There is no such thing as a New Atheist
I tweeted something to a particular reader a couple of weeks ago without really considering the validity of what I was saying. To be honest, I was hoping for some feedback from the un-believer who messaged me about my blog titled “The Faith of the New Atheist.” After pointing out there is no such thing as a New Atheist, he sent me this cartoon with the comment: People seem to like labels even if they are unfounded.
My response: True. I get a few of them myself! Holding up a Bible and tell ANYBODY to stay quiet? Not very Christian. But cute cartoon.
Now, I stick to my position that it’s not very Christian to try to silence people who don’t get Christianity, and I never implied my goal was to shut the mouths of atheists. Everybody has a voice and anybody with a voice can speak. I won’t be the one holding up a Bible like it’s…um…the final authority on…everything. Well, yes, I will. But that is not what’s represented by the cartoon. The characterization is this: Christians push their agenda, and atheists aren’t going to take it anymore.
The more I thought about it, the more the words of the stick-figure pseudo-Christian sounded familiar. And comfortable. Like I said, I wouldn’t do that. I wouldn’t say that. But it reminded me of something I’d heard before—not directed at the cacophony of voices bombarding the world at present. But to me. He says it often. He said to others before me. It’s a sweet, promising message—no a command—from the Word of God.
But I didn’t set the matter straight until Sunday, a few days after that civil social-media chat with the atheist. That’s when my pastor gave a sermon about the wall of Jericho. As he pointed out, the original million-man-march around the city was carried out in silence. Complete, no arguing, no complaining, no commenting on the ridiculousness of God’s strategy to topple a wall…silence. “Stay Quiet,” God told them. Other than blowing the trumpet, they were to remain…very…quiet.
Why? Well, I don’t think they asked why. But now that it’s history, knowing the reason behind the command is useful. The pastor asked us to imagine the chaos that would have followed if so many people had voiced their opinions. It couldn’t have been easy for Joshua to follow God’s perfectly outrageous plan. And it couldn’t have been easy for the people to follow Joshua’s weird instructions. But they did it. Quietly. Listening for the voice of God. And no other.
The Bible—the one opened to ingest and not clutched like a frying pan ready to crack a skull—offers other directives to stay quiet. An often quoted verse implicates silence, but actually calls for stillness. Here’s part one of Psalm 46:10 “Be still and know that I am God.” The forty-sixth Psalm celebrates God’s unfailing promises. His message in verse ten? Relax. Don’t worry. Hush. I’ve got this.
Here’s the entire verse:“Be still and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!”
My pastor said God’s commands are always based on His promises. God will be exalted! So, I can be still.
Of course, the odd strategy that brought Jericho’s wall crumbling down was silent only to a point. When the time was right, God changed the orders. “Shout!” Joshua told the closed-mouthed marchers. “For the Lord has given you the city.” They shouted a victory cry—and then the wall fell.
Who survived? All God’s people. And an outsider, along with her family. She was a prostitute. A heathen by birth and by nature. And she lived INSIDE the wall! But she believed God. And she became New.
No such thing as a New Atheist? Of course, there isn’t. It’s God who takes the Old Man (or Woman) and makes him (or her) New. By grace, I became New. So I can relax—God’s got this. But the Bible calls for shouting too. For triumph. For joy. For praising.
For New Life.
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new. 2 Corinthians 5:17