“Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.” – 2 Timothy 3:12
I recently watched four video lectures I have been meaning to get to for a while from Dallas Theological Seminary in which Dr. Albert Mohler spoke on the topic of the rise of the New Atheism. One of the main things I gleaned from these lectures is that since the late Medieval times, there have been three main thrusts of thought in the realm of atheism. 1) It was initially impossible not to believe in theism. 2) After the Enlightenment, it was then possible not to believe. Atheism began to grow in various ways. 3) And now in our current situation, it is, at least with the elites for the moment, impossible to believe, which is one of the reasons some are calling this new movement Enlightenment 2.0. In the West, there has been a gradual decay of belief in God that now brings us to a rather dangerous point in history. If during the period where it was possible not to believe, such awful events occurred like the Holocaust, the starvation of millions of Russians at the hands of Stalin, all resulting from or rooted in atheistic presuppositions during World War I and II, what is possible if a culture adopts the idea that it is impossible to believe in theism and that those, particularly Christians who hold the historic faith, are dangerous to humanity?
Something else I have gathered from these lectures is that ideas can be extremely dangerous. That is an understatement and nothing new. History is full of examples where this is the case. However, in these times of relative peace we Christians find ourselves in, we should take a step back now and ponder over the costs of 1) following Christ, 2) holding to historic Christianity at all as a belief system and worldview, but also 3) acting upon those convictions to the glory of Christ, whether it is holiness in our lives, evangelism, prayer, public gatherings, voicing convictions within the public square, etc. We should pray and push into our relationship with Him that He might embolden and strengthen us to stand in the face of these challenges coming upon us. We have experienced a long period of little persecution in America. But there seems to be coming a time when belief in God and even belief in the God of the Bible are going to be intolerable. This is the case all over the world in various places. At the moment, the four horsemen of the New Atheism, Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens, Sam Harris, and Daniel Dennett are the main evangelists of these ideas that simply cannot tolerate theism, and in particular, the God of the Bible. Yet their books are selling not just in the hundreds, not just in the thousands or hundreds of thousands, but in the millions. People are highly interested.
At the same time that there is great concern, I want to avoid being an alarmist. At the moment, we are in relative safety from such things. In addition, we should not fear whatever man can bring against us, even when confronted with death. Our true, ultimate, assured hope lies in the resurrection of Christ, who will also bring us with Him to live forever by His side. But as can be repeatedly evidenced in the history of humanity, there is such a thing as the trickle down effect with bad ideas. It first starts out with a few vocal antagonists who make a strong case in favor of their beliefs. These ideas begin to influence the academic world and elites in the culture at large. In adopting these ideas, those elites then begin to proselytize those further down on the educational scale, such as students in both secondary schools and in the collegiate world. These students then quickly grow up and move out into the culture with a worldview construct that consists of these ideas (if not intentionally, then presuppositionally). The ideas then make it into pop-culture where they are adopted as underlying beliefs. That is a frightening prospect, and we don’t have to look far back into the history of the 20th century to see how quickly a culture can adopt very dangerous ideas.
Hypothetically speaking, what would happen in our society if the ideas being evangelized by these four horsemen, that theists are a moral hazard to society, that raising our children in the Christian faith is the equivalent of child abuse, began to gain a foothold? We already see some of this in universities now where the metaphysical idea that creation came from a Creator is simply stupid. It is dismissed. In many science classes in particular, Darwinian evolution reigns the day. In probably most ethics classes at universities, moral and ethical relativism has gained such a foothold that if any external, outside, objective authority is consulted for the basis upon which moral/ethical decisions are made, you are excluded from the conversation or at the least belittled. This isn’t in every class out there, but it’s there and seems to be growing in intensity. Creationism is simply not even a conceivable mode of thought or starting point. Again, we believers must consider the cost of following Christ. It is not an easy, wide road, nor has it been for probably a majority of Christians. Easy-believism simply won’t be an accessible idea if these things came to fruition. This is good for the purification of the church, but I fear many confessed Christians are not prepared in the least to face these challenges, should they arise, and will thus fall away from the faith.
In these lectures, Albert Mohler presents the historical, theological and cultural implications of the New Atheism and how as believers we should respond to these ideas and stand strong in the faith once for all delivered to the saints. Indeed, we who desire to live godly, albeit imperfect lives for the name of Christ, proclaim the Gospel to those in our communities, and make known the riches of the glories of Christ, will be persecuted. Only in the power of Christ can we stand. If we attempt to fight this battle in our flesh, surely we will fail and run away. We are utterly reliant upon His strength to endure such challenges. May we rest in His grace alone to provide all that we need and all this for His glory.