Posted by: Jonathan Stepp | September 17, 2008

Atheism

I believe it is more important for us to love who God is than to believe that he exists.

Many people who believed in God hated Jesus, and killed him. And many people who doubted God, but loved the truth and loved freedom, flocked to Jesus and loved him.

God, the Father, Son, and Spirit, is truth, freedom, beauty, love, and inclusion. The very heart of his nature is the embrace of others.

To love the truth, no matter where it takes us; to cherish beauty and freedom and to protect them; to embrace others – all this is our participation in the Triune Life. Whenever anyone, anywhere loves the truth, and loves other people, he or she is doing so because Christ lives in humanity and humanity lives in Christ.

And whenever we lie, and try to control people, and reject others, we are fighting against the Trinity, the very source and being of life itself.

If we love what the Father, Son, and Spirit love – if we embrace truth, and freedom, and beauty – then we will believe in Jesus when we meet him, whether that is in this life or in the life to come.

Advertisements

Responses

  1. “I believe it is more important for us to love who God is than to believe that he exists.”

    I’m sorry, but I don’t think this makes sense.

    “To love the truth, no matter where it takes us; ”

    Even if the truth leads to atheism?

  2. morsec0de:

    I would guess that the idea is this:

    If we love the truth, that is good. Though we love the truth, we might make inaccurate judgments about where the truth seems to lead us. (Atheism is one of many possible conclusions; I say “possible” because I believe honest people have honestly arrived at that conclusion, though it’s not mine.)

    When Jesus meets us with the unadulterated truth, one who loves the truth will accept Jesus as he truly is no matter what faulty conclusions they may have come to in their life, assuming, with the benefit of the doubt, that those conclusions have been arrived at honestly. This is different, I think, from the one who has come to the conclusion of atheism out of a sense of self-importance or out of a desire to reject, avoid, or deny their sense of the presence and power of God.

    If we love the truth, we will love Jesus when we truly meet him and see him as he really is.

    And even for those who have chosen atheism as reactionaries, not due to a love of the truth but recoiling from the idea of God almost as if pulling back their hands from a hot stove: often this may be an instinctive rejection of God because of pain in their lives which has been brought by people who have testified wrongly to who God is and what he is like. People in pain make all kinds of bad decisions, and those who love them make allowances for the way their pain causes them to lash out at others, even at God.

    Our God loves atheists, too.

  3. Thanks, Matt, I couldn’t have said it better myself!

  4. Interesting read, I too love the truth.

    I believe in the concept of a Creator but do not believe Jesus was G-d in the flesh; do I only have half truth? Plus, it seems that, from this post, it really does not matter what I believe because I will be forced to believe in the Christian doctrine in the here after, mainly because I love the truth. Then again, how does one know that Jesus is going to be so charismatic that I am going to view him as G-d in the first place and just fall madly in love with him? Lastly, since Atheists make bad decisions. Are other religions making those same bad decisions?

  5. We don’t believe that anyone is forced to believe anything.

    We do believe that all of us have only a partial, somewhat obscured view of reality. Jesus’ ultimate intention is that we be able to see reality as it really is: and as such, to see the truth of who he is.

  6. I need to apologize, Matt and Jonathan, for my snippy comment. I was a tad irritated by this post. I should have cooled off before commenting. So please disregard my previous comment. My concept of G-d is much different than yours. It makes it extremely hard to reconcile those differences.

    Shalom

  7. Cool! Thanks for the kind words, religiouslychallenged.

  8. Your thoughts here remind me of the experience of the character, Emeth, in C.S. Lewis’s “The Last Battle.” Emeth fervently believed in Tash, the god of the Calormines, attributing to Tash everything good, right, beautiful and loving. When Emeth died and came face to face with Aslan, he immediately loved Aslan, realizing that Aslan was the true object of his lifelong search for Tash.

  9. Thanks, Mike! That’s great imagery for what we’re talking about.

  10. I gotta ask this, since I’m an atheist AND a former Jew, meaning, I have no background in any christianity – are the father, son and holy ghost 3 different entities? I never quite got that. Isn’t this some sort of Christian form of paganism?

