Mission Issues

Thinking and re-thinking missionary issues

Defending God against atheists

I’m sure that most readers of this blog have, like me, received about thirty emails over the past few weeks telling us about the buses driving through central London proclaiming that “There’s probably no God. Now stop worrying and enjoy your life.” If you haven’t heard about it, you can read the story here.
According to guardian.co.uk, Rev George Hargreaves of the Christian Party responded by creating a bus advert which proclaims: “There definitely is a God. So join the Christian Party and enjoy your life.”
Meanwhile, the Russian Orthodox Church has booked 25 supersize bus advertisements, using the line “There IS a God, BELIEVE. Don’t worry and enjoy your life.”
The Trinitarian Bible Society has taken a less temperate approach, using a line from the Bible to scold nonbelievers: “The fool hath said in his heart, there is no God,” (taken from Psalm 53.1).
During January, Christianity Today published an article, written by Tyler Wigg-Stevenson, with the title: “Jesus Is Not a Brand.” This is all about the common trend today to “market” Jesus.
Frankly I have my doubts about the effectiveness of both these campaigns in London. Did the British Humanist Association, which ran the first advert campaign swing believers into becoming non-believers? And did the other organisations succeed in convincing non-believers into becoming Christians? (I couldn’t help but finding it humourous that the Christians couldn’t respond with one united advert and that one group even saw the opportunity, not in convincing people to believe in Christ, but rather to join a political party!)
I get as angry as any Christian when the Name of God is blasphemed. But this is nothing new. When reading Revelation 13, we read about the beast coming from the sea, with seven heads. The seven heads must probably be seen as representing the seven emperors of the Roman empire. Revelation was written in the time of the emperor Domitianus (the seventh emperor). To understand this part in the Bible, a few important things have to be kept in mind. In verse 1 it is said that each head had a blasphemous name. This refers to the practice in those times that the emperors considered themselves as gods. Julius Caesar gave the command that his own statue had to be erected between those of the gods in the temple. Sometimes temples were erected in honour of the emperors. Caligula, who was mentally retarded, demanded that people honour his statue. But the one who surpassed all the other emperors in this practice, was Domitianus. He commanded that the people refer to him as deus et dominusour lord and our god. The Christians in those days therefore had quite a good understanding of the meaning of blasphemy.
Christians tend to get very heated whenever anything happens which smells of blasphemy. I’m not saying that we should accept this in any way. But I’m wondering why we get so upset. My impression is that, for many Christians, this is more a matter of human rights than anything else. In a report about this campaign it says: “Last month the Advertising Standards Authority received almost 150 complaints that the atheist bus campaign was offensive to Christians, and that the “no God” claim could not be substantiated. However the ASA ruled that the campaign did not break the advertising code, concluding that the ads were an “expression of the advertiser’s opinion and that the claims in it were not capable of objective substantiation”. As such, it said that it was unlikely to mislead or to cause widespread offence.”
When I read the book of Revelation, I never find any indication that the Christians were called to fight fire with fire. Obviously, they did not honour the emperors as gods (and very often paid with their lives because of this). What I do find, however, is encouragement to remain faithful to God within these terrible circumstances: “Do not be afraid of what you are about to suffer. I tell you, the devil will put some of you in prison to test you, and you will suffer persecution for ten days. Be faithful, even to the point of death, and I will give you the crown of life” (Revelation 2:10).
We will never be able to defend the existence of God in a court of law. But representing Christ through the way that we speak and the way that we live might very well convince people that there really is a God. And this may then become the greatest demonstration of the foolishness of those who say that there is no God.

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Monday, February 23, 2009 - Posted by | Evangelism, Mission, Theology

6 Comments »

  1. “But representing Christ through the way that we speak and the way that we live might very well convince people that there really is a God. And this may then become the greatest demonstration of the foolishness of those who say that there is no God.”
    This is stone soup.
    If you act in a positive way toward others, it’s you doing the good, not some other outside unseen supernatural power.
    It seems odd that acts of compassion or charity are seen as god’s works when it’s a person’s free will to choose to do said act, and they should get the credit for choosing to enhance the lives of those around them.
    This is the only life we are ever sure to have.
    Acting in a positive way to your fellow man is, in my opinion, is a wholly natural and normal deed that doesn’t require any supernatural influence.

    Comment by IntolerantFaith | Tuesday, February 24, 2009 | Reply

  2. What a wonderful place the world would be once it becomes “a wholly natural and normal deed that doesn’t require any supernatural influence” to live in a positive way towards your fellow man.
    Living in Africa and having been a missionary in Swaziland for almost twenty five years have shown me that the opposite is true. People are mostly selfish, driven by their desires to enrich themselves. Which is why so many people (and even recently, a non-Christian) who have personally visited this country and seen what the church is busy doing in this country – devastated from the effects of HIV and AIDS – agree that the unselfish way in which Christian volunteer caregivers are serving others (keeping in mind that most of these caregivers are living on an income of less than 45 US cents per day), cannot be attributed to mere philanthropy. There is something else driving them to do this, in our case the desire to truly represent Christ within the community and to do what we believe He would have done, had He been alive on earth as a human being today.

    Comment by Arnau van Wyngaard | Tuesday, February 24, 2009 | Reply

  3. The bus billboard wars make me laugh, but we experience similar things in the US. I too am sometimes dumbfounded by how upset we Christians get when we see lost people doing and saying things that affirm their lostness. Fighting with them to get them to stop behaving lost does nothing to draw them to Jesus, sometimes pushes them further away. Sometimes, we’ve turned our mission field into our battle field.

    Wendi

    Comment by Wendi Hammond | Tuesday, February 24, 2009 | Reply

  4. Well said, Wendi. I love your last sentence!

    Comment by Arnau van Wyngaard | Tuesday, February 24, 2009 | Reply

  5. Just passing by.Btw, you website have great content!

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    Making Money $150 An Hour

    Comment by Mike | Sunday, March 1, 2009 | Reply

  6. Thanks Mike, I appreciate it.

    Comment by Arnau van Wyngaard | Monday, March 2, 2009 | Reply


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