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Atheism and the Real (inconvenient) God [Sermon Notes]

StNicholas Goulburn


Atheism and the Real (inconvenient) God
Sermon Notes from Sermon
presented by the Reverend Ross Hathway
on the 30th of April, 2017

Jeremiah 10:1-16; 1 Corinthians 8:1-6

Illustration:  In his Sydney Morning Herald column Peter Fitzsimons’ regularly mocks sports stars who attribute their success to God. He points out the problems with these claims. What’s going on when they don’t win? Is God off the job?
And what would happen if two divinely blessed teams clashed? Who would get the win then? The god who blesses you with sport wins is a nice god to have.
You can accuse Fitzsimons of taking cheap shots, but you have to admit that belief in God can be rather convenient and comfortable.

Today is the first of four sermons dealing with some issues facing Christians and particularly in the face of what is called the new Atheist movement.

 New Atheism, also called evangelical atheism[1] or, often pejoratively,[a][3] militant atheism and fundamentalist atheism,[2][4][5]is a movement promoted by some atheists of the twenty-first century.[6] This modern-day atheism and secularism is advanced by critics of religion,[7] a group of modern atheist thinkers and writers who advocate the view that superstition, religion and irrationalism should not simply be tolerated but should be countered, criticized, and exposed by rational argument wherever their influence arises in government, education and politics.[8] The phrase "New Atheism" was coined by Gary Wolf in a 2006 article in Wired magazine.[9]

Atheist criticism echoes the prophets and challenges us about which God we believe in.
When we respond to the atheist criticism we may have to reconsider our own view of God.
One of the themes of the new atheists is that the age old concept of God can be explained scientifically or naturally.
Their explanation is that our minds are wired to find patterns of explanation and a personal intentionality in the universe in order to give life meaning.
The role of religion is seen as creating and reinforcing social cohesion, unity structures.

These arguments got back to a German C19 philosopher who said religion is an expression of human consciousness, and the idea of God is a projection of human nature.
Humans need someone like us to be in control of affairs, so we embrace the idea of a divinity who reflects our nature and guarantees what we most desire.
Other people had said this but he went further and said religious faith is a problem.

This is an important question for Christians to face.
Perhaps believing in God is just a way of helping us cope with a big universe.
Is religion just a ‘crutch” to lean on.

That is, Is God a Human Invention? Interesting re the first 2 commandments,.
The prophets of the Old Testament made a similar point about idol worship etc. .
They mocked people whose gods were convenient and comfortable and controllable.
In Jeremiah 10 the prophet ridicules people who have to decorate their gods so they are beautiful and nail them down so they don’t fall over.
Even then they can’t talk or walk.
Jeremiah is shocked that living breathing people could bow down to lifeless figures.
The Israelites of the time were worshipping a fraud.
The result is that they are “senseless and without knowledge” and “shamed” by their  idols (Jeremiah 10:14).

The contrast with the true God is huge.
He is the great king and ruler, no one is like him (Jeremiah 10:6-7).
He made the whole universe by his wisdom and understanding and rules it all. F Collins.

Paul builds on the same ideas in 1 Corinthians 8, idols are nothing – only the God and Father of the Lord Jesus Christ is the true God.


Three points are worth making:

  • We must not be afraid to say that other gods are nothing.
    If we let people define ‘god’ broadly and not biblically then we have to agree that god doesn't exist.
    Our discussion is not about a general theistic god, but only the true and living God who is the Father of Jesus.
  • God must not be repackaged to make him more comfortable – we have to know him as transcendent, majestic, infinite, eternal and the God of wrath and judgement. Absolute knowledge of good and evil come from him.
  • Our thinking about God can be idolatrous, we can shrink the true God to a size that suits us. 

Here are some of the ways we try to repackage God: 
Policeman, parent, Grand Old Man, Heavenly Mate, Perfectionist, Busy God, Contractual God, Santa Claus, Divine Mr Fix-it, CEO, Magician, Military Chaplain, Backstage Manager, Murmuring Voice, Spoil Sport. Someone to Outsmart to Bless us. You can add to the list.  

So, how do we find and keep our idea of God true?
The short answer is: keep going back to the Bible.
We need to particularly look at Jesus to keep challenging our view of God.

The full scope of revelation in Jesus will blow apart our shallow ideas of God.
It turns out that God is more generous, more holy, more beautiful and more terrifying than we’d ever dream.
The God who made all things will call everyone to account and owes us no favours. Compared to him we count for nothing.
Remember Jeremiah 10:10: “the LORD is the true God …  the living God …  the eternal King, when he is angry, the earth trembles; the nations cannot endure his wrath.”
J.I Packer. “There are few things stressed more strongly in the bible than the reality of God as Judge”.
Yet this God takes on humanity and sinks to the depths of our pain.
He becomes obedient even to death and bears for us the burden we cannot bear.
He restores us to know and love him so we can be what we are truly meant to be. 

Knowing the true God in Jesus frees us from the prison of our own projected desires and returns us to true worship.
The new atheist philosopher lay bare the false gods, but can only offer a universe where we worship ourselves.

Conclusion.  “Are we falling into the trap of making our God too convenient?”…
An Inconvenient truth… Al Gore.
The God of the Bible is an inconvenient truth when people hear of Him.
But when we know him it makes sense and is wonderful.
For God is love. He has shown us the only way the only truth and the only Life…