I decided to take it upon myself to try to explain why the Christian faith runs so deep. This was originally to some non believing friends, the ones with whom I have respectful, healthy dialogue. I decided to make it an open letter.
I can’t speak for all theists or even Christians, but I can speak from my heart.
Before I do I must defuse the standard debate, though I think it is quite valid to discuss and should happen.
I have worked to understand the strongest popular proponents of atheism/agnosticism in our day. I get it. I have thumbed through Sam Harris, Dawkins, and the rest. Obviously, I have also spent time reading the pro-intelligent design arguments by William Lane Craig, Alvin Plantinga, Ravi Zacharias, Hugh Ross, and the like.
The debate goes round and round…
Though I personally do feel like arguments for theism, specifically Christianity, are quite robust, the reality is it is unlikely anyone will change their opinions based on one side of a debate being a little more convincing.
I have seen many of them. Sometimes Craig or Plantinga just crush it from my perspective and sometimes guys like Harris give convincing arguments against the necessity of a God. Although, I can’t help but wonder even when one gives interesting evidence against the necessity of a God if that’s any proof at all that he can’t exist, but I digress and this is not helpful here. Honestly, I struggle to read through the comments anymore on blogs and video websites. They have become so hate filled and cruel on both sides. People don’t even work through the ideas within the debate. Does anyone really think calling someone small-minded or a Neanderthal will win them over? That’s silly. Obviously there are respected brilliant scholars on both sides.
Yet all this endless rhetoric, as important as it is, is not why most Christians are Christian. Though I love apologetics and feel scientifically secure in an intelligent designer, that’s not the point here.
Even if we proved without a doubt that there is a God, many still likely wouldn’t love or obey Him if they don’t already. Equally, if there was solid evidence God doesn’t exist people by the billions would still search for a rescuer and a guide that is greater than humanity. It’s built into us.
That’s the question I want to try to answer. I am not trying to win anyone over, just explain something that seems to be often overlooked.*
Here it is…
Trying to answer the loneliness, emptiness, and fear in a man about to die from cancer with a “winning” argument that life is random, unguided by anything personal, and the only meaning we have is what we made in this life is like giving a child a new haircut when he is starving to death. Even if the haircut is perfect it doesn’t fulfill the real need.
I see this all the time. We are personal relational beings and people deeply long for this. The nursing home ministries of my church solidify the reality that nearly everyone longs for this more and more as their last breaths hunt them down. Dying brilliant atheist doctors quietly have their nurses roll them into retirement home church services as they dabble with agnosticism or slip even further from their godless faith system.
Slowly everyone realizes they will be forgotten. Many of them already are. As life trickles to an end it’s apparent cruelty of being unknown and alone forever hits people hard. It’s easy to dismiss a personal God as a healthy young adult or someone who is known and respected, but when this goes away, when no one reads your work or cares for your ideas anymore, the ultimate end-of-life reality bites back.
I have many examples of people praying with our pastors to accept Christ before they die. The heart desperately longs to be loved and known. Many people who leave the faith in their youth return to it in their later years, often giving the same reason why – they want more. They have sought satisfaction in other avenues and are left wanting. They want something personal and full of meaning. They want to be loved and known…forever.
Where did I come from?
What’s my purpose?
Is this all worth it?
Is it possible there is more after death?
As people feel their time expire it’s not the information alone they are after – it’s meaning and love.
Why am I a Christian who loves science? Oh, how I love exploring the facts, but I realize the heart is equally real, a very real piece of this human puzzle. To pretend the longing of the human heart doesn’t exist would be to test this experiment without all the variables. To offer solutions that exclude a real answer to the heart would be incomplete social science. This piece of the puzzle becomes even more evident in certain seasons of life or places in this world where human mortality is more prominent. We can try to avoid it or bury it with temporal pleasures, but this variable keeps coming back.
This is why Jesus Christ of Nazareth is so interesting to me. His life has outlived countless “brilliant” authors in history and will most likely outlive all the aforementioned writers (theist and atheist) as well, because he is a master surgeon of the human heart.
If we take time to read famous agnostic/atheists who come to accept theism we will see over and over again it is often when they include this overlooked variable. Believing in a God or not isn’t benign. The decision to believe isn’t purely academic. Believing in God fills a massive hole in the human heart. Even if the laboratory could disprove God it wouldn’t touch the work that the belief has done in the hearts of men. Do you see it? I don’t have any scientific problems with science and faith, but that’s still not the point. I am interested in what atheism/agnosticism lacks in filling that void. What do they offer to feed the deep hunger for purpose and meaning at a level that gives people deep eternal peace and hope when faced with their own mortality?
Remember Marx calling religion the opium of the masses? Even if it could be proven that this “opium” is a placebo, what is offered in its place greatly matters. This “placebo” is needed and accepted for a reason. It would be like a naturalist fervently working to stop the use of chemotherapy but offering no better solutions to the dying cancer patient.**
See, billions and billions of people will worship God this week not because they think their science is better, but because their hearts are filled. Let me say that again – their hearts are filled. To really derail theism, you need a better, more meaningful answer to the human condition.
I love the science behind these ideas and it is fun to explore, but more than that I love God deeply because in him I have found deep hope and meaning.
*I know Harris tried to address this a little. Actually I love that he is aware of this. I respect that. In fact I can’t wait to see, as this awareness grows in him, where he lands 30 years from now. Sam Harris I am praying for you!
**I personally think Marx understood this. I also think this quote is used out of context, so I use it as culture has come to understand it, but this is for another writing.
photo credit: www.inquisitr.com