This past Wednesday Alastair and I hosted our 7th Beer and Theology event. It was the first one where we tried to focus the topic on something more positive “What values do we share as atheists and theists?” This was not a popular topic and we had probably our lowest attendance yet. Either people don’t want to sit around talking about what we agree on, preferring debate, or they didn’t want to go out in the rain.
Let’s blame the rain.
I actually did not really want to go either. I felt like I was catching a cold, and it was raining, and well, it all seemed to require a lot of energy. I went anyway; moral support and all.
After scarfing down some delicious chicken fingers I decided to actually sit in and listen to what people were sharing. It seemed to be the same old conversation, still more about debate than agreement, but as I was listening I had a truly eerie sense. I felt for the first time that I was not simply listening to someone else’s life experience or ideas about the world, I felt like I was listening to lies.
I sat there, quite still, hearing a rather lovely women explain how we are all alone in the world, how there is no life after death, how she can’t possibly believe in God, how we should live for the moment, and on and on she went.
It was a little bit surreal, out-of-body-ish. As she spoke I could imagine all the voices that have spoken into her life. The good and the bad. I imagined her with the angel on her shoulder and the devil on her other, whispering fervently in her ear. As my imagination carried on, I saw her listening more and more to that little devil, making friends with him in a way, calling him “reason” and “intellect”, mocking the little angel for believing in “Santa Claus”.
It became very clear to me that this woman, even in all her kind and loving ways of living, had chosen to believe what the darkness had spoken into her life. If I separate her claims about the world from her cheerful demeanor they are statements full of despair, void of hope, light, and God. To put it simply, she believes a bunch of lies about this world and about God and about herself.
At this point in the conversation it is safe to say I was way out in left field, daydreaming and philosophizing. I was thinking of CS Lewis and the Great Divorce. The lizard who whispers in the ghosts ear. The ghost unable to differentiate between what is true and right and good. I think of the dwarves in The Last Battle, who are surrounded by light and heaven but cannot see it, believing they are in a dark barn. I began thinking this woman is living with a lizard on her shoulder and she does not even know it. She is surrounded by light and heaven and God but she refuses to see it.
The father of lies has spun a masterful web. He has had centuries to study the human species. He knows how our minds work. Even in the purest pursuit of truth he can twist “reason” and “intellect” into sources for denying hope and faith. “Being ok with mystery” becomes a substitute for actually being ok with the mystery of God. My mind can see him at work instructing all his lizards and minions in the trickery.
The saddest part of this revelation was realizing this woman would adamantly deny any force being at work in her life but her own. She truly believed she had come to the discoveries about life on her own volition. She believed that these thoughts were original and therefore pure and true. She has no idea that there is a battle for her mind, ancient forces waging war for her to hear their side and follow their way. Another great lie—the first great lie—that of complete autonomy.
Suddenly she leaned over and starting talking to me. In a flash I was brought back to reality and left my wild imaginings. She said, “You know, I envy believers. I envy that you have someone with you always. I envy that you have a comfort and safe place. I don’t have that. I can’t imagine it.”
My heart melted. I had no idea what to say. Looking back I wish I had said “that is what is true! You are never alone! Comfort and belonging and love and care are always available in God, available here and now for you!” I wish I had been able to to battle her lies for her. I wish I had been able to point out the light and the dark working all around her. I wanted to snatch the little devil from her shoulder and throttle him, snuffing out his lies. I wanted to open her eyes.
To be honest, I am not even sure what I said. I actually don’t remember much more about the conversation. I just left so aware of the battle for our minds, the battle for us to choose what we will believe, truth or lies.
Satan is a liar. He is king of twisting what God has said and using it to confuse us, make us stumble and turn away from God. It is the story of the garden all over again. “Did God really say you will die? Surely you will not die…” It starts small, but every bite we buy into takes us further into his world of illusion.
After this experience I feel a weird tension. How do we identify lies in the life of those around us? How do we call out lies to people who are believing them? How can we proclaim truth with confidence and with love?
I know for me, I have to stop worrying what the nice lady thinks about me and just do it, trusting the light of Christ will shine bright in darkness. I have to be in the Word, allowing truth to wash over me and ground me. I have to be willing to offend people and call a spade a spade. I have to battle the lies in my own life, “No one will listen to you, they will think you are naive, dumb even; you will hurt them and they will never love Jesus; they are too far gone anyway”
I pray we can start identifying the lies of darkness in our lives so we can start fighting for Truth with every person we meet.