Category Archives: Agnosticism

Freud, Marx, Nietzsche, and Jesus Have It Right | Religion and the Hermeneutic of Suspicion at Christmas

Atheist Richard Dawkins offers a description of God in 23 adjectives: “jealous and proud of it, a petty, unjust, unforgiving control freak; a vindictive, bloodthirsty ethnic cleanser; a misogynist, homophobic, racist, infanticidal, genocidal…, pestilential, megalomaniacal, sadomasochistic, capriciously malevolent bully.” Dawkins doesn’t just disbelieve in God; he detests Him. Dawkins has bought the hermeneutic of suspicion.

In 1976, faith was “a blind trust that goes against the evidence”. Then in 1989, faith is “a mental illness”. Now, in recent years, faith according to the new breed of atheists, is “one of the world’s great evils, comparable to the smallpox virus but harder to eradicate” (Alister McGrath). Dawkins even suggested that faith in God is morally reprehensible. The hermeneutic of suspicion.

John Shelby Spong tells about Michael Goulder, who unlike Richard Dawkins, describes himself as a “non-aggressive atheist.” He asserts that God has no real work to do. It’s not so much “Is God good?” The question for Gould is “What good is He?” This God no longer fights wars and defeats enemies. This God no longer chooses a special people and works through them. This God no longer sends storms, heals the sick, spares the dying, or even judges the sinner. This God no longer rewards goodness and punishes evil. God is an unemployed deity. Goulder asserts that the church has entered exile. God now rings with a hollow emptiness. The power once ascribed to this God is now explained in countless other ways. God is irrelevant.

It’s the Nietzschean “God is dead” line all over again. Americans are really fulfilling the prophecy of a syphilitic and eventually insane German, but a brilliant philosopher. Friedrich Nietzsche wrote over 100 years ago, “God will be dead in the 20th Century.” He was a very bright man. He didn’t argue that there wasn’t a God in the Heavens. One could look at the stars and galaxies all in perfect harmony and know there was a God. What Nietzsche argued was that people would live as if God does not exist – and that’s precisely what we are doing; that they would kill God – and that’s what happened in the 20th Century and what is happening in the 21st.

Nietzsche had a hermeneutic of suspicion (Tim Keller). He suggested that religion was not just a product of wish-fulfillment (Freud); it was not just a way to control the masses (Marx); it was the suggestion that God doesn’t matter anymore. Nietzsche attacked our motives for being religious. We create religion so that we can feel good about ourselves, so that we have a system of payment for the bad things we do. And there is substantially no life difference between atheists and theists.

Rebecca Manly Pippert shares her story (Hope Has Its Reasons). A conversation with a Harvard professor went something like this: “Even though I am an atheist, I genuinely admire people like you who take faith seriously. There is no question that the human race needs help. But honestly Becky, isn’t life the same whether we believe in God or not? Don’t all of us long to be loved and understood?… Life is difficult for all of us. I don’t think cancer cells ask before entering a body, ‘Excuse me, are you a praying person?’ And don’t all of us, believers as well as skeptics, raise our children the best we can? And some make it and some don’t, leaving us with broken hearts and dashed hopes whether we believe in God or not?… And don’t believers fail morally? I grant that many of you do better in certain areas than we do. But I have met my share of religious people who were racists, gluttons, self-righteous, and full of pride, all the while mouthing religious platitudes… What possible difference does God make?”

That Harvard professor’s critique of religion is right on. Believers aren’t exempt from pain. They experience illness, sexist bosses, unemployment, violence, and marital problems just like everyone else. Christians fail morally. We are deeply flawed people.

What difference does religion make? The answer is “No difference.” It is easy to be just religious versions of the same people we’ve always been.

The atheists have it right. Religion is a power play to control others. It is the opiate of the masses. It’s a pain-killer. It’s a crutch for the weak. It’s a way to justify our behavior and allows us to feel good about ourselves. This is the way religion was perceived and what we learn is that Jesus Himself was anti-religious too and had some of the same issues that Frued, Marx, and Nietzche had with organized religion. That’s why he blasted the religious establishment guys, the Pharisees, like He did and kicked over tables and “violated their rules” like He did.