    Also – I would like to say that it’s a pretty weird statement to say that you can love something but not neccessarily believe in. As an atheist, I don’t believe in God, so that means I have no hate towards him, nor love. Does that make me better than a Muslim who hates the Christian God or Jesus or whatever? For some reason, I always figured that people like me are worse than infidels for anyone of the abrahamic religions.

  11. Hi freidenker,

    Thanks for the comments. In Christianity we believe that God exists as three distinct persons (we could use the word entities, perhaps) who are of such a singularity in heart, mind, and thought that they form one God. The difference between that and paganism is that paganism would say that different gods have contradictory hearts and minds – so, for example, Zeus and Poseidon have very different agendas and priorities.

    I would say the main reason we believe in the Trinity is because Jesus’ disciples taught us that he described himself, his Father, and their Spirit as being God together.

    A second reason is that we believe God is love. If God is love there had to be someone for him to love before the creation existed, therefore the Father and Son loved each other in the Spirit before anything or anyone existed.

    As for loving something without believing in it, that’s not quite what I was trying to say. What I was trying to say is that it is possible to love what someone else loves without knowing that person.

    For example, I might love Braves’ baseball. Somewhere there might be someone else who loves Braves’ baseball, a person I’ve never met. If we do someday meet our mutual love of the Braves will be an instant connection between us and will draw us towards each other.

    So, I’m suggesting that even though you don’t believe in God the Father, Son, and Spirit, you do love your family and friends, and do you value freedom and truth.

    IF there is a God and IF he is Father, Son, and Spirit, and IF he is the source of love, family, friends, freedom, and truth, then when you meet him your love of all those things, of which he is the source, will help you know him and draw you into relationship with him.

    In the larger sense I’m also suggesting that the Father, Son, and Spirit already love you even though you doubt them and are already sharing their life with you even though you aren’t convinced that is happening.

    True love doesn’t wait to be returned before it expresses itself, so I believe that God isn’t waiting on you to love him he is already loving you – and that’s why you exist and why you love others and why you love life and freedom.

    To me, it’s not a matter of “better” or “worse”. I believe we’re all in this together, Christian, Muslim, and Atheist. I think God the Father loves us all the same and has made us all his children through his Son, Jesus. I believe you and I are both included in the same life of God.

    Does that clarify my thoughts at all?

  12. First of all, let me say that even though I don’t believe in any of the doctrines you point out here, I must say that your words are very sweet and at least in one case, I agree completely:

    “So, I’m suggesting that even though you don’t believe in God the Father, Son, and Spirit, you do love your family and friends, and do you value freedom and truth.”

    Yes, I do value freedom and truth. I do love with fiery passion my family and my spouse.

    About the Trinity – this I don’t quite get – you’re saying that every single one of these three (not one!) entities is the same, but it’s not the same? So in reality, believing in the trinity means that you believe in 3 different entities which are equal – whether you like it or not, you’re STILL believing in 3 Gods. That they’re almost exactly the same creature does not change that, in that respect, you’re not monotheistic, you’re tri-theistic, or plainly, polytheistic.

    This is not a problem for me, of course. It’s merely a different (and probably to an extent not universal) Christian interpretation of the scriptures. But you really can’t have it both ways. Either there’s one God or three almost-gods. This almost brings the problem of each one of these gods. Logically, it follows that every part of the trinity is one-third of a God. This means that without all of them being the same entity, not one of them is God himself. That said, it is sacrilege according to the old testament to worship Jesus or to pray to Jesus directly. I know this because I’m originally Jewish and I have a good idea of what the Torah says. Since Christians, correct me if I’m wrong, accept the Torah as the given word of God, this puts a huge problem on the Trinity, doesn’t it?

    Thank you for your patient reply.

  13. I appreciate what you are saying about the paradox in the Christian view of God. I personally believe that whoever created this universe must be beyond our comprehension to some degree or else we have only imagined a bigger, stronger version of ourselves. So I find the paradox of a Trinitarian God actually more convincing than simpler views of God that make him a kind of superman.

