I am following a closet Atheist via WordPress and her story each week fascinates me. I see many of my own struggles with Christianity through her eyes. But I am also reading a book my lovely wife gave me that was recommended by an older Pastor friend of mine entitled True Discipleship by William MacDonald that was published in 1975. I am also reading Star Wars by George Lucas (1976), and that comes into play in this discussion as well as most other works of science fiction.
Back to True Discipleship. This is not an “easy” Christian self-help book or Bible study guide. This is a fiery sermon on the call of Jesus in the life of every person identifying themself by Jesus’s incarnation (the annointed one = Messiah = Christ = Christian = a follower of Christ). Let me give you one, maybe two quotes as examples:
“So likewise, whosoever he be of you that forsaketh not all that he hath, he cannot be my disciple.” Luke 14:33…
Our infidel hearts tell us that it would be impossible to take the words of the Lord literally. If we forsook all, we would starve. After all, we must make provision for our own future and the future of our loved ones…
The fact of the matter is that obedience to the Lord’s command is the most sane and reasonable life and one that yields the greatest joy. The witness of Scripture and of experience testifies that no one who lives sacrificially for Christ will ever suffer want. When a man obeys God, the Lord takes care of him.
To him (the true disciple) it is unreasonable to accumulate wealth for a rainy day. He would argue as follows:
- How can we conscientiously hoard extra funds when the money could be used right now for the salvation of souls? “…whoso hath this world’s good, and seeth his brother have need, and shutteth up his bowels of compassion from him, how dwelleth the love of God in him?” (1 John 3:17)
And this is just the first few pages of a very short ‘book’. So I ask myself, not just am I willing to be a true disciple, but is it truth? If I were an atheist how might I view this book and how William MacDonald interpreted the Protestant Bible? Would I be afraid of a true disciple of the Christ who lived out these principles in the same society that I lived in on a daily basis?
What little I know of atheism as a philosophy I do not believe most would be threatened by this level of commitment to Jesus. If anything I might even find it appealing to partake of, indeed, communism at the turn of the 20th Century very much looked like what MacDonald proposes – only the object being served changes as well as the foundation for morality.
I observe the same struggles of all persons in Western society with materialism and a desire to make the world around us into a safe, equitable, and worldly intelligent place to live. Now I am a firm believer that mankind as individuals and as a whole is a very self-centered, unchanging, hard headed, and opinionated people. This is what makes the true disciple extremely appealing to me. It offers not just a worldview to understand life through, but it offers a way to live life that seeks the benefit of others above my own desires (not entirely true because the true disciple is replacing materialism with evangelism as the desire being sought – the willful conversion of those who do not believe in Christ but it fully leaves that as a choice for others to either believe or not believe). It offers mankind a denial of seeking our own benefit over others and replacing that with complete abandonment to God’s provision and care. In essence it is faith that Matthew 6:33 is true – seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness and your needs will be taken care of (my own paraphrasing).
This aspect of true discipleship brings up the core struggle I have with the future that most science fiction paints which communism also asks of its followers. “Believe in human potential for the benefit of society as those in power of that society define it.” It does not offer a future that is based on a constant moral philosophy. I know the arguments against Christianity in terms of moral failures such as slavery, women’s suffrage, civil rights, etc., but all images of the future for Communism and science fiction seem to use underlying Judeo-Christian principles as though these are agreed on by the human race and all other alien (little green men) races. But without a foundation that does not change the moral philosophy will not hold. Sam Harris’s moral landscape will not send you to new mountains over time, it will send you back to the same mountain over and over again – the killing and subjugation of one race or group of people by another race or group of people. I cannot envision a future that is any different than the past has shown us. Even deep space exploration or colonization is going to take one philosophy (atheism/secular humanism) as it’s core principles but what happens when future deep space colonies have someone who expresses a desire or knowledge of theological reasoning? I think they will be quarantined and banished or brain washed. We all do it to our children today whether you are agnostic, atheist, religious, environmentalist, etc… If you are not doing it then the society that your children operates in is definitely doing it for you!
I do not have a conclusion to this post. It is just a brain dump of my thoughts from my readings while traveling today. I hope it leads you to some good reading (follow the hyperlinks!) of your own.