An example of always being ready to give an answer for the hope that lies within us with gentleness and respect ( 1 Peter 3:15) comes from a recent clip of Bill Maher from his new movie Religulous. There is a conversation between Bill Maher and the Jesus actor at the Holy Land Experience in Orlando, FL. Maher’s contention is that Jesus is ridiculous or as Maher tries to convey, pun intended, that’s He’s Religulous. This was on the August 19, 2008 edition of Larry King Live
Bill Maher: “Having no other gods before you, that’s not moral. There’s nothing moral about that. It’s just — it’s just something a jealous God would do.”
Jesus actor: “It does say that our God is a jealous God.”
Bill Maher: “But your God is jealous? That seems so un-godlike, that God would have such a petty human emotion.”
Jesus actor: “He’s also…”
Bill Maher: “I know people who have gotten over jealousy, let alone God.”
Jesus actor: “There’s two sides of the coin. He’s a just God, and He’s also a merciful God. He casts down our sins…”
Bill Maher: “He spends the first five books wiping out people.”
Jesus actor: (laughter) “That’s what he chose to do. His ways are higher than ours, Bill.”
Bill Maher: “Maybe your thinking should be higher.”
Jesus actor: “That’s a good point.”
Is the Messiah Religulous? Or is Maher just another benighted fundamentalist on the left?
Well to begin with contrary to Maher’s shallow thinking, there is such a thing as sanctified jealousy. For example, jealousy is the proper response of a wife when her trust has been violated through infidelity. When an exclusive covenant relationship is dishonored sanctified jealousy as a passionate zeal that fights to restore a holy union is the high point of virtue.
Just as there is sanctified jealousy, of course there is also sinful jealousy. In this sense jealousy is painfully coveting another’s advantages. This is why the apostle Paul lists jealousy as an act of the sinful nature. (Gal 5:20).
Just as God personifies sanctified jealousy, so too those who reflect the character of God should be zealous for the things of God. The Bible is replete with heroes like Elijah, David, and Paul whose jealousy for God’s glory motivated their self-sacrifice and their radical reform. The quintessential example is found in the incarnate Christ who exercised the epitome of sanctified jealously by overturning the tables of the money changers in the temple (Mt 21:12).
In Maher’s world God should allow His creatures to do anything they want, anytime they want to do it. That’s because in Maher’s world there’s no such thing as right and wrong, but then of course Maher’s world is simply the figment of his own imagination. The only thing Religulous about jealousy is to suggest that it is merely a petty human emotion.
Unlike Maher, who is a master at making dogmatic assertions, followers of the Master should master the art of using even the Religulous assertions of Bill Maher as opportunities for communicating truth. This is another example of a man who is communicating an idiosyncratic form of fundamentalism from the left to make assertions and another warning to all Christians that we should be ready to take these assertions and use them as opportunities.
Having a lot of kids, I’m well aware of the fact that kids are constantly being bombarded with these kinds of assertions to undermine their faith. Is it effective? Absolutely! My kids came to me this past weekend asking me questions, I had to have an answer to so that they would not only be reinforced in their faith but they could use the answer as an opportunity to help someone else who is shaken by these kinds of assertions.
Bill Maher and a whole new brand of village atheists are seeking to undermine the gospel and we better be ready to give an answer and if we’re not, we are AWOL. We are those who have been called to be ambassadors for Christ but unfortunately often times we are secret agents who never blow our cover before the unregenerate world.