The Wrath of God

This is piggy backing on a previous post on an article that I read by Carolyn Arends in Christianity Today. Carolyn was kind enough to find the post and give a little explanation and defense, and instead of writing a long response in a comment, I thought, hey, it’s my blog. I can just write a new post. You can refer to the link of you’d like to see the original post and Carolyn’s comment.

Let me first say that the topic of God’s wrath isn’t a topic I necessarily like talking about. I don’t get off on being able to stand behind a ‘big, bad wolf’ and stick my tongue out at people who haven’t repented. If anything, its the exact opposite. I still see the sin in my own heart and when I read of the wrath of God, my knees shake, knowing that that is what I deserve. But, thankfully, Christ bore that wrath on my account. I had nothing to do with averting God’s wrath, and I’m fully aware that I deserved it. When I speak of those on which the wrath of God still dwells, I don’t do it casually, but with the knowledge that, there but by the grace of God, stand I.

I would say that the definition of God’s wrath is one of the most important things here. You define God’s wrath as opposition to sin, but I think that is incomplete. God’s wrath is more than his opposition to sin. It is his punishment of that sin which He opposes. I don’t have to fear God’s wrath, but God still disproves of the sin that entertain in my heart. It is more than opposition. I’d like to go through some passages to see how God’s wrath is defined in the Bible.

In John 3:36 we see that the wrath of God is reserved for those that do not believe in the Son of God for eternal life. The wrath of God ‘remains’ on them. This idea of the wrath of God remaining on those that do not repent is seen also in Ephesians 2:3 where it says that unbelievers are ‘children of wrath’. Romans 2:8 says ‘for those who are self-seeking and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, there will be wrath and fury’. In Colossians 3:6, Paul says that the wrath of God is coming on account of the works of the flesh of the old man. We are not to seek those things on the account of the fact that we have been raised with Christ.

From a quick look at these passages, I think it is clear that the wrath of God is something that is reserved for those who are not believers. I don’t think the article reflects the fact that God’s wrath comes down on those who refuse to repent, and is an eternal punishment, not a temporary correction to steer people away from sin and destructive habits. God’s wrath is eternal in nature, not temporal and correcting.

I also believe the Bible clearly conveys the fact that wrath comes as a result of sin that is ultimately and primarily an offense of God’s nature. God’s holiness is His transcendent attribute that affects and influences everything that He does. He is lovely and righteous altogether. Sin is anything that fails to live up to God’s holy standard and God’s love. Romans 3:23 is simple and clear. Sin is falling short of God’s glory, not His perfect plan for man.

We can see the fact that sin is primarily a sin against God’s holiness by looking at the cross. Christ was put forward as a propitiation for our sin. He took the wrath of God against our sin. It was not done primarily to create a perfect society or to correct a culture, but to satisfy His righteous demand of holiness.

If we confuse this, we make man the center of everything, and remove God’s glory from that position. I think Wayne Grudem says it well: “Although God’s punishment of sin does serve as a deterrent against further sinning and as a warning to those who observe it, this is not the primary reason why God punishes sin. The primary reason is that God’s righteousness demands it, so that he might be glorified in the universe He has created.” (Italics are the original authors, Systematic Theology, 509)

Here is the second comment that was left. I’m copying it here so it can be referred to as a respond to it:

Will try to keep this as short as possible: meaning will have to leave out a lot of supporting stuff. I’m a retired minister (over 35 years) ((LtCol,Chaplain,USARet.); PhD (psychotherapy). Religion/theology is not a “hobby” with me. And, yes, I’m “born-again”.Now then.
1. Carolyn A. is just about absolutely right.; light years ahead of whoever the author of “Preferences and Principles” is. 2. God is no egomaniac. He lives for his glory , yes, – but we are his glory; or don’t you believe we are his “image”. 3. The worst part of Calvin was separating Jesus from God. (”…has seen me has seen the Father.” ;) The glory of the Almighty Sovereign God may be observed in the little dead lamb (now risen). He’s not the “bad cop”. He’s never bad; and I mean by my- our- standard. We know what “good” is; he taught us. He’s no monster, damning big parts of his “beloved” creation whenever he takes a notion to. 4. He’s my Father. I won’t let you talk about him like that! Does it make you feel pious and powerful to be on the side of the “big guy”- as they say today. There’s a lot more psychology goes into people’s “theology” than a lot of so-called Bible study sometimes. 5. Early Christians understood that if you walk away from God you are separating yourself from Love, Light and Life; in short you have chosen hell. 6. Anybody who tells you he just goes by the Bible is an ignorant parrot; he heard someone else say that! Rather than elaborate for days- as I could- on this subject, I’d better quit. Arends is right; largely because she seems to understand Christ/God and is therefore more human. And isn’t God human? Or is the Incarnation a cruel joke? And, by the way, I’m really more conservative than any one who’s written or commented so far. So, it won’t do to write me off as some kind of “liberal”. Thank you for sharing with us, Carolyn. ( forestphilosopher.blogspot.com)

