body produces cells identical to the ones that die off, so explain aging and death. Why give a super-computer the power of the human mind to something that can never hope to live long enough to use it all?

Until Creation, the Fall and God are factored into the equation, the answers will always elude us. Our minds were designed to never die. Aging and death are a result of Sin. If we are designed to live for ever, we need a computer like the brain that can grow and develop new pathways spontaneously to cope with the ever increasing data pumped into it.

Atheists tend to be, in my experience, a fairly morose lot. They have no vision beyond their own mortality and live very small lives. Most (not all I acknowledge) seem to be self-centred in their approach, wanting to leave behind something the world will look at and remember them. But who remembers the atheists of 2000 years ago? 1000 years? Last year? Few if any. Richard Dawkins will fade from memory but Jesus will go on as He has for 2000 years. John’s Gospel will still be read 500 years from now when the “Naked Ape” books have long been forgotten.

Eventually, Truth will win out, as it always will. Even Jesus had to deal with doubters in the form of the Sadducees, whose teachings are largely forgotten. The human Spirit requires Hope to function, and Christ to fuel it. CS Lewis suggested that Human History is the story of man tring to find something besides God to make himself happy. That’s not a direct quote, but a summary of parts from Mere Christianity, which I suggest anyone read as Lewis was far wiser than I.

A “rational” argument for faith could probably be made. Tony Campolo tried in his book “A Reasonable Faith”, and others have done the same, but ultimately Truth is not something that can be found through intellectual means, rather it is found in the heart.

Somewhere, a little Faith is required to recognise Truth when it shakes your hand. Take that away and Hope leaves with it.

And all you have left is an absence of God.

Time to go

Most of the posts I put on this site are intentionally oriented around teaching and building from Scripture. This one will be a little different as it forms part of my personal testimony:

My dad was a good friend to me as well as being my dad. He would call me “Mate” when I was growing up, which he didn’t do with my brother. It made me feel very loved and special in his eyes. As a teenager, we would go and play tennis together during the summer, walk in the Westcountry hills round Child Okeford and Shillingstone in Dorset where his parents lived, and do a lot of things friends do rather than parent/child relationship.

Even after I left home, this continued. We took a couple of holidays together, my favourite being a trip to Italy where we visited Pompeii and Herculaneum as we were both fascinated by ancient history.

Why is this relevant here?

In early 1999, he began to get headaches a lot. By March he was using massive doses of pain pills to control them unknown to me or my mum. In late May he collapsed and we rushed him to hospital where we heard he had a tumour in his brain. His life expectancy would be months, not years.

He died in August 1999 in Torbay Hospital with me holding his hand as he went to be with his Lord. Despite the pain he’d been in it was a peaceful passing at the end, and whilst I believe he could have been healed if I’d known then what I’ve learned since, I don’t doubt his destination.

By the end of the year, I was a mess. 1999 can be summed up for me by how I spent my birthday – at a dear friend’s funeral. I started the year with a fiancee, a decent job, my health and 2 parents.By the end of March I’d lost the job and my fiancee had left me – looking back that wasn’t a bad thing, but at the time it stung. By September my dad had died and my health, at the age of 27, was failing. At the end of the year I suffered what in layman’s terms would be a total mental breakdown. I couldn’t function at all, I physically couldn’t speak, rarely smiled and thank God Tesco had started opening 24 hours so I could shop at 3am or I’d have starved because of agoraphobia.

I was told by a doctor I’d never be fit to work again by the end of that year and signed off on permanent health grounds.

From that point I dipped even lower until, almost inevitably, I become suicidal. In the early part of 2000 I made 4 serious attempts at ending my own life. I was told at the time that each should have been successful. I took overdoses of various medications I was using. On the fourth try, I felt death come for me. It wasn’t like in Ghost. It wasn’t warm and friendly. I felt fear like I’ve never known before or since for myself. This was not what I’d seen my dad going to. There was no tunnel, no light, none of the cliched things you expect, just darkness, cold and fear. Then there was a sense of a greater power beating the darkness back. Death lost it’s grip, and I woke up in my bed knowing I’d just been saved from something far worse than the depression I’d had up to that point. I didn’t see Jesus as much as I was aware He had stepped in to save me from myself, but I learned something I’ve only recently been able to find the words to express.

From my experience, I realised suicide is not a release from, but a dive in to pain. It is selfish and cruel, and it says to God that what Jesus did on the Cross wasn’t enough. In short, I believe it blasphemes the Holy Spirit by placing a higer value on  a person’s actions than Christ’s.

I decided then it was never going to be an option again. There have been times when I’ve wished God would take me, but I know I’ll never take that step again, no matter what.

I know this message is meant for someone out there. Whoever it is, remember you’re not alone. There are many people who have been through depression and illness and come out of it the other side. I’m terrified for those who didn’t make it through.

