For thinking men of the twenty-first century, the Christian religion is a sheer fiction and the Bible a collection of ancient of myths – it is most certainly not a revelation of absolute truth. The Christian faith is written off as a world of the stupid. By this count, most stupid are those who fail to see that behind the façade of the Christian faith God is dying or even dead.
By the dawn of the twentieth century, few who thought themselves intelligent any longer believed in the immortality of the soul, or in sin, or grace or redemption, the resurrection, or in much else that is Christian. These fables were left behind as the outgrown toys, set aside as the amusements of humanity’s infancy and childhood. The Christian faith had now been exposed as a fraud, as an illusion. Those who still preach its truth can no longer be mistaken, but must be telling deliberate lies. So we are told. God is dead; God has died. This was the verdict of the German philosopher, Friedrich Nietzsche. In saying this, He was not saying that God does not exist, nor was he saying necessarily that he did not believe in God. In proclaiming the death of God, Nietzsche was describing the particular stage reached by western civilisation. We have matured; we have outgrown all need of God.
In Nietzsche’s ‘Thus Spake Zarathustra’, when Zarathustra leaves his solitude to walk among men, he comes across an old man who calls upon him to honour God in his song. Zarathustra laughs to himself and says, “How is it possible! The old man … hasn’t heard the news, that God is dead.” The death of God had brought liberation for him and for all mankind. We have all ‘come of age’. We can govern our own affairs and have no need of the crutch that belief in God once provided.
God – according to the German philosopher, Feuerbach – God is just a bit of wishful thinking on our part. We invented Him because we felt we needed such a Being. God did not create man, no, man created God. How stupid to get it the wrong way round! In opening decade the 20th century Thomas Hardy wrote his poem, A Plaint to Man. Speaking on behalf of God, he asks…
Wherefore, O Man, did there come to you
The unhappy need of creating me –
A form like your own – for praying to?
‘Such a forced device,’ you may say, ‘is meet
For easing a loaded heart at whiles:
Man needs to conceive of a mercy-seat
Somewhere above the gloomy aisles
Of this wailful world, or he could not bear
The irk no local hope beguiles.’
And now that I dwindle day by day
Beneath the deicide eyes of seers
In a light that will not let me stay,
And to-morrow the whole of me disappears,
The truth should be told, and the fact be faced
That had best been faced in earlier years:
The fact of life with dependence placed
On the human heart’s resource alone,
In brotherhood bonded close and graced
With loving-kindness fully blown,
And visioned help unsought, unknown.
Why did men create God, someone like themselves to whom they could pray? Was it because they could not cope with the stresses and tragedies of human life? Could they then find no other solace than in this imaginary Being? Now God is being killed off, done away with. We ought to have faced the truth a long time ago and depended not upon a made-up God, but relied upon the resources of the human heart alone. Where I ask, O where have we seen ‘brotherhood bonded close and graced with loving kindness fully blown’? No, this was the wishful thinking, this was a folly of human invention – to think to make God redundant and replace Him. Few were the years after Hardy’s proud boast, not thirty since Nietzsche wrote God’s obituary notice, than guns boomed across Europe. Men, boys hardly out of school, died in the mud and bullets, in the swirling poison gas and sodden human excrement, with the unforgettable stench of blood and death in their nostrils, in the trenches and fields of France in what must still be one of the most horrendous of wars ever fought. Some brotherhood this, some close bonding, yes, but hardly graced with loving-kindness. A blind illusion! Misdirected optimism! It is far too early to dig God’s grave, too early by far to bury Him.
We need to be quite clear here in our own minds as to what we mean when we speak of God. At least for the purposes of this essay, we are not speaking about ‘a god’, not of ‘god’ as we imagine Him to be, but of Him who is revealed in the pages of the Old and New Testaments of Holy Scripture. The God of the Bible can be known only because He reveals Himself. Contrary to the assertions and exertions of many, we cannot reason our way to God. All such exercises and resultant ‘proofs’ leave us with a god who is little more than a projection of our own mind, a homemade god, a god made in our own image. This is Hardy’s god, Nietzsche’s god who died. Job was asked by one of his comforters: “Canst thou by searching find out God? canst thou find out the Almighty unto perfection?” (Job11:7). What we know or can know about God comes to us only as and when God Himself chooses to draw near to us. The words of the Lord Jesus are quite clear.
“At that time Jesus answered and said, I thank thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes. Even so, Father: for so it seemed good in thy sight. All things are delivered unto me of my Father: and no man knoweth the Son, but the Father; neither knoweth any man the Father, save the Son, and he to whomsoever the Son will reveal him. (Matthew 11:25-27)
Something of God is to be seen in the world He created, the crown of which is man created in His image.
“When I consider thy heavens, the work of thy fingers, the moon and the stars, which thou hast ordained; What is man, that thou art mindful of him? and the son of man, that thou visitest him? For thou hast made him a little lower than the angels, and hast crowned him with glory and honour. Thou madest him to have dominion over the works of thy hands; thou hast put all things under his feet.”