To Bill Borch, I have a few comments.

No, I don’t believe we are His glory or His image. That is Jesus Christ. We are made ‘in the image of God’ (Gen 1:27). Colossians 1:15, speaking of Christ, says “He is the image of the invisible God”. Hebrews 1:3 says that he is the exact imprint of the nature of God. There is a stark differnce between being created ‘in the image of God’ and being the image of God. I don’t believe that man is God’s glory, but I do believe that God’s glory is evident through the lives of His redeemed, through Christ.

You say I’ve (presumably through Calvin) separated Christ from God. But you have just done that yourself by attributing the nature of Christ in relation to the image of God to the nature of man. I don’t separate Jesus from God, but I see that they have different, complementary roles within the Trinity. The Son wasn’t sent unwillingly by a power hungry God, but embraced the cross for the joy that was set before him (Hebrews 12:2). I never used the term ‘bad cop’, but I think my list of God’s wrath in relation to those of His creation that have rejected their Creator speaks for itself.

This is not my own idea or my own my leanings on Calvin. This is my impression from what I read in the Word of God. I don’t get my marching orders from Calvin, but from what God has communicated to me through His Word. It doesn’t mean that its easy to accept the doctrine of God’s wrath being reserved for the rebellious Creation, but my preferences don’t matter. It is what God has said, therefore I must accept it and trust that He has a better understanding of His holiness and the insult that sin is to it than I do.

It is true that I may have been taught by men, but I was taught in the Word of God. If you see an area in which I have failed to represent the Word of God accurately, I’d love to talk about that. But until then, here I stand, for I can do no other.

Finally, on your suggestion that God is human, I’d like for you to defend that belief through the Word of God. The incarnation wasn’t ‘a joke’, but Christ “who, though he as in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on the cross.” (Philippians 2:6-8) Christ took on flesh and lived a life that you and I cannot, paid a debt that you and I cannot pay, so that we can be granted a righteousness that we don’t deserve and could not attain.

God is not human. Humanity is God’s creation. I don’t know what being ‘conservative’ has to do with anything. I find it amusing to be accused of not being conservative enough, as I’m usually accused of the opposite. I’m not really concerned with being conservative. I’d rather be biblical, and that is what I strive to be. If you see an area in which I have misrepresented the Word of God, please let me know. I’d like to continue this discussion, but only on the grounds that it is grounded in a discussion of the Biblical text. Like you, man’s opinions don’t really matter to me. I’d rather focus on the revelation of God.

God’s Love vs. God’s Wrath

I don’t often read through Christianity Today articles, but recently I was perusing the one page columns in the back (full disclosure- they are shorter, easier to read, and usually more interesting). When I was perusing, I ran across a column entitled “The Grace of Wrath” by Carolyn Arends (May, 2005, page 64). The title jumped out at me of being an article with some theology and thought involved, so I gave it a quick read and found an interesting conversation.

Arends’ main point is that we have frequently, and often mistakenly, created a bipolar God. We think of the God who is loving and gathers children in His arms, and then we think of the wrathful God punishing sinners with eternal damnation. Arends says, “I unconsciously developd a theolgy that intermittently had God the Son and God the Father in a good cop, bad cop routine, with the Holy Spirit stepping in as a sympathetic parole officer”. She finds a tension between two different pictures of God that we have developed. We don’t want to make God out to be the big downy soft cuddle bear in the sky (my words, not hers), so we remind ourselves that God is also a God who hates sin and must punish it.

