Editor's Note: Pastor Roger Barrier's "Ask Roger" column regularly appears at Preach It, Teach It. Every week at Crosswalk, Dr. Barrier puts nearly 40 years of experience in the pastorate to work answering questions of doctrine or practice for laypeople, or giving advice on church leadership issues. Email him your questions at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Atheist Richard Dawkins’ books are well known in so many countries, and I’m afraid that some of his attacks are hurting Christian people. What do you think?
I don’t like Richard Dawkins at all. The truth is, I really can’t say that I don’t like him. I’ve never met him. He could be an okay guy.
What I do know is that I really don’t like the attacks which he is making against Christianity.
Dawkins is in atheist who considers the debunking of Christianity to be one of his callings in life. His most recent book, “The God Delusion,” espouses the idea that there can be no transcending Creator God and thus the Bible cannot be true.
These attacks against Christianity are nothing new. Atheists have tried to invalidate the Bible for centuries.
Madeline Murray O’Hare, the famous American atheist of the last generation developed a great following. How ironic that her own son became a Christian and took a stand against her atheistic beliefs.
The French philosopher, Voltaire, tried to discredit the Bible in the late 1800s. He mocked Christians and reduced himself to calling them names like, “bad fools.”
How ironic that his house is now owned by the American Bible Society which currently uses that same house to print Bibles for distribution around the world!
The other day it dawned on me that Dawkins is not simply attacking the Bible. He is destructively and insidiously fiddling with the hopes of millions of people.
One of the nastiest things anyone can do to others is to take away their hopes.
Take away people’s memories and they become anxious. Take away their hopes and they become terrified.
My third year at Baylor, during final exam time, a student jumped out of a third story window and killed himself.
Two things deeply impacted me about his suicide.
First, I remember the description in the Baylor Lariat newspaper the next morning. The article expressed how the student’s eyeballs popped out when landed face first on the sidewalk.
Second, I was saddened by the suicide note that he left behind: “There is absolutely no hope.”
Attacking someone’s hopes is a nasty thing to do. I want say to people like Dawkins, “Tread softly here; you’re messing with people’s hope for the future life.”
In 1 Corinthians 15 Paul makes it clear that if Jesus Christ is not risen from the dead then we Christians are to be most pitied. But, this is where our hopes come into play.
By faith we have the hope that we will be in heaven for eternity in the presence of Jesus Christ and enjoying eternal fellowship with our friends and loved ones.
Jesus said, “I cheated death and I promise that if you surrender to me as your Lord and Savior, I promise that you can cheat death and live forever, too."
This is the hope that people like Dawkins are attempting to eradicate.
Ninety-five percent of the bible verses about hope refer to our hope of one day entering into heaven and eternal life!
Colossians 1:5: “Faith and love spring from the HOPE that is stored up for you in heaven and that you have already heard about in the gospel that has come to you.”
Titus 1:2: “Faith and knowledge rest on the HOPE of eternal life, which God who does not lie, promised before the beginning of time.”
1 John 3:2-3: “But we know that when he appears, we shall be like him. . . . Everyone who has this HOPE in him purifies himself, just as he is pure.”
People look for hope in the present.
If we can't find hope in the present, we look to the immediate future.
If we can't find hope in immediate future, we will look to the distant future.
If we can't find hope in the distant future, we will place our hope in the next life.
Let me illustrate.
African-American spirituals are all based on hope deferred.
Tied up and thrown into the crowded holds of slave ships, slaves had no hope of escaping in the present. So, they looked for hope in the immediate future.
Standing on the auction block they saw their hopes for the immediate future dashed. So they postponed their hopes to the distant future. Hopefully, one day they would be freed. As the years went by they no longer had the future hope that one day they’d be released.
So they turned their hopes to the distant future and began to look toward eternity.
Listen to their singing: “When the trumpet of the Lord shall sound… When the role is called up Yonder… Deep River, my home is over Jordan… I’m gonna ride that chariot in the morning… I’m dwelling in Beulah land.”
It’s critical that we draw our hopes for the future into the present where we can enjoy them!
A cemetery is a symbol of our hope for eternity and life beyond.
We see people weep over gravestones: “Momma’s dead. Thank God for some good times and marvelous memories. How wonderful that we will see her again!” They leave the graveside with peace and a smile.
On the other hand, those who have no hope weep at the graveside and are miserable. Their loved one is gone forever.
We live in a society struggling to find hope.
This partly explains all of the grasping for materialism. If you have no hope of going forward after death, then you will grab for anything.
Many people in our culture have no hope of eternal life! They have no hope for anything after death. They are frozen on a mountain cliff!
A mountain climber gets stuck half way up. He can’t go up or down. He will grab onto any bit of outcropping that brings security!
We Christians, have the message of hope! We are the people of the open tomb. We are the Easter people.
How do we help people who are frozen on the cliff?
We don’t get above them and shout where the footholds are! We come down alongside them and lead them to safety.
1 Corinthians 13:13: “Now these three remain: faith, HOPE, and love. But the greatest of these is love.”
Of course, the greatest is love—but hope is not far behind.
Dr. Roger Barrier retired as senior teaching pastor from Casas Church in Tucson, Arizona. In addition to being an author and sought-after conference speaker, Roger has mentored or taught thousands of pastors, missionaries, and Christian leaders worldwide. Casas Church, where Roger served throughout his thirty-five-year career, is a megachurch known for a well-integrated, multi-generational ministry. The value of including new generations is deeply ingrained throughout Casas to help the church move strongly right through the twenty-first century and beyond. Dr. Barrier holds degrees from Baylor University, Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, and Golden Gate Seminary in Greek, religion, theology, and pastoral care. His popular book, Listening to the Voice of God, published by Bethany House, is in its second printing and is available in Thai and Portuguese.His latest work is, Got Guts? Get Godly! Pray the Prayer God Guarantees to Answer, from Xulon Press. Roger can be found blogging at Preach It, Teach It, the pastoral teaching site founded with his wife, Dr. Julie Barrier.