Isaiah 55 is a really nice chapter of encouragement for anyone who needs to hear the promise of God’s goodness for their life. Maybe you want to go read it before moving on?
Sometimes I try to understand why someone might conceivably be an Atheist. Reading Romans, and understanding the social plights of Jesus as laid out in the four gospels, gave me an idea. The old time prophets were constantly being persecuted and murdered because people did not like what they were saying. The prophets told the Jews that soon God would “get over them” and go to the gentiles instead, like the quarterback of the high school football team getting fed up with Brittany’s drama and dumping her for her arch-cheerleading-rival Kelly. If gentiles learned about God, the religious superiority the Jews used to identify themselves as a race would fall flat, and in a spirit of almost pure obduracy the Jews persecuted the prophets instead of checking themselves before wrecking themselves. A similar type situation led to Jesus’s crucifixion. It’s actually an awesome story with an extremely predictable and pathetic ending. That kind of behavior amounts to putting the alarm clock on snooze instead of just waking up. I call it “emotional inertia”, meanwhile God is trying to lift us against gravity.
In Romans 11:1-16 Paul expounds that the Jews’ historical unpleasantness toward God was actually part of God’s plan all along; basically that God has been manipulating the Jews into hating Him for thousands of years in order that the Gentiles should have the opportunity to hear and believe Jesus’s story first (for all I know this is still going on). Once all the gentiles are won over, Paul writes, the Jews will be released from their prison of unbelief and be allowed to hear and believe the gospel themselves. Then human beings will have reached their ultimate goal and, I guess, the second coming will occur. This, combined with the unfortunate story of Judas and even Jesus’s own crucifixion, suggest that God is a King who has no problem using the ones he loves to achieve His own means, seemingly even to their detriment.
Taken in this respect there’s no wonder it’s hard for some people to believe in God as the benevolent do-gooder He’s touted as. He’s a bastard. A Machiavelli. But then again, that argument is flawed for the simple reason that it assesses the character of God on the same level it assess a human being. I think that accepting Paul’s theory (truth? theory?) gives insight into the real reason it’s so hard to be a Christian: Christianity really means you have to be OK with being nothing, subservient, minimalized, marginalized, completely crushed under God’s thumb; a pawn, as it were. The faith part of Christianity comes in concluding that that’s somewhere you want to be. In order for God to be glorified in your life your human part has to be choked and shrunk into nothingness. This subservience and minimization of self is attainable because we are human but we are also God, by nature One with Him. The human spirit is a vessel, and if there is less humanness in it there can be more God. (Jesus was the first and only human to be full of God and empty of humanness, part of the purpose of His coming being to prove that such a thing was actually possible, whereby providing humanity a role model- a gift that was almost universally ignored.) So then pursuing God really means pursuing getting smaller- an anachronism. Nobody reads to get dumber. Nobody tries in order to get worse. It’s hard for people to grasp, and even harder for people to let happen, so that’s why so few people can be Christians. You really have to be OK with the fact that you are nothing. A friend of mine once explained to me why he doesn’t believe in God: “Because there are buildings full of people in chronic pain. There are people born into terrible situations that they’ll never escape and have no choice in. If there were a God that wouldn’t happen.” This, of course, is not an argument for why there is no God. This is simply an argument for why YOU are not God. A part of Christianity is faith, and a part of it is acceptance. If you can swallow it when God says in Isaiah 55:8-9 “My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways my ways. As the heavens are higher than the earth, my ways are higher than yours, and my thoughts are higher than yours,” then and only then can God begin to work in your life. Christianity truly is for the minds of children, as no adult would allow himself to be talked to like that. Acceptance of our nothingness is the caveat to actualizing the rest of Isaiah 55, and really probably should have been mentioned earlier than page 644. It’s the hazing ritual to get into the club. Admit to nothingness and you empty yourself so that you can be refilled by God. Isaiah 55-56 gives us an idea of what that would be like. Who would deny that that is desirable? Who could deny that they want their political leaders, financial power figures, social role models, parents, and friends to be on board that train? Let alone be on board themselves? Is it even possible to argue for anything else? Is it useful? Is it advisable?