The Jews answered him, “Aren’t we right in saying that you are a Samaritan and demon-possessed?” 49“I am not possessed by a demon,” said Jesus, “but I honor my Father and you dishonor me. 50I am not seeking glory for myself; but there is one who seeks it, and he is the judge. 51I tell you the truth, if anyone keeps my word, he will never see death.” 52At this the Jews exclaimed, “Now we know that you are demon-possessed! Abraham died and so did the prophets, yet you say that if anyone keeps your word, he will never taste death. 53Are you greater than our father Abraham? He died, and so did the prophets.
Who do you think you are?” Crazy! Downright crazy! That’s what they said about Jesus. And there seems to be no indication that they were going to change their minds just because he challenged their assessment. He has been telling them ‘to make a right judgment’ but they were rather unwilling to listen. So they continued on in their insults. Jesus couldn’t possibly be telling the truth, they say, because for one he was a nasty Samaritan and for two he was possessed by the very father of those accusing him, the devil. But notice what Jesus does: He stays on task. He doesn’t change his message just because some malcontents accuse him demon-possession. “I tell you the truth,” he said, “if anyone keeps my word, he will never see death.” This through them over the edge and convinced them of his maniacal personality. To their question, “Are you greater than our Father Abraham?” Jesus doesn’t provide an answer. Instead, Jesus points to Abraham as one who understood what they did not: “He rejoiced at the thought of seeing my day; he saw it and was glad.” But not so these folks; they refused to believe in Jesus. They refused to act like the father (Abraham) they were claiming.
In preparation for writing this short meditation on these few verses, I listened to an 18 minute interview/debate between a man named Richard Dawkins and another man named David Quinn. (Follow this link http://religionandatheism.wordpress.com/2007/07/25/debate-richard-dawkins-vs-david-quinn/ if you wish to listen yourself.) I don’t know David Quinn, but, having read much of his writing, I do know Richard Dawkins. Dawkins is a rather brilliant writer. His ability with the pen is second to none. He wields his pen deftly and aims his quill as if it were an arrow on a bow. But for all his genius, for all his brilliance, for all his wit, he remains hopelessly atheistic and a tireless opponent of all things theistic, and specifically Christian (although he is also, likely, opposed to Jews and Muslims too). Here is a portion of the debate, which begins as an interview, between the radio host, Ryan Tubridy and Dawkins:
Tubridy: So Richard Dawkins here you go again, up to your old tricks. In your most recent book, The God Delusion. Let’s just talk about the word if you don’t mind, the word delusion, so put it into context. Why did you pick that word?
Dawkins: Well the word delusion means a falsehood which is widely believed, and I think that is true of religion. It is remarkably widely believed, it’s as though almost all of the population or a substantial proportion of the population believed that they had been abducted by aliens in flying saucers. You’d call that a delusion. I think God is a similar delusion.
Tubridy: And would it be fair to say you equate God with say, the imaginary friend, the bogeyman, or the fairies at the end of the garden?
Dawkins: Well I think He’s just as probable to exist, yes, and I do discuss all those things especially the imaginary friend which I think is an interesting psychological phenomenon in childhood and that may possibly have something to do with the appeal of religion.
Tubridy: So take us through that little bit about the imaginary friend factor.
Dawkins: Many young children have an imaginary friend. Christopher Robin had Binker. A little girl who wrote to me had a little purple man. And the girl with the little purple man actually saw him. She seemed to hallucinate him. He appeared with a little tinkling bell. And, he was very, very real to her although in a sense she knew he wasn’t real. I suspect that something like that is going on with people who claim to have heard God or seen God or hear the voice of God.
Tubridy: And we’re back to delusion again. Do you think that anyone who believes in God, anyone of any religion, is deluded? Is that the bottom line with your argument Richard?
Dawkins: Well there is a sophisticated form of religion which, well one form of it is Einstein’s which wasn’t really a religion at all. Einstein used the word God a great deal, but he didn’t mean a personal God. He didn’t mean a being who could listen to your prayers or forgive your sins. He just meant it as a kind of poetic way of describing the deep unknowns, the deep uncertainties at the root of the universe. Then there are deists who believe in a kind of God, a kind of personal God who set the universe going, a sort of physicist God, but then did no more and certainly doesn’t listen to your thoughts. He has no personal interest in humans at all. I don’t think that I would use a word like delusions for, certainly not for Einstein, no I don’t think I would for a deist either. I think I would reserve the word delusion for real theists who actually think they talk to God and think God talks to them.
Tubridy: You have a very interesting description in The God Delusion of the Old Testament God. Do you want to give us that description or will I give it to you back?
Dawkins: Have you got it in front of you?
Tubridy: Yes I have.
Dawkins: Well why don’t you read it out then.
Tubridy: Why not. You describe God as a misogynistic, homophobic, racist, infanticidal, genocidal, filicidal, pestilential, megalomaniacal, sadomasochistic, capriciously malevolent bully. [The entire interview/debate transcript can be found by clicking the link I posted above.]
You get the point: Those who believe are simply nuts, in the way a child who talks to an imaginary friend is nuts. That’s the best he has. That’s the best he can do. People who have nothing better to say typically resort to this sort of name calling. By his reckoning, if God is a delusion, then those who believe in him are delusional. So what shall we do?Well, I think the response must be the same as Jesus: Stay on task. All sorts of people are going to say all sorts of things about God, about his people. But none of this is so damaging that it should cause us to change course. Jesus said, in fact, that we are blessed when people say all sorts of things against us because of Him (Matthew 5:10-12).
We should consider ourselves blessed that Mr. Dawkins thinks so highly of us. However, we must stay on task. Just because he says it doesn’t at all mean it is true and just because he believes it doesn’t mean we should change course. Jesus was accused of being in league with the devil; Jesus did not change course: “I tell you the truth, if anyone keeps my word, he will never see death.” Jesus has been saying this over and over again in John’s Gospel, and it doesn’t matter what challenges are hurled his way: He won’t change that truth for a minute.People will do the same to us. There are many who continue to say that Christians are liars, charlatans, thieves, deluded, nuts, that our Messiah is an opiate, and other such blather. It must not change the conversation. Those who say such things much not be allowed to take control of the conversation in such a way. Ours is the task of keeping people talking about Jesus. They said to Jesus one time, when they heard his disciples praising him, ‘Tell them to shut up!’ Jesus responded, ‘Even if they do, the rocks will cry out.’
Simply denying Jesus, blatantly rejecting him, or callously insulting Him does not, in any way, shape, form or other challenge the veracity of His message, the necessity of allegiance to Him, or the fact of salvation only being ours through Him. So, the question at the end is wrong. No one should ask Jesus who he is! He has been saying all along who he is. Rather the question is this: Who do we think Jesus is? That’s the real question, and try as we might: God will not give such sway that we are permitted to skirt the question. No. We will answer, either now or then, and every knee will bow, and tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord.
Soli Deo Gloria!