God Haters: John 15:18-25

October 1, 2017

If you remember reading the August 22 1949 edition of Time Magazine then you would remember seeing a young Elizabeth Taylor on the cover and various articles that almost sound current.

Under the National section, for example, there was a little bit of a scandal in the white house.  Really?  A scandal in the White House?

There were concerns that even though nationally the economy was doing well that there were various areas in the US where they were dealing with a 12% unemployment rate.

In the main article for the world section it was interesting to note that as the United Nations was being ramped up that the decision was made that the sessions would not be opened in prayer.  Bowing to the fact that the UN is made up of many faiths and no faiths it was decided to simply open and close each annual session with a moment of silence.

And the concern in the Business section?  Well, the main article was entitled: “Railroads: The Danger Signals.” And it asked the question: Are U.S. railroads pricing themselves out of business?”

But what captured my attention was the article in the religion section that was simply entitled: “The God-Haters”

And no, I didn’t read the article in 1949, I read it the other day online.

So how did I get there?  It was a Denn journey, a while back I had lunch with a gentlemen and he was telling me about an in-law of his and he said “It’s almost as if they hate God.”   Hmmmm.

 

And that made me think about a book I purchased this summer that has been sitting on my bedside table, written by Bill Myers who wrote one of my favourite books, the book I had read before was entitle “Eli”.  And I assume that some of you have read it, considering that all three of my copies are missing.

But the new book was simply entitled “The God Hater” and I just finished it this week, and it was a great read.

Add to that our Tuesday early morning guy’s group has dove into the book of Romans and during the first couple of weeks we’ve been reading the first chapter of Romans and it in I stumbled on these four verses.

Romans 1:28-32  NIV Furthermore, since they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, he gave them over to a depraved mind, to do what ought not to be done.  They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice. They are gossips,  slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful; they invent ways of doing evil; they disobey their parents;  they are senseless, faithless, heartless, ruthless.  Although they know God’s righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practice them.

So, I thought maybe I should preach on God Haters. And that’s how we got here.

I’ve often said that writing a sermon is a lot like making sausages, you are often better off not knowing the process.

 

So, I googled the phrase and the first hit I got was the Time Magazine reference, and it was about the rise of atheism in the United States.

 

Part of the article quoted Roman Catholic Philosopher Jacques Maritain, who wrote. “The genuine, absolute atheist, with all his sincerity and devotion, is but an abortive saint and, at the same time, a mistaken revolutionist.”

Personally I kind of like the definition on the tombstone that said “Here lies an atheist.  All dressed up and no place to go.”

The next hit in Google was entitled “On the Death of a God Hater” and it was about the death of noted atheist and writer Christopher Hitchens.

So, the first question has to be Who Are God Haters?  Well, in the Time article from 1949 they were talking about atheists.  And certainly, today those who spew the most venom about God are those who claim they don’t believe in him.

Men like the late Christopher Hitchens or Richard Dawkins have made millions of dollars writing to disparage someone they claim to not believe in.  They don’t seem to feel the same about leprechauns or fairies.  And it’s interesting that it is primarily the God whom we worship that they seem to take issue with.  It seems that if you were to suggest that Allah was a myth that you would be branded islamophobic  not to mention that it would be fairly dangerous.

This brand of God Hater was best described by George Orwell in Animal Farm when he wrote “He was an embittered atheist (the sort of atheist who does not so much disbelieve in God as personally dislike Him).”

And there have always been atheists it seems, 3000 years ago King David wrote Psalm 14:1

Only fools say in their hearts, “There is no God.” . . .

But it’s not just those who don’t believe in God who hate him, that sounds wrong just saying it.  How can you hate what you don’t believe in?

I don’t believe in unicorns but I don’t hate unicorns.

And then there are those who don’t disbelieve in God so much as seem to bear a grudge against God.  They seem to feel that somehow God has done them wrong.

Perhaps it was something personal, maybe the death of a loved one, or maybe they just feel like they got the short end of the stick in life and blame God for the various misfortunes that have befallen them.  Or maybe they were disappointed by the way a Christ follower behaved or perhaps at some point the church failed them and that is unfortunate.

