God has called us to endeavour to ‘if it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone’ (Romans 12:18). James also calls upon Christians to be: ‘quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry’ (James 1:19). This does not mean ‘peace at any price’. There have been many instances in which godly men have been rightly incensed by brazen contempt for God.
In Exodus 32, Moses leaves the Israelites at base camp to commune with God on Mount Sinai. In his absence and under the cowardly leadership of Aaron, the Israelites insultingly replace the prescribed worship of God (who transcends the material universe) with servile subjection to an embodiment of their mineral wealth, the golden calf. Today’s golden calf is the idol of self-reliant capitalism and consumption-obsessed business acumen. We proclaim them as the means by which we escaped the hardship of the past, or as Aaron put it: ‘These be thy gods, O Israel, which brought thee up out of the land of Egypt’.
On his return, in disgust, anger and grief, Moses throws down the stone tablets inscribed with the Ten Commandments. In comparison, how do we react to humanist contempt for the past deliverances of our nation by the One transcendent God today? Do we avoid confrontation at all cost?
The Philistines settled in the coastal region of what is now Lebanon. As a nation, they displayed great military prowess. They were involved in many border skirmishes with their Israelite neighbours.
Goliath was a mountain of a man, a fully armed and trained combat assassin with a terrifying body count to his name (1 Samuel 17). He taunted the Israelites on a daily basis, challenging one of their number to approach and engage him in mortal combat.
Today, we see liberal Goliaths, prominent atheists like Richard Dawkins and Philip Pullman, and sexual ‘free-thinkers’ like Peter Tatchell, who advocates lowering the age of consent to 14, throwing down the gauntlet before the Church every day. They trust in their armour of modern media savvy, derisory wit and the assumptions of materialist science: casting faith in Christ and the holy scriptures as an ill-informed choice at every turn.
David was simply running an errand for his father to carry food to his enlisted brothers and return with news from the front. David enquires about the bounty on Goliath’s head and declares his sheer contempt for anyone who would be stupid enough to think they can succeed in taking on the might of Yahweh’s army.
He is accused of the worst possible motives by his jealous elder brother. Inevitably, anyone who tries to end modern contempt will endure the same accusation of presumption. After all others have tried and failed: who do you think you are?
David’s reply is as meaningful today as it was then: ‘What have I now done? Is there not a cause?’ (1 Samuel 17:29) He is immediately incensed enough to take up the challenge of ending the mockery of God, but rather than meeting the challenge on Goliath’s terms, he abandons traditional combat armour and fights asymmetrically.
He resorts to guerrilla tactics: using speed of manoeuvre and a short-range missile launcher (sling) with lethal precision. Goliath’s size makes him less manoeuvrable and the resulting brain injury is instantly fatal. The Philistine champion is slain by the tactical superiority of a shepherd boy!
Paul did the same by preaching with supernatural power and by example: ‘For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strongholds); casting down imaginations and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ’ (2 Cor. 10:5).
To end the insulting derision of our faith by godless theorists, can we really do any less?