Every invitation to write a “religious” column is a bitter-sweet moment for me. Not for the reasons you might think, but bitter-sweet nonetheless. It is sweet for obvious reasons, among which is the fact that I was actually “invited” to write at all – of course, an invitation that I always accept.
The “bitter” emerges, however, with the expectations associated with such an invitation, because frankly, what many expect is not what I usually deliver. Religion, as most of you know, has become the equivalent to mere opinion in our day. Religion in general and Christianity in particular has been characterized as belief systems based on what is normally called “faith,” and “faith” as typically defined is the belief in something for which there is no “evidence.”
It is this same mentality that has led many to say what one Christian said in another column some years ago, namely that “Christians don’t need any proof.” This modern view of “faith,” if you haven’t already noticed, places it opposite objectivity, contrary to reason, and the less certitude in regard to such matters the better. That is why “proselytizing” is viewed with such disdain in our age, because in order to proselytize, one religious “truth” claim must be considered superior to others and everybody “knows” that since religious beliefs are baseless, proselytizing is the epitome of a groundless arrogance. After all, so goes the argument, one man’s religious opinion is no better than someone else’s, right? I mean, really now, can a Christian really say that his view of God is superior to that of a Muslim, Buddhist, or Hindu. Thus the outrage when a convinced Christian talks about God with certitude or some evangelist announces his desire to “convert” Muslims, Buddhists, or any other non-Christian to Christ.
It was the same view of religion that prompted Arthur Caplan to denounce a Christian ethicist’s disapproval of the intentional dehydration and starvation of Terri Schiavo in 2005. Since the Christian ethicist argued from a religious point of view, argued Caplan, his view was baseless and unwelcome. It is just such a view of faith behind the banning of prayer in the name of Jesus at political or public functions as if the God to whom and the name in which such prayer is offered has no place in the real objective world.
My column, then, will run contrary to the general consensus on matters of faith. I will write with the certitude oft criticized in our modern world, and do so with some very basic and verifiable assumptions. Those assumptions are as follows:I will first write with the assumption that truth actually exists, and for those who don’t believe it, be warned of a piercing affirmation of its reality commensurate with the intensity of its rejection. In other words, the moment someone declares truth unknowable, asking them if that declaration is “true” will usually put the issue to rest. If said declaration is true then truth exists, and if not, well, they’ve really said nothing at all.
Second, and in accordance with the first few words of Genesis, “In the beginning God,” I will presuppose, preach, and protect the Christian faith as true and grounded in the historic workings of a holy and loving God as presented in the Bible. I will declare as did the late Francis Schaeffer, “God is there and He is not silent.”
Third, I will assume the universality of man’s knowledge of God and even in unison with atheists honest enough to admit it, that even nature seems naturally theistic. Said Antony Flew, the former iconic atheist turned theist, this idea is “By far, the headiest challenge” to atheism. “So much so,” He said, “that the idea of God is almost innate…” (There is a God, p. 55). Therefore, no man can ever legitimately claim ignorance in regard to the existence of God.
Finally, this assumption includes the historic Jesus of Nazareth as the fullest revelation of the Almighty, the one whose death for the sins of men, burial, and physical resurrection verifies all previous assumptions. Hence, the justification for invoking the word of God in the daily discussions of life. It means that believers need not surrender their biblical mindset and that we need not succumb to the willful theological amnesia so prevalent in the public square. Instead, we can declare and defend the existence of God and the legitimacy of the Gospel of Jesus Christ with the same certitude and boldness as did the Apostles. Thus the words of Jesus, “I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.” There is no other, and I say that with certitude.