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Belated Easter Afterthoughts
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Friday, May 02, 2014
Alf Cengia

Yet another Easter has passed us, and here I am still talking about it. For many people Easter was all about family get together meals, holidays (for some), chocolate Easter eggs and the Easter Bunny. If you have a Facebook account and lots of Christian friends, you'll have been likely celebrating Resurrection Sunday.

The atheists were also very busy on Facebook and other forums.

As usual, out came all the resurrection myths and the ubiquitous Easter-pagan connection claims. I'm not talking about the belief that pagan practices have found their way into the celebration of the Resurrection - that's a whole different story. This is the time when some atheists resurrect the erroneous idea of the Resurrection is indebted to older pagan myths.

At the outset I should affirm that not all atheists are scoffing activists out to quench the Christian's joy. Perhaps the squeaky wheel is the one most often heard.

However, I've known at least one that I could get into a great discussion with. He was never compelled to go out and preach his atheism during the Christmas and Easter seasons. He chose not to believe in a passive way and was happy to discuss it without the mocking.

Others are agnostics who have a skeptical predisposition to Christ's resurrection.

"Where is the hard evidence?" a friend asked me once. I picked a location on the earth that he believes exists, yet has never been there or ever met anyone from there. He has faith in geographical maps and accounts of those who indicate that it is there. I pointed out that some deny that man has been to the moon, yet we take that truth for granted.

I proposed a little thought experiment. What if he and I were walking alone with no witnesses around and my body suddenly began to shine just before I shot up and disappeared into heaven? Would he believe his own eyes and senses? Or would he go find a psychiatrist to have his brain checked out because his biases and presuppositions over-ruled the experience?  Interestingly he was inclined to think the latter to be more likely.

Antony Flew is an example of an atheist that had honest academic objections. He ultimately resolved these for himself, resulting in his book There Is A God. Flew became a deist. Scoffers suggested old-age senility was the reason for his about-face. An objective reading of the book suggests otherwise.

I don't know that he ultimately came to faith in Christ. The Appendix B dialog on N T Wright (in his book) suggests to me that (as in C. S. Lewis' journey) he may have been slowly traveling along that road. I hope he made it safely home.

Getting back to the scoffing; notably, I don't recall any atheist indignation or mocking during Ramadan. I mean, I haven't seen any roadside billboards or signs on public buses protesting Allah's existence, or disputing something about Muhammad.

I never see any slogans like: "Don't martyr yourself to get to heaven - it doesn't exist" or "There are no martyrs in heaven..." etc.

Perhaps they're just too lengthy to display on the side of a bus. But they're very clever people and I'm sure they could come up with something succinct. Maybe they already have and I've just not paid enough attention. Somehow I doubt it.

Christians live with an entirely different worldview to atheists, agnostics or those who are indifferent. In fact, we can rightly say that we belong to different worlds. That first began to sink into me when I went from a private school, where I was taught about Jesus and the Cross, to a public one that denied or ignored them. It was a rude awakening.

I've written previously how I fortuitously came across the works of C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien. They gave me a lot of joy and comfort. It wasn't just because they facilitated escapism from a scary school. There were other fantasies to choose from if I only wanted diversion. The other fantasies simply didn't satisfy that deeper longing within me.

After many years I set myself to reading Tolkien's LOTR book again and remembered why it had such a profound effect on me as a teenager. The movies couldn't really convey the Christian ethics and Christ-like characteristics that Tolkien imbued in the main protagonists and story. Moreover, these characters lived their lives with an eye toward an eternal hope in the remaking of the world (Arda) by Illuvatar (God).

That is what was missing from the other escapist fantasies.

One thing I'm beginning to believe regarding dealing with seasonal atheists and scoffers in general is to be cautious about arguing with them. Once one's position is clearly articulated and objections met, there comes a time when the Christian should walk away from the conversation.

This isn't because the Christian lacks good responses; it is because the antagonist sometimes debates for the sake of it. In such a case the Christian is in danger of getting so worked up in the argument that his/her joy is compromised.

I remember the disappointment in learning that someone felt the need to mock Tolkien's work in the satirical Bored of the Rings. Sadly, that's how this world is.

Don't let anyone rob you of your joy.

But as it is written: "Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, Nor have entered into the heart of man The things which God has prepared for those who love Him." 1Co 2:9

Further Reading & Watching:

The Impossible Faith

Jesus of Testimony

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