But what happened was that the ideas of these anti-religious establishment philosophers transferred over to God. Now people seem to see God one of two ways. “God does not exist, so life is meaningless.” Or, “God does exist, and here are the rules – keep them.” Jesus offers a corrective to all this and basically asserts that “I have fulfilled any requirement necessary to procure the salvation of mankind. All religion is inadequate and insufficient. And if you want to know what God is like and how He feels about humanity, then look at my life.”

Christianity goes beyond Judaism. It’s not just repackaging of the same system. Judaism (religion) could not contain it and it answers the deeper questions of life. Christianity blasts the lie that we’re OK or that we’re in charge. It shatters our religion. We can’t hide behind religion anymore. We want God without the hassle of looking at the mess we’ve become. Christianity forces you to look at the mess you’ve become.

What Nietzsche failed to consider is that in Christianity, God himself became the payment. In no other religion, do you have god or the gods becoming a payment for human evil. Stott says it best: “For the essence of sin is man substituting himself for God, while the essence of salvation is God substituting himself for man.” The tragedy is that when people turn away from God and turn to religion or man-made theories, they begin to see themselves as the center of the universe and they miss grace. We hate not being god, just like Dawkins.

I deeply believe that the crisis we face today is not a crisis of the economy or the stock market or health care, the real crisis in American life today is a crisis of values. What can we believe in anymore? There is only one answer. God became flesh. He became a person in the person of Jesus Christ. He’s come over from the other side of the hedge to let us know that there is a true and living God, and that an unseen world parallel to this one exists and there is a great battle raging for the minds and allegiance of creation.

Religion has been replaced by Relationship.

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Filed under Agnosticism, Atheism, Atheist, Christian Worldview, Christianity, Christmas, Hermeneutic of Suspicion, Jesus Christ, Nietzsche, Worldview

Is Evolution On Its Way Out? | All Major Evolutionary Pillars Have Collapsed

Evolution simply asserts that the entire cosmos is made up of nothing but matter. It asserts that if you have matter, enough time, and some chance, that this would explain how things came to be. All of life (living cells) arose spontaneously from inanimate matter. But all pillars that have been used to argue this point have collapsed.

Darwins “tree of life” indicated that you would get a branching pattern if all things evolved from a common ancestor. Things were not created separately. All that was needed was matter, time, and chance. If this was the case, you would expect thousands of intermediate life forms, yet they have not been found. Things appear in the fossil record as fully formed. No transitional representations are there. In the Cambrian Explosion, however many millions of years ago you want to estimate this, life just exploded in the fossil record. Animals and organisms were fully formed.

Darwin was a man of his time. He only had limited access to cellular information. Some have called the cell “Darwins Black Box” (Behe). Darwin and others knew the information was there, but they didn’t have the know-how nor the technology to evaluate it’s contents. DNA alone is enough to totally destroy evolutionary theory. No random process would ever produce this kind of complexity.

I won’t waste your time on the faked Haeckel’s embryo drawings nor the fabricated Peppered Moth (that still appears in some texts books). And Darwins yellow finches (that supposedly developed tougher beaks in a drought) were simply micro-evolutionary (small changes within a species which is reasonable; as opposed to macro-evolution which is one species evolving into another species – something totally unfounded) changes. What they don’t tell you is about the beaks on these little finches; the average beak size went back to normal after the drought was over.

Dr. Karl Popper said that evolution is not a fact nor is it even a theory. It’s not even scientific! In true science, every scientific hypothesis must be able to be proved wrong. Evolution cannot be falsified. In fact, good science and the law of thermodynamics has things continually becoming more and more disorganized. How does evolution go the other way? Exactly. It’s not even science. In fact, its more of a world religion, with academia serving as it’s priests.

