“And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her seed; He shall bruise you on the head, and you shall bruise him on the heel.” Genesis 3:15
When God spoke the earth into existence, it was formless and void—a lump of clay, so to speak, ready for the Hands of the Craftsman to begin the creative work of fashioning a garden teeming with flourishing delights: birds and fish, animals and plants, things that flew and swam, wriggled and ran, or simply stuck their roots into the perfect soil and brought forth fruit and vegetables, nuts and berries, nectar and flowers and shade and…well, all kinds of beautiful and life-enhancing stuff. But more than all of this, each of these living things was given the privilege and responsibility to recreate themselves. Birds laid eggs that brought forth baby birds that would grow up to lay their own eggs; animals gave birth to baby animals that would grow up to give birth to their own babies; plants produced seed that would fall onto the soil and grow into mature plants that would, in turn, produce their own seeds.
This was the grand plan of God.
But, something happened…something bad, something evil. Now, the garden produced weeds and thistles and thorns. Rather than delight in life, the Evil delighted in death; rather than beauty, it loved the vile; rather than fruit, it bore poison. It is hard to imagine how instantly a garden filled with light could become so cold and so dark so very, very quickly. And it appeared as if there were no remedy, no fix, no hope to get it back to the way it was before the darkness descended…descended upon everything…everything.
That’s when God told us about the Christmas Seed.
“Say to them, As I live, declares the Lord GOD, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his way and live; turn back, turn back from your evil ways, for why will you die, O house of Israel?” Ezek 33:11
On December 15, 2011, one of the most vocal opponents of Christianity walked through the door that separates mortal life from the immortal.
Christopher Hitchens book, “God is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything” was one of many openly hostile atheistic books that have become popular in recent years. “Hitch” as he was called, was one of the champions of the “New Atheism” although he personally tagged himself as an “antitheist” because an atheist, as he saw it, could deny God but wish he were wrong, whereas an antitheist is one who delights in finding no evidence for Him.
Hitch stated that the Bible “was put together by crude, uncultured human mammals.”
He didn’t soften or hide his hostility to religion: “We keep on being told that religion, whatever its imperfections, at least instills morality. On every side, there is conclusive evidence that the contrary is the case and that faith causes people to be more mean, more selfish, and perhaps above all, more stupid.” “Organised religion is violent, irrational, intolerant, allied to racism, tribalism, and bigotry, invested in ignorance and hostile to free inquiry, contemptuous of women and coercive toward children.”
Dr. Mark Roberts analyzed Hitchen’s book “God is Not Great” and found that just in the areas where Hitch made truth claims about the New Testament (all derogatory), there were 15 errors and 16 distortions. For example, his claim that the four gospels couldn’t agree on anything of importance is blatantly false by even the most hostile of literary critic’s examination.
But this isn’t surprising in many ways. Hitch had a deep hostility toward religion and hostility can cloud observations and stimulate gross overstatements and false charges. It would be very good for Christians to keep this in mind when writers hostile to a biblical wordview speak or write. The same goes for most of the media.
It should also temper us when we write about our own opponents.
It may surprise people that one of my favorite quotes actually comes from Hitch: “[O]wners of dogs will have noticed that, if you provide them with food and water and shelter and affection, they will think you are god. Whereas owners of cats are compelled to realize that, if you provide them with food and water and shelter and affection, they draw the conclusion that they are gods.” The Portable Atheist
That won’t win me any friends with cat-people, but I think it is actually quite a good observation of the stark difference between cats and dogs!
This is also the man who deeply loved his daughters and said that he would calmly and unquestionably lay down his life for them.
“The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me…” John 17:22-23
A few years ago, I had the blessing of traveling to Israel. Part of that trip included a visit to Bethlehem where we met with a group of absolutely awesome brothers and sisters in Christ. They know the deep cost of being a disciple.
While there, we visited the Church of the Nativity, where tradition holds that Jesus was born. It is built over a cave…a stable cut into the rock. Both Justin Martyr in the 2nd century and Origen in the 3rd, attested to this site as well as the birthplace of Christ being in a cave. I suppose our modern nativity depictions of a stable are easier to construct than caves.
As best we can tell, the original basilica was built in 333AD by Constantine’s mother, Helena, destroyed in the Samaritan Revolt of 529, and then rebuilt in the 6th century by Emperor Justinian I.
To enter, one must stoop and squeeze through “the Door of Humility”. Nobody really knows who made that small doorway or why. Once inside, any thoughts of finding anything close to your imagined “nativity” quickly evaporate. The church is heavily iconic. Winding stairs on either side of the sanctuary lead down to the “Grotto of the Nativity”, the supposed cave. But it doesn’t look anything like a cave. It is primarily an altar covering a marble alcove. The alter has lots of gold gilding, candles, rich tapestry, etc.
Quite honestly, I’m not into the gaudy, iconic structures that characterize many of Christianity’s historic places. I would rather walk through a quite shepherd’s field and look at THE cave…a plain, humble cave where Jesus was born.
However, all that being said, the Church of the Nativity is a very old and historic place.
It is also deteriorating. The roof leaks and the timbers are rotted. It has been 150 years since the last major renovation.
Why? Lack of money? Lack of professional restorers? Security problems? No. It is the bickering of Christian sects.
The AP headline on the front page of Sunday’s paper read “Why Friday was Black and Blue”. In case you haven’t heard, the biggest shopping day of the year had some ugly elements to it: --a woman in Los Angeles was so intent on getting at a crate of Xbox video games that she pepper-sprayed 20 other customer “contestants” to clear her path; --crowds in New York decided they had enough “mob” power to forget about the “paying” part and looted a clothing store, taking whatever they wanted as the shopkeeper was helpless to stop them; --shootings at stores from the West Coast to the East Coast; --stabbings in Sacramento --police having to restrain customers who decided they didn’t want to wait for the store to open and stormed it early;So much for the “holiday spirit”.
But remember, the article promised us an answer as to why all this was happening, “Why” Friday was black and blue.
This was the truly interesting part and why I continue to make my seminary students analyze articles for the underlying worldviews that exist behind the words and between the lines.
What caused this outbreak of greed and looting and shootings and stabbings?
Well, it turns out, believe it or not,