Tuesday, January 22, 2013

The Miracle of Salvation and why the World Refuses it

We apologists must never forget that salvation is a Divine and supernatural gift. Forgetting this will lead to frustration and ruffled feelings.

My brothers are both atheists, although they sometimes call themselves “agnostics.” We can agree about many things – family matters, people, the injustice in the world. We can even evaluate evidences together. We were together able to agree about funeral arrangements for dad, the need to cut down the old tree that seemed to be leaning threateningly towards the house of our childhood, and the need for various house repairs.

However, when it comes to evaluating the evidences for the existence of God, we encounter irresolvable and monumental differences. While I see the evidences for God all around me and even within me, they remain unimpressed. While I see uttering compelling evidences, they see a complete absence of evidence. How can we explain this disconnect?

Interestingly, this is the very disconnect to which the Bible frequently eludes:

  • The man without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually discerned. (1 Cor. 2:14)
Elsewhere, Paul writes that although we all have incontestable evidences of God, we reject them:

  • The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth by their wickedness, since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. For since the creation of the world God's invisible qualities--his eternal power and divine nature--have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse. (Romans 1:18-20) 
According to Paul, the evidence is so clear that we can have no rational excuse for not believing in God. Therefore, the problem of disbelief is not about a lack of evidence but rather a hatred of the evidence. We hate the light because it reveals what we are all about (John 3:19-20).

This truth is highly offensive. It informs us that we don’t believe because we don’t want to believe – that we have access to the light but hate the light. This revelation contradicts our entire worldview and self-concept. We have a lot invested in the belief that we are good and deserving people who really want the truth. However, the Biblical revelation tells us the exact opposite.

We must not underestimate the importance of self-image. In both the movie and the play, Les Miserables, Lieutenant Javier strongly identified justice - law and its enforcement. He saw himself as a pillar of truth and righteousness. He therefore relentlessly pursued the parole-breaker Jean Val Jean. However, an understanding of grace was completely foreign to his worldview and self-concept. Therefore, when confronted by grace, his worldview was so shaken that he committed suicide rather than attempting to embrace it into his self-righteous self-concept.

Judas was somewhat different. He wasn’t a law-keeper but a thief. Nevertheless, he too refused to receive grace and forgiveness. After he had betrayed Jesus, he knew he betrayed a righteous man. Instead of receiving the grace that he had witnessed at Jesus’ side for the previous three years, he was determined to atone for his own sins and kill himself.

Why did not Judas cry out for forgiveness? Why did he take matters into his own hand? Why was he willing to pay such a high price for his sins, when salvation was only a confession away? He hated the light and rejected it.

Years ago, I would take my Sunday School classes into nursing homes to sing and pray for the residents. I marveled at the fact that so few of the elderly were willing to attend our gathering. Some even had no one to visit them. Wouldn’t the company of my young students have been a welcome comfort to them? What did they have to loose? It would cost them nothing! Why were they depriving themselves? For years, they had hated the light and could no longer tolerate it.

I still marvel at these things. Although the Bible prepares us for the fact that humanity hates the light and also those who bear that light (John 15:18-20; 16:1-2), we still ask ourselves, “What did I do wrong. There must be some reason that the world hates us. There must be some reason why I can’t get through to them.”

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