A Dispassionate Review
by NAKKOLACKAL V.L EAPEN, AUSTIN, TX 78728
Religion is ‘tasting God’s goodness in one’s day-to-day life through His Son with the help and guidance of the Holy Spirit.’ The emphasis is on experiencing for oneself the purity and power of God’s presence in one’s life. Ratiocination (logical reasoning) has little or NO room in religion because God scatters the proud in the imagination of their hearts as rightly affirmed by Mary, the Mother of God, in Luke 1:51. Also, it is written: “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and the cleverness of the clever I will thwart.” (1 Cor 1:19). Again, “Woe to those who are wise in their own eyes, and shrewd in their own sight!” (Isaiah 5:21). Above all, “Knowledge puffs up.” (1 Cor 8:1). The mystery of God’s nature is therefore entirely beyond the range and scope of philosophical speculation, whether it be of Advaita or Atraita. Only through ‘revelation’ can it be spiritually discerned, understood and assimilated. Praise and thanks be to God the Father for graciously revealing Himself through (i) His Word, “That became flesh and dwelt among us,” (Jn 1:14), (ii) the Holy Spirit, given “… not by measure.” (Jn 3:34) and (iii) the Bible Prophecy. The Samaritan woman at the well, Zacchaeus at home, the dying robber on the cross, the rebellious Saul on his way to Damascus etc. are among the cases in point, and each of them discerned spiritually that ‘Truth’ is NOT an abstract principle or concept, BUT the Second Person in the Holy Trinity.
The indefinite article ‘an’ preceding ‘Atraita God’ looks quite appropriate in view of its being laxly inclusive enough to accommodate even the Gentile gods within its ambit, and in that, ‘an Atraita God’ is a far cry from the Living, Sovereign, Jealous God of the Bible Who is quintessentially ‘holy’. This point needs further elaboration. Being quintessentially ‘holy’ means being far above and beyond the dominion of sin, and exclusively ‘set apart’ to absolute wholesome righteousness, unlike the fickle human nature perpetually prone to sinfulness. Consequently,the chasm between man and God is unbridgeable unless God intervenes to bridge itby sending His only begotten Son as a ransom so that the Son’s righteousness could be freely ‘reckoned to’ ALL whose trust is in Christ Jesus, the “Rock” and the “Redeemer.” (Psalm 19:14). The liberal theologians who advocate religious pluralism fail to recognize that the adherents (followers) of other world religions try IN VAIN to achieve their salvation (mukhti/moksha/nirvana) on their own, through their feeble effort, while refusing to accept the free gift of salvation available through faith in the Son of God and obedience to His commandments.
If the status quo is to be altered for better, Christians need to be “Fishers of men” (Matt 4:19) by habitually living the faith they profess, and by faithfully carrying out the ‘Great Commission’ (Matt 28:19, Mk 16:15, Lk 24:47 and Acts 1:8) entrusted to them by the Master, prior to His ascension into heaven, to preach the gospel to the end of the earth, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Even otherwise, the prophecy of “One flock, one Shepherd” (Jn 10:16) shall come to pass, on the risen Lord’s return in His glory together with multitudes of heavenly host and His saints, when the Jews will “… look on Him Whom they have pierced, … mourn for Him, as one mourns for an only child, and weep bitterly over Him, as one weeps over a first-born.” (Zech 12:10). It is to be anticipated as a corollary that Gentiles too, along with the so-called liberal theologians, will remorsefully join the Jews in their wailing and weeping, for having that long thoughtlessly emptied the cross of its invincible redemptive power by ignoring the Prince of Glory and His abiding grace. According to Rev 1:7, there will be universal wailing. Thus, Christianity will then be the ONE universal religion. (Zech 14:9).
From the human point of view, God is ‘love’. But in God’s view, the core of His nature is ‘holiness’, and this fact He communicates through Moses to the children of Israel: “You shall be holy; for I the Lord your God am holy.” (Lev 19:2). Furthermore, in the Old Testament there are several instances of God’s swearing by His ‘holiness’. For example, Psalm 89:35 reads, “Once for all I have sworn by My holiness.” The angels too shout in exultation, “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts,” in Isaiah 6:3. The writer of the epistle to Hebrews affirms that without holiness no one will ever see the Lord.(Heb 12:14). Incidentally, ‘holiness’ means being ‘set apart’ for God’s purpose and glory.
In His dealings with man, the holy ‘God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob’ reveals Himself as much the God of Love as the God of Wrath, of Vengeance/Requital, of Retribution and of Justice. It is not only presumptuous but erroneous to limit God to being the ‘God of Love’ only. To restrict so, is missing the forest for the tree. At this point, a passing reference to what God says about His appointed spokesmen, the prophets, is appropriate. “I will put My words in his mouth, and he shall speak to them all that I command him.” (Deut 18:18). Accordingly, God’s utterances about Himself through the prophets are the most authentic, being the most authoritative, and for that reason, the following excerpts merit our careful study.
