The difference is discernment
Derivative of “Woman Smiling”
Image courtesy of tiverylucky / FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Yesterday, we dealt with lying, pranks and fools, but I glossed over something important in the process. Certainly, the point should be clear that we are to be children of truth, seeing as we are children of the Father of lights. That’s why we must be careful with our assumptions, our words and even our thoughts.
Let’s talk about labels. They are overused, they are simplistic, and they are often wrong. I’ve spoken about assuming that famous people like Albert Einstein was atheist, agnostic or Christian. Perhaps you have seen that email where a young student confounds the antagonistic, atheistic professor, and in the end we’re told that young student was Albert Einstein. However, there is little proof that Einstein actually had a coherent idea of who or what God is. At best, we can say he was not an atheist.
Speaking of atheists, that link to “April Fools’ Day: The Atheist’s Holiday?” had a couple of names on it that took me by surprise, so I looked them up. Were they really atheists?
The first was Andrew Carnegie. You know, the famous philanthropist. One would think that given some of his ideas, he would have made a marvelous Christian. However, even some atheists balk at adding him to their ranks, for he was a mid-19th century business tycoon, and as such was rather ruthless in some of his affairs.
Still, he did a lot of good works, and he even gave enough to help 4,092 churches purchase organs, but his reason for doing so was rather sarcastic in nature. He once famously said, “I give money for church organs in the hope the organ music will distract the congregation’s attention from the rest of the service.”
So, was he an atheist? Scots Great and Small, People and Places in “Carnegie: ‘The organ lessen the pain of the sermon!’” said:
If he didn’t believe in God, why would he do this? He did believe in a Creator of some kind and wanted to reconcile religion and science. What he didn’t like were the oppressive creeds handed down by various groups and each group claiming they had the only truth.
And then, there is the interesting story that ran in The Pittsburgh Press on 24 May 1914, “Deny Andrew Carnegie Is An Atheist“, which read in part:
Chicago, May 23 — Rev. William T. Merrill, pastor of the “Brick Church,” Brooklyn, N. Y., today not only denied the charge of Rev. T. S. Clyce that Andrew Carnegie is an atheist, but declared that the steel magnate is “a deeply religious man.”
“The family of Mr. Carnegie are communicants of my church in Brooklyn,” he said. “Mrs. Carnegie joined the church two weeks ago by letter, and her 17-year-old daughter is a member by confession of faith….”
So, what’s that mean? Things are not always what they seem.
Now, he might have been agnostic, but more likely he was simply disdainful of organized religion, just as many men, some famous and some not, have been through the history of this country. There even is evidence that Carnegie softened in some of his views in later years, so who knows?
This is why labels can be deceptive. They are often erroneous or even downright deceptive.
The other bigger surprise was Thomas Edison. Really? I seemed to recall one of his projects was about contacting the spirit world, but it appears that whomever relayed that information to me in my youth was a little misinformed themselves:
In 1920, Edison set off a media sensation when he told B. C. Forbes of American Magazine that he was working on a “spirit phone” to allow communication with the dead, a story which other newspapers and magazines repeated. Edison later disclaimed the idea, telling the New York Times in 1926 that “I really had nothing to tell him, but I hated to disappoint him so I thought up this story about communicating with spirits, but it was all a joke.”
~ Wikipedia, “Thomas Edison”, section “Views on politics, religion and metaphysics“
But, this same article also points out a controversy when he said:
Nature is what we know. We do not know the gods of religions. And nature is not kind, or merciful, or loving. If God made me — the fabled God of the three qualities of which I spoke: mercy, kindness, love — He also made the fish I catch and eat. And where do His mercy, kindness, and love for that fish come in? No; nature made us — nature did it all — not the gods of the religions.
Naturally, his critics protested that he was an atheist for those remarks, but he shot back that “what you call God I call Nature, the Supreme intelligence that rules matter.” So, he believed in something, but not God as usually portrayed by religious institutions.
And, friends, what of us? Do we believe in God as is typically portrayed in the mainstream religious institutions? Answering “No” does not make us atheists.
The Deceived and the Deceivers
What is interesting is that atheists accuse Christians of believing in fairy tales and of being gullible enough to swallow anything. “Gullible” is nothing more than being open to being deceived!
The bandying about of some people with the label of “atheist” is no more honest than putting forward emails about Albert Einstein being a solid Theist. In both cases, some are intentionally trying to deceive, but that also means that some are being deceived.
The world is awash in religious confusion. I have pointed out before that the command “Be not deceived” in various forms runs throughout both the Old and New Testaments. We should also avoid trusting in half-truths and think about how we think.
5 Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ;
~ 2Co 10:5
When we examine ourselves, do we truly think about how we think? If we do not, how can we possibly put “every thought” in subjection to Christ?