Are those two things contradictory? Can a God of love also be a God of wrath? Arends says that God’s wrath is driven by God’s love. Up to here, I agree with her. God is not a hateful God who finds pleasure in arbitrarily punishing His creation. He’s not sitting in Heaven sending hurricanes, tornadoes, wildfires, or earthquakes just to mess with people. But what Arends says next I disagree with.

She says, “What if God’s wrath is not a caveat, qualification, or even a counterpoint to his love, but an expression of it? What if God grieves sin less because it offends his sensibilities, and more because he hates the way it distorts our perceptions and separates us from him?” She adds that God’s wrath is “his emphatic ‘NO!’ to anything that leads to our destruction.”

Arends has just managed to make God’s wrath man-centered. In other words, if I understand her correctly, God punishes people to show them that the path they are on is not in the best interest more than punishing sin because it transgresses His nature. God is more concerned with man than Himself. God’s ultimate purpose resides in the preservation of man rather than the preservation of His own glory.

I think Arends fails to distinguish a couple of very important things here. First, what is God’s wrath? God’s wrath is focused and reserved for those that have not repented of their sins. Does God correct those whom He loves? Absolutely. But she fails to distinguish what God’s wrath is here. For believers, they need not fear God’s wrath. Romans 8:1 says that there is no condemnation for those that are found in Christ. That doesn’t mean that there aren’t consequences for sin. But I wouldn’t classify that as being the wrath of God. I think that God allows us to suffer the consequences of sin, corrects and chastens us so that we realize that sin is detrimental to us.

Secondly, God’s wrath is not centered on man, but on the preservation of His own glory. It is God’s fury focused on rebellious sinners. God’s ultimate concern is not with pointing people on the right path, but rather with satisfying His love for His own glory. It sounds awfully self centered and prideful to us, but God must satisfy His own glory because He is worthy of it. To say that the primary function of God’s wrath is man-centered, misses the the point. That can be a secondary reason for God’s wrath, but not the primary.

There is grace in wrath shown to man on this side of eternity, because it is another opportunity for man to repent before the final judgment. But Arends fails to distinguish between God’s eternal wrath and the current punishing of sinners on this side of eternity. God can be providing more opportunities for repentance, but ultimately, it is to satisfy His own glory and His love for His own holiness. For God to be motivated by anything rather than his holiness would be idolatry simply because there is no higher cause or motivation for anything.

This article sounded more like dangerous speculation, rather than the result of an honest and deep study of God’s Word. This picture of God was born out of speculation rather than from His Word. God does correct believers to show us the dangerous nature of sin, but that isn’t God’s wrath, and ultimately, God’s wrath exists to satisfy God’s love for His own holiness. If we get this wrong, we get very close to getting the Gospel wrong. We must keep God in the center.

“Why We’re Not Emergent: By Two Guys Who Should Be” by Kevin DeYoung and Ted Kluck

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Last month, when we were in Kentucky for the Together for the Gospel conference, we were blessed with 14 free books hand whenever we walked back into the conference room.  These books were hand picked by the hosts, all important for specific reasons. Any time someone offers me a free book, I’m going to be excited and accept it with open arms. But one of the books peaked my interest more than others, and was actually on my Amazon.com wish list (found here for anyone wishing to be generous). That book was “Why We’re Not Emergent” by Kevin DeYoung and Ted Kluck.  The first time I heard the title of the book, I knew it must be an interesting read.  Don’t judge a book by its cover, but this one gives you a pretty accurate understanding on whats inside.

You won’t recognize either of the names, but the title itself should spark interest. Kevin DeYoung is a young pastor outside East Lansing, Michigan, and Kluck is a friend and lay member who is a gifted journalist. Both these men realize that they are the prototypical target for the Emergent Church movement. But they have resisted the movement for Biblical reasons and this book is an explanation of what they see as being wrong about the movement.

DeYoung and Kluck take turns authoring chapters and bring their own style and perspectives. DeYoung approaches the chapters from a pastoral/theological perspective, biblically addressing issues and problems he sees in the movement. Kluck approaches his chapters as you expect a journalist would. He interviews Emergent personalities, critics, attends emergent ‘churches’, classes, and reads through blogs and books.

