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The Good Life?

The World Wide Web can be a treacherous place. Yesterday, for example, I stumbled across a video recording of a debate between famed militant atheist Richard Dawkins and the Cardinal Archbishop of Sydney George Pell. It's interesting to record in passing that Dawkins, a scientist who knows nothing about theology, is happy to debate a theologian who knows nothing about science but resolutely refuses to debate a scientist who knows about theology. We can only guess why that is. In the debate, questions were put to both participants by members of the audience, and the first somewhat rambling question boiled down to "Can an atheist live a good life?" to which both protagonists responded "Yes". At that point I abandoned the video, because that answer is wrong. The correct answer is "No". No atheist can live "a good life", and there are two reasons for that.

1. Whenever an atheist makes such a statement as "I can live a good life without reference to any god or religion", I always say "define 'good'" and the conversation usually stops at that point. An atheist has two points of reference by which he must live, and these are the morals he himself generates from within himself and the consensus arrived at by any peer group he cares to join. In the latter case, of course, the peer group's consensus must be in agreement with his own world-view otherwise he would have to leave it and join another group whose consensus was in agreement. Now think about this. Whatever the atheist decides is good is good! For this reason, people like Stalin and Pol Pot were being "good" in their own eyes - they were doing their best for their respective countries. That millions of people were killed is just a fact of life - what are people anyway but evolved apes, or from further back fish, or from even further back bacteria? So what an atheist defines as good IS good and by that definition every atheist lives a good life. This, of course, is nonsense. When everything can be defined as "good" then nothing is "good".

2. From the Christian point of view (and I'm disappointed the learned Cardinal didn't mention this), the atheist cannot live a good life. A certain man came to Jesus and called Him "Good Teacher" - "Once a religious leader asked Jesus this question: 'Good Teacher, what should I do to inherit eternal life?'". Basically, he wanted to know how to live a life good enough to be counted worthy to live the life to come, in Hebrew the olam ha-ba. Jesus answered like this: "Keep the commandments". Helpfully, Jesus outlined for us what the commandments, in summary, are: "'You must love the LORD your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your strength, and all your mind.'And, 'Love your neighbour as yourself.'" That is the second reason why an atheist cannot live a good life - how can an atheist love God, whom he swears does not exist, with his entire being?

But there is something else to end with, and I hope you've spotted it for yourself already. When the religious leader addressed Jesus as "Good Teacher", before reciting the commandments to him Jesus said something quite fundamental: "Why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone". I hope you've realised that not only can an atheist not love God with all his heart, soul, strength and mind, nor love his neighbour as himself but neither can you and neither can I. To spell it out, as the Psalmist says in two places: "No one does good, not a single one!" There you have it. No one can live a good life. Certainly not atheists. Certainly not everyone else.

The reason we cannot live a good life is that we are sinners - you, me, Professor Dawkins, Cardinal Pell, every one of us. If we stopped sinning (and we can't) that wouldn't change our nature. You can't stop an apple tree being an apple tree by pulling all the apples off it. That's the magnitude of the problem - we can never live a good life and there's nothing we can do about it.

But there is good news. God has taken the initiative and though we are helpless He can and will help. He has a two-stage plan to solve this problem. Firstly, God Himself in the person of Jesus of Nazareth paid the penalty - death - for our sin. Every sin we've ever committed and ever will commit was taken to the cross and done away with. Simply by believing that is true for you, all your sin can be forgiven and forgotten by God. To qualify for God's forgiveness you must be honest with yourself, realise you are a sinner, realise you can't help yourself and decide that you will stop kidding yourself that you're as good as anyone else and that makes it all right (actually, you are, but no-one else is good either!), be sorry for the way you have lived up to now, promise to change your ways and ask Jesus to come into your life because only He can help you. He has promised that anyone who comes to Him, asking for forgiveness and determined to live a good life, He will never turn away no matter what they have done. He forgave the worst sinner that ever lived, and if you don't know who that was I'll tell you. It was St Paul. You are not the worst sinner, so Jesus will do for you what He promised he would.

Once you've come to Jesus in this way, besides forgiving you everything you've done and will do, He will carry out the second stage for you. He will adopt you into God's family and change your very nature. You will be counted "good" in His eyes. No longer will you be an apple tree bearing the apples of sin, but you will be transformed into another tree, "a tree planted by the rivers of water, which gives its fruit at the right time, whose leaves will ever be green; and you will do well in all your undertakings" (Psalm 1 v 3). Jesus called this "being born again". Your old life will be over, you will have a completely fresh start with no burden of sin and you will have a new nature instead of the old sinful nature, nothing less than the divine nature.

The offer is open to anyone who wants it. If you want to be forgiven by God, if you want a new nature, if you want to live a good life then contact us. We can help you do it.

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story | by Dr. Radut