It’s over. There is no longer a viable alternative. God exists. He is the Author of life. And contrary to Dawkins, it’s not even possible now to be an intellectually satisfied atheist because the evolutionary pillars have collapsed. Evolution is on its way out. The only reason it remains more than a vestige, a remnant from the past, is because it is the best hope for naturalistic atheists. Without it, the naturalist is left with nothing but the absurd. Abandon this false idealology. Don’t be caught in the rubble. Make way for a newer, yet more accurate, Intelligent Designer movement, that simply verifies what Christian Theists have been asserting all along.

Humans are not…a descendent of a tiny cell of primordial protoplasm…an arbitrary product of time and place, chance and natural forces…a grab bag of atomic particles, genetic substance…who exists on a tiny planet in a minute solar system in a corner of a meaningless universe, only slightly different from a banana or an amoeba…coming from nothing and going no where…

But humans are…a special creation of a good and powerful Intelligent Designer… who made them in His image…with a unique capacity to think and feel and know things…set above all other life forms…to observe all of the rest of creation…discovering how a world works…all the while, engaging this Designer in relationship… encountering His love… and changing the world for the better… and fulfilling a God-given purpose, minus the suffering eventually…on a new earth…

This is a worldview that will never collapse.

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The Question For Atheists Is Not “How Do I Find God?” | The Question is “How do I Miss Him?”

While God is a hidden God and is surrounded by mystery (we will never totally understand Him – He transcends us), He also has revealed much about Himself in the world that He has made (cosmos) and in how He has made human beings with an in-built God awareness (conscience). This is what theologians call “Natural Revelation.” This in itself provides enough evidence for a reasonable belief in God and renders us without excuse.

In Romans 1:20, Paul states: “For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse.”

God has planted evidence of Himself throughout His creation so that we are without excuse. Even if you were a non-Jew without the Torah, according to Paul, you are totally responsible for your behavior and cannot plead ignorance of God or His ways because God has revealed Himself to us in what He has made.

Paul’s argument is this: If you looked long enough at what God has made, you would come to understand something of His beauty and nature. Glittering stars flung across a black heaven. The earth in perfect orbit around the sun – close enough to sustain life but far enough away to keep from burning up. Sculpted mountains. The earth’s crust carved into breathtaking canyons. Fish that glow in the blackest depth of the sea. A butterfly breaking free from a cacoon. The meticulously spun web of a gray spider. The growth of a child in the womb. Birth. God’s fingerprints are all over.

After all of this, how could we ever come to the conclusion that we can live life any way that we want; that there is no God; that life is all about my glory, not His. From the greatest feat of forming a beautiful cosmos out of nothing to the intricate details of the smallest little insect or cell, each act of God in creation serves as a missionary in miniature form. They are sermons without preachers; they are biblical texts without Bibles. And while general revelation is not adequate to explain the Gospel, it renders all mankind without excuse and calls for a response.

God is everywhere, yet invisible. God is a hidden God. God has given us just enough evidence so that those who want Him can have him. Those who want to reject Him can do that as well. Think about it. It’s the only way a relationship with God could not be forced. If He was here in visible form, ruling with great power, would anybody choose differently? Evil melts away in his presence. So God must hide and self-limit in order for a free-will world to be possible. The direct presence of God would inevitably overwhelm our freedom. God gives everyone the room to either choose or reject. He’s a hidden God and He will not force love.

What you will find in your spiritual journey, is that it’s not so much that you find God; He finds you. And you realize you knew Him all along, but you suppressed knowledge of Him in your life (Romans 1). So don’t so much focus on “How do I find God?” Turn it around. “How has He already found me?” He brought me to this blog. He’s communicated via the Bible (Special Revelation). He’s placed me in an intelligently designed world that operates according to natural laws. He’s used crisis, confrontation, catastrophe, and even some fantastic blessings in life, like friends, baseball, family, and a day at the beach to get my attention and to cause me to tune in to Him.

Many former atheists have come to this conclusion: “God has found me! He’s known me all along and has never lost me, even though I’ve suppressed knowing Him. If I would have just looked at things close enough, I would have seen Him looking back at me. I don’t want to suppress Him anymore. I want to see and know Him.”

