A Letter to an Atheist:
I can appreciate your skepticism about God and His ways. In fact, if I were God, I certainly would have done things differently. However, over the years, I've had many occasions to reconsider assuming this weighty vocation.
For instance, we tend to think we know what’s ultimately good for us. Many think that hitting-the-Lotto equates with happiness. However, surveys have shown that, more often than not, it destroys the lives it touches.
I can also think of many examples from my own life. For decades, I had experienced the horror of severe depression and panic attacks. However, I now thankfully look back on what I endured and recognize that I needed these trainers.
Also, this lesson pertains to how many of us have regarded God’s way of salvation. You too write:
- Reward lies solely with repentance and not at all whether you led a good and decent life. I just cannot accept this idea on faith.
Nevertheless, I think that there is wisdom in this, which we can only perceive as we progress further down the road. What if none of us are really good? Instead, we merely like to think that we are good, and this causes us to arrogantly look down on others and live in denial about our true nature. Would you disagree with me that if life enabled us to continue in our arrogance and denial that these would ruin any hope of real relationships?
You don’t have to be a Christian to recognize that denial, self-delusion, and self-righteousness are the real status of humanity. A multitude of experiments and surveys have revealed this very thing, although there have been some psychologists who have tried to justify our delusions by claiming that we need them in order to be able to function proactively.
Instead, if self-delusion is our reality, then counseling should be more confrontational than indulgent. It should attempt to break through the denial. However, such psychotherapists wouldn’t last long in their practice. They would loose all of their clients, who would seek other psychotherapists - those who would make them feel better about themselves.
However, life – God’s life – will not allow us to escape with ease. Life is painful. While we can escape the confrontational therapist, we can’t escape life, and life has a way of contradicting our illusions.
I’ve come to understand that a relationship with God is like having a relationship with life and with others. If someone spreads around malicious stories about me, it will not matter how many nice things they might say to my face or even how many times they might shower me with gifts.
Instead, in order to repair the relationship, the problem must be addressed at its core. The offender would have to humble himself to confess and repent of his wrongdoing. (I would even insist that he also attempt to make reparations by openly confessing his lies about me.) Nothing can be more healing for a relationship! If the offender refuses to repent, then there is no hope for restoration.
The Pharisees had been good and righteous people, at least, that’s the way they had been perceived. They were zealous to perform the good deeds of the law, and everyone held them in high esteem. Even the Jewish people of today regard them as worthy of God. However, these same people were in denial about their true spiritual status (Luke 16:15). They were self-righteous (Matthew 23) and looked down on others (Luke 18:9). These were the very same people who hated the light of God (John 3:19-20) and sought to put to death the Source of that light.
A relationship with God requires that we address our problem at its root – our sins and rebellion against the truth. Anything else is superficial. Meaningful relationship must start with renewal of our attitudes and heart’s desires. If I found out that my wife loved me because I reminded her of her first flame, this would seriously undermine whatever we had enjoyed together.
There are many other areas – areas that you have mentioned – where it seems that God has taken a wrong path. We think of the problems of suffering, of hell, and of the exclusivity of Christ, among others. While for some, these represents knock-out punches, for those who know and love Him, these are no more than areas that give birth to questions, albeit uncomfortable ones.
In short, I have come to find the wisdom of God in areas where, previously, I could find little rationale. However, if He is truly the Creator, then we shouldn’t be surprised by our perplexity.