Blame for Wars?

13 03 2014

In many ways this is a follow on to my previous writing about who was to blame for World War 1.  To even attempt to write this blog I have to confess my ignorance. Not only am I painfully aware of so many areas of ignorance about life in general, but specifically, here at least, I need to confess my ignorance about the two world wars of last century. I guess that this ignorance is shared by a great many, and many would say, does it matter? I suggest it matters if for no other reason than it should make us think (and pray) and learn from such times.

Aware that we were going into a centenary year this year,  in respect of The Great War, I determined it was time to remedy some of that ignorance and started with World War 2, simply because I had run across Max Hastings’ book on it entitled, “All Hell Let Loose.”   It is a meaty tome of some six hundred pages and I grab a few pages when there are a few minutes spare – which is not the best way to read such a book – and I am about half way through.  It is not all about strategies etc., but about what went on affecting ordinary people and ordinary soldiers and as such is, I suggest, compulsory reading for anyone with romantic ideas about wars. It was a most terrible time in history if for no other reason than the shear numbers of casualties and the ways they died or were injured or were treated.  If Max Hastings is half right no one comes out it whiter than white; in fact the exact opposite.

As I have picked up this book, again and again as a Christian I could not help thinking, “Where is God in all this?”  Now I know I covered much of this in the previous blog but it bears repeating or expanding upon.

The crusading atheists berate a God who is supposed to be love, and when it comes to examining the last century, a God who apparently either caused it or sat on the sidelines and laughed.  No the atheistic viewpoint gets two-faced at this point because if you don’t believe there is a God you can’t blame ‘Him’ for such events, and if you can’t blame Him then you are left with a simply miserable view of mankind.  All of the humanists’ optimism is revealed as complete bunkum when you examine the history of the last hundred years. You can’t just blame Hitler or Stalin, because they both had powerful underlings who could have stopped it all early on.  But more than that, the record shows that vast numbers of ordinary Germans were just as excited about their nation’s imperialistic aims as Hitler was.  The things happening in Crimea today indicate that Russian nationalism is as strong in ordinary people as it is in Putin and his leaders.  Little changes.   I think the optimism of the Humanist Manifesto has to be  one of the best examples of self-delusion that you can find on the planet.  Go to virtually any continent on the globe and you find self-important people being unkind to other people (the nicest way I can put it.)

Put aside the atheists for a moment, for they are a minority grouping.  The majority  grouping believe in a God, even if many of them think He is either impotent or not concerned with us.   But what are the options that you are  left with if you do believe there is a God, when you come to consider these two wars?  At first sight, there are just two: either that He caused them or that He just sat back and did nothing about them. Perhaps we need to consult the Bible for a parallel example to help us. The apostle Peter, preaching under the anointing of the Holy Spirit on the Day of Pentecost, and speaking about how Jesus had died, declared, “This man was handed over to you by God’s set purpose and foreknowledge; and you, with the help of wicked men, put him to death by nailing him to the cross.”  In other words Jesus’ death had been part of God’s plan and He foresaw the way events would work out as sinful human beings rejected His Son and eventually crucified him.

Now let’s take a mundane example from everyday life. You are a school teacher of a primary school and as you watch them play in the school playground you see they constantly fight. You go outside and tell them off and tell them to stop fighting. After this happens three times, you call them all in and they are all made to sit in their classroom in silence for half an hour.  So far no one is objecting to that.  Now, to change the picture, supposing some cattle or sheep contract a contagious and virulent disease. We know what happens, we’ve seen it in recent years.  The government order whole herds or flocks across the country to be destroyed and burned. Suppose a wounded soldier’s foot injury contracts gangrene. The only way to save his life is to cut off his leg.  Suppose ten terrorists take hostage a school full of children and start shooting them, one an hour until their demands are met.  We watch as the SAS go in and the body count of dead terrorists is 100%.  We all cheer.  We measure these things against the harm that will be caused if such drastic action is not taken.

OK, I’m speculating now.  Suppose God could see the direction and outworking of the 18th and 19th centuries and could see that in response to His enabling/allowing the advancement of science and technology, our foolish response was to reject Him and turn to godless atheism (examples of which were seen in Hitler and Stalin and many others). And suppose the logical response of that was to lift off all restraint which, if left unattended, would result in inhumanities beyond our present wildest dreams that would affect the entire planet and rob us of our very humanity.  If we had the eyes to see that, would we not stand in awesome silence and say, “God is just, God is wise, we are so stupid, this was the only course of action that could have happened to save us as a world.”

Of course we have not learnt and we are still so tainted by this self-centred godlessness that we probably laugh at such an idea, but it is the most rational one around. As with what Peter said about Jesus, suppose God knew the path that foolish and wicked men left to their own devices, would go down resulting in World Wars, and if that is what they chose, maybe, just maybe, they might learn from it and the future of humanity be saved.  But have we learned? The signs are not great.

