Monday, March 17, 2014

Bill Maher: God is a "psychotic mass murderer"

The Washington Times (Saturday, March 15, 2014) reported that “during a conversation on the biblical story of Noah,” Bill Maher called God a “psychotic mass murderer” who “drowns babies.”  Maher asked, “What kind of tyrant punishes everyone just to get back at the few he’s mad at?”

If Maher is going to attack over a billion Christians and Jews around the world, he should at least get his facts straight. The story of Noah in the book of Genesis does not portray God as punishing “everyone just to get back at the few he’s mad at.” According to the story, the whole earth was “filled with  violence” and “ever inclination” of people’s heart “was only evil all the time,” “all the people on earth had corrupted their ways” and the whole “earth [was] filled with violence” (Genesis 6:6-12).

The story implies the culture of the entire world was thoroughly and pervasively wicked and violent. We might imagine a culture in which rape, robbery, murder, torture, retribution and revenge were the norm, with no hope of turning things around. I haven’t seen the Noah movie but if I were going to produce such a movie it would have to be rated R for violence.

By way of modern examples, think of cultures in which lying, cheating, stealing and corruption are a thoroughly ingrained part of life. Think of cultures in parts of the world in which children are taught lies from earliest ages in an attempt to foster rabid hatred against Jews; or other cultures in which children are taught how to shoot and decapitate anyone who gets in the way of whatever they want. Think of cultures which imagine they are serving God by kidnapping, raping and torturing innocent women and children—often by the hundreds or even thousands (or in Sudan, by the millions)!Think of the honor killings and revenge killings that go on in the world. Now imagine an entire world like that with no civil restraint and no mediating good influence. That’s the story of Noah.

When Maher goes on to attack Christians for “the restrictions they put on themselves” it sounds like he is actually angry at the restrictions that the biblical God would put on human behavior.
Those of us who side with Noah in the story, believe that God, as the creator, has every right to restrict the behavior of his creation—especially since those restrictions, if actually followed, would produce a much more loving and peaceful society. We also believe that the Creator has every right to put an end to horrible wickedness and start over, which is the story of Noah.

Those who hate God’s restrictions and oppose the God of the Noah story, are unwittingly siding with a culture of pervasive corruption and intense, world-wide violence.

I’m sure Maher doesn’t believe a word of the story, of course, but if he’s going to criticize it, he should at least take a few seconds to read it and criticize it for what it actually says rather than creating a straw man that he can blow down.

Maher's response tells us much about his own rabid hatred of Christians, but nothing about the story of Noah. (And by the way, he needs our prayers, not our hate mail)!

Friday, March 14, 2014

Witnesses for Jesus

I recently attended a pastor’s workshop in which the leader—if I understood him correctly—taught that Christian witnessing is about telling what God is doing in your life.

Like many others, my life has often been filled with enormous emotional pain. When I was about six years old my cousin and best friend was walking behind a horse when he was kicked in the head and died. My best friend and brother-in-law was crushed in the back of the garbage truck he was working on. My two younger brothers died suddenly of massive heart attacks. My father-in-law died of Lou Gehrig's disease. 

My mom and dad both died of emphysema (and other complications) struggling for every breath they could get. My first grandson died during delivery. The pain of all of these deaths put together doesn’t even compare with other emotional pain I’ve experienced.  I suspect that if I shared with others that this is how God has worked in my life, they would say, “You Christians can’t even get drunk to ease the pain! Why would anyone want that?!”

I suspect that the workshop speaker was talking about sharing the good things God is doing in our lives, but that can be deceptive. Becoming a Christian does not mean that life will then be a bed of roses—it may become a bed (or crown) of thorns! The fact is that God often works through the trials in our life.

Take St. Paul for example. Imagine Paul telling people how God had worked in his life: Before he met Jesus, Paul was well-respected and rising in status faster than many of his contemporaries. After he got saved and started preaching Jesus, Paul got death threats in Damascus, Jerusalem and elsewhere. He was run out of town in places like Pisidian Antioch,  Iconium, Thessalonica and Berea. He was stoned nearly to death in Lystra, and was imprisoned in Philippi, Caesarea and Rome.

In Second Corinthians11, Paul summarizes what God was doing in his life saying that his ministry had resulted in hunger, thirst and sleepless nights. He says that five times he had been whipped, three times he had been beaten with rods and once he had been stoned. Before finally being beheaded he would spend years in Caesarean and Roman confinement—and we’re not talking modern prisons with weight rooms, basketball courts and TV’s. It was more like darkness, cold hard floors, and vermin.

Jesus taught that those who would follow him should count the cost—because it could cost everything! Those who leave the impression that following Jesus will solve all your problems are lying to you!

Telling people what you think God is doing in your life is hardly sharing the Gospel! The Gospel begins with the biblical teaching that “all have sinned and come short God’s perfect standard.” Our sin has separated us from God and places us under his terrible wrath. Paradoxically, however, in God, love and wrath coexist. In his love, God became human in the person of Jesus Christ, and endured mocking, beating and torture on a cross as a sacrifice to save all who would turn to him in repentance and faith (i.e. allegiance, loving devotion).

Following Jesus in faith does not always lead to personal peace and prosperity in this life. In fact, for many people following Jesus makes life worse—for some, much MUCH worse! But we follow a Lord who endured unbearable suffering for us. Why would we expect anything different?

Bottom line, being witnesses for Jesus involves talking about Jesus, not necessarily about what you think God is doing in your life.