“How do I find God?” you ask. I reply: “How do you miss Him?” Look closely, and the very fact that you’re looking indicates this startling reality. He already found you.

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Filed under Agnosticism, Atheism, Atheist, Christian Worldview, Conscience, Creation, Earth, Existence of God, First Cause, Free Will, Hidden God, Intelligent Design, Theism, Truth

Circumstantial Resurrection Evidence Even An Atheist Cannot Refute

The resurrection marked the beginning of a new era. It’s an announcement of a new age. It declares that the cross was a victory, not a defeat. This is based on some compelling circumstantial facts. Peter said: Acts 2:32 God has raised this Jesus to life, and we are all witnesses of the fact. Consider the facts.

It’s a fact that there are at least 13 different post resurrection accounts in the Bible. And even though there are some differences in the resurrection accounts (they don’t fit snugly together), these surface discrepancies do not mean that someone has it wrong; rather, they mean that the witnesses have not been in collusion. The Gospel writers did not get together and try to ensure that they were all saying the same thing. They did not modify their stories for agreement, which lends itself to the authenticity of the accounts.

It’s a fact that over 500 people saw Jesus alive after the crucifixion / resurrection, many of whom could still be interviewed (1 Cor. 15).These were people beyond the Biblical writers who could be consulted and interviewed. Not just one person saw him, but evidently groups of people saw Him. Paul squelches individual hallucination theories; Christ appeared to groups of people.

It’s a fact that even skeptics saw him and acknowledged him. Thomas, a disciple, actually doubted and refused to believe it, unless he saw with his own eyes. He did, and ascribed deity to Jesus in his exclamatory remark when He actually saw him alive. “My Lord, and my God…” And for those who are still skeptical, how do you explain the conversion of Paul, who was passionate about persecuting Christians, but who was transformed into a church planter – outside of something cataclysmic like the resurrection?

It’s a fact that the women were the first witnesses to the resurrection. Why did they have the women as first witnesses? Because it’s exactly what happened. At first, even the disciples had some doubt and the women were like, “Guys, just go down the street and look for your selves.” They did and we have never been the same. You would never include women as your primary first witnesses in the first century. In fact, Paul quietly drops the women as primary witnesses in 1 Corinthians 15, probably because of this cultural taboo. Including women as primary witnesses is literary suicide if you want your account believed. Yet, they still stuck with it, took the hit on their book sales so to speak, and told the story as it actually happened.

It’s a fact that there are secular Jewish sources admitting Jesus’ existence, that place him where he’s supposed to have been during the time frame of the first century.

It’s a fact that the timid apostles, now turned bold after the resurrection, even died for this belief. The changed lives of Jesus’ followers, despite extensive suffering, are a fact. It was after all of these personal encounters with Jesus that their lives were changed. Peter, the frightened deserter became Peter, the evangelist, only a few weeks after the resurrection. James the traditional Jew became James the welcomer of the marginalized Gentiles. Saul the church-destroyer became Paul the church-planter. These men maintained down to their dying whispers that Jesus is alive and He’s Lord and that we must know Him.

It’s a fact that Christianity had a gigantic rise in growth (it went from Jerusalem to Rome in about 20 years), an almost unexplainable phenomenon, without some momentous event that fueled its growth. And there were key social structure changes in the lives of those who affirmed the resurrection of Christ. Many former Jews, now Christians, ceased to offer sacrifices, even though this was something they had done in their culture for generations. They stopped keeping the ceremonial aspects of the Mosaic Law. The day of worship changed from Saturday to Sunday for many of them. Distinct Trinitarian beliefs began to be talked about as they realized the deity of Christ and how that impacted one’s view of God. They stopped looking for a Messiah; he had already come. They no longer felt at home in their synagogues, so they began to meet in people’s homes.

The resurrection is a well substantiated historic fact, with much circumstantial evidence to support it. And if this happened, as I believe it did, then Christ is who he said He was and his picture of God is accurate.