“The Lord is a jealous God and avenging,
The Lord is avenging and wrathful;
The Lord takes vengeance on His adversaries,
And keeps wrath for His enemies.
The Lord is slow to anger and of great might,
And the Lord will by no means clear the guilty.”
“He will make a full end;
He will not take vengeance twice on the foes.”
“For the Lord is a God of justice.”
“For in My wrath I smote you.”
Lev 19:18, Deut 32:35, Rom 12:19 and Heb 10:30
“Vengeance is Mine, I will repay, says the Lord.”
Besides the references to the wrath of God in Matt 3:7 and Jn 3:36, there are the following awe-inspiring expressions from the Book of Revelation: “The wrath of the Lamb” (Rev 6:16), “The great wine press of the wrath of God” (Rev 14:19) and “The cup of the fury of His wrath” (Rev 16:19).
The sad spectacle at Calvary reminds us that there are occasions when ‘divine justice’ supersedes ‘divine love’ (agape). Divine love could have spared the Son, the agony and the humiliation of the cross. But divine justice prevailed, exacting the full and just retribution. The ‘Sinless One’ became ‘our sin’ on the cross, thereby suffering ‘substitutionary spiritual death’ (i.e. momentary separation from the Holy Father) on our behalf, culminating in the heart-rending cry: “My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?” (Matt 27:46). The Son’s having to address the Father, ‘My God, My God’, instead of ‘My Father, My Father’, is indeed unthinkable. It was the imminent prospect of the painful separation from the beloved Father, that made the Lord sweat blood in the garden of Gethsemane, and pray: “My Father, if this cup cannot pass unless I drink it, Thy will be done.” (Matt 26:42). The reality of God’s nature is, thus, NOT confined to ‘agape’ ALONE, as erroneously reiterated by the ATRAITA philosophy, but also includes ‘holiness, justice, retribution, requital, wrath, unconditional obedience and faithfulness.’ However, ‘holiness’ ranks first in God’s infallible view while ‘agape’ ranks first in man’s fallible view.
The following extracts from the original text of the article titled ‘AN ATRAITA GOD’ exemplify the fallacies of thought underlying the Atraita philosophy and the inherent contradictions vitiating it.
“Jesus Christ, the cosmic incarnation of divine love in the center of history between B.C. and A.D. is beckoning all of us to follow Him by taking our own crosses as crowns.”
“In my humble opinion, Christianity must understand the global cosmic and infinite love of God. Within Him all religions can be one kingdom of God.”
When read in conjunction with each other, the two extracts are contradictory.While pledging lip-allegiance to Christianity, religious pluralism is fervently advocated. The Lord spells out in Rev 3:15&16 where He stands in respect of such inconsistency: “You are neither cold nor hot. Would that you were cold or hot! So,because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spew you out of My mouth.”
“Hence all religious people must love each other without the selfish aims, with the freedom of voluntary conversion to any religion without external force.”
The above is an affront to the Lord Himself, His ‘Great Commission’ and the invitation at large to be “Fishers of men.” The Lord expects His Church to be the ‘salt’ of the earth, and the ‘light’ of the world to make ready for the Lord a people prepared at His Second Coming. We are the ones to shed light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, and guide their feet into the path of salvation.
“The incarnation of God as Jesus Christ was the incarnation of love which is infinite and global. When Christ said, “I am the way, the truth and the life.” (Jn 14:6), He meant, the divine love of God is the way from God to man.”
It should be the other way round. Jesus Christ is the ONLY precious and sure way, open to man, to reach God the Father. The incarnation of God as Jesus Christ was for SEEKING to retrieve and restore the LOST, and providing them with the WAY back to the Father. The only begotten Son having become the scapegoat for the expiation of mankind’s sin, no one can or will ever reach the Father except through Him. Hallowed be His mighty name for ever and ever!! Amen. Acts 4:12 reads, “And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.” Also, Apostle Paul writes to the Church at Philippi: “Therefore God has highly exalted Him and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” (Phil 2:9-11)
“May I call upon all my brothers and sisters in all religions and no religions to love each other personally, socially and in a cosmic manner.”
It is wishful thinking to expect people of different religious persuasions and diverse ethnic and cultural background to love one another in an age when love is on the wane as foretold by our Lord in Matt 24:12, “And because wickedness is multiplied, most men’s love will grow cold.” Rising wickedness being the cause of waning love, the remedy is to draw more and more people to the saving grace of the gospel.
