To begin with such a clearly incendiary title may be just the beginning needed to send the unbelievers screaming from the website and to the nearest unChristian therapy center. So be it, as this is meant to be read only by open and fair minded people who might seek a better outlook on the depressing news of the day. And depressing it is. Who among us, us being the enlightened ones who think that there is surely something better to do with the day than look at that humpday camel commercial. And so I will take the step to edge of the diving board into the cesspool of atheism.
Having stepped out to that extent it is necessary to emphasize clearly that atheism has its moments here and there that make it tempting even to believers, yes, temptation is not reserved for the “I do it and I get a whipping, but I will do it anyway” test. Robert Ingersol, one of the best known of the past atheist leaders, went so far as his death bed speaking and writing volumes against belief in an unseen Creator. At that final curtain, it occurred to him that it might be a good idea to hedge his bet and this quotation was preserved by one of his bedside people. He reportedly said: “Oh God, if there is One, save my soul if I have one.” Nothing was reported later, as to one or the other result.
Further out on the diving board, the slope is slippier, but evidence is clearer, and a long list exists that names celebrities who have made foolish statements of insulting or ridiculing nature as to how they are better than Jesus, or have more money than God and can buy their way out of perdition, or have sung an insulting song blaspheming all of the above, namely,God, Jesus and Christians. Their demise was not pleasant, and if my memory works again, one of the Beatles bragged about being more popular than God and was murdered shortly thereafter. The record is not actually something to hold up as a reason to go off on the God who allows each person to choose his or her own destiny, and live for awhile to regret the choice.
And it is here that I have a final but interesting reference to submit for the atheist’s consideration. A man of the cloth who set fire to his congregations in the distant past in America. He was Jonathan Edwards. He was brilliant, born in 1703, and enrolled in Yale at the age of 13. He became a theologian, and a Christian preacher, and his sermons were heard then by many, and read after by many more. One of his most memorable was included in the American Literature courses taught in high school classes for many years, until Christianity became almost as unwelcome in America as malaria or the plague. But for a moment, allow a wise and influential Christian to speak once again to an American reader, perhaps only this writer and one other reader, but his words are as serious now as they were some 300 years ago. He was warning then that it was unwise to tempt or taunt God, and that for those who did there was a price to pay. On this day his message came from the Old Testament Book of Deuteronomy 32:35, and his theme was based on these words: “Their foot shall slide in due time.” He spoke at length on the wasted time the human party has tested God, doing more and more of the things that were evil, or harmful, or both, perhaps expecting to be given a free ride at the last minute, because God was the good Father, creator and protector.
As he went at times as a circuit preacher, and at times holding a highly favored pulpit of the elite, he spoke his beliefs as some called “firebrand” and frightening, but he was determined to win the minds of those who heard him. He did not hold back, and was very clear in his sermons to warn the sinner that without repenting and changing from bad behavior to Christian cleansing that there was nothing to save them from the pit of fire. In this sermon, Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God, he did not hold back and used an image that burned into the minds of the congregations of that time, and Edwards won many to God’s fold. The image could be well applied today, as the times are much the same as behavior had begun to resemble Sodom and Gomorrah, much as is happening in The Year of Our Lord 2014. He presented to his congregants a sinner as likened to a spider hanging onto a strand of web and dangling over a pit of fire. The point to be made: that spider could no more save itself from the pit than could the sinner who finally angered God to the end of his endurance and the dangling sinner would have nothing to expect except the pit, and same fate as the unfortunate spider.
As a closing emphasis to the relevance of a three hundred year old sermon, one needs only to know that Jonathan Edwards was speaking to an audience which had begun to slide closer and closer to the pit. Does this image resonate with what is happening in the United States today, much as in the turmoil of the past? Is America still a nation of sinners in the hands of an angry God? That all depends on what Americans do, and what prices they are willing to pay. “Their foot shall slide in due time.”