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Material Proofs that the Resurrection of Jesus Really Happened

Exhibit A: The displaced stone at the tomb. The door of Christ’s tomb was a large, circular stone set on its edge and fitted into an inclined groove. It was not uncommon for such a stone to weigh a ton. It sometimes took up to 20 men to displace a stone like that. Something very powerful or a group of people had to have moved it. How could this be done with a Roman guard at the ready?

Exhibit B: The emptiness of the tomb. Some say that the coolness of the tomb revived Christ. A view like that begs the question. How could someone who was beaten, flogged, crucified, speared in the side, and even pronounced dead by His executioners, suddenly revive, push a one-ton stone aside, overcome an entire Roman guard, and leave?

Exhibit C: The grave clothes. Some suggest that Joseph of Arimathea and his servants stole the body of Jesus, took him home, and revived him. There’s another problem with that… the grave clothes. One writer helps us to understand this with the following description: “The grave clothes were left undisturbed in the place where the body was laid. The body of Jesus was wrapped from the armpits to the ankles with strips of linen twelve inches wide. The linen wraps were then wound around the body placing spices, aloes, and other fine ointments between the wraps. It is believed that a minimum of seventy pounds of spices were used in the process and as much as a hundred pounds were used for someone of Jesus’ position. The grave clothes constituted quite a mass encasing the body. If we are to assume, for example, that Joseph and several of his servants took the body, we would expect that they were concerned about being detected. Therefore, they would have likely been in a great hurry, and we should expect that the grave clothes would have been left in great disarray with spices trailing out the doorway, not to mention that it would have been difficult to have placed the grave clothes neatly back on the resting place in the dark while being in a great hurry to do so. However, the observers did not find spices and wrappings trailing out of the doorway. The grave clothes were intact, undisturbed with the exception of the head napkin that was placed slightly above where it should have been found.” Grave robbers would not have unwrapped the corpse.

Exhibit D. The resurrection appearances to the disciples. The empty tomb of Jesus coupled with the resurrection appearances to the disciples makes for a very compelling resurrection case. “If the empty tomb was a fact but there were no resurrection appearances, Jesus’ body would appear to have been stolen, and His crucifixion and empty tomb would have been a puzzle and a tragedy. If the resurrection appearances had occurred without the empty tomb, the would have been construed as visions or hallucinations (Moreland, God Question).” But we have both an empty tomb and at least 13 post-resurrection appearances.

These four material proofs or exhibits make for a very compelling case for the actual resurrection of Christ from the dead. If the Gospel writers were fabricating these details, many others could have called them on it because Matthew, Mark, and Luke wrote their Gospels within 30 years of the actual occurrence of Jesus’ resurrection. They could have said, “Wait a second; that’s not how it happened.” Instead, you have the early followers of Jesus dying for this story as well as living for it.

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Parallel Universes – Living Between Two Worlds and Experiencing “Thin Places”

Christian Theists are those with this belief in parallel universes. One universe consists of rock, and glass, and steel, and clothes, and food, and wrestling, and spaghetti, and scented candles, and perfume, and things we can see, feel, hear, taste, and touch.

But another universe consists of angels and sinister spiritual forces and somewhere out there, maybe even closer than we think, but somewhere in another dimension, there are places called Heaven and Hell.

And we can experience what I would call “thin places” between these two universes, where these two worlds merge together more so than they do at other times in empirical terms.

Philip Yancey writes about these times in our lives. “The time I snorkled on a coral reef and suddenly flashes of color and abstract design flitting around me became a window to a Creator who exults in life and beauty. Or the time my wife forgave me for something that did not merit forgiveness – that too became a window, allowing a startling glimpse of divine grace.” “I have these moments, but soon toxic fumes from the material world seep in. Sex appeal! Power! Money! Military might! (Finding God…).” Our “thin places” get thick again.

