In the most recent issue of Christianity Today, Charles Colson–owner of an infamous scandal-to-salvation testimony–takes on your favorite topic and mine: Atheism. I’ll respond to his article, When Atheists Believe, but I recommend checking it out for yourself to see if it sparks any thoughts.
Colson’s main point is that quite a few well-known atheists have come to Christianity after–as he claims–examining the rationality of the religion.
Faith and reason are not enemies. We are given reason as a gift. And while we can’t reason our way to God (only the power of God can transform fallen men—I’ve seen that in prisons for over 32 years), I have long believed that Christianity is the most rational explanation of reality. And that fact, winsomely explained, can powerfully influence thinking people to consider Christ’s claims.
Why can’t we reason our way to God? Because God is not reasonable! If he was, then we could know about him using our “god-given” gift. No leaps of faith necessary.
What this article does not do is explain why faith in a deity is rational. Perhaps I expect too much. Colson claims that “the Bible speaks most accurately to the human condition—the very definition of a rational choice. It is rational to choose the worldview that provides the best choice for living, consistent with the way life works.”
What does this have to do with: an eternal, invisible a god, a magical (yet genetically inherited) sinful nature that dooms us to agony, talking snakes, global floods, men living in fish for 3 days, magical objects, blood sacrifices, prophecies, or god-sponsored atrocities? What is “rational” about this “worldview” that teaches about a demigod who: was born of a deity-impregnated-virgin, came down to teach to one small ethnic group for a few years, sacrificed himself in a brutal manner to himself, rose bodily from the dead, floated into the sky to be with the invisible deity-daddy, and who runs an exclusive “love me or be tortured for eternity” club based on thought crime?
That’s what we’re calling the “most accurate” depiction of and solution to the human condition? Mythology?
A. N. Wilson, once thought to be the next C. S. Lewis who then renounced his faith and spent years mocking Christianity, returned to faith. The reason, he said in an interview with New Statesman, was that atheists “are missing out on some very basic experiences of life.” Listening to Bach and reading the works of religious authors, he realized that their worldview or “perception of life was deeper, wiser, and more rounded than my own.”
He noticed that the people who insist we are “simply anthropoid apes” cannot account for things as basic as language, love, and music. That, along with the “even stronger argument” of how the “Christian faith transforms individual lives,” convinced Wilson that “the religion of the incarnation … is simply true.”
Atheists are missing out? On what–great music, feelings of euphoria, peace, and wisdom? I beg to differ! Perhaps Mr. Wilson did not have these experiences or see the wonder of art and life while he was an atheist, but we do. I admire thoughtful, wise thinkers of all backgrounds, but that doesn’t make their supernatural claims more true than anyone else’s.
As for why we have love, language, and music, that is not a mystery unattainable by science. In fact, these are already being studied, and our brain’s wonders and our social complexities are being explained just fine without a supernatural cause or construction.
The fact that personal testimonies of changed behavior and attitude are the swaying factor for Wilson illustrates why people do not come to Christianity because of critical reasoning. They come because they want something to inspire them to be better people; they come because they want happiness; they come because they want to have a community around them doing the same things. This is understandable, sure. But is it rational? Is it the best solution?
What do you think?