Sunday, April 29, 2012

Guilt, Shame and Flight


We expect God to conform to our cultural biases and personal preferences. When we find that He doesn’t – He truly has His own agenda – we reject Him. I had recently met a lovely woman at a senior citizen’s center who expressed as much:

  • If God is entirely loving, why doesn’t accept everyone? Why instead does He condemn most people to hell?
I had heard this same question – I think that it was really an accusation – expressed in many ways, and therefore knew that I wouldn’t be able to offer a satisfactory answer, but this didn’t stop me:

  • Doesn’t the One who created everything have the right to set forth a condition? Why shouldn’t He insist that we repent of our sins?
I was surprised by her flippant answer:

  • Well, we do what we do – the best we can! I’d think that a God would be more understanding of His creations.
He does understand! He understands that we are at fault and need to confess as much. King Solomon put the onus on us, where it belongs:

  • This only have I found: God made mankind upright, but men have gone in search of many schemes." (Eccles. 7:29)
This is the source of the great divide – the nasty polarization cutting apart the fabric of the West – our understanding of God and of humankind. Secular thought regards us as perfectible. If our basic needs are met, we will just naturally morph into good and moral people. And if our thinking is just sharpened a bit, we’ll better realize our dreams and become a contented source of “warm fuzzies” to those around us.

In contrast, the Judeo-Christian worldview is committed to the understanding that we are such a mess that we thoroughly need God. We are so mired in denial and self-righteousness that we have blinded ourselves to our moral deceit, rationalizing away our moral failures.

Anna seemed to partake of this self-righteous, self-justifying human tendency. But I couldn’t look down on her. If it wasn’t for the fact that God had intervened in my life, I’d have been far worse! I tried to explain God’s requirement in terms of human relationships:

  • What if your friend spreads false stories about you and this jeopardized both your job and friendships. Meanwhile, she continues to buy you expensive gifts? Will these gifts adequately address the offense? Isn’t it true that only a humble confession will address the real problem? Don’t relationships depend upon dealing directly and humbly by taking full responsibility for our offenses? Why then should God demand any less?
Anna was visibly annoyed and told me she didn’t want to talk about God anymore. There were other things that I had wanted to say. We also have a duty to pay homage to our Creator and Sustainer. We do so with our parents, recognizing our responsibility towards the ones who have raised us. Sadly, we reject the One who has given us life.

Yes, Darwin has made it easier to do so today. According to this thinking, we owe God nothing, because we had been raised upon the breasts of pure chance. Although this naturalistic view is respectable today, according to evolutionist Richard Dawkins, naturalism failed to make it respectable enough! It can’t even begin to even pose a credible answer for the origins of DNA, the cell, life, the laws of physics, freewill, consciousness, and the incredible fine-tuning of the universe. All of these observations laugh in the face of mindless, powerless naturalism.

We can simply deny the forcefulness of these questions, but there are other realities that impact us even more directly and persistently. Unless we are confident that our Lord has forgiven our sins, we carry around an unshakable sense of inadequacy and unworthiness.

I knew that Anna also struggled against His accusing finger. Although she had questions about religion, once the conversation triggered her suppressed aching, she had to terminate the conversation, as if I had forced my finger into her open wound.

However, termination of the conversation is not termination the aching. It was there and would remain so. Our conversation had merely exposed it. It was an open wound deep within that evidently hadn’t healed after her many years.

Various psychotherapies have tried to cope with this wound in a variety of ways. The promotion of “positive affirmations” is one very popular. Just tell yourself that you are a good and worthy person. Relax yourself and repeat a certain set of words – “Forgive yourself…Love yourself…Accept yourself…Visualize yourself…Embrace yourself.” I think that Anna resorted to a similar affirmation: “I am a good person!”

However, all of these recommendations/techniques are based on the idea that the problem is purely subjective – just a product our chemical-electrical neural reactions – and has no independent reality of its own.

This type of thinking is bizarre. I think that an example might illustrate its absurdity. What if my wife is devastated after learning that I’ve had an affair, and I treat my guilt as if it’s no more than a subjective feeling? She will not be impressed to find that I’m dealing with my guilt through positive affirmations. Instead, she’d prefer that I’d regard my behavior as a real and objective violation of my commitment to her.

Similarly, she would remain unsatisfied if I told her that I had a pill that would permanently remove all of her feelings of betrayal. This is because she intuits that there is a core moral issue – a serious violation that a pill cannot address - that needs to be addressed.

Likewise, when we sin, we sin against the Lawgiver and His Law. It is totally unacceptable to affirm, “I am a good person.” This is no more than denial and self-righteousness. Instead, God wants the truth – the confession that we are not at all righteous and that we stand guilty before God. We need to recognize that our only hope is in His mercy – a mercy that He is ready and able to give us. It’s a gift He has already paid for on the Cross, and who purchases a gift to only bury it in the ground!

However, as I state these words, I am reminded of the Israelite nation standing before their God at Mt. Sinai. His proximity was so troubling that the Israelites pleaded with Moses:

  • "Speak to us yourself and we will listen. But do not have God speak to us or we will die." (Exodus 20:19)
Anna’s response wasn’t at all unusual. She too was an Israelite who couldn’t bear the sound of God’s voice. When I talk about God, the response is usually fight or flight. It is rarely, “This question is so foundational to our entire worldview and lives. I really need to know more!”

The wound is deep, even incurable without our Savior. Sadly, it’s a wound that rejects the only Doctor who can heal it.



No comments:

Post a Comment