There is a certain kind of Biblical writer who experienced these thin places, who were especially in tune with God’s whispers, whispers of love in ancient forgotten dusty places. They experienced these “thin places” and wrote about them. They heard the voice of God echo through human experiences and needs and they journaled about these experiences, and even penned songs and poems and prophecies that reflected what they were hearing. They heard the voice echoing in the every day and they wrote down what they heard and experienced. They are called Psalmists. Psalms help us to recognize God’s voice in the everyday. There’s a plurality of voices in the Psalms. In them, we hear the voices of the communities out of which they came and the voices of the writers who wrote them. They contain voices of celebration and of oppression and of protest and of wisdom and of service and of love and romance and beauty and of righting the wrongs in the world. But in, with, and through all this, there is another voice that is heard. The divine voice. God whispers. And His voice echoes through the text, down through the years, into our present day. It’s a voice that whispers in our thin places, ” Psalm 46:10 “Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.”

I have experienced several “thin places” in my life. I will never forget those times. It could be a scene from a movie, a song at a symphony, a painting in a museum, a panoramic view of a mountain vista, a love note from a spouse, a forgotten poem on a dusty book shelf – but in these locations a word was spoken, and I heard.

I was reading a 48 chapter book not long ago, and every chapter has a number and then goes right into the content. Only two of these 48 chapters have an excerpt from a poem after the chapter number. One of those chapters in this book has an excerpt from a poem by Elizabeth Barrett Browning. Here’s what it said: “Earth is crammed with heaven and every bush aflame with God. But only those who see take off their shoes.” That poem just filleted me. If we only began to listen, to pay attention, we would hear and see things – God-whisperings, and all the world would be holy ground.

We are always looking elsewhere for God – the great and strong wind that rips mountains apart. “Show me some supernatural revelation of your power, then I might believe you and hear you out.” “Shake this earth at its foundation so that people around the world could feel Your power. Then we might believe in You and serve You and listen to what You have to say.” “Flash flames across the heavens and consume the wicked, then you’ll have our attention.”

But God says, “No. I’d rather just whisper in the everyday in life’s thin-places.” God simply wants to be right where we are at every moment in gentle whisper. The voice of God is all around you. God is not a silent God. God is speaking to us all the time in everything through everyone. It takes a lifetime for us to really understand that God is right in front of us. Most of our lives are spent looking, straining to see and hear God in the cloud, through the miracle, behind the mist, beyond the dark. But it is when we face God in one another, in creation, in the present moment, that the real spiritual journey begins (with help from Chittister).

Thin-places is about encountering God in the places where we usually ignore Him: like at an art museum, or in a fitness center or gymnasium, or a hospital birthing room, in a theater, at an opera, on vacation in the mountains, in a combine in the fields, or on the blog of an atheist. It’s about hearing God even while you may be in a place that you shouldn’t be, like the bed of a stranger or while sitting in divorce court or while cruising for drugs.

What is the gentle, quiet voice of God whispering to you in your thin-place?

“Why don’t you stay and work things out?”
“Forgive him. Let her go free.”
“Lead your family. Help them on their spiritual journey.”
“Surrender your broken life to Me.”
“Turn away from your lovers, your addiction, and let Me love you.”
“Use your resources for kingdom gains.”
“Serve your neighbor.”
“Don’t judge your co-worker; become their friend.”
“Go have this difficult conversation.”
“You’re being selfish and are afraid that someone is going to get more attention than you.”

Listen for the whisper.

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Atheism – The Ultimate God Flip-Off (The Atheist Does Not Fear God)

If one does not believe that God exists, then naturally there is no “fear of God”. With no “fear of God” there is no true wisdom according to the writer of the Book of Proverbs. Lacking wisdom, the atheist flips God off, and lives as if He doesn’t exist.

The Book of Proverbs talks a lot about getting wisdom. Wisdom means seeing everything in the light of God. It’s a healthy respect for God and His Word and His Ways. If you flaunt them, the consequences are very, very real. The fear of God also would include a relational aspect. One is drawn into the mystery of God, to know Him and obey Him.

