The Part that Dawkins Left Out

DawkyAtheist Richard Dawkins has become famous by hating the One True God who reveals himself in the pages of the Old and New Testament. He, like many other so-called New Atheists, attempts to level the charge of immorality against God. Despite the obvious category errors that such accusations necessarily exhibit, the same old complaints continue to flow from Dawkins and those who follow him. How a creature whose most valued moral sentiments are nothing more than “the outcome of accidental collocations of atoms” (to quote Bertrand Russell) thinks he has the right to judge the behaviors of another person is an inexplicable mystery. How this creature thinks he has the authority to judge the behaviors of God is even more impossible to comprehend! Nevertheless, as I read Scripture some time ago I stumbled into that part of the Old Testament that Dawkins & Co. have left out of their analyses of God’s moral character.

In particular, I was reading through Exodus 22 and came across the following commands.

“You shall not wrong a sojourner or oppress him, for you were sojourners in the land of Egypt. You shall not mistreat any widow or fatherless child. If you do mistreat them, and they cry out to me, I will surely hear their cry, and my wrath will burn, and I will kill you with the sword, and your wives shall become widows and your children fatherless.

“If you lend money to any of my people with you who is poor, you shall not be like a moneylender to him, and you shall not exact interest from him. If ever you take your neighbor’s cloak in pledge, you shall return it to him before the sun goes down, for that is his only covering, and it is his cloak for his body; in what else shall he sleep? And if he cries to me, I will hear, for I am compassionate.” (vv.21-27)

God commands the Israelites to not wrong a sojourner, and to not oppress him. God commands Israel to not mistreat any widow. God commands Israel to not mistreat any fatherless child. God commands Israel to be compassionate to the poor, not demanding interest from him or repossessing the only cloak that he owns. And God promises to pour out his wrath on all those who break these laws.

I’ve never seen an atheist comment on these laws. Why? Perhaps atheists haven’t read them. Perhaps atheists have, in a fit of blind fury and mouth frothing, read past these verses in search of something they could misinterpret as immoral. Perhaps God has blinded their eyes to these words in order that these atheists will continue in their unbelief and hatred of God and so heap up wrath for the day of judgment.

Perhaps their intention is to accuse God of sin, in spite of all evidence to the contrary.

-h.

The Only God Among Flesh: The Gospel According to Daniel

JesusDaniel 2 tells of the trouble king Nebuchadnezzar experienced when he could not remember a dream he had. His scholars and learned men, additionally, are more troubled when the king demands that they relay the content of the dream to him, as well as its interpretation. The matter is humanly impossible, which causes these men to reply:

“There is not a man on earth who can meet the king’s demand, for no great and powerful king has asked such a thing of any magician or enchanter or Chaldean. The thing that the king asks is difficult, and no one can show it to the king except the gods, whose dwelling is not with flesh.” (Dan 2:10-11)

Note the words of these men carefully. Firstly, they acknowledge that reading another man’s thoughts is humanly impossible. Next, they recognize that the revelation of the dream and its interpretation can only be known via divine revelation. Lastly, they understand that the dwelling of the gods is not with flesh.

Immediately Daniel enters the narrative and relays the dream and its correct interpretation to the king. Essentially, the dream is a symbolic representation of the course of history from Nebuchadnezzar’s time up until Christ comes and establishes his kingdom. The event, in other words, contradicts the words of the king’s magicians and enchanters in two very significant ways. Firstly, whereas the magicians and enchanters claim that no man can tell the dream and its interpretation, Daniel does exactly that. What is impossible for men to perform is not impossible for God to perform. Not only this, but that which is impossible for “the gods” is a simple thing for the one true God to accomplish. If men do not know x, it is because God has decreed that they should not know x. God is not limited by virtue of his being. In fact, it is because God is God that he can do as he wishes and none can stay his hand or say to him “What are you doing?”

Secondly, and perhaps more importantly (for it reiterates the first point), the Rock cut not by human hands which shatters the kingdoms of the earth is the Son of God, the Word who became flesh. The gods may not have their dwelling among flesh, but God the Son will become flesh, build his church, and place all the kingdoms of the earth under his rule. The very thing which the magicians and enchanters claim is impossible is not only not impossible for Yahweh to perform, it is the very thing which he has promised he would perform. The Word of God will take upon himself a human nature, a physical body of flesh and blood and bone, and his kingdom will have no end.

