Ancient myths are full of god slayers; they are easy. Imagine a humanlike god whose parent, also god or goddess, have mistreated him. He simply yields a sword and lops off their head. But what of the god slayer who calls himself a pastor and a Christian. You can kill almost any god with enough words, but how do you put to death the one who has already died and is resurrected. How do you kill the One who has destroyed death.John Shuck may think he is, with his words and misguided scholarship, undoing the reality of the eternal Creator of the universe—the Redeemer of sinners, but the Hound of Heaven is in the chase. Our steps are manifold but if his mark is on us they only lead to Him, the crucified and resurrected One. A history of humanity’s creation of a monotheistic god? Monotheogenesis: The Emergence of One God, is utter nonsense.
Even if some scholars believe all of the early books of the Hebrew Bible were not written until the Jewish Babylonian captivity, as Shuck insists, they were nonetheless compiled from earlier writings. They didn’t emerge out of nothingness. They are the words of God written by human authors.
The early Christians were considered atheists because they did not believe in any of the god’s of the empire and certainly not in the deity of the emperor. But, unlike the pastor mentioned above, they did believe in the Lordship of Jesus Christ. As the apostle John writes:
For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth were realized through Jesus Christ. No one has seen God at any time; the only begotten God who is in the bosom of the Father, he has explained him. (John 1:17-18)
We are nearing Easter and lent is just ahead; Ash Wednesday is upon us. So we enter a period of contemplating our sin and death—our mortality. But for the believing Christian mortality is only a little death, not final. Athanasius, an early church father who witnessed the last terrible persecution of Christians by a Roman emperor, according to C.S. Lewis’ introduction to Sister Penelope Lawson’s translation, was undoubtedly friends with many of the martyrs. Athanasius asks his readers in his writing, On the Incarnation:
If you see with your own eyes men and women and children, even, thus welcoming death for the sake of Christ’s religion, how can you be so utterly silly and incredulous and maimed in your mind as to realize that Christ, to whom these all bear witness, Himself, gives the victory to each, making death completely powerless for those who hold His faith and bear the sign of the cross.But what of that one who calls himself a Christian and yet denies the Lord, for that matter what of him or her who utterly rejects God. I have quoted Walter Wangerin, a Lutheran pastor, before. Because he understands there to be many kinds of deaths a human experiences, he refers to the final death as the fourth death or dying absolute. That which a believing Christian does not experience. He writes:
"The fourth death is the only death that deserves our deepest dread. It is to be distinguished from the third. ...
Hear, then of the death those who trust in Jesus shall not die. Hear and tremble and give thanks to God.
It is the Dying Absolute. It is the sundering of every relationship for good, forever, and for all. It is more than the cutting of earthly relationships, for it is the experience of eternal, irrevocable solitude. It is perpetual exile from God. From love. It is perhaps (though I do not understand this) the death that knows it is dead. Now, finally, one knows what love is, though one is severed forever from loving and being loved. Now one knows God both in goodness and in glory, and fears him, and honors him, and would even believe in him, but cannot, for God has departed from that one eternally. This is the death of every holy alternative: what is, must be the same forever.
It is a divine and solemn irony, for God hath finally granted the sinner, now in his fourth death, what he took from God in the first: complete independence, a perfect autonomy, a singularity like unto nothing in all possibilities--except the singularity of God before he began to create. But he who has died the fourth death is not God; he could never create, and now he can accomplish nothing. He is the god of a little realm that admits one god only, his impotent self. He can only know despair. He is lost, and 'lost' is all he may say of himself forever, no attribute, no other characteristic, no past nor future, that single thing. 'I perish.' Apollumai
The utter state of solitude is the Dying Absolute. Outer darkness, where there is weeping and gnashing of teeth.
Throughout the generations, its common name has been Hell."As we contemplate our sin, our death, our mortality in the coming weeks let us not only pray God’s mercy and kindness upon ourselves but pray fervently for the unbeliever. Pray the cross will begin to shadow our every step and the Hound of Heaven’s hot yet cooling breath will fall on our disbelieving companions. Pray that the one who would kill God with his words will be made alive by the blood of the living One.