In the book of Proverbs, the fear of the Lord is mentioned nearly 20 times. It’s the motto for the whole book. God has self-disclosed, that is, He has revealed some things about Himself – what He loves, what He hates, who He loves to bless, and how He likes to see us live our lives. Wisdom is loving what God loves, hating what God hates, and actually living like God has asked us to live. God is bigger than me; He’s more powerful than me and I ought to listen to Him. You step back in awe when you fear God. That is one aspect of the fear of the Lord. In other words, don’t be ripping life from the womb. Don’t be trampling on sacred marital ground. Don’t be redefining the family. Be careful when you assert that God does not exist. There is even a contingency within liberal Christianity that rejects all the central doctrines of the faith. A God without wrath brings men without sin into a kingdom without judgment through a Christ without a Cross. Pure heresy. Be careful.

But the fear of the Lord doesn’t stop with just stepping back in awe. The fear of the Lord also includes drawing close in relationship. God is not temperamental. You can trust Him and He wants you to be close to Him. Jesus makes this very clear. God is awesome and wants to catch you up in sacred romance. God is beautiful and warm. He is mysterious. He can make your life complete and worth living. You will be fulfilled in ways you never were before when you decide to come to him. So, to fear God is too stand in awe of him, but it is also and desire to know Him and be close to Him, even though He is totally Other than us.

Look at what the Proverb writer has written:

Proverbs 1:7 The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and discipline. The assumption is that many people will not fear God. They’ll flip God off.

Proverbs 1:28-31 28 “Then they will call to me but I will not answer; they will look for me but will not find me. 29 Since they hated knowledge and did not choose to fear the LORD, 30 since they would not accept my advice and spurned my rebuke, 31 they will eat the fruit of their ways and be filled with the fruit of their schemes. So many live any way they want and when that way of life all but destroys them, they finally cry out to God, “I’m ready to listen to you now God.” But this cry comes too late. The damage is done. Sin will take you further than you want to go, cost you more than you want to pay, and keep you longer than you want to stay.

Proverbs 2:1-5 1 My son, if you accept my words and store up my commands within you, 2 turning your ear to wisdom and applying your heart to understanding, 3 and if you call out for insight and cry aloud for understanding, 4 and if you look for it as for silver and search for it as for hidden treasure, 5 then you will understand the fear of the LORD and find the knowledge of God. This is not something we do a few times; wisdom is the pursuit of a lifetime.

Proverbs 8:13 To fear the LORD is to hate evil; I hate pride and arrogance, evil behavior and perverse speech. Someone who is proud, arrogant, characterized by evil behavior and speech have no fear of God.

Proverbs 9:10 10 “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.

Proverbs 10:27 27 The fear of the LORD adds length to life, but the years of the wicked are cut short. This is not a promise; it’s a probability. The genre of proverb simply states probabilities, not promises.

Proverbs 14:26 26 He who fears the LORD has a secure fortress, and for his children it will be a refuge. If you have good godly parents, your family will reap the benefits of it.

Proverbs 15:16 16 Better a little with the fear of the LORD than great wealth with turmoil.

Proverbs 15:33 33 The fear of the LORD teaches a man wisdom, and humility comes before honor.

Proverbs 16:6 6 Through love and faithfulness sin is atoned for; through the fear of the LORD a man avoids evil.

Proverbs 19:23 23 The fear of the LORD leads to life: Then one rests content, untouched by trouble. Again, a probability. You live for God and you will eliminate a lot of trouble because you’ve stayed out of trouble.

Proverbs 22:4 4 Humility and the fear of the LORD bring wealth and honor and life. This is a probability.

Proverbs 23:17 17 Do not let your heart envy sinners, but always be zealous for the fear of the LORD. You’ve got to live with the long view in mind.

The fear of God is not the terror that sends us running in horror, and on the other hand, it is not simply a quiet respect. The fear of God is living with an acknowledgement that we live in relationship to the God who created us, who even created the universe. It is the sobering reality that teaches us that God is vastly superior to us and must be placed first in our lives. We could say then that wisdom is full of awe for God.