Through every issue they address, you can tell that they are humble and desperately try to accurately represent the emergent personalities. Something that is refreshing about this book is that you can tell that this critique is from a loving heart to correct the church. It is written by two young men who love the Church and would do what God calls them to do to see Her grow and be biblically effective. While they are critical, everything is done in love.

DeYoung and Kluck admit the difficulties doing a book on the Emerging Church. The movement is difficult to characterize because none of the writers claim to be ‘the voice’. Instead, they all claim to be singular voices, not speaking for the masses. And when they do speak, it is more centered around what they are critical of and don’t believer, rather than what they do. DeYoung and Kluck hold their feet to the fire, letting them know that when they are the speakers at every conference, always recommend each other’s books, and are the main voices on the most influential blogs, then they are assuming the responsibility of being the leaders.

The authors do a wonderful job at confronting the philosophical errors that are the foundation of their ‘belief structure’. The emergent personalities write volumes about how we cannot know a perfect God through limited language, but that is how God chose to reveal Himself through His Word. “They allow the immensity of God to swallow up the knowability of God.”

The most troubling thing coming out of this movement is a redefining of the Gospel itself. Lost amid the postmodern blabber about the limit of language and the narrative dialogues is a clear definition of the Gospel. In a desire to make the Gospel more relevant to the present culture, the language has been jumbled and they have given birth to a pseudo universalistic Gospel.

By far my favorite chapter is chapter 9, written by DeYoung, entitled “Jesus: Bringer of Peace, Bearer of Wrath”. DeYoung brilliantly and biblically presents the Biblical Jesus and a misunderstanding of the Kingdom of God. The topic of Hell and wrath is almost completely ignored, and they only present the teachings of Christ that really agree with their already existent presuppositions.

As far as weaknesses go, I would have to say that the format they have chosen does provide some awkward transitions. The writing styles of the authors are pretty different, one being more conversational with various pop culture references, while the other is more theological and pastoral. The various perspectives are welcomed and helpful, but sometimes offer awkward transitions between chapters.

Another weakness the book has is a failure to clearly distinguish that Brian McLaren lies outside Christian Orthodoxy and has many heretical views that other emergent figures don’t necessarily hold to. They did admit that what one person believes another may not, but when they were presenting heretical views, the most extreme view would often be McLaren. My concern would be that some loving Christians would believe that all emergents believe what McLaren espouses, but that is often the radical fringe.

The final concern I have with the book is the inclusion of many questionable references to movies that are pretty inappropriate. I realize the way Kluck naturally writes would include many of the pop culture references, but the mere mention of a movie without warning can be understood as a recommendation. For two guys who strive so strongly for clearly presenting the truths of the Word of God, they can send a mixed message with what is appropriate or inappropriate.

In all, these two young authors do a wonderful job at lovingly critiquing these brothers in Christ. Their warnings are clear and concise. These men, mostly pastors, cannot get away with teaching heresy by just casually saying that they aren’t scholars. Unfortunately, I don’t recall God given a pardon for heresy because someone wasn’t a scholar. The problem is going to be when people are sick of hearing soft words and want a teacher to say “Thus says the Lord”, then people will move on. In the mean time, they are going to produce masses of Christians who look down their noses at doctrine and theology and then grow dry in their shallow faith.

“Culture Shift” by R. Albert Mohler Jr.

If you know anything about the men that I look up to in the current evangelical environment, you know that Al Mohler is one of my favorites. He always offers a keen, Biblical perspective on whatever is happing in our world or in our culture. In a time where people are more concerned with political correct speech, Mohler stands out with his Biblically-correct speech. That is why, when I found out he was finally putting out his first book, (that’s right, he’s never written a book before this) I was pretty pumped. Even though I figure I’d be getting the book for free at the Together for the Gospel Conference next month, I couldn’t help but buy the book immediately. As it turns out, Mohler still hasn’t written a book…

That isn’t to say that I didn’t thoroughly enjoy his first book, “Culture Shift: Engaging Current Issues with Timeless Truth”, it just isn’t really a book. It is closer to a collection of blog essays pumped up to be a collection of essays. The book is made up of essays dealing with a plethora of issues. Mohler addresses hot topics from abortion, public education, the separation of church and state, war, torture, freedom of speech, and recent disasters such as Katrina, the tsunami, and Hiroshima. With each topic, Mohler offers a succinct description of the debate, and how Christians have usually been approaching the subject unbiblically.

