While the question itself is borrowed from Luke 18:8, I wish to take a few moments to follow up on the post I made a couple of weeks ago about where faith belongs. Last week I ran across a reference to an interview of Christopher Hitchens done by a Unitarian minister named Marilyn Sewell while reading one of my favorite blogs (hat tip to Vox Day). He highlighted a portion of the interview and I wanted to include a little bit more of it here(the interviewers questions are in bold and the replies are in regular text):
The religion you cite in your book is generally the fundamentalist faith of various kinds. I’m a liberal Christian, and I don’t take the stories from the scripture literally. I don’t believe in the doctrine of atonement (that Jesus died for our sins, for example). Do you make and distinction between fundamentalist faith and liberal religion?
I would say that if you don’t believe that Jesus of Nazareth was the Christ and Messiah, and that he rose again from the dead and by his sacrifice our sins are forgiven, you’re really not in any meaningful sense a Christian.
Here is an atheist who has a better understanding of the basis of Christian doctrine that the self-professed Christian who is asking the questions. But I would take it a step further. Just acknowledging the facts that Jesus is the Messiah and that he died and rose again isn’t the end all, be all of Christianity. In fact, if we look at the words of James, this doesn’t even begin to describe the Christian faith since Satan and the demons believe it because they saw that Jesus died and rose again(James 2:19). There is much more that could be said here, but I will save it for now. Hopefully, you get the point of what James is getting at in his book.
This lady compounds this insanity with her very next question:
Let me go someplace else. When I was in seminary I was particularly drawn to the work of theologian Paul Tillich. He shocked people by describing the traditional God—as you might as a matter of fact—as, “an invincible tyrant.” For Tillich, God is “the ground of being.” It’s his response to, say, Freud’s belief that religion is mere wish fulfillment and comes from the humans’ fear of death. What do you think of Tillich’s concept of God?”
I would classify that under the heading of “statements that have no meaning—at all.” Christianity, remember, is really founded by St. Paul, not by Jesus. Paul says, very clearly, that if it is not true that Jesus Christ rose from the dead, then we the Christians are of all people the most unhappy. If none of that’s true, and you seem to say it isn’t, I have no quarrel with you. You’re not going to come to my door trying convince me either. Nor are you trying to get a tax break from the government. Nor are you trying to have it taught to my children in school. If all Christians were like you I wouldn’t have to write the book.
Let me correct something that Hitchens is simply mistaken about. Christianity is not “founded by St. Paul.” While Paul did write most of the New Testament, the teachings there are in congruence with everything that Jesus said and taught and are in fact derived fully from the Hebrew Scriptures themselves. (I would here like to recommend an excellent book called Paul the Jewish Theologian by Brad H Young for those who are interested in a fuller explaination.) His larger point again hits the nail on the head. It is near this point in the interview that he hits it out of the ballpark:
Well, probably not, because I agree with almost everything that you say. But I still consider myself a Christian and a person of faith.
Do you mind if I ask you a question? Faith in what? Faith in the resurrection?
The way I believe in the resurrection is I believe that one can go from a death in this life, in the sense of being dead to the world and dead to other people, and can be resurrected to new life. When I preach about Easter and the resurrection, it’s in a metaphorical sense.
I hate to say it—we’ve hardly been introduced—but maybe you are simply living on the inheritance of a monstrous fraud that was preached to millions of people as the literal truth—as you put it, “the ground of being.”
I am almost speechless even now as I read this exchange again. This person claims to be a Christian who thinks the resurrection is “metaphorical” and actually articulates that without even a blush after an atheist quotes Paul’s statement that if the resurrection isn’t real we as Christians are to be pitied (see 1 Corinthians 15 in general with verses 12-19 in particular).
Let me be clear also that Hitchens is far from credible on his own. Later in the interview he questions the very existence of Christ, which is patently absurd. Hitchens is not the paragon of logic or rationality that he dreams himself to be, but even he can see through the silly fascade that this woman has created. Indeed, he wishes that more Christians were like her so that they wouldn’t bug him about their faith. Actually, her definition of faith is rather odd as well so I want to discuss it for a minute as well:
People say faith can move mountains. Faith in what, by the way? You haven’t said.
If you would like for me to talk a little bit about what I believe . . .
Well I would actually.
I don’t know whether or not God exists in the first place, let me just say that. I certainly don’t think that God is an old man in the sky, I don’t believe that God intervenes to give me goodies if I ask for them.
You don’t believe he’s an interventionist of any kind?
I’m kind of an agnostic on that one. God is a mystery to me. I choose to believe because—and this is a very practical thing for me—I seem to live with more integrity when I find myself accountable to something larger than myself. That thing larger than myself, I call God, but it’s a metaphor. That God is an emptiness out of which everything comes. Perhaps I would say “ reality” or “what is” because we’re trying to describe the infinite with language of the finite. My faith is that I put all that I am and all that I have on the line for that which I do not know.
This woman and others who think this way would be well served with a refresher course in Hebrews 11. I am particularly thinking of verse 6, “And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.” She said she doesn’t even believe that God exists and refers to her god as a metaphor. There is no faith here. Even an atheist can recognize this.
Let’s go back to the book of James. Faith isn’t knowing or even believing in something. Faith is when the belief takes action. Look again at James 2:
14What good is it, my brothers, if a man claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save him? 15Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food. 16If one of you says to him, “Go, I wish you well; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about his physical needs, what good is it? 17In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.18But someone will say, “You have faith; I have deeds.”
Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by what I do.
19You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that—and shudder.
Look at Hebrews 11 and notice the pattern. It is repeated over and over again: by faith (insert name) (insert action). This chapter is filled with action done because of faith. I ask the question I started with, when the Son of Man comes, what kind of faith will He find in you?