DO YOU HAVE TO STOP THINKING TO BE A CHRISTIAN? A Response to Charles Lewis (National Post, January 26, 2011)
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© 2011, by John Tors. All Rights Reserved.
In an opinion piece titled “Less God, more excuses” in this day’s National Post newspaper (p. A15), Charles Lewis writes the following:
The most popular objection to religion is that it replaces thinking with sets of unproveable truths – and that the rules flowing out of those truths turn adherents into robots. Those who leave religion behind, we are led to understand, will begin to think for themselves and thereby exercise real freedom as responsible citizens.
Lewis goes on to lament that this latter theory has not been fulfilled, but has instead led to widespread abdication of personal responsibility by secularists. This may be true, but it is the “popular objection” to religion that Lewis presents unchallenged that requires a response.
Does Christianity, which is a “religion … replac[e] thinking with sets of unproveable truths”? Certainly not. The fact is that no one is born a Christian. Becoming a Christian certainly involves believing a set of propositional truths (see our “Statement of Faith”), but these truths are not unproveable. We believe them because of the evidence that supports them.
At the heart of Christianity is a faith commitment to Jesus Christ as divine Lord and Saviour, but faith is not simply believing something for no reason. In Christianity, faith is a complete commitment to Jesus because we have become convinced that He is who He claimed to be, on the basis of hard evidence.
In fact, Jesus Himself never asked people to “just believe”; He repeatedly pointed to evidence to back His claims. Consider the following:
And when John had heard in prison about the works of Christ, he sent two of his disciples and said to Him, “Are You the Coming One, or do we look for another?”
Jesus answered and said to them, “Go and tell John the things which you hear and see: The blind see and the lame walk; the lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear; the dead are raised up and the poor have the gospel preached to them. And blessed is he who is not offended because of Me.” (Matthew 11:2-6)
Notice that Jesus did not criticize John for a lack of faith, or demand that he simply believe; what Jesus did was point to the proofs He was providing to back His claims.
Jesus used three lines of evidence as proof:
- that He fulfilled prophecies written long before He was born (e.g. John 5:39; Luke 24:27);
- His miracles (e.g. John 5:36, 10:25); and
- His resurrection from the dead (e.g. John 2:18-22; Luke 24:36-43; Matthew 28:6). It is said that extraordinary claims require extraordinary proofs, and, while the claims Jesus made are extraordinary, these sorts of evidence that He gave certainly meet the standard of extraordinary proof.
It is undeniable that people cannot foretell the future; not in detail, not far in advance, and not when it deals with unexpected events. The prophecies in the Old Testament about Jesus (e.g. Isaiah 52:13-53:12) are so clear that liberal skeptics used to insist that they had to have been interpolated into the OT text after Jesus’ time by His followers. In so doing, they tacitly admitted that they realized such prophecies infallibly point to Jesus. However, the discovery of the Dead Sea scrolls in 1947 put paid to this dodge of the liberals, for included among these finds was the great Isaiah scroll (1QIsaa), which predates Jesus’ time by more than two centuries and yet includes all of the prophecies intact.
In addition, Christians have examined the Gospel books according to the rules governing the assessment of the reliability of ancient historical documents and concluded that these books should be considered fully reliable. They look at other facts, such as the miracle in Mark 8:22-25, which shows implicit medical knowledge not available until the 20th century – which indicates that the only way the writer could have included such details was if an actual miracle had been performed before an eyewitness.
They consider the fact that thousands upon thousands of people converted to Christianity, in the face of persecution that was sometimes murderous, at a time when its claims could be assessed directly through questioning the eyewitnesses and people involved in the events. They realize that, if the eyewitnesses had not confirmed the accounts of Jesus’s miracles and post-resurrection appearances, Christianity would have been dead in the water from the very beginning.
In sum, then, it should be clear that, for Bible-believing Evangelical Christians, it is risible to say that “religion … replaces thinking with sets of unproveable truths.” Christians base their faith on proof. Whether Lewis himself finds the evidence for Christianity conclusive or not – indeed, if he has even bothered to examine it – is neither here nor there. Christians have thought through the case for Christ; they do not “replac[e] thinking.”
The Christian, convinced of the truth of the Gospel message and of the Lordship of Christ, seeks to live according to the standards set out by God in the Bible. “Those who leave religion behind” also seek to live by the standards they choose, even it if is libertinism. Why, then, does Lewis characterize the former as being “robots” and the latter as “exercis[ing] real freedom”? This is naught but an unacceptable double standard.
Finally, while Christians do not “replace thinking,” secularists/atheists can rightly be accused of that very thing. Furthermore, they are not replacing thinking with “unproveable truths,” which would be bad enough; they are replacing thinking with demonstrably false beliefs. The first realities with which each person has to deal is that he exists, and the world in which he lives exists. If one rejects the existence of the Creator God, the only other option is undirected random evolution as the explanation of these first realities, and this is what secularists/evolutionists accept by default. If they did actually apply thinking to this matter, however, they would not hold to a worldview that purports to be scientific and yet is scientifically impossible (see the articles in the “Creation/Evolution” categories of this website for details).