Date: 20 Nov 2022
Speaker: Ps Luwin Wong
Sermon Text: Luke 23:50–24:53
The popular atheist Richard Dawkins was once asked, “What happens if you die and come face to face with God?” He replied, “In the unlikely event that I met God after I died, I would say to him, “Why did you take such great pains to conceal yourself and to hide away from us? Why have you hidden yourself so well?”
I suppose the assumption here, is that if God existed, we should see more of sign of his presence, we should witness more evidence of his activity, we should experience more divine intervention in this world.
Like what? Perhaps he should have prevented COVID-19. It killed a lot of people, it caused a lot of pain, it created a lot of suffering. But why stop with COVID-19, how about measles, and smallpox and AIDS? Should God have prevented them as well?
What about cancer from smoking? What about liver failure from alcohol abuse? What about diabetes from overconsumption of sugar? Does he prevent all these diseases as well? Does he fundamentally alter the human genome just so that we can eat and smoke and drink without consequences to our health?
That is somehow a godly thing to do? To separate our action from consequences?
Perhaps he should have prevented the war in Ukraine. Families torn apart, children dead on the streets, reports of torture and abuse and rape in the occupied territories. If God existed, surely he intervenes and prevents that? Should he also prevent WWII and the holocaust, the Vietnam war, the American civil war? If so, why stop at the prevention of macro-conflicts? Why not put a stop to micro-aggression too?
By the same principle, shouldn’t God also prevent families squabbling, spouses arguing, children rebelling? And how? Does he make it such that we as human beings never think mean thoughts, never say mean words, and never do mean things, and never experience anger and hatred, and pride and selfishness? Does he fundamentally alter human nature so that we never commit evil against each other?
That does not sound so much like intervention in this world, as much as it is a call for the reinvention of the world. A New Creation, if you will.
But say God does both things, and there’s no more sickness and no more human evil in this world. Do human beings die? Does death remain a reality in such a world? If so, can you imagine the pain and grief at every funeral, because everyone who dies is a healthy and perfect person. And in even in such an idyllic existence, death stands as constant siren, ringing out “So what? What’s the point?”
So what if this world is perfect? It is devoid of ultimate meaning because it all comes to an end. Nothing stands. It’s like building a sandcastle in by the sea, it can be the most brilliant, most pristine castle imaginable, but it will be swallowed by the inevitable tide of death, and when it recedes, it will be as though nothing ever existed. “So what? What’s the point of it all?”
Perhaps Dawkins desire was more modest. Perhaps when he said that God had so hidden himself, all he wanted was for God let us know he’s there. How though? By a writing in the sky saying “I, God, exist?” Even if he did that, how would it help? Who exists? Thor, Odin, Dagon, Baal? Who exists precisely? What God is this that exists, what he is like, what does he want, how do we know? If is God interested in human beings, then it’s insufficient simply to inform us of his existence. He has revealed himself to us personally, he has to display for us his character, he has to teach us his ways, he has to show us a way to rightly relate to him.