Tuesday, January 15, 2013

If the box doesn't fit...

Over at CNN, a mother has come out with it that she raises her children "without God." It's a rather depressing read (as long as you steer clear of the comments section, which will inevitably cause foaming at the mouth), but I think it's worth a closer look. First of all, let me say that I don't think she is the only woman around (even in Texas) raising her kids without God. And many of the parents who are raising their kids with God are doing a terrible job at it, so let's not go around acting like she is a unique envoy of secular parenting—that's been going on for quite some time.

But I think it is telling of the depths of this self-idolatry problem that she lists the following reasons why she raises her kids without God:

  1. God is a bad parent and role model.
  2. God is not logical.
  3. God is not fair.
  4. God does not protect the innocent.
  5. God is not present.
  6. God does not teach children to be good.
  7. God teaches narcissism.
Go read the article, if you haven't. Her explanations of these points are critical to understanding how this fits in with self-idolatry. 

I was planning on writing a lengthy diatribe about how this woman was par-for-the-course for evil mis-informed atheists blah blah blah sinning to the core, etc. But then I realized it would mostly be a frustrated, angst-ridden response that did not flow from a secure confidence in the goodness and holiness of God in all things. So, here we are. I've started over and will only offer a couple of thoughts on how this type of thinking relates to sinners everywhere at the core of their being. This is just a more visible, divisive manifestation. First, a brief word on the state of things, and then an attempt at moving forward with the mission with these things in mind.

On the state of things: It should come as no surprise that, deep down, this type of thinking is inherently rooted in self-idolatry. Really, it's the mother of all sins. The author refuses to believe in God because God does not act the way she thinks He ought to act. Ontological critics aside, this is an attempt to fit God into a box that we have created, a space we can define (and change, when convenient). The problem is that this relationship is inverted—it is God that defines us, not the other way around. We cannot create and define characteristics and then project them onto God. God has given us the very definitions by which we try to contain Him. What it boils down to is this: we want God to act a certain way so that we can control Him. Once we control Him, then we can understand Him. This exalts the authority of self over the authority of God—it is idolatry of self. This works itself out in a myriad of ways, atheistic outrage at evil being one of those ways. 

The reality is that God can be known—though not fully—through His word, which He has graciously revealed to us. Scripture gives us a more than adequate picture of the characteristics of God. And when understood rightly, through careful study, meditation, and exegesis, it paints a picture of God that is vastly different than the tyrant that atheists don't believe in. The true gospel is radical, yes, but not radically tyrannical. It is radically loving. 

Our challenge and calling as Christians, then, is to identify these idols where they lie. But it doesn't stop there. We must also faithfully proclaim the true gospel and lovingly call sinners—atheists included—to repentance and faith. Admittedly, when I read articles like this, my first response is usually one of anger, which includes a mental process where I go through and destroy philosophically every argument that I can. This can't be our normal operating procedure. Debates and discussions can be fruitful, but only when driven by the same love that drove Jesus to the cross to save atheists and everyone else that would repent and believe. So let's start there. The changing of hearts we will entrust to God, who we know is loving, fair, good, and a true father to the fatherless.

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