If God allowed us a financial crash (brought about by the greed and folly of men) with some longer term effects, has that brought us to our senses?  The signs are not good.  Is God gently lifting off His hand of restraint again so that foolish and godless imperialistic semi-dictators can do their own thing yet again?  If not Moscow, might it be some other ‘power’?  Gloomy talk and I don’t like gloomy talk, but when will we come to our senses?  Have the various movies coming out of Hollywood portraying a nuclear disaster ending, been a warning?  Put this all aside if you like but the key question still stands – are you, are our leaders, is our nation, demonstrating godless, self-centredness, and if so, then what hope is there for our future?

The Fear of Christianity

10 02 2009

The Fear of Christianity
or “A Strange Case of Bias”

Over the last couple of years, as I think I’ve probably commented here before, I’ve found myself pondering the gradual revelation of God, provoked on by various notorious atheists who I have to thank for stirring up my apathy. I guess there are probably quite a lot of Christians whose faith is sharper today courtesy of such names as Dawkins and Hitchens. What these unhappy guys don’t realise is that there is so much evidence for those who have eyes to see, that it only needs Christians to be stirred up for them to revisit their foundations and be strengthened afresh. I think heaven must be falling around laughing at the present time, over Dawkin’s campaign that has put large posters about God on London buses. Whereas he intends them to be negative, he’s obviously never heard the advertising mantra that ‘all publicity is good publicity’.  How many Londoners are being woken out of their apathy by thoughts of God every time they see the Dawkins’ posters. Nice one Richard.

Back to my subject, though. If I were a visitor to this planet and I studied the human race, and heard talk about Christianity, even if I knew nothing about it, my interest would be instantly raised, wondering why it produces such hostility.  In the West all the other world religions are just tolerated but there is an all-out war against Christianity. If for no other reason, this would stir my interest.

So, I suspect I would enquire about the origins of this faith and find out that it is based on thousands and thousands of ancient documents that testify to the existence on this planet two thousand years ago of a man going by the name of Jesus, the Christ.  But then I would have my eyes taken back to the skeptics again and I would be left wondering why it is that historians and others are quite happy to accept the quite often minimalistic evidence from the past of other so-called historical figures and yet deny avidly the volumes of historical evidence pointing to Jesus Christ. What is it that makes such people so biased against the obvious evidence, so that their very integrity appears in question.

Perhaps I might examine the lives of the followers of this Jesus over the past two thousand years and after I have ruled out those who were followers in name only and not followers according to the criteria in the Book, and then compare these followers with followers of other faiths and of none, and I might wonder why their goodness is so hated by those others. What is it that raises such hostility that rejects the evidence of the historical documents and of the changed lives?  Finally I might start looking at the lives of those who are so hostile and understand – they are afraid. They are afraid of the light that shows them up. Oh my goodness, they have accepted a lie and dare not consider the truth with an open mind!  They are found wanting, and the liar has obviously told them that there is no hope for them – which, of course, is the exact opposite of the truth that this Christianity reveals.

Thanks, Praise & Worship

8 12 2008

Just inside our front door hangs an old barometer, not very valuable I’m told, but at least of some sentimental value. It’s been around in our family for a while, and there are many people who come into our home who I catch just gently tapping it to see which way the arrow is going. It’s an indicator of the weather which means, in Britain at least, it goes up and down regularly. There’s something about that old barometer, I believe, that is more homely and, obviously for many people, even more interesting than the detailed weather forecasts on TV.

I’ve found myself pondering thanks, praise and worship recently and I believe collectively they act like a barometer revealing our spiritual state and spiritual direction. I believe that that order – thanks, praise and then worship – involves a development of understanding of truth and takes us from the state of self-centredness to the state of complete un-self-centredness. Let me explain.

‘Thanks’ is an expression of gratefulness and when you are thankful you are grateful. When you thank someone you express your gratitude and inevitably it is thanks to a person. We thank someone when they have done something for us or given us something. Now with Christmas approaching I can’t help thinking of the somewhat strained thanks that we give when the present we have just received is definitely not what we wanted.

There was, I believe, a number of years ago, bad bit of teaching going around Christian circles that said “Give thanks for all circumstances” whereas the Biblical teaching is “Give thanks in all circumstances.” It’s a simple change but a vital one. So there were all these poor people struggling to be thankful for being abused, raped, mugged and goodness know what else. Nowhere are we called to be grateful for sin or for the perpetrators of pain through sin on us. When God hates those things, I think we’re doing mental gymnastics when we start trying to justify or make ourselves grateful for such things. It is something quite different to be thankful in the midst of circumstances that have their origins in sin. We can thank God that He is there for us in the midst of them and thank Him that His grace is sufficient for us, just as the Bible says. Similarly if our own sin brought the bad circumstances upon us, then it is folly to be grateful that we were so stupid. Repentance is a much more apt expression than thanks, in those circumstances.

