Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Five years ago...

A little more than five years ago I came out of the atheist closet to my immediate family, minus the nieces and nephews.  My older sister, the most devoutly inclined of the family, tried to pull me back into the faith.  I started firing back with objection in the Achilles heal of Christianity, the Old Testament.  Like most Christians, she didn't really know much about the Bible's foundation, but she did know a guy from her church that did.  So she deferred me to him.  I'll call him Arnold.

Since then, Arnold and I have had a wonderful email debate that still continues today.  It's also been a revelation in a way.  I once foolishly thought that if you presented anyone with the facts, if you got them to pause and think deeply about Christianity, they would ultimately reject it.  Now I know better that it's not that simple.  It's a matter of feeling, not facts.  Borrowing from another faith, if the Bible said that the world was supported on the back of a huge turtle, even today they would still believe because they "feel" something about God.  Probably more on that topic later.

For now, take a peek back in time.  About five years ago I sent the text below to Arnold.  Inspired by Abbott and Costello's "Who's on First?" routine, I gave him an argument in skit format, boiling it all down into hyper-simplistic terms.

The setup: a non-theist, someone who knows nothing about Christianity, is approached on a city bus by an Christian evangelist.  The green on the left is the non-theist, while the blue on the right is the evangelist.  Enjoy!

Hello friend! Did you know that everyone needs to be Saved?
Saved? Saved from what?
God's wrath.
So what did we do to invoke God's wrath?
Sin. Everyone has sinned.
What is sin?
Sin is transgression against the will of God.
Why did we sin?
It's in our fleshly nature.
Why is it in our nature?
God designed us to have an affinity for sin.
So unless we are saved, God will hurt us for doing what He designed us to want to do?
Well, that's a fine kettle of fish!
It's fair and just, the Bible says so.
This God character seems masochistic.
Not at all. He loves us very, very much.
Yet we need to be saved from Him?
Yes, and God loves us so much that He Saved us from Himself.
That's a relief! So He forgave us for succumbing to the nature He gave us.
Not exactly.
No, a price had to be paid for our sins.
Paid to whom?
Paid to God. He demands reconciliation be paid for our sins.
Oh, and what was the price?
The blood from and death of an innocent man.
That's horrible!
No, that's divine justice.
So He's killed billions of innocents to save each one of us?
No, one innocent man's death covered everyone.
Everyone? Past, present, and future?
Well, that's a little better, I guess.
It's amazing grace! Praise God!
Who was this innocent man?
Jesus! He was the only innocent man, ever.
How did he remain innocent?
Well, God became a man in the form of Jesus.
So Jesus was God? That would make it easy, because then, by definition, Jesus could not sin.
No, not at all. Jesus was still tempted to sin just as much as you and I.
So it took God's power to resist the affinity to sin?
No, God gave up His powers as a man.
If Jesus was God, and Jesus died, then God is dead?
No. God will never die.
But wasn't Jesus God?
Yes. It's beyond comprehension. Our ways are not His ways.
Obviously! So, then, with this price paid, I guess I am saved already?
Jesus is dead, right?
No, He is alive.
Um, so when will He be killed for our sins?
He already has been killed for our sins.
Then how is Jesus alive?
He was raised from the dead by God.
Ow, my brain!
Yes. It's beyond comprehension. Our ways are not His ways.
So you've said. This temporary death paid the price for our sins?
Paid in full?
Yes, paid in full.
Then, why am I not already saved?
You have to believe that Jesus died for you.
OK. Then will I be saved?
You also have to admit to God that you sin and deserve His wrath.
I deserve His wrath for giving in to my affinity to sin?
The affinity He gave me?
Why is that?
Because you chose to sin.
Isn't that entrapment?
No, you sinned by your own free will.
Um, OK.
You should admit the need to be saved from His wrath.
So if I believe in Jesus and admit I need to be saved, then I will be saved?
Well, if you really believe this, you will live your life differently.
I will?
Yes, according to God's Word, to praise Him and avoid sin.
And if I continue my life as is?
You will not be saved.
Why not?
You would be sinning by not showing your repentance of your sin.
But I thought my sins were paid for.
They are, but you must repent.
Repent from sins that are already paid for?
Sins that were paid for in full?
Yes, paid for in full.
It doesn't sound fully paid to me.
Well, they are. I know it's tough to understand, but you must remember that our ways...
Yes, yes, our ways are not His ways. You've given me much to think about.
By the way, you haven't blasphemed the Holy Spirit, have you?
I don't know. What's a Holy Spirit?
It's God, but it could be anything, like a burning bush.
Um, OK. I don't think I've blasphemed It. Why?
That's the one unforgivable sin.
Why is it unforgivable?
That's what God says. Our ways...
...are not His ways. I've got it.

A little while later, our non-theist does some reading...

Hello again. Hey, I started reading the Bible.
That's great news!
I've read about Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden.
They would have lived forever there if they didn't sin?
And the wages of sin is death?
And because Adam and Eve sinned, they eventually died?
Jesus paid the wages for our sins through His death?
So if I am saved through Jesus, I will live forever here on Earth?
No. You will still die.
You heard correctly, you will die.
But I thought my sins were paid in full by the blood of Jesus.
They are, but you will still die.
That's odd.
Not really, because you will live forever in the afterlife.
So we will die, and then we will live forever?
I wonder if you if you ever listen to the words coming out of your mouth.
What? What do you mean? These are God's words.
Never mind. I'll just sort it out when I meet God.
But that will be too late, my friend!
I think I'll take my chances.