Mohler’s greatest concern isn’t necessarily trying to tell Christians how to think. You’ll notice that each chapter just offer a paragraph or two on what a Christian is to do. That is because Mohler isn’t trying to tell people how to think, more how not to. He is encouraging mainline, evangelical Christianity to stop reverting to the ‘christianese’ it has been speaking, and to search the Bible for a true, Christ-like perspective.

There are a few chapters that I absolutely loved. The first is one on how our society is raising a generation of wimps. Parents are following their children everywhere, saving them from any sort of pain, from rejection to the skinned knee. We are raising kids who can’t stand correction or admonition. They are getting to college and many don’t know how to swim in the currents of academic criticism. He points out how our schools are gradually giving out more A’s, and it isn’t because the the work is improving, but the standards are being lowered. Not every kid is going to be an outstanding student. Not every kid is going to excel on the fields. Not every kid is going to be the prom queen or king. It is a great chapter that every parent should read. I know I found it helpful and will be re-reading it as Micah grows older. (turning 1 this week!)

Another chapter that was fascinating was on the topic of abortion. Sonogram machines are being used to prevent abortions, and some of those that are pro-choice corner are saying it is unfair and basically brainwashing. Speaking of these places, one Planned Parenthood vice president had this to say: “From the time they walk into these centers, they are inundated with information that is propaganda and that has one goal in mind. And that is to have women continue in their pregnancies.” Now pick up your jaw off the floor. She says the ultrasound technology, “isn’t a matter of providing more knowledge, but an attempt to manipulate women.” So much for fighting for the woman’s right to choose. Now she’s fighting for the right to kill the child. The mother’s rights have largely been abandoned by many in the fight.

Mohler has another chapter on the changing perspective on abortion, mainly in the pro-choice corner. Many are beginning to come to out and say that they realize that abortion is a sick, depraved practice. He sights a debate that was had on slate.com between two pro-choice personalities. An interesting portion of the chapter was where the woman arguing that abortion wasn’t as bad said that she saw the time coming where unwanted pregnancies would “join obesity and smoking as unacceptable behavior in polite society.” Mohler, in reaction, wrote, “Taken by itself, this is a truly amazing comment. At the very least, it suggests that, in Katha Pollitt’s social circle, obesity and smoking are taken as genuine moral issues, while abortion- the killing of an unborn human- is not.”

Overall, the book was a very interesting read, and one that I would fully recommend. Being only 160 small pages, the reading doesn’t take long, and the topics are addressed thoroughly, but succinctly. But, Al, I’m still waiting for a book. I’d still love to have him sit down in one topic, flush it all out, and write the insightful masterpiece he is capable of.

The New Atheism

Disclaimer: This post will begin a series I’m going to be doing on New Atheism.  Let me begin with a warning and a request.  I realize that these posts will be somewhat unpopular with many people, namely atheists.  The purpose of these posts really isn’t to create a dialogue between Christians and Atheists, and as you will see later, I don’t think this would be possible or a good opportunity to do that.  So here is my request:  if you are an atheist and you really hate these posts, this isn’t a place for you to voice your aggravation and continue to attack Christianity.  As we will see, New Atheism isn’t about an open debate, but about intolerance towards any sort of acceptance of Christianity.  So if you have a comment that wouldn’t be considered ‘healthy dialogue’, I kindly and respectfully ask you not to post it.

New Atheism

For many years, atheism has been a view that a person would hold to if they just didn’t believe in God.  It often reflected a lack of desire to try to believe or search things out.  Most of the time they didn’t mind if anyone else believed in God, as long as those beliefs didn’t infringe too much on their own lives.  Recently, there has been a significant shift in atheism, and a ‘New Atheism’ has been born.  This new movement can be characterized by not only intolerance towards Christianity, but also towards anyone who would tolerate it to any degree.  They see themselves as being repressed and held down by a society that inexplicably holds to Christianity, only to its own demise.

Just like any movement, this one is lead by charasmatic personalities, both young and old.  The senior statesman would be the British scientist and evolutionist, Richard Dawkins.  Dawkins, who holds the Charles Simonyi Chair for the Public Understanding of Science at the University of Oxford was, for many years, known as the author of  “The Selfish Gene”.  Though he grew up in a normal Anglican family, he questioned religion from an early age.  Interestingly, at one point he was convinced back to Christianity due to the argument from design, but eventually abandoned religion altogether when he became convinced that evolution satisfyingly answered the questions of the complex design of the world.

