Physically co-exist peacefully with mankind, philosophically exist on the road to truth, briefly exist on this cursed planet, but mostly: Forever-exist by placing your trust in Jesus Christ.
One of the claims of the New Atheists is that church-goers get disillusioned by a type of mirage called a “meme.”
According to merriam-webster.com, a meme is:
“ an idea, behavior, style, or usage that spreads from person to person within a culture”
Let’s take, for instance, an image where God is a father. In this meme, we might have an image where God looks like a smiling father with a child sitting comfortably in His lap. This image becomes a meme when we freeze the bounds, where God can be nothing other than this picture. Yes, God is certainly like an earthly father, but he is not constrained to those characteristics. So when we find God to be something other than that meme, we have a set of choices to make. The options I can see are four-fold.
Notice the other meme in option 3. This is done by sloppy study of the God of the Bible. By cherry-picking verses out of the Bible rather than doing serious study, we can make God out to be a very angry father. I call this other meme an anti-meme. Rather than taking a hard, honest look at what a Heavenly Father entails, we take a quick glance and end up with another false image. Now we have a “raging father” meme rather than a “charming father” meme. And if we make a false assumption that we have honestly and diligently studied Biblical history, we could skip to step 4 and state, “Perhaps we cannot find a rational description of God.” So a false set of options would look like this:
Coincidentally works out for the atheist, doesn’t it? And yet the other options are subtly out of view.
So what happens if we explore option 2 out of the 4 options? I’ve been reading a book by Paul Copan, “Is God a Moral Monster?” If we read books like this in light of the new atheists’ claims, we’ll at least have a balanced view. Taking this in addition to my own study of the Bible, I can consider what a Heavenly Father might look like. For starters, He’s got billions of children over the course of thousands of years in various cultures of various ages. Consider that some of His children are tyrants, while others cry out for deliverance. A Heavenly Father’s patience may last for hundreds of years, and yet cries for help cannot be ignored. And how did ancient Biblical people view things? From my own research, ancient Middle-Easterners would look at modern Westerners as a bunch of softies. But don’t take my word for it; do your own research and find for out yourself. You’ll find their situation is no easy picture, no quickly-forming meme.
The word ‘antimeme’ or ‘anti-meme’ does not have a definition according to the latest Merriam-Webster results. By ‘anti-meme’ I refer to:
“a fresh meme that is invented to replace another diametrically-opposed meme”
This meme will probably not behave like the original meme, since it is new or falsely presented as new. Therefore, it will not appear mindless or viral, rather as fresh and original. Like a meme, an anti-meme will have some reasoning behind it, reasoning that supports the opposing viewpoint. However, like the meme, the anti-meme will depend on assumptions and caricatures.
A popular anti-meme says that Jesus’ crucifixion was a form of cosmic child abuse. What images come to your mind when you think of ‘child abuse?’ The first image I get is a child in elementary school that wears long sleeves in summer to cover her bruises. I confirm the moral injustice, the unethical treatment within the situation. Abusing a child is certainly wrong. So does the crucifixion fit this profile? Let’s read from Jesus’ own words to His Father before the crucifixion:
John 17:1 Jesus spoke these words, lifted up His eyes to heaven, and said: “Father, the hour has come. Glorify Your Son, that Your Son also may glorify You, 2 as You have given Him authority over all flesh, that He should give eternal life to as many as You have given Him. 3 And this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent. 4 I have glorified You on the earth. I have finished the work which You have given Me to do. 5 And now, O Father, glorify Me together with Yourself, with the glory which I had with You before the world was…”
From an eternal perspective, the focus shifts from the word ‘child’ to the word ‘cosmic.’ Jesus is a child to God only in the sense that He is a Son; not in the sense of being younger or less mature. Often the Biblical reference to the word ‘child’ is misinterpreted due to the strength of family tradition. You could be 70 years old and be the ‘child’ of a 100-year-old, because your father would always be your father. On top of this, we have an infinite son of an infinite father. How meme-shattering the ‘cosmic child’ proves to be!
So should we hastily throw away all our memes? No. Memes are a good starting point, like intuition to a child. Think of memes like icons on your computer. What If instead of small pictures that represented the entire programs on your computer desktop, you had the entire programs all running simultaneously on your screen? Actually, this would waste a ton of memory and keep the other icons out of sight. I suggest that instead of totally blowing all our memes away, we should investigate them one by one. We might just enrich each one. God is a very loving Heavenly Father, one that has an eternal plan in mind for each one of us. Yes, it is more complicated and sometimes quite bewildering. It ties in a multi-dimensional love woven through times and cultures. It defies a simple explanation, and yet ultimately becomes a reality in a future world. Let’s be careful not to hastily adopt memes or anti-memes. For the serious Bible student, this means to “be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.”