God Needs More Enemies

by Aron Wall

The virtue of a classical education at St. John's is that instead of discussing the context, sources, and impact of a great book, we actually read it and discuss what it means. This puts us in a position to be changed by what we read. Genuine students, upon encountering Thucydides' dark view of human nature, asks themselves whether or not the idea is true. If they decide that it is true, then they are prepared to change the way they think, feel, and act as a result. If you have never changed your attitude towards something concrete in your own life as a result of a book we read, if you have never done anything different because of one of the books we read—then you do not belong here and will waste more than $100,000 of whoever's fortune is paying for you to be here. Although my writing here is not (I hope) one of the Great Works of Western Civilization, I expect that you give it the same openness to change your life, if upon reflection you determine that what I am saying here is true.

Admittedly, it is hard to actually be open with an author when that author challenges our way of thinking. This might be because it is an embarrassing invasion into our privacy, or because it might require painful and difficult sacrifices if we follow what that author says. Or maybe fuzzy thinking is more comfortable for us, because it conforms to our wishes at every moment. Unlike when we are confronted in person, most authors are incapable of getting any deeper into our souls than we let them, since the remoteness of their attack allows us to defend against it by dismissing them in whatever manner we please. Nevertheless, courage, human dignity, and Socrates demand that we allow the books we read to cross-examine our lives and souls. This is not the openness that pretends to accept everything as being true, in order to really deny anything the privilege of changing us, but rather an openness to learning that insists that the teacher prove himself worthy, but then falls at his feet humbly when he shows that he is a messenger of the truth.

Nowhere is the intensity of this challenge more clear at St. John's than sophomore year when we read the Bible, especially the Gospels. In my sophomore seminar I observed an air of tenseness and bewilderment, pierced by lightening-storms of forceful reactions to the acidic teaching of Jesus. Mixed with these stormy elements was an intense seriousness that sought to identify the nature of the scandal which was so bothering the class (I had a very good sophomore seminar). Here the overpowering glare of the work is so strong that it will get into the reader's soul whether they wish it or not. Still, there are plenty of defense mechanisms. Given enough time and effort it is always possible to find some stable ground from which not to engage the text.

If you—you who are reading this right this minute—are in denial about your attitude towards God, then you need get on that right now. I know that it is extremely impolite to bother people with issues they don't want to think about, but I have chosen to do so anyway. Why? Because I care about what is really true and important, and I hope that you care too. Jesus says, “He who is not with me is against me, and he who does not gather with me, scatters”. It is very easy to be kind of in favor of the notion of God but not be sincerely interested in real change. This attitude is crap and God hates it. Jesus also says, “Because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit you out of my mouth”. It is your responsibility to decide whether you are in or out. God disapproves of people who “just want to be friends”. If you don't want to be God's real friend, the good news is that there is another option: you can choose to be his enemy instead. I am not joking. God wants enemies. Oh, he may prefer you to be his friend. But if you don't want to be, he would rather you be honest and serious about your choice. Jacob struggled against God and he was rewarded for it. Paul persecuted God's people so zealously that God decided he was worth getting to know a bit better. I am not telling you to accept God, but I am telling you to decide whether or not you will accept God. Jesus makes some very specific claims about himself and the world, and it is your responsibility to come down on one side or the other.

In order to be a serious person you must confront the issue rather than aimlessly drifting in a sea of half-beliefs. The process of being serious about truth (this process is also called honesty) can be painful, but anyone can do it if they really want to.

You must begin by making up your mind. Take the time to figure out what you actually think. If you do not do this, you will have comfortable but inaccurate thoughts about the world. With respect to God, figure out what intellectual problems you have with the idea of God (you will have some). Decide which problems are real and which are merely distractions. Next look for God in experience, history, philosophy, and the Bible. Then decide what you believe. Never leave a question unanswered because you don't want to know the answer. It is not fair to accept the comfort of believing that God exists unless you also accept the terror of that idea as well.

In doing this you will find that there are also emotional difficulties associated with the idea of God. Take the time to figure out what your feelings are, through self-examination and conversation with others. Then honestly express these feelings to yourself and to God. This sort of honesty is necessary not only for a healthy relationship with God, but for a healthy relationship with anyone.

Finally, figure out what you ought to do and do it. What is the point of listening to God if you don't do what he says? If you don't want to obey God, you should be open and honest about it. “Not everyone who says to me `Lord, Lord', will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven”. You have two choices: repent and believe, or go your own way. Blessed is the one who has the guts to follow through with this choice.

He who has ears to hear, let him hear.

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