Recently, around the events of 9/11, Dawkins began to become more militaristic in his fight against Theism, namely Christianity.  This is worked its way to his recent book, “The God Delusion”, where he presents his evidence that a belief in God is just foolishness.  It is mostly centered around the idea that Creationism is just  “preposterous, mind-shrinking falsehood”.  The book has been very successful, reaching #5 on the New York Time’s bestsellers list for hardcover non-fiction books.  As of November 2007, it has sold 1.5 million copies.  It has gotten around, to say the least.

Another, and even more militaristic personality, is an American named Sam Harris.  He has been called Atheisms new bulldog, and has led his charge with two books, “The End of Faith” and “Letter to a Christian Nation”.  Sam Harris seems to take it to the next step, blaming every bad thing in America on Christianity, calling for an abandoning of  Christianity to a new society based on  reason.  The thing that all these men have in common is that science is the new religion. They see science as falling woefully short of obvious scientific truths.  Harris grew up in with a Jewish mom and a Quaker dad, attended Stanford studying English, but dropped out when he started Ecstasy.  This lead him to study Buddhism, meditation, and read hundreds of religious books.  Eventually, he would return to Stanford, obtaining his bachelor’s degree in Philosophy.  He is now pursuing a doctorate in  neuroscience, using functional magnetic resonance imaging to conduct research into the neural basis of belief, disbelief, and uncertainty. (Wikipedia)

Harris says that religion, namely Christianity, served a purpose for some time, but it is now time to view God the same way we view the myth of Zeus.  It is now time to leave religion behind, and take society in a new direction.  Religion as been “one of the most perverse misuses of intelligence we have ever devised.”  According to Harris, we must bring the nation to a point where we can not only talk about how mentally ridiculous Christianity is, but to the point where we cease to let it effect the way our society is run.  Reason, instead, should be the basis of society.   In the near future, I will be writing some views on his “Letter to a Christian Nation” book, so you will become very familiar with Harris.

Other personalities in the New Atheism movement are Daniel Dennett and Christopher Hitchens, as well as entertainers Penn and Teller, who have made bashing Christianity and Creationism a part of their popular act.  If you could boil all of their thoughts down to one, I think it may sound something like this: A belief in Christianity, Theism, God, Creationism, the Bible, the Koran, or any other ‘holy scripture’ is idiotic, baseless, and you are stupid if you believe them.  They very much carry themselves as being societies best thinkers, and anyone who thinks otherwise is just a nim-wit.

Over the next few weeks, I’ll be adding various other posts to continue to explore some of these writings, what they teach, and how it may affect our society.  Their mission is to make Christianity intolerable, outlawed, and banished, along with those that hold to it.  They will not rest until their mission is accomplished.  What is a Biblically minded Christian to do?  Through this series, I pray that you do not fear these men and their bravado, but you realize that this is another season of attacks on faith.  Interestingly enough, in England, where Dawkin’s books shot up the sales of books of spirituality by 50% and the sales of Bibles by 120%.  Somewhat ironic that this has lead to a resurgence in the reading of the Bible.  I doubt that was the intended reaction.  I pray that it leads us to a resurgence in understanding our faith, and how to defend it.

Al Mohler on “The Golden Compass”

For those of you who know me, I absolutely love Mohler and always have my ears open as to what he has to say.  If you are wondering a Biblical reaction to something going on in our culture would be, chances are Mohler has spoken about it.  This includes the furor growing around “The Golden Compass”.  If you were wondering how big of a deal this movie is and how it has touched off many a debates, all you have to do is look at the popularity of the post I had on it.  To date, the post has received 256 hits.  That doesn’t even include people who look at the blog and read that post with others.  That is those who have individually clicked on the post, or found it through a search engine. And that is just since November 14th, when I wrote the post.

