September 23, 2011

The Nefarious Stampede

What I Do

I nearly always talk to people because...frankly...I like to talk. I do not just talk to my own brethren either. I talk to those that have not had the fortune of getting to know their Creator or acknowledging that He exists. I am constantly trying to find inroads to people's place. It is clear many will not meet me where I am because they either just do not care to or do not know how to. As much as this sounds arrogant, I am aware of some of the road blocks coming from the other side and try to work around them. I have been on the other side that stands firmly on empiricism and naturalism. I spend two decades work and contending with engineers, educators and humanists. I learned their language and their presuppositions and arguments that bolster and under gird their worldviews (many of which that are logically flawed). So I know ask many only to honestly follow through their reasoning to its logical conclusion without prejudice to see that it either makes no sense, it dead-ends or in some cases contradicts itself. I figure if I can first get someone to see the error in their thinking I have an inroad to fill the gap left by their erroneous thinking with God. The latest discussions though have been more disheartening than some and I realize that sometimes the measure of whether I made any progress with them will not become evident until we reach our final destinations. BTW, Tim is an alias to protect the true identity of my potential convert.

The Low Point

I was dealing with a Secular Humanist and to some extent he very well could’ve passed himself off as a functioning agnostic based on some of his peripheral comments about the inability to say whether or not he truly believed a god or the God existed. He would not outright deny the existence but nor would he accede to God’s existence. The worst moment when approaching someone with another worldview like Tim is getting into the meat of the conversation with the person and realizing I had not taken the time to define the terms; as in the Law of Identity. It turns out my subject is also thoroughly immersed in the pluralism of the culture and a tendency towards deconstructing words and language until they ceased to have the meaning that commonsense would dictate they should. We began to get into disagreements over what actually constituted things like evil and what Hell is, where it is and if it even exists. Tim seemed to think Annihilationism was a form or Hell and I told him the annihilation just means you cease to exist. No punishment…just nothingness and no consciousness. You effectively “wink” out of existence. I tried to tell him his soul as it exists now will do so indefinitely and what he does and decides now affects where he (his soul) resides for eternity. It will either be in Hell forever separated from God's love but exposed fully to His wrath (neither of which he was sure existed, God or Hell) or it would be in Heaven in the presence of God (which he also wasn’t sure existed). Inability to get him to lock into commonly accepted ideas of these terms (God, Hell, soul) made getting to my points across painful and nearly unbearable for me in their post modernistic and pluralistic terminological detours.

The High Point

The best moment is that I was able to convince him to some extent that he was being intellectually arrogant passing judgment about God being “mean” allowing genocide but yet Tim himself had not constructed a full, honest, logically consistent idea of what he believed God was to him before passing said judgment. To me this is a start. A start that does two things (1) it shows me he is receptive to being taught even in his humanistic and pluralistic state. Often pluralist are pluralist except when it comes to the Christian faith and (2) I believe I may have given him just enough conversation to make him thoroughly dangerous. What I mean by this is he could either now use the information I gave him to further ridicule or combat Christians or the information I gave him could act as a seed that the Holy Spirit can now cause to sprout and grow into fledgling faith. I hope it is the latter of the two. This is part of the danger of giving people words that are so powerful…they can be used as tools…or weapons.

Primary Avenue of Discussion

Eschatology which comes from ἔσχατος / eschatos in Greek meaning "last" and -logy meaning "the study of" or the study of Last (Things), study of the End. It mostly concerns itself with an individual aspect and a corporate aspect. The corporate or final events in history, or the ultimate destiny of humanity, commonly referred to as the end of the world. The individual aspects concerned are death, judgment, heaven, and hell.
More broadly in Christianity is also refers to or encompasses things related to the Messiah Jesus Christ or Messianic Age, the End Times, and the end of days.

I primarily used the concept of Hell and where one goes after death since this allowed me to broach the subject of the need of salvation to avoid eternal punishment in a really bad place (Hell). I couldn’t even convince Tim to intellectually accent to Hell existing because he claimed it was just a concept the Israelites and subsequently the concept Christians got from the Egyptians. Therefore the Christian Hell couldn't possibly exist because it was an Egyptian idea….as if the fact the Egyptians believing in it first precluded the fact that the Hell described by Jesus then didn’t exist?!?!? Say What? Eschatology also allowed for a conversation about the End Times (a la “Left Behind”) and Rapture which then solicited chuckles, looks of disbelief and a joke about people flying in the sky like Superman from Tim.

