Fairies, Atheists and Silence

The fairies were named, ‘sithichean’ in Gaelic, probably because of their quiet ways. They were cantankerous, sensitive types who needed a lot of placating and complimenting. Perhaps it was a height thing, or only having the one nostril, but it certainly didn’t do to offend them. Silence was frequently the only guarantee against offending their sensibilities.

Silence is still sometimes the only option. In the Christian church, people talk about the need for apologetics, and for a word in season. Yet, in my experience, there can come a time when this is counter-productive. Don’t misunderstand me: I know that God can accomplish anything and He actually doesn’t need our involvement at all. We are called on to share the Good News with others who are as we once were, however, and to make a defence of the reason for the hope that is in us.

How do we know, as Christians, when we have done enough, though? Do you keep saying the same things, patiently and respectfully, and hope that common sense will prevail? Common sense is not like the Holy Spirit, however,and one doesn’t just get anointed with it in that way. Or do you worry, as I have this past week, that all you’re doing is holding the cause of Christ out for more reviling? Do you torment yourself with thoughts that the very thing you seek to promote is being spat on, even as you offer your puny defence of it?

Well, yes, you do. I certainly did. After all, everything revolves around me. What can I do? What can I say? How can I fix this? These are the wrong questions, I think. The big question is, actually: how is God’s glory served in this? Is the cause of honouring God served by repeatedly telling Atheists Anonymous (Lewis Chapter) what they already know? Or am I simply salving my own conscience? Well, perhaps I’m being a little hard on myself. Actually, I believe that I was motivated to say, ‘this is what I have been given – don’t you want your portion, too?’ But, as a wise man said to me today, you can only give them the truth and, once you’ve done that, leave it to God. Silence. And prayer.

Finally, last Friday evening, I learned that lesson. A baying, frightened mob does not hear the offer of salvation. There needs to be peace and quiet. So, I walked away from that futile fight, but left it to God. Who knows what He might do with them and for them, if only they would stop and listen?

And for me? He gave me Saturday with His people, who are also my people. Tired and strung-out by weeks of this infernal battle, I took a day-trip to Tarbert, to attend the annual Island Study Conference. Together we worshipped and heard extraordinary perspectives on our Father, and we met – as all families do – to talk, and laugh around the table. Love was in that place. Hope for God’s church was also there; not in the number gathered, or even the sincerity and eloquence of the speakers, but in the simple fact that His glory was central to all.

We are a noisy bunch, we humans. Unlike our one-time fairy adversaries from the otherworld, we rarely go in peace. But our God, as we learned in Harris, is often silent. That causes fear in us, born of misunderstanding. If He is silent, then is He idle, or absent? Should we try to fix things for ourselves, our way? No. We should wait, and trust, and pray. For, throughout the ages, God’s silence and God’s waiting preceded periods of renewal and refreshing for His people. It is exciting to meditate on what He may be preparing now.

The tirade of atheism directed at the Christian church can sometimes feel like a personal attack. It is, unfortunately, much more serious than that because it is an assault on God’s own glory. I say it is serious, not because there is any danger that the atheists might win, but because they have already lost. We cannot reason with them over their shouts of ‘crucify Him’; but in the silence that invariably follows battle, we must pray that they hear the still, small voice of God.

In CS Lewis’ book, ‘The Screwtape Letters’, the eponymous hero tells his nephew that Satan’s aim is to ‘make the whole universe a noise in the end’. This week, I have learned not to help him, but to choose silence.

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