The God Problem…
Forgive me, I’m about to go off piste on this one – I think something was triggered within me.
Sometime in the past few days, a well known [well regarded and intelligent] actor by the name of Stephen Fry gave a most “interesting” (shall we say) response to a question about God on a popular Irish News programme.
I watched, was stunned, gathered myself and thought long and hard about this man’s opinion. A few things came to mind but I was determined to avoid focusing on just what he said alone – it’s his mouth, he can say whatever he wants (and he certainly did).
Now, I want to be very clear on this – this is not any type of apologetics for why God is real or anything of the sort. To put it another way, if God is as incredible and magnificent as we Christians make Him out to be then he can defend Himself and if He chooses not to then what’s my own?
So, what is this then? Quite simply, this is a bit of a rant. A rant aimed squarely at… The Body of Christ!
“Wait, you what?!” I hear you say. Yes, aimed at The Body. Was I not upset to hear Mr. Fry’s opinion? Did it not offend me? Oh yes, it certainly did BUT the more I thought about it, the more I realised its our fault.
Once upon a time, in a decade not too far away, the church was the voice that proclaimed in the wilderness that is the world that we must turn from our sins and embrace The Christ and his cross for the wrath of God was not something to be trifled with.
[This was commonly expressed as something like “repent or you’re going to Hell” but I’m sure you already understood the point]
Now over the past decade and then some, there has been a distinct shift in the way The Gospel is presented to the Western world. That is to say, we have moved from the truth of the fullness of God to a “Jesus loves you and that’s all there is to it” type of approach. Basically, all we now preach is just “love” – very few preach [not teach] The Lion of the tribe of Judah, many preach The Lamb of God.
So, what does this have to do with Mr. Fry and the church? Well, this now not only reflects, but actually defines (in a microcosm) the state of our relationship with the world. We are no longer the voice in the wilderness crying “prepare the way for The Lord’s coming” – no. We are now tellers of half-truths and soothsayers. We have reduced the Gospel to that which the world wants to hear – that which will not offend [too much] – like a few drops of iodine on a deep cut, or a bandage on a gaping wound when the truth is that the cut needs to be cauterised or the limb must be amputated!
We, yes we, are responsible for statements like these simply because we are responsible for what the world knows of Christ. To put it another way:
But how are people to call upon Him Whom they have not believed [in Whom they have no faith, on Whom they have no reliance]? And how are they to believe in Him [adhere to, trust in, and rely upon Him] of Whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without a preacher? And how can men [be expected to] preach unless they are sent?
Romans 10: 14-15 (AMP)
My brothers and sisters, if calling on God is a result of belief, and belief is built upon the foundation of hearing and hearing is the output of the function of men then the buck stops with us – what have we spoken that men have heard?
Is it that God loves you no matter what and God, in His loving kindness is okay with how you are and you can do as you please because God “understands” and God is love? Or is it that God is love and God wants all to be saved but God is also Just and as such, delivers justice to all men? That He is not to be trifled with and to take God’s love for granted is to forget the fact that it is only because of His great [daily] mercy that we are not consumed? [Lamentations 3:22]
Instead, what we have managed to do over the past generation is to preach a message of an impotent God – one who is both unable and unwilling to act. One whose only character is to display love unconditionally but does not mete out justice, who does not require holiness or is no longer interested in righteousness. We’ve made Jesus out to be a Lilly picking, hippie whose only goal was to come and tell us to “make peace, not war” like we have never read Matthew 10:34. Like we did not read of Him fashioning a whip to drive out men from the temple. Like you or I could endure the beatings He took before dragging that cross all that way to be hung like a criminal.
That is what we have sold the world – a God who is greatly displeased with our sin. So displeased that He sent His only begotten Son to come and have stern words with us about how to better improve our lifestyles and become very “good” and moral people. That is what your neighbour, my neighbour, the unbeliever, believes.
In the interest of truth telling – let’s be honest with ourselves, that’s what some “Christians” believe.
As a result, we have given the Stephen Frys and Richard Dawkins of the world a foothold (and now a platform) to poke fun at our God, insult our faith and ridicule us as ones with no reasoning faculties and are dimwitted enough to believe in The Lord God Almighty who made the heavens and the earth, to whom all flesh shall bow, whose voice breaks the cedars of Lebanon, who sits above the circle of the earth!
Since when did we become so familiar? Oh, how we love to sing “I am a friend of God” but refuse to consider how much Abraham and Moses endured and overcame to earn that status.
Since when were men like the Apostle Paul, reduced to the categories of too dull to believe in The Holy One of Israel and yet have intelligently brilliant minds? Is it not the same Paul that was asked to speak at The Areopagus? Or is it not the same God that asks that we come and reason with Him (Isaiah 1:18)?
This is the lineage that we come from. These are the examples given to us for us to follow. We dare not speak a half-truth for a half-truth is a whole lie. Let us no longer present The Gospel as a one-sided message of love and speak not of God’s justice and God’s wrath – His intolerance of sin and the requirement to repent and the reverence of His Lordship over all. It is a great disservice to the one who to whom you are sent and an even greater disservice to The One who sent you.
So, what was my reaction to the Stephen Fry interview? To be honest with you, I was shocked – I was shocked at the hubris of this man (and many like him). The only way to explain how I felt was like, I felt to defend him – yes, you read right: defend him (Mr. Fry). I wanted to stand in the gap and plead with The Lord that he genuinely doesn’t know what he’s on about and you know, he’s probably excited in the moment and just babbling – he really didn’t mean it!
In the end, I prayed for him anyway because it’s important we stand in the gap and The Lord’s name be glorified. The other reaction I had was terror – I was scared for Mr. Fry because you can talk as much trash as you want till God decides to act. If you hang around me long enough, you’ll hear me say:
“It’s all fun and games until somebody gets killed.”
All I know is that when God arises, things take a very bad turn for His enemies and well, opinion and all – I believe that God still loves Mr. Fry enough to have at least one of us stand in the gap for him by praying for him. I’d love if you could join me in doing that.
I just want to encourage you – please, for the sake of this thing you have been called to, this Way – let’s do Christianity properly. Let us count the cost that is required of us to be successful in this venture. Let us reclaim the land that has been taken from us.
“From Aroer, which is on the edge of the Arnon Valley, and from the city that is in the valley, as far as Gilead, there was no city too high and strong for us; the Lord our God delivered all to us.” (emphasis mine)
God wants us to win but it is crucial that we fight on His terms.
God bless you.