Painful Insights & Saddening Realities

As I began to listen to Tim and hear certain statements from him and certain opinions I began to realize a few things (1) Tim had not formulated a coherent of internally consistent picture or argument of what he thought God was/is. He made statements such as, “I cannot believe in nor will not believe in a God that allows wholesale slaughter of innocent children in a genocidal rage. Especially when the Bible says he is infinitely good and holy. That’s a contradiction!” I realize at this point that (1) he doesn’t truly understand the idea that an infinite God has infinite characteristics in infinite supply and as such, being infinitely good, he is also infinitely everything else including just…so therefore he must judge things that are evil. (2) I then asked him what his picture of God is and how he perceives God and he actually tells me that he hasn’t really thought about it that much and couldn’t really tell me. (3) I then see that he doesn’t really understand the Christian God or any god for that matter but is willing to pass judgment about Him or it based on flawed and limited knowledge. This is intellectual arrogance. It dawns on me that I am arguing more against atheistic/agnostic/humanistic unwillingness to think things through than anything else. These non-Christian or anti-Christian worldviews often are not willing to think through their lines of thought to logical conclusions and see that they are flawed both in premise and reasoning. I then need to conclude that they are intellectually immature, intellectually dishonest, and intellectually lazy or just flat out apathetic and just don’t care. How am I to reach people that are ignorant or apathetic to the fact they are perishing physically and spiritually? Do I try to convict them of their sin? Do I scare them with the threat of Hell which many of them do not even believe in and in some cases have resigned themselves to the fate of annihilation (or so they believe)?

How I Felt In the End (Pun Intended)

I wondered why I do this stuff to myself and I realize (as Depeche Mode used to say) people are people and sometimes we just get along awfully and don't see eye-to-eye. I realize unequivocally that it is only seeds I can plant and that the true ontological change (change of being) is the work of the Holy Spirit. It is a combination of us as the carrier of the message imbued with the power of the Word and the Holy Spirit. In the end I am still sad, disenchanted and slightly disheartened as I encounter these types of responses constantly as I am constantly using apologetics and talking about my faith with people. I cannot even have a legitimate argument with these so-called intellectuals (humanists, atheists) and educated people because they believe things that are based on flawed logic and don’t even care. With all the sympathy I can muster I make this last comment: They are ignorant (as in ignorant of other options), they are dying (in sin) and they don’t even care that they are ignorant and dying. What is worse, as in the case of Mark below is they knowingly stay ignorant....just as I did until God called me out and dragged me to Him. I literally left nail marks on tile when He pulled me to Him. I did not want to let go of me old self.

Atheist Arrogance

I must state that while I talked with Tim I also drew an atheist into conversation at the Boyertown YMCA. After long conversation with him I asked him why it is so hard for some to actually work through their thought processes to their logical conclusion and his response was startlingly biblical in a bad way. This man whom I will refer to as Mark since he didn't want me to use his name in a paper of an institution of higher learning said this: "I do not want to think my logic through to its logical conclusion. I just do not want to believe in God nor believe that I can or would be saved...whatever that means. I don't need saving, there is nothing to save me guys are nutty you know that?" He then finished with this: "The only thing I need saving from is you." This is after he imposed himself into a conversation I was having with someone else. Even after treating him respectfully and letting him air his concerns he still condescended and left me with an insult no matter how humorous he thought he was being. I would do it all over again a hundred times. If I even chip one piece of his spiritual deadness off his self-imposed wall it will have been worth it. At first I felt as if I should be insulted but in reality I realize that he is insulting God...and that is his amends to make, not mine. The blood will be on his hands...I am doing what I have been commanded to do faithfully like Ezekiel did, but currently without visible progress.

The constant repetitive rejection of what you are convicted is true has a draining emotional effect on anyone that loves those that are lost and is continually rejected. I realize like the prophets of the Old Testament that sane people to not choose this life...sane people are called to it and out of love, awe and obedience to a transcendent God...we obey and we serve. We know that our obedience is the perfect manifestation of our love for Him. Yet it takes its toll at today. 

As obedient soldier I march on waiting for next point of engagement with the powers and principalities of this world because for me there is no...."at ease" or shore leave. Not while people are practically climbing over one another in a nefarious race to perish in their sins. A gleeful stampede for Hell's gates.

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