The unbelieving scholars drew correct conclusions only up to a certain point. When faced with the prospect of the One True God taking on human flesh and dwelling among us, these men reveal just how deeply ingrained their unbelief and idolatry is. And when we enter chapter 3 of the book of Daniel, we see that these men are also hypocrites. For in this chapter they claim that the dwelling of the gods is not among flesh, yet in the next chapter Nebuchadnezzar builds a statue of himself, a giant idol for the people to fall down in front of in worship. If the dwelling of the gods is not among flesh, then why does Nebuchadnezzar create this object of worship, this physical proxy of himself? Why do the magicians and enchanters not protest the building of the statue? Because they are hypocrites. When it comes to receiving the judgment of God through the king’s dream, the magicians and enchanters know that the dwelling of the gods is not among flesh; yet they fall in worship before the statue.

Most significantly, however, in chapter 3 there is a Christophany. That is to say, before the Incarnation of the Word of God we see the Word of God walking amidst the flames of judgment for his people, with his people. And what do the people call him? One like the Son of God, or like a son of the gods. There is some disagreement as to how the phrase should be rendered, but that is irrelevant. For if the person in the fiery furnace is like the Son of God, his presence contradicts the words of the enchanters and magicians. Again, if the man in the fiery furnace is like a son of the gods, then his presence contradicts the words of the so-called wise of Nebuchadnezzar’s kingdom. What the gods cannot do, God the One True God, Father, Word, and Holy Spirit accomplishes in sending forth his Son to save his people by passing through the fires of judgment with them.

This one like the Son of God is the same one like the Son of Man: Jesus the Christ, the Word become Flesh. Thus, in Daniel’s book the focus is not on Daniel per se but the Lord Jesus Christ, the Incarnation of the Eternal Second Person of the Trinity. It is precisely by God taking upon human flesh and dwelling among human flesh that God will establish his kingdom and destroy his enemies forever.

Amen.

-h.

The Reality of Spiritual Warfare – Orthodoxy vs. Heresy (Mark 1:21-28)

Spiritsword[I preached on Mark 1:21-28 yesterday. If you’re interested, you can download or stream the sermon here. The following is an excerpt from the sermon. Soli Deo Gloria :)]

Charismatics often look to passages such as this in order to justify elaborate theories, really speculations, about how a Christian minister ought to cast out a demon. Yet if we see only the erratic and violent behavior of the unclean spirit, we miss the greater point at issue: The battle fought here is between Christ the Word and the unclean spirit who tries to command and control Christ through spoken words.

As one bible commentator notes, “possibly the naming of Jesus is an attempt to gain the advantage by uttering his true name in the midst of the approaching supernatural confrontation.” There is a real confrontation between the Word incarnate and this unclean spirit: Christ has come to preach the Gospel, and the demon is trying to oppose and suppress the preaching of the Gospel.

Paul says as much about spiritual warfare to Timothy when he says that “in the later times some will depart from the faith by devoting themselves to deceitful spirits and teachings of demons.” (1st Tim 4:1) That is to say, the conflict is between Truth and error. The Truth saves and sanctifies those who are saved. Hence, the Scriptures tell us that the truth will set you free. And our Lord prays “Sanctify them in the Truth.” Sound doctrine sets a man free from idolatrous notions of who God is, from false thoughts about himself and the remainder of God’s creation, and from slavery to sin, death, and the devil. Inversely, false doctrines, the doctrines of demons, as Paul tells Timothy, have ethical/moral effects in the life of the person who believes them. Those who follow false doctrines, for instance, have abandoned the faith, the Lord in whom they once professed to believe. And this following of false doctrines works itself out in things as practical and common as whether or not one gets married or eats certain kinds of food.

Let us not look for the spectacle of exorcisms made popular by movies and the charismatic movement. It is the Truth who is attacked by the unclean spirit in this passage. And it is the Truth who overcomes and destroys the unclean spirit.

-h.