Don’t be one of them. When it’s time, let it come naturally. Don’t force God’s hand. Reach out to His children around you. Let them, let us help you. Don’t give up. There’s help closer than you think. Call it.

Changes…

Change is the only real constant in this world. Cliched, but true.

After the Resurrection change was pretty much a constant for the disciples. They went out from Jerusalem into the Roman Empire and beyond.

But we try to keep everything the same. Change makes us uncomfortable in general. We’ve been taught to like certainty, predictability and sameness. Probably because God is – by the World’s standards – unpredictable and dangerous.

John Eldridge shows in “Wild at Heart” that Man was made for adventure, created in God’s image we are adventurous, impulsive and dangerous creatures. The Lion of Judah is no household pet, and the same should be able to be said of the cubs.

We need change to grow. A body of water with no change becomes stagnant. The only physical condition with no change is death. Why would we want to emulate that in life?

But we strive for predicatability. A paycheck on 25th of the month. Like the typical Hobbits in Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit, we keep things as they are, maintaining the status quo and waiting for death before we say “it’s so short” and realise what we missed. “All men die, Dougal. But not all truly Live” says William Wallace in Braveheart before routing the English troops.

The stories we love are filled with change, either metaphor or true. In the Lord of the Rings movies I was disappointed by the ending. The creators missed the point of Tolkein’s masterpiece by having the young hobbits return to an unchanged Shire. In the books, the fact that they were now battle-hardened was critical as it allowed them to save the Shire.

We have to be aware of the danger of stagnation in our walk with God. He calls us to be tried and tested for battle – ready for the fight at any time the Enemy brings it to us. He’s already bought the Victory for us, but we still need to fight some battles. We can fight, and in that fight we may be wounded, but the Victory is assured. We only need to remember we fight from the victory, rather than towards it. If we become stationary we lose the certainty that comes with knowledge of Christ. Many denominations began with good intentions then as they grew they lost sight of their founding principles, stagnating and forgetting as their size increased that they were part of God’s Church, not all of it.

It’s no different for us as individuals. We are either growing and changing, or stagnating and dying. There are no half measures, and no space for it is made in Jesus’ teachings. The Gospels show Him encouraging all He came to to grow in their knowledge of God and His love for us.

Jesus Freaks

There’s a part of me that wants to shout it from the rooftops. I’m a Jesus Freak.

There’s a part of me that wants to then hide under the bed.

We have, as humans, an innate need for the relationship with God that we lost in Eden. We also have the same sense of shame Adam felt after the first sin.

Jesus took the punishment and bore the shame for us, but we still feel it. Especially when we admit our need for Him. Human nature since the Fall changed us from freely connected to God, walking with Him in the cool of the evening as friends to ashamed and hiding. We learn as we grow in our faith how to overcome that, and to take the stand for Christ.

But we always have the fight within us. Even Paul wrestled with his old nature. It was a battle he was prepared to fight for Jesus’s sake.

So I’m a Jesus Freak.

DC Talk joined with Voice of the Martyrs a few years ago and compiled a collection of testimonies of people who had been imprisoned, tortured, ridiculed and killed for their faith in Jesus, starting with Stephen’s stoning in Acts and moving to the murders of children and adults worldwide up to the early 21st Century. Every century since Jesus has seen hundreds of martyrs die for their faith. These Jesus Freaks took a stand despite their worldly nature and held fast to the confession of their faith.

I want that.

So I’ll say it again. I’m a Jesus Freak.

Now I’ve been criticised for taking a stand for my faith. In the Western society the toughest persecution we face is largely insidious, undermining us a little at a time until we simply stop fighting, like a paralytic agent. I get the occasional barbed comment on facebook from people I’ve not seen in 20 years who are proudly atheist – men with no invisible means of support – and from people who have become friends more recently but don’t share my beliefs. I made a reference in a quote to Islam a while ago and offended a few people. The summary is that I agreed with a writer – mis-represented as Bill Cosby – who had stated he was sick of being told Islam was a religion of peace while it’s representatives were busy undermining Western society by means of terrorism.

Christianity is not without it’s dark history, such as the Crusades (as sponsored by the Gengis Khan school of evangelism) in the Dark Ages, and it’s persecution of innocents for heresy through the 16th to 18th centuries. I’m not saying those actions were right either. The inquisition as it is remembered by History could not be further from true Christianity than the Islamic terrorists who took down the World Trade Centre are. Pure evil bred from fanaticism.

I doubt very much that the people who have rejected Jesus over the years will be amused when they stand in Judgement and realise how easily they were deceived and that they chose the deception rather than face the flames, sword, cross or critics.

I don’t want to be one of them.

I refuse to be.

