Saturday, February 14, 2009

Fear or Love? Or Both?

A debate was hosted awhile ago featuring atheist Christopher Hitchins and prominant theologian Alister McGrath (to be viewed online here: The subject matter is religion: poison or cure? Hitchins, suprisingly more intelligent than I had assumed, avoids the deification of science and resorts to logical deductions in his attempt to deconstruct the Christian faith. One of his appeals is against 'the preposterous notion of compulsory love'. He deems that the God of Christ demands our love, and that we must simultaneously be terrified of Him. I suppose Hitchins sees this as fragmentary and stupid, an anthropological impossibility and an undermining of true love. Where, I ask, did he get these doctrines? From Sinai? 'Moses said to the people,"Do not be afraid. God has come to test you, so that the fear of God will be with you to keep you from sinning." (From Exodus 20:20) It would appear that a right interpretation of the Revelation of God on Sinai; the trumpet blast, the thick darkness and cloud, the fire and storm would not be fear; but trust and protection. Where then did he get this idea of love and terror? From the Gospel? "There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love." (From 1 John 4:18) I challenge the reader to carefully search all of the divine manifestations, examining closely the verbal challenge of God. It would seem that God textually speaks against fear and terror before Him. It is plausible that the ultimate purpose of God is to drive out all of our fear; convincing us that His purpose is not to punish us but to love us. Augustine sees this as an eschatological reality; a promise not yet fulfilled. From time to time we face dread and terror before a Holy God. "For those to whom it is said,"I call you servants no longer, but friends"(John 15:15) are not afraid of one who is now a friend, when they have been led right through to what was promised." -Augustine (Exposition of Psalm 5 p.98)

In the meantime we must challenge and weigh our fears before the God whom we address as 'Abba'. Are they hindrances or helps?