The Thing Atheists Hate The Most

Abraham005Of course I can’t verify that I actually know what atheists hate the most. Some might hate warm beer more than they hate anything else. Some might hate the Dallas Cowboys more than they hate anything else. Some might hate spending Christmas at their in-laws more than they hate anything else. So this generalization I’m making comes with a caveat—I’m speaking specifically about theology and what the atheists I’ve encountered hate about Christianity and specifically about God.

Put simply, they hate that God’s ways are not our ways. In one discussion, an atheist kept insisting that an omniscient God would have to act this way or that way. Which is it, he kept asking. He, of course, isn’t omniscient, so I couldn’t figure out how he knew that an omniscient God, who’s ways and thoughts aren’t like ours, had only those two choices.

In a more recent discussion, the point is one that Christians have struggled with, and disagreed about for centuries: is God sovereign or does humankind have free will? As I read Scripture, I have to conclude God is both sovereign and has given humans who He made in His image, free will.

There are lots of verses in the Bible that people use to support the idea that God is sovereign. There are also lots of verses in the Bible that people use to support the idea that humans have free will. The natural conclusion seems to be, then, that both are true. It’s not a matter of either-or, but of both-and.

To reinforce this idea, there are a few verses that mesh the two. One is Philippians 3:12. I need to give the context though so that the meaning is clear. Here’s what Paul said about knowing Christ:

More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish so that I may gain Christ, and may be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own derived from the Law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which comes from God on the basis of faith, that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death; in order that I may attain to the resurrection from the dead. (vv 8-11)

So Paul doesn’t count anything in his past as worthwhile. By far the greatest thing in his life is knowing Christ Jesus, which isn’t a result of any of his own good deeds, but is because of faith. The result is that Paul knew Jesus, suffering and all, anticipating the resurrection from the dead. Then the key verse:

Not that I have already obtained it or have already become perfect, but I press on so that I may lay hold of that for which also I was laid hold of by Christ Jesus. (v 12, emphasis mine)

Christ laid hold of Paul and Paul laid hold of faith in Christ.

On the flip side, 1 Peter 2 contains a verse that shows the same synchronistic relationship between God’s sovereign plan and humankind’s rebellion against Him. Again a little context:

And coming to Him as to a living stone which has been rejected by men, but is choice and precious in the sight of God, you also, as living stones, are being built up as a spiritual house for a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. For this is contained in Scripture:
“BEHOLD, I LAY IN ZION A CHOICE STONE, A PRECIOUS CORNER stone,
AND HE WHO BELIEVES IN HIM WILL NOT BE DISAPPOINTED.”
This precious value, then, is for you who believe; but for those who disbelieve,
“THE STONE WHICH THE BUILDERS REJECTED,
THIS BECAME THE VERY CORNER stone” (vv 4-7)

The stage is set. Believers are part of a spiritual house, with Jesus as the Cornerstone. But the next verse discloses the truth about those who do not believe. Peter gives another quote from the Old Testament, then draws the conclusion:

and,
“A STONE OF STUMBLING AND A ROCK OF OFFENSE”;
for they stumble because they are disobedient to the word, and to this doom they were also appointed. (v 8, emphasis mine)

Some, Scripture says, find Jesus to be a “rock of offense.” But how did they arrive at that position? By being disobedient to the word, a doom to which they were appointed.

This is enough to cause headaches. In general, we don’t like the idea that people are appointed to doom. We don’t like the idea that God hardened Pharaoh’s heart. Of course Scripture also says Pharaoh hardened his own heart.

How can both be true?

We want things to be clear, easy, tied up in a neat bow, we want answers that makes sense to us.

“For My thoughts are not your thoughts,
Nor are your ways My ways,” declares the LORD.
“For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
So are My ways higher than your ways
And My thoughts than your thoughts. (Isaiah 55:8-9)

Here’s the thing. There really is a clear, easy, tied up in a neat bow truth which we can rely on: God is trustworthy. That’s the truth.

So when God told Abram to leave his home, even though Abram didn’t know where he was going, he trusted Him. When God promised to give Him more descendants than the stars, even though Abram was childless, he believed Him. When God told him all the nations would be blessed through him, though Abraham never lived to see the fulfillment, He counted that promise to be a done deal.

Yet, with respect to the promise of God, [Abraham] did not waver in unbelief but grew strong in faith, giving glory to God, and being fully assured that what God had promised, He was able also to perform. (Romans 4:20-21]

Gideon003That’s the response of faith to the transcendent God whose ways are higher than ours.

Not that there’s no room for questions—something atheists accuse Christians of is never asking questions. Of course we ask questions—as Gideon did when he was tapped to go up against the Midianites. As did Mary when the angel told her she’d give birth to the Messiah. As did David and other psalmists who cried, How long, oh Lord; or, Why do the wicked prosper; or, Have you forgotten your people?

Questions are not anathema to God. What He wants is a broken and contrite heart, though. Questions from a broken and contrite heart are very different from questions coming from a heart of pride that harbors a desire to be like god.

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10 Comments

  1. That was very good Becky. The idea of God being completely sovereign and us having free will at the same time seems to make little sense…to us. But, obviously both are true, as His Word tells us that. You are so correct, that the hated thing is that God is in fact transcendent in relation to us. I get that for sure. It was only the acceptance that I can’t understand Him that allowed me to come to faith.

    Seriously, if we could understand God, he would not be much of a God would He? He would be like me, and I can say I would make a pretty lousy God.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Exactly, Wally. If we could understand what’s the good and right way to order things for us and for the people in China a hundred years from now, we would have some reason to think that we could be god, perhaps. But it really is silly for us to judge Him when we don’t even know the day or hour of our own passing from life into life eternal.

      I appreciate you! 🙂

      Becky

      Liked by 1 person

  2. You know company on this post is inevitable, right? LOL. It’s only a matter of time. You have the patience of Job, my hat is off to you.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Well said, Becky. Many people struggle with the idea of freewill, versus, is God sovereign? We have trouble wrapping our brains around the idea of time too, for us it is linear, but God exists outside of time. He already knows our start and finish, while we are pretty much in the dark. As it says, “For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known.”

    A pastor once explained freewill and sovereignty as if we were fish in a fish tank. We are free to do whatever we wish, but there are still walls to our aquarium. It made me laugh, but when I think of my own kids as toddlers, they were totally free to roam about, but of course, they were also constrained. The goal with our own children is to get them to the point of being able to make their own decisions wisely. I imagine in some ways, God the Father is like that too.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. In our society, where we have been fooled into thinking we can be all, do all, it is difficult compare ourselves to an actual God; then it points out how limited we truly are. ..

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I have always been of the opinion it’s both. I mean, really. Oh, Rebecca, I know I’m throwing this out there at the last minute but I have an opening in March 29th for my from 2-3 pm Eastern time slotted for you…

    Sorry for the late notice. I probably should have told you beforehand. If you can’t do it, let me know.

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  6. Not the 29th, the 26th. March 26th I put you on the calendar. 2-3 pm Eastern time. It’s women empowerment month and I’m going to pushing that.

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