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Thursday, March 15, 2012

"We Shouldn't even need the word "atheism".

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For the message about the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written, I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and the discernment of the discerning I will thwart.í

Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, God decided, through the foolishness of our proclamation, to save those who believe. For Jews demand signs and Greeks desire wisdom, but we proclaim Christ crucified, a stumbling-block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those who are the called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For Godís foolishness is wiser than human wisdom, and Godís weakness is stronger than human strength. -1 Corinthians 1: 18-25

"We Shouldn't even need the word "atheism". If people didn't invent ridiculous imaginary Gods, rational people wouldn't have to deny them." This is a recent tweet from the comedian Ricky Gervais who is both extremely funny and a devout atheist. Gervais frequently takes to twitter to share his views on religion, and in case you are confused, those views can make this tweet seem tame. Gervais is but one of many public figures who have made their atheism a centerpiece of their persona. Others include the comedians Bill Maher and Sarah Silverman and even, more subtly, Jon Stewart. They are joined by a wave of atheist intellectuals whose books are often riding high on the New York Times' Bestseller lists. When you combine the popular momentum of atheism, as well as the demographics (the fastest growing religious affiliation in America is now "none") it's easy to feel as if things are getting away from the Church.

"Perhaps Gervais is right," we might think to ourselves. Alternatively we may think he is a crazed enemy of God. Neither of these would, however, be accurate regarding Gervais in particular or atheism in general. As Paul writes to the Corinthians he points out an important and timeless truth regarding the Christian faith; it will always seem foolish. At its inception the Greeks (parlance for the educated intelligentsia of the day) often found Christianity lacking in numerous ways. Atheism, or at the least deep skepticism, has always been around. My purpose here is not to rebut the atheists' sundry perspectives. I really don't have any interest in doing that. But instead I want to point out to all of you that Christianity has never been immune to these sorts of attacks. There will always be those who call it foolish, who claim it is a fiction, who believe you have to be a little crazy to believe it. No matter what we say or what arguments we make this will happen.

But our challenge is to discern the true voice in the world. Is it the voice of the atheist, claiming there is nothing more than what we can see, or is it the voice of Christ saying, "follow me?" For me, it will always be the latter. I will continue to pray that those who cannot find belief will have it given to them, but I will also remember these words of Paul to the Corinthians because they remind me of the challenges of faith. Human reason is not God, and because of this our faith will always be questioned. And yet it will always persist as long as God desires it.

Prayer: Holy God, on this day please increase my faith, and give the gift of faith to those who do not have it. I pray for all those struggling with their beliefs today, or who live in doubt, or denial. Please guide and strengthen them that all may know you. I pray in Jesus' name. Amen.

[Phillip Blackburn, First Presbyterian Church]

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