And after six days Jesus took with him Peter and James, and John his brother, and led them up a high mountain by themselves. And he was transfigured before them, and his face shone like the sun, and his clothes became white as light. And behold, there appeared to them Moses and Elijah, talking with him. And Peter said to Jesus, "Lord, it is good that we are here. If you wish, I will make three tents here, one for you and one for Moses and one for Elijah." He was still speaking when, behold, a bright cloud overshadowed them, and a voice from the cloud said, "This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him." When the disciples heard this, they fell on their faces and were terrified. But Jesus came and touched them, saying, "Rise, and have no fear." And when they lifted up their eyes, they saw no one but Jesus only.
And as they were coming down the mountain, Jesus commanded them, "Tell no one the vision, until the Son of Man is raised from the dead."
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Happy Without God
Thursday of Epiphany 5
12 February 2015
A few years ago, an organization dedicated to telling you you can be happy even without God came to Houston to explain this. 'You Don't Need God' was the slogan in an anti-religion media blitz. I found this media blitz hilarious on the face of it. The folks who invented the campaign didn't seem to be able to deny that there is a God. They are only claiming that you could be happy without Him. That's a bit like claiming you could be happy without your spouse. Such a statement does not mean that you don't have a husband or wife, just that you could be happy without yours.
All the most vehement "atheists" and agnostics spend a great deal of time talking and writing about a God that they say doesn't exist. This is a phenomenon that I find really curious. Why spill all this ink on denying His existence, if He doesn't exist? What would be the point of writing weighty tomes denying green men from Mars live in Houston? We only try to deny the existence of that which actually exists. I realize that this is a humorous variation on Anselm of Canterbury's proof for the existence of God. Ultimately, though it means that I don't believe that "atheists" actually exist; not merely because they have made themselves their own god, and are therefore the worst kind of theist, but also because they deny God's existence with so much verve, they are conceding that He exists.
Here is a news flash for the "You Don't Need God" campaign: You can be happy without God. Yes, of course! The Christian religion concedes that people can in a superficial way be truly happy even while denying the existence of God. They are blessed by the very Creator they deny exists with the simple earthly joys of peace, health, safety, prosperity, family, government, etc. All these things are given for our enjoyment. Our Father 'makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust' (Mt 5:45). All these things are given as gifts by God to both grateful believers and ungrateful deniers of every stripe. It would unworthy of God merely to take such things away from those who insult Him, for these are unchanging signs of His gracious care for those who are not gracious enough even to say thanks to the giver of every perfect gift. It seems to me a strange kind of neurosis to so adamantly contend "I can be happy, even without God!" If that is really true, then just get on with it, and stop badgering us about it. The media blitz that made this contention is simply an admission that in an ultimate sense those who deny God's existence will never be happy. In the meantime, God is willing to ignore your campaign to be happy without Him, that perchance He might grant you the gift of ultimate happiness through fellowship with Him in Christ.
"'They exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen' (Rm 1:25). Things which were a matter for utter scorn, Paul puts down specially. How strongly he makes his assertion, for he does not say merely. "They served the creature," but he also says "more than the Creator." Everywhere he gives fresh force to the charge, and, by the comparison, he takes from them every basis for mitigation.
"When Paul says, "Who is blessed forever. Amen" he means, God was not any way injured. For He remains "blessed forever." Here Paul shows, that it was not in self defense that He left them alone (Rm 1:24), inasmuch as He suffered nothing Himself. For even if these people treated Him insolently, yet He was not insolently treated, neither was any damage done to His glory, but He remains continually blessed. For as it sometimes happens, that through philosophy a person would not feel the insults men hurled at him, much less would God, the imperishable and unalterable nature, the unchangeable and immovable glory.
"For men are in this respect made like God, when they do not feel what is inflicted by those who would are spiteful to them, and are not insulted by others who insult them, nor beaten by them when being beaten by them, nor scorned when they make scorn of them. And how in the nature of things can this be? It may be better to ask rather, how would it be possible to be troubled? Tell me now, if your little child insults you, would you then reckon the insult an insult? What? Would you be troubled? Surely not. And if you were troubled, would you not then appear ridiculous? Let us then get to feel similarly toward our neighbors, and then we shall have no sense of displeasure. For those who insult us are more unreasonable than children. We should not even seek to be free from insults, but when we are insulted to bear them. For this is the only secure honor. But why so? Because you are master of your own actions, but not the actions of another."
John Chrysostom, Homilies on Romans, 3
Lord Jesus, You turned Your face toward Jerusalem, there to face our scorn, rejection, unbelief, and ridicule, yet you did not swerve from the awesome goal of saving us despite all that. Help us to seek Your grace during this Lenten season by following You upon the odyssey of our life returned to us in Your suffering and death. Amen.
For Pastor Charles St-Onge, who is sharing his work with God's people seeking support for being a theological educator in the foreign field, that God's people would share with him in his mission
For Paul Lodholz, that the Lord Jesus would grant her healing and a full recovery
For persecuted Christians, that they might not revile when reviled
Art: AERTSEN, Pieter Adoration of the Magi (c. 1560)
© Scott R. Murray, 2015