    In the Christian context the term “one God” takes on a larger sense than just numerical value and, in fact, can be traced to the Hebrew scriptures which – speaking of human marriage – describe a reality in which “the two shall become one flesh”. In that context “one” means something more than numerical value, it means a mutually inter-penetrating bond of union by which two souls live “in” each other as one couple.

    In a similar way, Jesus’ disciples (specifically John, in his gospel) tell us that Jesus described himself as existing “in” the Father and the Father existing “in” him. This mutually inter-penetrating union creates the imagery of the persons of God not merely “with” each other, as the gods of the pantheon were imagined, but actually having their existence “in” each other so that none of the three have any existence that is not bound up in the others.

    Early Christians said the three persons of God “cleave” to each other, the same word used in the old marriage ceremonies in English when they say that a husband and wife should “cleave” to each other and become one flesh. The early Christians also used the Greek word “perichoresis” to describe the Triune oneness of relationship, a word that means “inter-penetration”.

    So, our concept of one God is really a concept of oneness and union, not a concept of numerical value.

    As you say, this presents enormous difficulties for those trained in the Hebrew scriptures, and Jesus’ disciples tell us that it was a problem in their day as well. The Christian answer to the question is, I admit, not entirely satisfying from the standpoint of the Hebrew worldview. We believe that the man Jesus of Nazareth claimed to be the Word of God (or Son, both titles are used) and that he had existed “in” the Father and the Father “in” him before he entered into flesh and blood as man. If you believe that Jesus is the Word of God then you have to believe that he is the ultimate interpreter of the words spoken to Moses and the prophets. If he says that the words of the Hebrew scripture, when they speak of one God, are speaking of the oneness and unity of the Triune God then we have to accept his statement on the matter because he has knowledge of God that we cannot have. We are dependent on him to share his knowledge of God with us.

    In fact, I believe the case could be made that the Hebrew scriptures do contain hints of the multi-dimensional nature of God’s personhood, hints that become clearer in the light of Jesus. One small example would be the frequent references to the Spirit “of” God. Such references don’t speak, technically, of a unitarian God in action but rather of “God” and a “spirit” that is both “of” him and is him at the same time.

    These hints in the Hebrew scriptures, which come to fruition in Jesus’ testimony about himself, point us to a union of three Divine persons who should be described as “distinct” from each other but not “separate.” So the unity, or oneness, of God is to be found in the fact that the three are never separated, while the trinitarian nature of God is to be found in the fact that the three remain distinct within that inseparable union. It is the inter-penetration of each others’ existence, or perichoresis, that makes this possible, just as in marriage it is the inter-penetrating union of husband and wife that causes the two to become one flesh without ever ceasing to be distinctly themselves within that union.

    Of course this is all explanation, not persuasion per se. To explain the Christian concept of God is not necessarily to convince anyone to believe it.

    One bit of common ground we have, though, is our “fiery passion” for our spouses and families. Would I be correct in guessing that, as an Atheist, you explain that as a biological necessity for survival and/or reproduction? Not trying to put words in your mouth, but obviously we would all seek – from within our individual worldviews – to explain the origin of such intense emotions and relationships.

    What I’m suggesting is that IF there is a God, his nature and being must be of such a quality as to adequately explain the source of our fiery passion for relationship – and not just “with” relationship, but inter-penetrating “in” relationship by which our lives become completely inter-penetrating (perichoretic) with those that we love, who live “in” us as we live “in” them.

    That’s why, after many years of studying religion, I am convinced that God must either be the passionate, inter-penetrating relationship that Jesus described or there must be no God. Since I find myself in a world where inter-penetrating relationship is the single, highest desire of all humanity and is fundamental to the nature of our existence, I conclude that we must have flowed in our origin from just such a relationship.

    Thanks for the dialog on the these subjects, I will be interested to know what else you think.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Categories

%d bloggers like this: