Monday, January 16, 2012

1 Chron 12:32 report (New Series) 101: The Parable of the Prodigal Son -- a message to atheists and others who would willfully turn away from God; and to those who must help them find their way back,and welcome them home

Our civilisation today is haunted by an aggressive "new atheism" that sees its adherents as the "brights," and typically views those who would  take the triune Creator-redeemer God of the Bible, the gospel and the scriptures seriously as "ignorant, stupid, insane or wicked." 

Some advocates go so far as to outright declare that to try to raise children under God in home and church is "child abuse." 

So intense is the hate of others, that -- in the teeth of easily accessible evidence to the contrary -- they would plaster the one generally accepted manifestation of evil in our civilisation, Hitler, at the feet of the Christian faith. Some have even tried to say that Stalin et al of the overtly atheistical Communist party, were "religious" in their attitude and behaviour.

And so forth.

Perhaps the most infamous announcement of this extremist agenda is found in Richard Dawkins' NYT bestseller, The God Delusion, where this is how he begins his case against what he derides as "the God Hypothesis":
Dawkins, The God Delusion: “The God of the Old Testament [= The God of Israel . . . ] is arguably the most unpleasant character in all fiction: jealous and proud of it; a petty, unjust, unforgiving control-freak; a vindictive, bloodthirsty ethnic cleanser; a misogynistic, homophobic, racist, infanticidal, genocidal, filicidal, pestilential, megalomaniacal, sadomasochistic, capriciously malevolent bully . . . ” [Cf. Lennox- Dawkins debate, here. For a quick initial response to this sort of rhetoric, cf. CARM here and JPH of Tektonics here, here, here and here. Also cf. Vox Day's short book length critique of the new Atheists in a free to download format here. (Available from Amazon here.)]
Such patently angry stridency needs to be answered and corrected on the merits of fact, logic and worldview level comparative difficulties, and I suggest as a start-point:
1] The NCSTS Unit 2, on worldview choice and the general warrant for theism and for biblical Christian faith, with a pause at the JTS Intro Phil course, Unit 2 on a phil toolkit for worldview level thinking and warrant.

2] The NCSTS Unit 9, on the sins (real and imagined) of Christendom, and in response to the well-poisoning rhetoric we just saw, with a pause at the recent Matt 24 watch 150 KF blog post on Hitler, and a look at the Nuremberg investigatory documents on the Nazi agenda for the Churches, to help clear the air of a poisonous and polarising cloud of new atheist talking points. (The KF Reference web page sections on government under God and on the roots of and rise of modern liberty and democracy will help as well, on matters connected to government under just judgement, and on the balance of freedom and liberty required to maintain the civil peace of justice.)

3] The NCSTS Unit 1 on the foundational warrant for the gospel, and the JTS Intro Phil unit on modern theology, to reaffirm confidence in the gospel, the scriptures and the enduring validity of the discipleship call to turn to Jesus as Lord and Saviour.

4] The IOSE Introduction and Survey, to survey and address the origins myth of "scientific" atheism, evolutionary materialism.

5] The IOSE unit on key ideas and worldview alternatives connected to views on origins, to clarify worldview choice.

6] The IOSE Units on origin of mind, man and morality, and on origins science in society (i.e. ethics and related policy issues), to address the ethical issues implied by adopting as a dominant worldview in a culture a view -- evolutionary materialism -- that has in it no foundational IS capable of bearing the weight of OUGHT.

7] Vox Day's The Irrational Atheist (online here, print book here), as a specific rebuttal to the claims and talking points of several of the major new atheists, whose writings seem to be the engine driving much of what we are seeing on the ground or in the media and on the Internet. (The KF reference web page on selective hyperskepticism will help to deal with an underlying intellectual problem, especially the note on the closed, often angry, ideologised mind.)
However, there is another side to the story, one that is in the end a pastoral and prophetic one; requiring an answer from the Word of God. Traditionally, that has come from Rom 1:18 - 32 and to a lesser extent from something like Acts 17:16 - 34 and 1 Cor 1:17 - 29, which speak thematically to a lot of the issues raised by atheists. 

They are still relevant, but I think something more is needed, something that uses the awesome prophetic power of a world-class story tied to an ever so familiar reality, exposing the secrets of our hearts and calling us to turn back to our Eternal, ever-loving Father and God. 

So, now, let us listen afresh to the story of the lost- and- found son, often called the Parable of the Prodigal Son, from Luke 15:11 - 32:

Video, much as it may have been originally given:



The Prodigal is welcomed home
(Pompeo Batoni, 1773, Wiki)
>>  11 And [Jesus] said, “There was a man who had two sons. 12 And the younger of them said to his father, ‘Father, give me the share of property that is coming to me.’ [--> That is, he said in effect, I wish you were dead, and I wish to treat you as one dead; going my own way and doing as I please with what you have given to me . . . e.g., especially in its more overtly anger-driven forms, atheism is often little more than "rationalised" anti-authority teenager rebellion and willfulness projected against the ultimate Father, God . . . ] And he divided his property between them. 13 Not many days later, the younger son gathered all he had and took a journey into a far country, and there he squandered his property in reckless living. [--> For which, he had the "help" of those who sought to profit from his folly, and who (for their own ends and advantage) encouraged him in the path of ill-advised wrong]  14 And when he had spent everything, a severe famine arose in that country, and he began to be in need. 15 So he went and hired himself out to  one of the citizens of that country, who sent him into his fields to feed pigs. 16 And he was longing to be fed with the pods that the pigs ate, and no one gave him anything.[--> So, he was now under the domination, exploitation and oppression of the unjust, learning the hard way, the difference between the government of his Father, and the misrule of those who seek their advantage at the expense of others, indeed, this is a picture of satanic misrule and its destructive effects. Entire countries can suffer a fate like this.]

 17 “But when he came to himself [--> Having been humbled, and having been broken from arrogant pride and dismissal of his father, he begins to repent and reflects on the habitual kindness that he once took for granted; he is motivated to change by the painful results of folly, when he can no longer blame others, and is destitute and desperate] , he said, ‘How many of my father's hired servants have more than enough bread, but I perish here with hunger! 18 I will arise and go to my father, and I will say to him, "Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. 19 I am no longer worthy to be called your son. Treat me as one of your hired servants."’ 20 And he arose and came to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him. [--> His father had been looking out for him, and humbled himself, to reach out to and embrace him; how utterly different is this picture of God from the slanders of professor Dawkins! So, whose report will we believe, that of the crucified and risen Christ, or the angry professor Dawkins?]  21 And the son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’3  22 But the father said to his servants,4  ‘Bring quickly the best robe, and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet. 23 And bring the fattened calf and kill it, and let us eat and celebrate. 24 For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found.’ And they began to celebrate.

 25 “Now his older son was in the field, and as he came and drew near to the house, he heard music and dancing. 26 And he called one of the servants and asked what these things meant. 27 And he said to him, ‘Your brother has come, and your father has killed the fattened calf, because he has received him back safe and sound.’ 28 But he was angry and refused to go in. His father came out and entreated him, 29 but he answered his father, ‘Look, these many years I have served you, and I never disobeyed your command, yet you never gave me a young goat, that I might celebrate with my friends. 30 But when this son of yours came, who has devoured your property with prostitutes, you killed the fattened calf for him!’ 31 And he said to him, ‘Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours. 32 It was fitting to celebrate and be glad, for this your brother was dead, and is alive; he was lost, and is found.’” [--> We, too, must have the heart of God the Father who welcomes back the prodigal]  >>

So, now, let us reflect on our attitude to our Father who has given us as a gift every good thing, and who has given us a world that speaks to us so eloquently of his loving care:
Rom 1:19 . . .  what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. 20 For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. [ESV]
Now, of course, that we would rebel against the evident truth -- so evident (never mind our willful, wishful denials!) that we are without excuse -- in ingratitude and allow ourselves to be enmeshed in a world of evil and deception merits a tearful, but strict Divine frown, but let us read down a little further in Romans, to see God's fatherly attitude:
Rom 2: 7 to those who by patience in well-doing seek for glory and honor and immortality, he will give eternal life; 8 but for those who are self-seeking  and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, there will be wrath and fury. 9 There will be tribulation and distress for every human being who does evil . . . 10 but glory and honor and peace for everyone who does good . . .  11 For God shows no partiality. [ESV]
In short, given that we are all finite, fallible, fallen and too often ill-willed, God welcomes the penitent who seek to walk towards him, however haltingly and stumblingly. Precisely what happened with the prodigal son in the story. But, if we refuse the truth we know or should know, and seek evil instead [think here, of those who exploited and abused the prodigal], he will have no choice in all justice, but to frown.

So, now, we have a choice, and a choice with the attitudes, thoughts and intents of our hearts laid bare.

What, then, will we now do with the truth and the right we know, or should know? Why?  END

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