Ranting Against God and Till We Have Faces

When I first began debating the truth of Christianity on the Internet several years ago, I was somewhat surprised about the large number of anti-christian websites that exist. There are websites such as the Secular Web which are devoted to disproving the falsity of Christianity. They contain thousands of articles which the unwary Christian may read and find themselves overwhelmed by an onslaught of arguments that claim to prove once and for all that Christianity is simply a rash of supernatural nonsense. The articles, on first glance, may seem compelling, logical and irrefutable.

A common argument made on these types of sites usually point out that God, if He existed, would make His existence more obvious. After all, if God really wanted all people to come to Him, then He would certainly not cloud himself in mystery. The fact that He remains hidden is evidence that He doesn't really exist.

C.S. Lewis took on this issue in his best fiction work, Till We have Faces. In the book, Orual, the ugly sister of Psyche, curses the gods and writes a long accusation of them which she bundles up in book form in order to some day confront them over the wrongs that they have done against her. I don't want to give away too much of the plot, but eventually she ends up confronting the gods and attempting to read her accusations against them. However, in the presense of the gods, she sees that her accusations are groundless, meaningless and muddled. C.S. Lewis's book seeks to explore and provide answers to such questions as "why doesn't God make Himselves clearer?" and "why doesn't God speak more clearly to us?" These are very good questions, and Lewis, in his usual style, gives reasonable, thoughtful answers to them.

I believe that Lewis received part of his inspiration for the book from Isaiah 59. In the first few verses of that Chapter, God Himself gives a response to the question of why he hides himself from us, and what he thinks of people who gather up accusations against Him. Here is what it says:

Isaiah 59:1 Behold, the LORD's hand is not shortened, That it cannot save; Nor His ear heavy, That it cannot hear. 2 But your iniquities have separated you from your God; And your sins have hidden [His] face from you, So that He will not hear 3 For your hands are defiled with blood, And your fingers with iniquity; Your lips have spoken lies, Your tongue has muttered perversity. 4 No one calls for justice, Nor does [any] plead for truth. They trust in empty words and speak lies; They conceive evil and bring forth iniquity.

Verse 2 makes it plain that it is not God's doing that causes the separation of God from man, but rather man's doing. It is our sin that has caused God to hide His face from us. Why is that? Boston College Philosopher Peter Kreeft offers an explanation (which he says comes from St. Augustine). Look at it from the analogy of light and dark, with God's light being good and perfect, and our evil being darkness. Can the dark stand in the face of the light? Of course not. Light illuminates and dispels the dark. So it would be if we were ever to come face to face with God while still in our evil ways -- God's light would destroy us. Thus, in love for us, God turns away. This also makes sense in light of the account of Moses asking God to see His face, and God answering "You cannot see My face; for no man shall see Me, and live." (Exodus 33:20)

Peter Kreeft continues that the Bible also teaches that no man seeks God; rather, we turn our faces from Him. Using the same analogy of light and dark, that, in turn, is why we see God so unclearly -- because we are running away from the light into our own shadows.

Since we are separated from God, no one speaks the truth. Those who are remain separated from God "trust in empty words and speak lies". (v. 4). This is the source of the accusations prepared by Orual in Till We have Faces. She believes that her accusations are just and true because of her limited perspective. But once she comes before the gods (which is, of course, a metaphor for God), she learns the truth behind her accusations and the truth shows that it was not the gods who were being unjust, but Orual herself.

She, like many Internet skeptics, rely upon their empty arguments to attempt to disprove the truth of Christianity. Yet their arguments, like Orual's, are ultimately flawed, empty of truth and meaning because they are written in the dark. In the words of Isaiah 59:5-6:

5 They hatch vipers' eggs and weave the spider's web; He who eats of their eggs dies, And [from] that which is crushed a viper breaks out. 6 Their webs will not become garments, Nor will they cover themselves with their works; Their works [are] works of iniquity, And the act of violence [is] in their hands.

Those who build these arguments against God "weave spider's webs" which will not cover them when the time of confronting God finally arrives. Like Orual, the people who create these sites may find that they have nothing to say in their own defense -- merely noisy accusations which ultimately implicate themselves.

Perhaps it is no coincidence that God refers to "webs" in light of the fact that so many of these accusations against God are published on the World Wide Web. I think God had enough foresight to use a pun, don't you?


J. Hawthorne said…
While I am unsure about the possible pun, I am sure of two things with respect to this post. 1) People are crying out for God to make himself more known. The cynicism of our times (maybe all times since the fall) contributes to the bitter storage of these cries much like the ugly sister. 2) Till We Have Faces is a fantastic book and your reminder of Lewis’ answer to this problem is timely. Thank you for the reminder. I am going to find my copy of Till We Have Faces, and I hope your post will motivate many others to read it as well.

J. Hawthorne
biblemike said…
People are crying out for God to reveal HImself. The problem is that He has and is revealing Himself, but it is not in the way that people insist He should do so. The problem with the world, as in Lewis's book, is that people want God revealed on their terms and in accordance with their pre-expectant definitions.

The truth of the matter is that God does not live according to our expectations. It is only when we realize that we must view God on His terms and in accordance with His wishes, that we begin to see the smallest part of who He is. Over time we discover more and more of what we have missed in the time we wasted trying to define God by what we want instead of who He is.

To refer to yet another book by the master, Mr. Lewis, I look to the Narnia Chronicles. In the third book in the series Lucy and the boys have been away from Narnia for some time according to how they reckon time, but for hundreds of years according to Narnia time. Aslan, the great lion, the son of the god from across the sea has not been seen by the Narnians for some time and many perceive him as a mere myth. Lucy discovers Aslan again and notices that he seems bigger than she remembered. His reply is typical Lewis: " The longer you know me the bigger I get."

Truly the longer we know God, the bigger He gets, but we begin very small indeed. For it is not a matter of discovering God, but recognizing that He is discovering us and helping us to see ourselves as He intended us to be.

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