Some of you know that I play broomball as a hobby when I don’t have my nose buried in books and scholarly articles to prepare for this blog. This itself has generated a couple blog articles, specifically the recent one where I started talking about where the church failed with regard to gender. However, when this was written, I had recently played in a memorial tournament for a player who suffered a fatal heart attack on the ice during a game. As part of the tournament proceedings, they held a brief memorial service for the player in question. It struck me during this brief memorial service how little hope these people had. This article will discuss the logical implications of this lack of hope and where it comes from.
Undoubtedly most of the people at this tournament would call themselves religious in some way or other. Most of the American population does, though the amount of people who identify as non-religious is growing. However, I strongly suspect I was the only actual Christian present. We were certainly heavily in the minority. That means that the vast majority of the people there were likely functional atheists. Atheism, whether simply functional or declared, has no ultimate hope.
Atheism, when publically declared, believes that there is no god and therefore no afterlife. When you die, you go to the ground and that is all. Existence simply ceases at death, therefore there is no need for an afterlife. In fact, believing in an afterlife is considered the equivalent of a fairy tale in this view. This means there is no hope of anything beyond this suffering cursed life. A hopeless philosophy indeed.
However, the folks at this tournament, mostly at least, were probably more akin to functional atheists. They believe there is an afterlife, as they frequently referenced the deceased player as looking down from above and so on. However, if you asked most of them, they would tell you they aren’t sure what happens when they die and religion does not influence their daily lives. Generally, they have the idea that, if they are good enough, whoever God is will let them into Heaven. This philosophy also offers no hope in an ultimate sense. Instead of having an assurance that, when they die, they will see be in Heaven, it offers a massive maybe. Given the stakes of this kind of decision, this is also hopeless because, if you get it wrong, you lose in the worst possible way.
Given that God’s standard of good is perfection, as exemplified by His pre-fall creation, the OT Law and Jesus’ sinless substitutionary sacrifice, any attempt to earn God’s favor is foredoomed to failure. Therefore, the functional atheism of the many tournament goers also fails to provide any hope. However, there is hope that is freely offered to any and all who will have it.
The hope of which I write is found in Christ. Not just in acknowledging His existence, or performing religious rituals to earn His favor, but in having a personal relationship with Him. Those who do have that relationship with Christ are promised an eternity with the Lord in Heaven. “Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord.” 1 Thessalonians 4:17. Note that this verse applies only those who are actually Christians. People following religious rituals or trying to earn their salvation through being good are not offered this promise. They have no hope. However, for the Christian, this is the blessed hope; they will forever be with the Lord.
Hope is precious. It can keep people motivated in the face of tremendous difficulty and give people a reason to continue to live. Yet many in this culture live with no functional hope, something brought home to me this weekend. If this lack of hope describes you, I invite you to give up trying to be good enough. Instead, recognize you are a sinner, that you cannot save yourself and that you have no hope apart from Christ. If you want to learn more about becoming a Christian, I invite you to read this article about why In His Image exists.