It is amazing, when you think about it, that a major newspaper like the Melbourne Age actually pays people to do little more than write columns attacking the beliefs of millions of Australians. Atheist Catherine Deveny writes regular columns insulting and vilifying people of faith, and the editors of the Age are evidently quite happy to let her get away with this.
Never mind that she is more than likely breaking the law in doing so. I refer to the Victorian Racial and Religious Tolerance Act which speaks to this very thing: insulting, offending and vilifying people because of their religious beliefs. That is supposed to be illegal. But like trendy artists, it seems that opinion piece writers are above the law.
Of course Ms Deveny is a typical atheist, and most newspapers have a few hardcore God-haters who regularly churn out their misotheist venom and bile. Indeed, much of the mainstream media today would feel remiss if there were not a number of such folk on board, turning out their anti-Christian bigotry.
She had yet another column in today’s Age, again letting her poisonous tongue run riot, as she flails at anything and anyone even remotely religious. Her silly charges are becoming so tedious and routine, and are easily answered. But my purpose here is not to rebut her specifically, but to look at some more general issues.
My real concern is to ask – and hopefully answer – the question that many believers might be thinking at this point: Just how is a Christian supposed to respond to such attacks? What is one to do with such hardened atheists who relish in mocking and attacking those who love God?
Some might say that we should simply ignore her. Yes, that is a possible option. Sometimes that may be the best way to go. But it seems that there are three obvious ways to proceed if a response is in order. They all happen to be biblical and proper responses. But prayer and discernment will be required as to which one is most appropriate in a given situation, or if some combination of the three is required.
The first response is simply to offer a point by point rejoinder to their charges and accusations. Of course I do that on a regular basis here and elsewhere. That is part of what we are called to do in 1 Peter 3:15. Christian apologetics involves providing honest answers to honest questions, and dealing with the misunderstandings and misrepresentations of the Christian faith.
Another way is to look at atheism as Scripture does. Of course the most famous passage which comes to mind here is Psalm 14:1: “The fool says in his heart, ‘There is no God’.” In one sense Catherine Deveny, and all other atheists, are simply fools, and they will realise what great fools they have been when they one day stand before the very throne of God, with their mouths closed, heads hung low, with all their feeble and lame excuses vanishing in an instant.
Jesus made it quite clear that those who reject him and his message are sealing their own fate. Christ is the only provision God has made for us to get right with God and escape a lost eternity. If people reject Christ and his substitutionary sacrifice for our sins on the cross, then there is no further remedy for our predicament.
Hell is real, and those who reject God and the work of Christ will tragically find themselves there, and without excuse. This may not mean much to the atheist now, but it is a reality which must be proclaimed nonetheless.
A third type of response is a more gentle approach. That is, it involves taking such people back to the heart of the gospel. Remind them that Jesus loves us all so much that he died for us in our place, so that we might live with him forever. The desire of God’s heart is to share in a wonderful love relationship with us. Sin has separated us from that relationship, but Jesus has provided a way out of our dilemma.
When atheists like Deveny rage against God, it is possible they have some reasons for this. She speaks about her lousy experiences of church as a young person. I do not know anything about those experiences, but I am sure that many people are turned off to God because of religiosity, and bad personal experiences.
But the good news is, despite whatever unpleasant experiences one may have had with a church or religion, real Christianity is quite different: it is about a personal love relationship with Jesus Christ. Thus we must pray fervently for these atheists, and hope that they come to their senses, and their blindness is overcome by the wonderful love of God.
They need to know that often the God they think they are rejecting is nothing like the real God of the universe. They have rejected a caricature, and a bogeyman, but not the true God of whom Jesus Christ is our most wonderful expression.
Ms Deveny is obviously bitter, hurt and disillusioned. She may have good reason to be. But all I can tell her is, at the end of the day, the same Jesus Christ that she obviously rejects is still standing there with his outstretched, nail-scarred hands, hoping to embrace her, love her, forgive her, cleanse her, heal her, soothe and comfort her, and have a relationship with her, if she will only allow him to.
Of course that means she must lay down her arms, get off her high horse, stop pretending she is the centre of the universe, and come to Jesus simply with her needs, emptiness and brokenness. The final decision is up to her, and all other atheists. Jesus has done everything to woo these God-haters back to himself. But heaven and hell as a destination will ultimately be decided by our own decisions.
Thus I pray for Ms Deveny and other atheists. I pray that their blindness and hardness will melt away, and that they will see Jesus for the lovely, beautiful and majestic Saviour that he is. That may be the best response to atheists: to pray for them, to love them, to be patient with them, and hope that some see the light.
Many of course have done just that during the past 2,000 years. Countless atheists, agnostics, and secularists have come to marvel at the matchless love, grace, mercy and beauty of Jesus Christ. I hope and pray that Ms Deveny – and all like her – will also have a personal, life-changing encounter with the living and loving triune God.
“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16)