Jesus Freaks stand out in a crowd. Usually because they are moving against the common flow. All rational argument is placed before them, and the response is “But God said”. It’s a tough place to be. The criticism even comes through families and churches. I left a church some years ago because the leadership rejected a major move of God in that congregation. They stirred up trouble for the minister to the point where he left and a large number of people left with him because we refused to stand by and reject God’s movement with them. The church slipped back into religiosity and practically died on it’s feet.

Jesus Freaks have Faith, not religion.

James said he would show his faith by his works. We should do no less. I want to be known as a man of Faith, not a religious man. My Grandfather was a man of Faith who coincidentally was a leader in his local Salvation Army. Ony a few days before he died he called me, excited to share what God was revealing to him after 64 years as a Christian. Fresh revelation and new insight to the Lord he loved and lived for. Neither of us knew it was a preparation for his Promotion to Glory, but he was excited at the thought of new insight. My dad, his son, was a man of Faith too. He quietly spoke and learned and demonstrated his Faith in his everyday life, sometimes initially through clenched teeth he would extend forgiveness to people who had been a thorn in his side professionally and personally, but always from the heart eventually. He understood that forgiveness, like love, is as much or more a choice than a feeling.

I move in fits and starts sometimes. I have a time when my Faith is more important to me than my life, then I get distracted for a while, but it always comes back to the same root eventually.

I’m not a fan of big churches. They have their place, but I prefer a smaller group where true fellowship can grow. I understand many churches have “home-groups” where a small group gathers and has a mini church meeting mid-week, and some of them are amazing groups, but some of them are as forced as the Sunday service.

I spent several years in and around Totnes in Devon, England. Whilst there there was a group of us who for several years lived almost as the first century Christians did. We were in and out of one another’s homes, ate together, met up at impromptu times, crashed on each other’s couches, used each other’s cars and put up with each other’s personalities because we had a true fellowship. I miss that group still today after almost 15 years since we last were all together. I’ve never had that shared experi
ence of faith anywhere else.


We were Jesus Freaks and proud of it. We went into the local secondary school and ran a youth alpha course, we invited Jehovah’s Witnesses in for coffee and spoke nothing but Truth and Love to them until they were fighting to leave!

We met and prayed and loved and sang with each other from Dartmouth to Buckfastleigh and every nook in between.

Jesus Freaks to the last.

It’s amazing that the memories are so fresh as I recall those days, the anointing on the conversations stick in my mind, and the witness of the group stays in my heart. I love those people as much today as I did all those years ago, and I long for their company again.

Jesus Freaks. United by a common insanity the World can never grasp. And worth every second.

The Last Minute

The last minute features heavily in scripture. It’s a concept that coes across all the way from Genesis through the Bible.

The concept isn’t restricted to Scripture, however. As Christians we have a tendency to wait until things are desperate before we try to trust God. It’s an insane way of living.

But it’s how we do things most of the time.

I was at my dad’s bedside when he died, holding his hand as he went to be with Jesus. I spent the last minutes of his life talking to him even though he could barely respond. I held his hand as I spoke and he was able to respond to my voice as I spoke to him. I spoke of a holiday we’d taken together to Italy a few years before, of time I’d spent with him as a friend, not merely my dad. Each time I spoke of something we’d shared that was a funny memory he would squeeze my hand. It was barely perceptable, but the timing of every squeeze was too much for it to be a coincidence. He was in there.

I was able to speak to him about how I loved him, the first time I had actually spoken the words that I can remember. I asked the staff to shave him and put his own pyjamas on him. They brushed his teeth and combed his hair too. Then he settled. A peace came over him. I held his hand again and spoke one last time. I told him if he wanted to go we’d be ok. Then his breathing became shallow. As he died he suddenly opened his eyes and fixed them on me, squeezing my hand. Then he was gone.

I was blessed to have those last minutes with him. I regret that I left it until the last minute to tell him how I felt and how much he meant to me, but I’m glad I was able to.

You’d think I would learn from that, but Noooooo!

My whole life I wait until the last minute to ask my Father for help. Often we all do. I have financial needs that I trust God to provide, but just as often I wait until my back is against the wall to do it. On paper it looks like we may lose our house, but we have been sustained by God’s provision for several years. It seems that in spite of this I still wait until the last minute to look for that provision.

Peter waited until the boat was full of water to call to Jesus to walk on the water. Jairus waited until his daughter was almost dead. The widow comes to Elijah after her husband died.

We’re not alone in waiting until the last minute. God came through time and again to show His power, but He would rather not let us. We choose to wait, trusting ourselves to provide rather than Him. He’d rather we call on Him for Blessings and Life in abundance than Miracles and stumbling from crisis to crisis.

So from here onwards I’m going to strive to move forward, remembering that I come from a place of victory through the Cross, not from a place of grovelling defeat. Sonship has been given to us and we can go to Him any time for any thing we need.

So let’s make a deal, you and me right now.

No more Last Minute requests.