Which brings us to the second question which is Why Do God Haters Hate God? 

 I’m not sure that atheists are born.  They would like you to think that, but the default for people is to believe in God.  Since the beginning of time, in all kinds of cultures there has been a quest for God.

And while the majority of peoples believe in something some people believe in nothing, and so I think that atheists are they are the ones who are taught.  God haters in most cases are taught to hate God, by someone.

Actor Kirk Cameron took a crack at answering that question when he said   “Why do people hate God?… One, they hate the moral standard. Two, they hate the way he’s transforming the world even in the midst of suffering and tragedy.”

And that’s true, but sometimes it goes back to carrying a grudge but not a personal grudge.

These God Haters wouldn’t be able to pin point a particular incident or tragedy in their life that they’d blame God for.

Instead it’s their world view.  If God was a loving God then how can there be . . . poverty, war, earthquakes, hurricanes or cancer? . . .  you can fill in the blank.

Even when it seems that mankind is the author of some of these things or could make major strides in preventing them or dealing with them, God still cops the blame.

And don’t even get them started on things like the crusades and the inquisition.  They will cite all kinds of facts about the atrocities committed through the years by Christ followers.   You ever get that?  You ever feel unable to respond?  You feel like you need to apologize for God and the misbehaviour of his people?

Here’s something they don’t tell you.  The crusades lasted about 200 years and during that time best estimates would place the total death toll, of combatants and innocent causalities at about 1,000,000.  And that is a lot.

Understand that the original crusades happened because Christians and Jews were being killed while attempting to visit the Holy Land and Pope Urban called on various governments to provide armed escorts for the pilgrims, and that kind of morphed into trying to retake Jerusalem from the Muslims and one thing leads to another, for 200 years.

And while that in no way excuses the abuses that happened or negates the loss of innocent lives it does help explain the why of the crusades.  Something that isn’t often mentioned today, it’s like the church just suddenly one day decided to go on a crusade.

And there were no doubt excesses and innocents killed but most historians would put the total number at around 1,000,000

The next thing the God Haters bring up is the Inquisition, like nobody expected that. And they will talk about the tens of millions of deaths that happened as a result of the inquisition.  The inquisition wasn’t so much an event as a series of ongoing events covering a 350 year period of church history.

And the inquisition wasn’t directed at Jews or Muslims as much as it was heretics within the church.  There weren’t millions of deaths. Scholars range in their estimates as low as 3,000 to a high of 50,000 killed over the 350-year period.  Still a blot on the church, not so much on God.

“And what about the Salem Witch trials?”  They ask, “and the thousands of innocent people killed in those?” Actually, it was only 20 who died.  Which if you or one of your loved one was one of the 20 , would have been 20 too many.  But it wasn’t thousands.

So in the big three that the God haters bring up we have a little over a million people killed. Let’s double it and call it 2,000,000 killed over the past 2,000 years by misguided Christians.  And there is no way to excuse that, as C. S. Lewis wrote  “When we Christians behave badly, or fail to behave well, we are making Christianity unbelievable to the outside world.”

But, what about the other side?  The ungodly? The God Haters?  Well we all know that Hitler was responsible for the death of 17 million civilians.  And one of his goals was to de-Christianize the Third Reich.

But really Hitler was just a beginner, it was estimated the atheist Joseph Stalin was responsible for the death of 23 million civilians through various purges including some of my family in Estonia.

And then there was God Hater Mao Zedong who conservatively was guilty of 60 million deaths.

So in 2,0000 years of Christianity we come up with 2 million deaths which is obviously very wrong, and in the last 100 years just three God Haters have been responsible for over 100 million deaths.

Wow, and the God haters blame God for the excesses of His followers.  Their team seems to be in the lead in that one.

And while their misbehaviour doesn’t justify our misbehaviour, what is the old saying about people who live in Glass Houses?

