Forgetting and forsaking God has serious repercussions:
Western history is in large part the story of God and his people at work. Yet most Westerners today deliberately seek to shove God, Jesus, Scripture and Christianity out of their minds and lives. The West is doing its best to forget all about the God who created the world and who seeks to fix the broken relationship we have with him.
But there is a price to pay when we do this. Vainly thinking we can go it alone and make a better world while turning our backs on God is a fool’s errand. One would have thought we already have enough evidence of this. But we continue raising our clenched fists at God, and the results are all too apparent.
Christianity overwhelmingly helped to give birth to the West, but now the child is rejecting its parent. It has forgotten who has given it birth. Such a deliberate move to become an orphan is as puzzling as it is tragic. It really is unsustainable, and the bottom is really about to fall out.
I pen this piece in part based on something which was reported the other day. It might seem like a trivial incident – found in a television game show of all places. But it is indicative of where we are now at. One media story on this begins as follows:
Oh Lord! One seemingly simple answer prompt has gotten three “Jeopardy!” contestants in hot water with fans, as they failed to correctly finish the Lord’s Prayer. The clue that had all three contestants stumped: “Matthew 6:9 says, ‘Our Father Which Art in Heaven’ this ‘be thy name.’”
All three contestants stood awkwardly in their place, evidently not knowing the answer as host Mayim Bialik waited for one of them to buzz in, but only the buzzer for time rang out. At this point in the game, both challengers Joe Seibert and Laura Blyler Scanland were in the negative with -$200 and -$400, respectively, while eventual winner Suresh Krishnan had $1,600 in the bank.
Krishnan would end the show with $14,000, winning his sixth contest in a row, but would ultimately lose Wednesday night. Fans of the game show were not happy with the contestants, as they deemed it an easy clue. “That’s ‘hallowed,’ you heathens!” “Jeopardy!” fan Lindsay Wilcox live-tweeted during the show.
In this perhaps amusing case, we have a clear example of rampant biblical illiteracy. Not all that long ago just about every American could have easily answered such a question. It comes of course from the famous Lord’s Prayer as found in Matthew 6:7-13 in the old KJV:
But when ye pray, use not vain repetitions, as the heathen do: for they think that they shall be heard for their much speaking. Be not ye therefore like unto them: for your Father knoweth what things ye have need of, before ye ask him. After this manner therefore pray ye: Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen.
This was for centuries such a very familiar passage of Scripture. But now in the West, we are being so spiritually dumbed down that these three contestants did not have a clue. Of course many similar examples could be given here. They all point to a massive change in the West wherein we have collectively chosen to forget all about God.
But as I said, there are consequences for this wilful rejection of God and our refusal to retain him in our minds. When we forsake God there will be repercussions. The Bible speaks to this often, with ancient Israel especially a case in point. Consider a few passages on this.
And the Lord said to Moses, “Behold, you are about to lie down with your fathers. Then this people will rise and whore after the foreign gods among them in the land that they are entering, and they will forsake me and break my covenant that I have made with them. Then my anger will be kindled against them in that day, and I will forsake them and hide my face from them, and they will be devoured. And many evils and troubles will come upon them, so that they will say in that day, ‘Have not these evils come upon us because our God is not among us?’ And I will surely hide my face in that day because of all the evil that they have done, because they have turned to other gods.
“But if you turn aside and forsake my statutes and my commandments that I have set before you, and go and serve other gods and worship them, then I will pluck you up from my land that I have given you, and this house that I have consecrated for my name, I will cast out of my sight, and I will make it a proverb and a byword among all peoples. And at this house, which was exalted, everyone passing by will be astonished and say, ‘Why has the Lord done thus to this land and to this house?’ Then they will say, ‘Because they abandoned the Lord, the God of their fathers who brought them out of the land of Egypt, and laid hold on other gods and worshiped them and served them. Therefore he has brought all this disaster on them.’”
2 Chronicles 7:19-22
Who is the man so wise that he can understand this? To whom has the mouth of the Lord spoken, that he may declare it? Why is the land ruined and laid waste like a wilderness, so that no one passes through? And the Lord says: “Because they have forsaken my law that I set before them, and have not obeyed my voice or walked in accord with it, but have stubbornly followed their own hearts and have gone after the Baals, as their fathers taught them.
And if you say in your heart, ‘Why have these things come upon me?’ it is for the greatness of your iniquity.
‘And many nations will pass by this city, and every man will say to his neighbor, “Why has the Lord dealt thus with this great city?” And they will answer, “Because they have forsaken the covenant of the Lord their God and worshiped other gods and served them.”’
And Paul in Romans 1 also addresses this matter. In verses 28-29 we find these words: “Furthermore, just as they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, so God gave them over to a depraved mind, so that they do what ought not to be done. They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity.”
Modern man sure does not want to ‘retain the knowledge of God’. They have deliberately chosen to forget all about him. And if all this sounds a bit familiar, we have a much more recent prophetic voice who has talked about such things. I refer to the famous Soviet dissident Alexander Solzhenitsyn.
In his 1983 Templeton Prize speech he famously said this: “Over half a century ago, while I was still a child, I recall hearing a number of older people offer the following explanation for the great disasters that had befallen Russia: ‘We have forgotten God; that’s why all this has happened’.”
So what are believers to do in light of this mass amnesia about God that we find in the West? Well, our job is to keep sharing truth and to keep reminding folks that God does indeed exist and that we all will stand before him one day. We either bow to him now as our Creator or we will one day bow to him as our Judge.
Whether we are dealing with hardcore atheists or those who simply want to live and act as if there is no God, our job is to remind them of eternal truths and biblical verities. I finish with one of my all-time favourite quotes.
In his important 500-page discussion of recent atheist thinkers, The Gods of Atheism, Catholic philosopher Vincent Miceli closes his book with these words:
The ideals and zeals of the men studied, however inadequately, in this work demonstrate a profound fact about man: The most urgent need in man is his metaphysical hunger for communion with a personal God. Man cannot, and hence will not, remain neutral to the mystery of a personal Divine Presence. For this personal Divine Presence alone gives adequate meaning and mission to his life. This truth was long ago testified to by God Himself in the company of Moses on Mt. Thabor. Commissioned to sculpt into stone the most important commandments by which man could live meaningfully and holily, Moses failed to write the following commandment: “Thou shall not be an atheist.” Instead his first commandment read: “I am the Lord thy God . . . Thou shalt not have strange gods before me.” It was as if Moses had written: “Atheists are not godless men; they are men addicted to false gods.” Thus, the battle of love to which the Christian is honourably called today is the struggle to liberate his atheist neighbors from enthrallment to false gods and to help these neighbors find the True God. And in order to fulfill this noble mission the Christian may never forget that the escape from the dungeons of the false gods to the mountain of the True God demands a persevering, courageous journey though the desert of self-sacrifice.