What would you think of a literary critic who reviewed a certain work of literature thus?
The Lord of the Rings is a dank and depressing tale of despair, pointlessness and woe. The story begins in a happy community of prosperous, jolly souls, and ends in defeat and ruin. Frodo bears "The One Ring" through countless toils and trials, only to lose it to the evil Gollum at the end. The Quest comes to nothing, the Dark Lord Sauron enslaves all free peoples, the lives lost are sacrifices on the altar of meaninglessness, and the author's sole intent apparently is to crush out and mock all that is happy and hopeful and purposeful. It is a gloomy and miserable threnody that only a dark and sadistic heart could have begotten, or enjoy.Or how about this in a film reviewer?
One watches The Sixth Sense in growing puzzlement. Though blessed with capable actors and a very poignant mood, the movie seems to go nowhere. A little boy is afflicted with terrifying visions, for which he suffers cruelly. A psychologist tries to help him, but seems equally lost and confused himself, drowning in his own growingly troubled and distant marriage. In the end, the erstwhile counselor simply comes to an impasse as one "case" is solved — leaving the wretched tot in the same dilemma, pathetic and unhelped. It is an aimless, pointless, purposeless, depressing movie. Watch it if you feel yourself to be too jolly and happy. Otherwise? No point!If you actually knew either work, wouldn't you immediately conclude that the writers were burbling idiots, and disgraces to their craft? Wouldn't they completely lose all credibility to you?
Why? Because they hadn't considered the whole story. They'd lifted out one part, judged the whole on the basis of that part, and blamed their misunderstanding on the creators.
I actually read a review like that, decades ago. This professional critic, writing for a major daily newspaper, started off her review of the movie Cujo saying something like, "For no apparent reason, a sweet-natured St. Bernard becomes rabid, and...." Immediately, everyone who had either read the book or seen the movie knew that the reviewer had somehow missed the beginning of the movie! It colored and skewed her view of the whole.
This major gaffe discredited both her review, and the writer herself. She tried, afterward, but never was able to recover her credibility with the readership.
The point is obvious: you can't really assess a story if you get the beginning wrong, or ignore the end — much less both.
Given our sharp readership, I'm sure my point is obvious. But let's consider further together.
When you hear anti-Christians spitting out their venom about the God of the Bible, don't you often see exactly the same gaffe? They ignore (or are completely unaware of) both the beginning of the story and the end. They ignore Creation, they ignore the Fall, they ignore Redemption, and they ignore Final Judgment. They see evil in its ascendancy, and slander God as either immoral, uninvolved, or impotent. So on the basis of their misunderstanding, God is condemned. It's a bad Story — with an inept Storyteller, they scoff.
And in so doing, they discredit — not God, but — themselves.
This particularly struck me from my Bible reading for 12/24/08:
"Great and amazing are your deeds, O Lord God the Almighty! Just and true are your ways, O King of the nations! 4 Who will not fear, O Lord, and glorify your name? For you alone are holy. All nations will come and worship you, for your righteous acts have been revealed." (Revelation 15:3b-4)"Revealed," the saints sing. God's righteous acts are revealed. John actually uses the verb φανερόω (phaneroō), meaning to make plain, obvious, apparent. They were there all along, but they were hidden from popular view. Only at this penultimate point, at the Eschaton, at the final judgments that sweep the planet and humanity on to their date with the Judgment Throne of God — only then are those judgments revealed. Now all can plainly see God's awesome justice, truth, holiness and worth, shining in the light of His righteous acts that are to be made public.
At the end of the story.
Remember this when skeptics, atheists, and mockers in and out of the professing church lift a snippet out and make light of the judgment of God. Ask them if it'd be fair to judge them by short selected clips of their talks and writings.
Nor should they — or we — make the same mistake regarding God and His Story.