But I started by suggesting that each of these things involves understanding. So much of modern thinking (call it post-modern thinking if you like) is nihilistic, full of negativity and it is not surprising that many people suffer depression and many others attempt suicide. Listen to the preface of master-atheist, Richard Dawkins, in his book Unweaving the Rainbow:

“A foreign publisher of my first book confessed that he could not sleep for three nights after reading it, so troubled was he by what he saw as its cold, bleak message. Others have asked me how I can bear to get up in the mornings. A teacher from a distant country wrote to me reproachfully that a pupil had come to him in tears after reading the same book, because it had persuaded her that life was empty and purposeless. He advised her not to show the book to any of her friends, for fear of contaminating them with the same nihilistic pessimism. Similar accusations of barren desolation, of promoting an arid and joyless message, are frequently flung at science in general, and it is easy for scientists to play up to them. My colleague Peter Atkins begins his book The Second Law (1984) in this vein: We are the children of chaos, and the deep structure of change is decay. At root there is only corruption, and the unstemmable tide of chaos. Gone is purpose; all that is left is direction. This is the bleakness we have to accept as we peer deeply and dispassionately into the heart of the Universe.”

Although Dawkins could not take back his first book and its effects on people, he desperately tried to counter this ‘nihilistic pessimism’ by showing the wonder of the world that science reveals, but all he is able to do is basically say, look at the wonderful facts we have revealed. Of course in his mechanistic approach he is unable to answer the fundamental yearning that most of us have, to understand something of ‘meaning and purpose’ in life, because a ‘machine’ (the world of evolution) doesn’t have ‘meaning’, it just develops.

Perhaps Dawkins’ writing here may be summed up by the person who said, “I feel really sorry for atheists, who feel thankful but have no one to thank”. All of us want ‘someone to thank’ and when we are told there is no one, we feel cheated. But the very sense of feeling thankful, should tell us something. Why should we feel ‘grateful’ if we are just the result of accidental evolution because being ‘grateful’ implies being grateful to someone.

But I also started out by suggesting that ‘thanks’ is a self-centred starting point, but that isn’t always bad if it leads us on somewhere better. Again, when we speak of being grateful, we are recognising that we have received benefit and we feel good as a result. But it’s all about what we feel. Hence my initial starting point.

So what about praise? Praise is about acknowledging achievement. When we praise our children, we are acknowledging when they have done well. Praise takes the focus from on me to on them. Unlike thanks, it may be that we are acknowledging something that has not brought personal benefit to me. We are simply acknowledging how well someone has done.

The first time ‘Praise’ is used in the Bible was on the lips of Abraham’s servant: Praise be to the LORD, the God of my master Abraham, who has not abandoned his kindness and faithfulness to my master. As for me, the LORD has led me on the journey to the house of my master’s relatives.” (Gen 24:27). He was praising God for the way that God had done good for Abraham and for the way he had led his servant. It was about what God had done.

There is an interesting use of praise when Leah, one of Jacob’s two wives bears him three sons, each of whom she names according to the emotion she feels in respect of what God had done for her so far, and by the time she bears the fourth son, she realises that this has all been the hand of God on her: “She conceived again, and when she gave birth to a son she said, “This time I will praise the LORD.” So she named him Judah.” (Gen 29:35) and Judah, the note in your Bible will tell you, ‘sounds like and may be derived from the Hebrew for ‘praise’’. Now she was acknowledging the goodness of what God had done.

Some time later Jethro, Moses’ father-in-law, gives an interesting response to what he hears has been happening: “Jethro was delighted to hear about all the good things the LORD had done for Israel in rescuing them from the hand of the Egyptians. He said, “Praise be to the LORD, who rescued you from the hand of the Egyptians and of Pharaoh, and who rescued the people from the hand of the Egyptians.” (Ex 18:9,10) so again praise was the response to what the Lord had done.

When we come to consider ‘worship’ we find something quite different. Worship refers to a bowing before a sovereign by a lesser subject, to kiss their hand or even feet, as a sign of subjection. This is what real worship is. It is not singing songs or reciting creeds, it is actually bowing before the Supreme, Almighty God, acknowledging His wonder and our smallness. We can see again and again in Scripture that bowing down is part of worship. It is submitting to and acknowledging the superiority of our God. Worship is getting God in perspective. When we realise who He is, of what He is capable of doing, and what He does, there really can be no other response.

Do you see now why I said at the beginning that this involves a development of understanding of truth and takes us from the state of self-centredness to the state of complete un-self-centredness? When we see God for who He is, we lose all sense of ourselves, for our vision is filled with Him and Him alone. We have developed or changed from being silly, puny individuals who make silly noises about God, to see that the One revealed in the Bible is truly like what we find there and, like those who had a vision of heaven, we fall on our faces in acknowledgement of our smallness and His greatness. If we don’t do it this side of death, we will do it the other side when we will see Him clearly!

So those things act like a barometer of our spiritual state and direction. If we never give thanks we live in a cold, sterile world of facts but nothing more. When we realise that there is a hand behind all the good and wonderful things in this world, we start to give thanks. When we develop our understanding, probably by reading His word, we see more and more His hand on all good things and we find praise starts taking us away from our self-centredness to starting to be God focused in a much bigger way. When we eventually realise His greatness and our smallness, we fall in worship and adoration. It’s there in the Book, and it’s truth. So what, I wonder, is the ‘barometer’ telling about you?