November 18, 2010

Comfort and Truth

On Sunday my wife's grandfather passed away. He was 72, and for a few months he battled with cancer; which has now ended. In a lot of ways his passing was quite sudden. 6 months ago I expected he would be around for years to come. But sickness took him quickly.

Yesterday was the funeral service. The funeral was nice, as far as funerals go. Obviously there was sadness, but the sadness was not eclipsed with hopelessness. If anything the opposite was true. Hope shined through the sadness, preventing despair from taking root.

Ron Greenwood placed his faith in Christ a long time ago. So while we were sad to see him go, we know he has passed from sickness, to death, from death to glory and now he is in the presence of Almighty God.

This has caused me to think about the often made claim that Christianity is for the weak, that faith is used as a crutch for desperate people. You have likely run into Karl Marx's take on the subject "Religion is the opium of the masses". Granted that is not exactly what he said, the actually quote is;

"Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world, and the soul of soulless conditions. It is the opium of the people. The abolition of religion as the illusory happiness of the people is the demand for their real happiness. To call on them to give up their illusions about their condition is to call on them to give up a condition that requires illusions. The criticism of religion is, therefore, in embryo, the criticism of that vale of tears of which religion is the halo"

Either way if you want to take the bumper sticker version of the actual quote you walk away with the same basic understanding. Religion is offering false comfort to people who live in a harsh world. 

One of the questions I have never gotten a satisfying answer to is why should comfort be considered untrue? As a young child when I fell and hurt my knee I took great comfort in a hug from my parents. Now I am the father and I am providing the same comfort when my son needs it. In what way is that comfort false? 

Why has faith been relegated to a kind of teddy bear comfort? You know what I mean right; when a young child is afraid of the dark, or of monsters or whatever they are given an object like a teddy bear that will in someway stop monsters from appearing. Now a rational adult knows there are no monsters, at least not of the likes that most children fear, so the teddy bear offers false comfort; it protects the child from something that is not real. 

How can we know if Christianity rightly belongs to the former example or the latter? 

I want to suggest you will never know if Christianity is true or false by either accepting or rejecting the comfort it can provide. Likewise I will never know if the Boogeyman is real because I either embrace a teddy bear or leave it in the store.

Instead you need to look at the problems Christianity claims to address; to see if they are in fact real problems, and if Christianity does in fact address them satisfactorily or not. 

After all there is no sense in getting a Saviour if I have nothing to be saved from. Likewise there is no sense in trying to get right with God if there is no God. But if there is a God and I do need a Saviour then I best put those questions to rest quickly. 

Don't tell me the comfort I have is false, because I am comforted. Instead convince me that Christ has not conquered death. 

"If you look for truth, you may find comfort in the end; if you look for comfort you will not get either comfort or truth only soft soap and wishful thinking to begin, and in the end, despair."- C.S. Lewis


  1. Hey Christopher, Very nice tribute and I must say although my father passed from this earth I am not inconsolable or incapacitated by my grief. I take comfort in the promise of my heavenly father, of the place he has prepared for us in heaven and that is where my earthly father is right now. And I will see him again in glory. Praise God for his mercy and grace :))
    Have a lovely day :))

  2. Thanks Trisha, I know we feel the same here too. He'll be missed, but not forever.

    Yesterday felt more like a 'see you later' than a goodbye.