The most perfect revelation of God was in Christ – the living Word of God. Jesus Himself said of Himself: “he that hath seen me hath seen the Father”(John 14:9).Today, we have God’s written Word, the Scriptures and it is here we must look would we find Him. “Search the scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life: and they are they which testify of me.” (John 5:39) All that is to be said about God can only be said because He first said it. Not that Christian belief is without reason, but reason must always be subservient to revelation. God being God only that can be reasonable which is according to the reason of God, all else is unreasonable. Those think aright who think as God thinks.
True religion is not the record of man’s search for God but of God’s progressive revelation of Himself. Not that God is necessarily hard to find. There are many promises in the Bible that make clear God’s willingness to be found of them who seek Him honestly and diligently. There is no unwillingness of God’s part. God promised Israel: “And ye shall seek me, and find me, when ye shall search for me with all your heart” (Jeremiah 29:13). Such is His promise today to all those who would know Him:
“Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you: For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened. (Matthew 7:7-8)
We should be quite clear, the Bible does not divide humanity into those who believe in the existence of God and those who do not. The Bible makes a different distinction. We find two groups: those who worship God “in spirit and in truth” (John 4:24) and those who worship and serve “the creature more than the Creator” (Romans 1:25). There are those who live their lives in submission to God and seek to do His will and then there are those who have ousted God, made Him irrelevant – or think they have. They simply live without Him and instead have assumed for themselves the role of the displaced God. They have crowned themselves king of their own world in His place. God has been sent into retirement as far as they are concerned, pensioned off – and His services dispensed with! There is no neutral position between these two; we are each to be found in one group or the other. If we are neither for God nor against Him, then we are not for Him therefore we are against Him. The truth is that God has done everything possible to enable us to find Him, to persuade us from supplanting Him to submitting to Him. We are without excuse, as was Israel.
“What could have been done more to my vineyard, that I have not done in it? wherefore, when I looked that it should bring forth grapes, brought it forth wild grapes?” (Isaiah 5:4)
Evidence of His person, of His care for us His creatures is all about us in the world He has made and in what He continues to do around us. There is nothing more that God could have done than that He has already done. If we do not see it, it is not because of any failure on God’s part to make Himself known, rather the problem lies with us. Despite the testimony to God’s goodness all about us, we cannot accuse Him if we choose rather to ignore or suppress it. We are really in no position to blame God for our own willing blindness. Yet, this is precisely what is going on all around us. Either God is retained but sidelined, or He is denied altogether. God is permitted to exist for those who think they need Him but is strictly cordoned off from everyday affairs. He is restricted to things ‘spiritual’ – whatever is meant by that. Men can think anything they will about God as long as He plays no part in the world in which we live. Most of our nations’ leaders do not ‘do’ God.
What we need to acknowledge, if we are to understand anything about what is going on in our western countries, is that there is a very determined campaign underway to ensure that every influence of Christian belief is removed from our law-making, from political life, from our schools, from our justice system, and from our day-to-day lives. God is OK, but do not bring Him out of the closet! Lock Him away in the chambers of personal belief, but let no one clap eyes on Him! The consequences of this are constantly with us. Slowly, just as the searing heat of molten lava, sliding and slithering down the slopes of the volcano, consumes and covers all in its pathway, so the forces of anti-Christian humanism would seek to burn up every trace of God. God must remain forever deus absconditus and leave us in peace to live our lives. In the words of the Russian anarchist, Bukunin: “If God existed, it would be necessary to destroy him.” Whatever it takes, God must be expelled, particularly from public life. If we still feel we need God, then He must be confined within the walls of our individual lives and there too He must be restricted strictly to matters of eternal salvation.
In the medium term, Bible believers will continue to suffer persecution and we should not regard this as unusual. The Bible tells us that it is likely to turn into some of the worst ever seen on earth. In the long term, God's enemies will be put to flight. This must be so or God would not be God.
“Our God,” says the Psalmist, “is in the heavens: he hath done whatsoever he hath pleased.” (Psalm 115:3) God does whatsoever He pleaseth – words that are a comfort to those who serve Him and a terror to those who hate Him.
“The LORD of hosts hath sworn, saying, Surely as I have thought, so shall it come to pass; and as I have purposed, so shall it stand.” (Isaiah 14:24)
All that God thinks and purposes He can and does fulfil to the letter. His stated ends in Scripture are therefore inescapable. We cannot afford any mistake. We cannot rule out God on nothing more than an unfounded assumption that we can safely write Him off. We can await with certainty the fulfilment of these words:
“The kingdoms of this world are become the kingdoms of our Lord, and of his Christ; and he shall reign for ever and ever.” (Revelation 11:15)
We all miss the point, if we do not recognise that all this opposition against Christian things is gathered together and finds a focal point ultimately in hatred of Christ. There are two main reasons for this. First, it is because Christ is the most explicit and a perfect revelation of God in this world. Second, He is the rightful King who shall reign over men. Those who today rule among men and do not recognise Christ as King of kings, seeking not His kingdom but their own, will see in Him a rival to their own rule making themselves not His servants but usurpers.
“The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the LORD, and against his anointed, saying, Let us break their bands asunder, and cast away their cords from us. (Psalm 2:2-3)
Change, thankfully is on the way. Not long to wait now, and all this nonsense around us will be swept away. The enemies of Christ know their time is short. Inevitably, they will kick out all the more as the end for them approaches.