A couple of years ago, I saw a brief video clip of a popular defender of the Christian faith speaking on a state college campus.
As you can imagine, those opposed to the Christian faith arrived at the presentation equipped to expose the speaker for perpetuating what they believe to be a fairy tale, based on archaic laws and outdated morality.
During the Q & A, one girl approached the microphone that had been set up in the audience and, during a little banter between her and the speaker, popped off, “I’m as closed-minded as you are.”
I have to admit – the speaker was taken aback for a second and wasn’t sure how to reply to that.
As I thought about that exchange, here – with utmost respect for the person – is how I would reply to that remark.
“Not only am I not closed-minded, the man who wrote most of the New Testament wasn’t closed-minded. Paul wrote, “If Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith.” In other words: “Show me that Christ did not rise from the dead. Produce his body! Prove the eye-witness testimonies of the hundreds who saw his resurrected body as hallucinations or outright lies.” Paul is saying, “Who’s argument possesses the stronger evidence? If it’s yours, I’ll be the first to recant my faith.”
“Moreover, the one about whom the New Testament is written had no problem facing skeptics, even those who were fiercely opposed to believing in him.”
After Jesus had risen, Thomas, an eye-witness of Jesus’ miracles, told the rest of the disciples, in essence, “You’re all nuts. I’ll believe it when I see it.” Notice, when Jesus shows up, what he doesn’t say. Not once does he scold Thomas for doubting and questioning his resurrection, or searching for truth. Instead, he lovingly says to Thomas, “See the scars in my hands, the wound in my side.” i.e. “Here’s the evidence. Believe me, or deny me. The choice is yours.”
Not once in the gospels does Jesus impose his life on another human being. Not once. The choice to believe in him, or reject him, is always left to us.
Closed-minded? I’m not done…
Paul told the Thessalonians to “Examine the Christian faith.” In other words, “Hold it under a microscope. Analyze it. Test it against the mountain of evidence supporting it. Honestly investigate the claims of Christ. If you’re convinced that it is true, embrace it. If not, no one is going to force you to change your mind.”
The very reason I put my faith in Christ was because I was open-minded enough to argue my case against Christ’s. What I discovered was I didn’t have enough faith to accuse him of being a liar or a lunatic. There was too much evidence to the contrary.
The philosopher, Francis Shaeffer, once said,
“Christianity is prepared to face the consequences of being proved false and say with Paul, ‘If you find the body of Christ the discussion is finished; let us eat and drink for tomorrow we die.’ It leaves no room for a romantic answer.”
The girl who accused the Christian speaker of being close-minded in the story at the beginning of this blog, perhaps, had not considered that her worldview is also based on faith.
- Faith that the cosmos somehow came from nothing as a result of purely natural laws even though natural laws prior to that moment of singularity – didn’t exist.
- Faith that chance, not design, is holding our universe together on a razor’s edge of cosmological constants.
- Faith that morality, rather than being objective, arose from naturalism.
- Faith that human consciousness and the “language” of DNA are an accidental product of Darwinian Evolution.
- Faith that, although science is impotent to prove otherwise, there is no afterlife.
I think of Yale Law School grad, Lee Strobel, when he asserted,
“To continue in atheism, I’d need to believe nothing produces everything, non-life produces life, randomness produces fine-tuning, chaos produces information, unconsciousness produces consciousness, and non-reason produces reason. I just didn’t have that much faith.”
Christianity is based on faith – but not blind faith. It is an intelligent, rational, and defensible faith.
1) The vast majority of scholarly historians, regardless of worldview, agree that Jesus existed, he was executed by Rome on a cross, he was buried in a borrowed grave, and that, on Sunday, the tomb was empty. (debate ensues as to why the tomb was empty.)
2) When applied to the same rules of historic & literary authenticity as other ancient literature, the Bible stacks up better than all others. Want to discount the historic reliability of the Bible? Then, while you’re at it, plan on discounting the Homeric epics and Plutarch as well.
3) To this day, no one can offer a more logical reason to the empty tomb than that Christ rose from the dead.
4) The origin of the cosmos, teleology, intelligent biological design, consciousness, cognition, the evidence goes on and on.
Closed-minded? Nope. I’m just open-minded enough to honestly consider the evidence and, in the words of Plato’s Socrates, follow the argument where it leads.
I have found the Christian faith to be an intelligent, rational faith, able to withstand the most severe scrutiny. And I’ve discovered a myriad of Ph.D’s who agree with me.
If I’m wrong, I guess I’ll find that out the nanosecond after I die. And, if you disagree with me – and you are wrong – you’ll find out, as well. But, in the words of Pascal, I wouldn’t bet against the Bible being true.
It was former atheist, Josh McDowell, who, while lecturing at the University of Uruguay, was asked an honest question:
“Professor McDowell, why don’t you recant your faith?” McDowell replied, “I would, except for one reason. I can’t explain away the resurrection of the Jesus Christ.”
Attorneys will confess, “When the evidence is against you, attack the witness.”
Those hostile to the Christian faith appear to care little about honestly investigating the claims of Christ. Why employ some honest, intellectual effort when it’s so much easier to impugn Christ and those who have placed their faith in him?
I didn’t place my faith in Christ because the preacher said I should, or my grandma said it was true. I placed my faith in Christ because, when I tried to prove it false – I was unable to do so. There was more to it, I found. Much more.
As former atheist, and Oxford professor, Alister McGrath, reasoned,
“I became a Christian at the age of 18 while studying chemistry at Oxford University. My conversion related to my perception that Christianity offered a more comprehensive, coherent and compelling account of reality than the atheism I had embraced in my earlier teenage years.”
Further Reading: for those interested in scholarly literature written by people who have been courageous enough to approach the claims of Christ with honesty, consider the following. They are balanced, intelligent, and rational – written by former, ardent atheists.
This last one wasn’t written by a former atheist, but is an outstanding, rational approach to the Christian faith by Cambridge Ph.D., Rebecca McLaughlin:
Think deeply, nw