Incidentally, may I ask, what is love? That question has conveniently been left unanswered by the Atraita philosophy. Carnal love is inborn, but Godly love is NOT. When a person becomes indwelt by the Spirit of God, the manifestation thereof is LOVE. It is easier said than done. The Lord points out, “Even the Spirit of Truth, Whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him.” (Jn 14:17). Therein lies the hurdle. Our urgent task, therefore, is to preach the gospel to those outside the Christendom, and with compassionate concern help them to receive the Holy Spirit. We read in Acts 10:44 of Gentiles’ receiving the Holy Spirit while hearing the Word of God even before being baptized. Exhorting those who cannot receive the Holy Spirit to love one another, without our doing our part, is the same as putting the cart before the horse.
It is noteworthy that the Atraita philosophy does not make even a passing reference to the need for being holy to cultivate and nurture such Godly love. Because of the fallacious obsession with ‘agape’ as the sole trait of God’s character, to the complete exclusion of holiness, an Atraita God does not bear even a semblance of the Living Holy Sovereign God of the Bible, and is like a great, great grandfather sitting in the heavens, readily condoning every evil, and treating the righteous and the wicked alike without any sense of fairness and justice.
“According to Atraita, evil is not the creation of God who is goodness.”
God allows evil to happen when His wrath is kindled by the sinful humanity. God asks in Amos 3:6, “Does evil befall a city, unless the Lord has done it?” On 9/11 evil did befall New York because the ‘God of Wrath’ permitted it to occur. The NY tragedy is a call from heaven to turn to Him in self-surrender and supplication.
“The only criterion in the Last Judgment (Matthew 25: 31-33) is love.”
Nothing could be farther from the truth than the above assertion. The Judgment Day is the Day of recompense; the Day of reckoning; the Pay Day; the Day of the One Who declares: “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay.” In Heb 10:30&31 we read, “The Lord will judge His people. It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.” Divine justice, that did not spare even the Son of God, will take its FULL toll on the Judgment Day. As the Psalmist rightly puts it: “And that to Thee, O Lord, belongs steadfast love. For Thou dost requite a man according to his work.” (Psalm 62:12). That means, the righteous will be rewarded while the wicked will be condemned. Our God being a “consuming fire” (Heb 12:29), the precious blood of the Lamb of God ALONE will be our shield and buckler.
The Atraita philosophy has gone too far in suggesting that there is NO hell. If that were true, there would be no need for the Blessed One to have endured the cross and become the Accursed! The Lord Himself warns us in Matt 10:28, “… …; rather fear Him Who can destroy both soul and body in hell.”
“In the New Testament it is very clear that the God of the Old Testament was Jehovah, the communal God of Jews alone with only fragmentary revelations through prophets (Heb 1:1-3). But Jesus Christ is the perfect revelation of God’s own son.”
The God of the Old Testament is NOT ‘the communal God of Jews alone’, BUT the living God of ‘Abraham, Isaac and Jacob’. The SAME God is revealed in and through His Son in the New Testament. Unlike the pagan nations that worshipped idols, Jews worshipped the living sovereign God. According to the Webster’s College Dictionary, ‘Jehovah’ is a name of God in the Old Testament. It does not state that Jehovah is the God of the Old Testament. In fact, ‘Jehovah’ is an erroneous rendering of the ineffable (unutterable) name, JHVH, in the Hebrew Scriptures. In modern Christian use, Jehovah stands for God.
The revelations, referred to as ‘fragmentary’ in the above excerpt, represent what is called the Bible Prophecy. In Apostle Peter’s view, Bible Prophecy is more trustworthy than even an eye-witness account(2 Peter 1:16-19). He calls it “A more sure word.” The liberal theologians who fanatically and frantically advocate religious pluralism must take note that there is nothing comparable to ‘Bible Prophecy’in the sacred texts of any other world religion.
Bible Prophecy unfolds what is to happen from the end to the beginning. Consider the literal fulfillment of the prophecies concerning the birth of Jesus Christ, made hundreds of years ahead of His birth, – the time of His birth in Daniel 9 (verse 25); His virgin birth in Isaiah 7; the place of His birth in Micah 5; the minute details of His life and death in Psalm 22 and Isaiah 53 and His resurrection in Psalm 16 etc. etc. Let me also cite a few other examples of prophecy that have already come to pass. (i) The rebirth of the Nation of Israel(Isaiah 66:8) on May 14, 1948; (ii) The re-gathering of the Jewish people into the Land of Israel (Ezek 20:34-38). Every other major prophet has also prophesied it; (iii) The liberation of Jersusalem from Gentile rule (Lk 21:24). Since Jerusalem’s destruction in 70 A.D., the Jewish people hadn’t had control over the Holy City until the Six-day War of 1967; (iv)Knowledge explosion in the wake of the Information Revolution, and rise in international travel (Dan: 12:4) etc. etc.
Though there are a few more excerpts to be discussed, I reckon, the above would suffice for the purpose of this review. Finally, I do prayerfully hope that BOTH the clergy and the laity of our beloved Church will carefully examine and evaluate the Atraita philosophy, keeping in view Apostle Paul’s admonition contained in Gal 1:8&9.