Edmonton Off Whyte
The days have been so busy that I haven’t written in nearly a year. Perhaps I will write about my engagement and wedding to Tom Rhodes one day, but for now, let it suffice that it was fun and great.
Now we live in Edmonton off Whyte (but plan to move again in a few days, a bit farther south). Married life has been a huge adjustment but we are, after about two months, getting used to it and settling into a nice routine.
While in this apartment, I’ve been living the dream (my dream, anyways) of being a “stay-at-home wife.” I make all our meals and run our house super well, I think! This week I have been packing up some things in preparation for our move. During this, I’ve been listening to old videos of religious debates and I love them. Even though I think I need to concede that Richard Dawkins usually “wins” these debates since a lot of his good points remain unmet, not many of his statements are perplexing to me. Christopher Hitchens is another story. I like these challenging ideas, though, since it gives me my next “learning project”. Pressing into the potential shortcomings of your own faith is the best thing you can do. If it really does fall short, you shouldn’t believe it. If it’s true, it can withstand the questions and scrutiny. And if you answer these questions for yourself, you can help answer them for others. On the other hand, if you don’t try and punch holes in your own faith, sooner or later, someone else will do it for you. That will be far more rattling and uncomfortable.
Often in these debates, the atheist side will make statements that reveal a misunderstanding of who God is and/or the actual (not just culturally perceived) Christian doctrine. One place is Christopher Hitchens’ idea that humans are “created sick, and then commanded to be well.”
I completely understand why he thought this. Outside looks at Christianity as a religion, coupled with cursory glances at scripture would frame ultimate reality in this way. Don’t Christians believe that no one is safe from hell on his own steam? Don’t we get into heaven by being good? Why was God so cruel that He made us imperfect and then demanded perfection as a means by which we experience eternal happiness rather than eternal sadness?
It’s sets of statements like this, some we do believe and some we don’t, that create confusion. If non-religious people think we believe that particular set, they’re right in their condemnation. Luckily, that’s not our doctrine.
It’s true we believe that people can’t escape hell without God’s help. But no knowledgeable Christian would say “we get into heaven by being good”. When Jesus was on earth, He slammed the people who thought this way. He knew that mindset created proud, hypocritical, self-righteous individuals who were missing the point completely.
The triune God existed forever in loving community. When God created mankind, He wanted to “expand the community,” so to speak. But unless someone has the opportunity to turn away, what can love really mean? If Tom had no choice but to love and marry me, it would be meaningless. It’s only significant because he chose to love me and marry me. The same was so for mankind. We had to be able to walk away completely. But walking away from the sole embodiment of good can only mean walking towards bad. So be it, though.
We have free will and we use it. God Himself is the standard for good. Sooner or later, everyone makes choices that don’t reflect that good. Of course, we do nice things, too. Sometimes, very nice. But good deeds don’t cancel out bad deeds. We should be familiar with this because that’s how human justice works too. If someone saves two children and murders one, he still goes to jail. His good deed doesn’t pay for his transgression.
Just like on our worldly scale, the breaking of laws needs to be paid for on a universal level. God didn’t have to intervene, but in love, He did. He let Jesus make the payment in our place. It is out of love and gratitude for this that Christians try their best to please their saviour. I love Tom and when I find out he hates something, I try not to do it. When I find out he loves something, I try to do it. It’s not out of fear, or hope for reward, that I do these things. It’s out of love. The same is true with the Christian’s relationship with God.
Ultimately, I would amend Hitchens’ statement to this: “God created us free, wanted the best for us, and contrived a method by which our wrongdoing could be paid for– without violating His own standard of goodness.”
If you really think that God just made a wretched people and then cracks the whip when they don’t live up to a bunch of rules, I understand why you’d hate Him. Just know, that is not the God that Christianity adores.
Dawkins made this statement in a debate with John Lennox: “The reason why you might need religion to be moral is that you are either afraid of God’s punishment or you’re trying to suck up to God and be good so that you’ll get a reward. Neither of those reasons is a very noble reason to be good.” Well, you know who’d completely agree with that statement: Jesus.
I have been so helped in these areas by Tim Keller out of Redeemer Presbyterian in New York. On this side of listening to some of his sermons, I feel my understanding completely changed and improved. This has made me love God and Christianity all the more.