And we really need to look at the The Problem with the God Hater Philosophy

The main problem isn’t that the God Haters don’t agree with us, it’s that they don’t believe in God.  And they don’t want anyone else to believe in God either.

And there are problems with not believing in God.  The first is when you don’t believe in God then there are no absolutes.  There can’t be. So the question becomes, who decides what’s right and what’s wrong? Who’s right and who’s wrong?

Atheist philosopher Jean Paul Sartre expressed it like this: “Everything is indeed permitted if God does not exist, and man is in consequence forlorn, for he cannot find anything to depend upon either within or outside himself. . . Nor, on the other hand, if God does not exist, are we provided with any values or commands that could legitimize our behaviour.”

And again, that is nothing new.  In the Old Testament, we read about a time like that, Judges 21:25  In those days Israel had no king; all the people did whatever seemed right in their own eyes.  And it was a mess.

And without some type of moral authority, things will eventually disintegrate. Malcolm Muggeridge the British journalist was an agnostic most of his life until his conversion to Christianity in 1969.  Writing of a world without God he said  “If God is dead, somebody is going to have to take his place. It will be megalomania or erotomania, the drive for power or the drive for pleasure, . . . Hitler or Hugh Hefner.”

We only have to look around society today to see that Muggeridge wasn’t far off.

But it’s not just society that God Haters place into danger, it is their own souls.  Proverbs 14:12  There is a path before each person that seems right, but it ends in death.

Do you remember the passage from Romans that I read earlier that listed God Haters with all the others who had rejected God?  It end with these words.  Romans 1:32  They know God’s justice requires that those who do these things deserve to die, yet they do them anyway. Worse yet, they encourage others to do them, too.

And so to hate god is to sentence yourself to spend an eternity separated from the very God that you hated.  And while some might think “That’s not so bad” it also means being separated from the love and goodness and light of God and instead being in the presence of all that isn’t godly, or good or loving.

But here is the good news,  They might hate God, but God does not Hate Them 

 John 3:16 reads John 3:16  “For God loved the world so much that he gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.” 

 It does not say that God loved everybody who loved him, or that he gave his Son for everybody except for atheists.

But it says God loved the world, the whole world, even those who hate him, so much that he gave his one and only Son.

And Paul wrote in Romans 5:8  But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners.  While we were still God haters.  And Paul would know because Paul was a God hater.

Before Paul was Paul he was Saul and for whatever reason he had a hate on for Christ and those who followed him.  He was present and gave his approval when one of the early church leaders, a man named Stephen was stoned to death and became the church’s first martyr and then we read in Acts 8:3  But Saul was going everywhere to destroy the church. He went from house to house, dragging out both men and women to throw them into prison.

Paul describes that part of his life this way: Acts 26:9-11  “I used to believe that I ought to do everything I could to oppose the very name of Jesus the Nazarene.  Indeed, I did just that in Jerusalem. Authorized by the leading priests, I caused many believers there to be sent to prison. And I cast my vote against them when they were condemned to death.  Many times I had them punished in the synagogues to get them to curse Jesus. I was so violently opposed to them that I even chased them down in foreign cities.”

And Saul might have defended himself saying “I didn’t hate God, it was Jesus and his church I hated.” But do you remember what Jesus said in the passage that was read for us earlier in the service?  No?  I’ll refresh your memory.  John 15:23  Jesus said “Anyone who hates me also hates my Father.”

And while Paul was trying to destroy the church of Christ, even then he was loved by God and was offered God’s love and God’s grace and God’s forgiveness.  And all Saul had to do was accept those gifts and he crossed over the line from God hater to God lover.

 Karl Barth the Swiss theologian writes  “Man can certainly flee from God… but he cannot escape him. He can certainly hate God and be hateful to God, but he cannot change into its opposite the eternal love of God which triumphs even in his hate.”

To the God hater God offers his salvation and his grace.

I don’t know where you are this morning.  Maybe you are a God lover and that’s great.  But regardless of how you feel about God, God loves you and there is nothing you can do about it, you can reject that love and choose not to accept that love, but it doesn’t change that love.