So, needless to say, the subject has become very popular, as I knew it would.  I wanted to include some thoughts that Mohler brought to his blog.  As he always does, he puts it much better than I could ever explain it.  Here are some blurbs:

This is not just any fantasy trilogy or film project.  Philip Pullman has an agenda — an agenda about as subtle as an army tank.  His agenda is nothing less than to expose what he believes is the tyranny of the Christian faith and the Christian church.  His hatred of the biblical storyline is clear.  He is an atheist whose most important literary project is intended to offer a moral narrative that will reverse the biblical account of the fall and provide a liberating mythology for a new secular age.

This point has been humorously debated by atheists, and even Pullman himself.  He denies that this was his motivation, but that is either an incredible case of denial of the obvious or he’s trying to cover his tail to silent some of the furor, in hopes that it does not detract from the success of the movies, which would lead to further success of the books.

The most direct attacks upon Christianity and God do not appear until the last book, The Amber Spyglass, in which Lyra and Will (a boy her age who first appears in the second book) eventually kill God, who turns out to be a decrepit and feeble old imposter who was hardly worth the killing.

I include this note, just because I didn’t read the last one, and I didn’t want to quote a source that I didn’t necessarily trust, but Mohler’s word can be trusted.

In response to the question, ‘Is Pullman’s attack on Christianity exaggerated by his critics?’ Mohler had this to say:

No — his attack is neither hidden nor subtle.  The entire premise of the trilogy is that Lyra is the child foretold by prophecy who will reverse the curse of the Fall and free humanity from the lie of original sin.  Whereas in Christian theology it is Jesus Christ who reverses the curse through His work of atonement on the Cross, Pullman presents his own theology of sorts in which the Fall is reversed through the defiance of these children.  As Pullman insists, Eve and Adam were right to eat the forbidden fruit and God was a tyrant to forbid them the fruit of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil.

Mohler quotes Pullman saying a few things about “The Chronicles of Narnia”.

Put simply, Pullman hates C. S. Lewis’s work The Chronicles of Narnia.  He told Hannah Rosin that Lewis’s famous work is “morally loathsome” and “one of the most ugly and poisonous things I ever read.”  Narnia, he said, “is the Christian one . . . .  And mine is the non-Christian.”

When the first Narnia film was released in 2005, Pullman described the books as “a peevish blend of racist, misogynistic and reactionary prejudice.”

Yeah, the whole ‘good overcoming evil’ theme is just loathsome.  (Now atheists, I know there are other things that Pullman would object to, but it just seems quite humorous that he finds them so despicable.)

In Mohler’s conclusion, he has some good points:

The Gospel of Jesus Christ has enemies; this we know.  Christian parents must be informed about His Dark Materials and inform others.  We must take the responsibility to use interest in this film to teach our own children to think biblically and to be discerning in their engagement with the media in all forms.  We should arm our children to be able to talk about this project with their classmates without fear or rancor.

Philip Pullman has an agenda, but so do we.  Our agenda is the Gospel of Christ — a message infinitely more powerful than that of The Golden Compass.  Pullman’s worldview of unrestricted human autonomy would be nightmarish if ever achieved.  His story promises liberation but would enslave human beings to themselves and destroy all transcendent value.

Another thought:

This is about the battle of ideas and worldviews.  While Christians will not celebrate the release of this film, we should recognize the mixture of challenge and opportunity that comes with millions of persons watching this film and talking about the issues it raises.  When the movie is mentioned in the workplace, in school, on the playground, or in the college campus, this is a great opportunity to show that Christians are not afraid of the battle of ideas.

We should recognize that the Christian Church has some very embarrassing moments in its history – moments when it has failed to represent the truth of the Gospel and the love of Christ.  Authors like Philip Pullman take advantage of these failures in order to paint the entire Christian Church as a conspiracy against human happiness and freedom.  Of course, that charge will not stand close scrutiny, and we can face it head-on with a thoughtful response.

I couldn’t say it any better than Mohler, but this is not something we should run from.  Over the next couple of weeks, I will be posting some thoughts and evaluations of the “New Atheism”.  I realize that these will be lightening rods for some Atheists, particularly those who have frequented this blog over the last few weeks, but so be it.  This New Atheism is not tolerant of Christianity, or those who tolerate it.  They desire to see it broken, destroyed, and obliterated, and they seek to shame those who would even dare to tolerate it.  I think this calls for some familiarization with some of the thoughts of the movement, who the personalities are, and some of the arguments that will become louder as the movement grows.