A fully educated mind not in awe of Him may know all sorts of things, but they will not be truly wise and have the skill they need in life. The fear of God is not so much fear, but awe and total respect. Awe and reverence is the experience of being overwhelmed, of confronting someone or something much more powerful than ourselves. Where fear makes us want to run away, awe makes us want to draw closer to the mystery, even though we hesitate to get too close. Instead of resenting our own smallness or weakness, we stand in appreciation of something greater than ourselves. And we want to linger and even more important, obey Him (Parrott, Relationships). To fear God is to put Him first, above all things and to obey Him in simple trust. To fear God is to know that a moment of existence without Him is hell.

Donald Miller said, “I realize it isn’t a big deal to fear God these days, but I do. By that I don’t mean I have just a deep respect for Him or a healthy appreciation for Him; I actually get a general sense of terror. It isn’t because I think He is a bad guy, because I don’t. The sense of terror comes more from the idea that He is so incredibly other… (Searching…37).” It takes metaphor and analogy to try to describe God. Eyes of fire. Voice like rushing wind. He speaks a word and nature jumps. Angelic beings fall to their faces in His presence. The most powerful telescope cannot reach the end of the cosmos that He created. There is a God and He’s very big and He understands everything. He made all this and He understands it’s physics. He is so incredibly other.

You see the Biblical God is dangerous, but He’s good. He shakes me from my complacency. He is about holding you accountable, making you whole and holy, confronting your sin, knocking you down, standing you back up again, calling your name, and winning your heart so that you will align with His broad purposes for our world.

“Course He isn’t safe” says the Beavers in Narnia. But it’s the only God that would be worth believing in, living for, and dying for. God doesn’t tap the window pain with his cane and says to those who flaunt His ways: “Go away. Shoo! You’re getting close to the edge” and sometimes they back away from the edge and sometimes they don’t. That kind of a god is of little help in a world that is cruel and evil and where bad things happen to those who don’t deserve it – where wives are stolen, people we love are murdered, our most prized possessions destroyed, our true God is belittled, our loved ones die in accidents and families are falling apart.

You and I need Somebody who can do more than just “Shoo” away his enemies and principalities and powers of darkness, and merely have them come back once His attention is turned in another direction. I need Someone who has the power to ultimately and finally deal with evil, and hurt and misfortunate and heartache and genocide and abortion and infanticide and atheistic regimes and forsaken and abandoned families. “Course God isn’t safe. But he’s good. He’s the king I tell you” says Beaver in the Chronicles of Narnia. So we can obey and trust him without fear, even when He asks us to do some really hard things, unsafe things, like forgiving someone who had done evil and harm toward us.

What does it mean to fear God? To fear God is to stand in awe of Him, to be drawn into the mystery of Him, and to pursue relationship with Him with a desire to obey Him fully. To do all of these things is to be declared truly “wise”. It means to be anxious and eager to meet Him. It means to build our lives around the call of being His Bride, to anticipate the pleasure of obedience. To fear God is to be lost in His presence and to orient all of life with God at the center.

Atheist, stop flipping God off. Instead, fear Him and you can be truly wise. Stop living your life as if God does not exist. He does exist and you don’t want to mess with Him.

Steve Farrar in one of his books was talking about the fear of God. He said a few years ago his then 14 year old son was telling him about his friend that had gotten into big trouble. As Steve and his son discussed it, Steve’s son said,

“You know what the real problem is Dad?”

“No,” Steve replied. “What is it?”

“When you get right down to it, he has no fear of his father. He knows that his dad doesn’t mean what he says. His dad has never followed through and disciplined him. That’s the real reason he’s in trouble.”

God exists. He means what He says. Don’t flip Him off. Stop droping His name like an ace card (even though you don’t believe in Him ironically enough) and stop making these ridiculous claims like “God doesn’t exist.” Read the proverbs I’ve quoted above to see what eventually happens in the lives of those who flip God off.

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