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An Argument against Religion: A Response

 

To start with I would simply like to say thanks to the series editor for opening a channel of decent, friendly debate on The Yorker! In response to the previous article in this series I will kick off saying that this piece will lay out some intellectual reasons for rational belief in God, namely the God of the Bible. On top of that, I want to try and express what true, biblical Christianity is – away from the media representation and the common assumptions of a culture that often undervalues good discussion and writes Christians off very quickly as intellectually unreasonable, morally archaic and ultimately ignorant of the facts.

Many of the arguments the previous author has taken issue with deal with science, origins and the like. While I personally believe in a Creator God who could create in whatever manner tickled his fancy, as a reasoning Christian I am perfectly happy to accept that I could be wrong about the method he chose, because I wasn’t there when it all happened. Ultimately, I am unconvinced about the theory of evolution along with many other world renowned scientists who are “sceptical of claims for the ability of random mutation and natural selection to account for the complexity of life.”[1]  At the end of the day, any belief about the origin of the universe requires faith, plain and simple. You either have faith in a Creator or in everything coming together from nothing by chance in whatever cosmological theory you choose. We all believe in something slightly ridiculous. Considering everything humans have ever made has a maker, is it not intellectually feasible to assume the same for the cosmos?

And then, look at the beauty of it all! In my life I’ve been lucky enough to reach the summit of mountains from the Rockies to the Alps, jog at 4am through the jungles of Borneo and hear the monkeys howl, swim in Lake Nicaragua and collapsed Malaysian caverns and see the Caribbean and Pacific coasts simultaneously. This world is beautiful and incredibly complex.

I’m also lucky enough to be marrying a wonderful young woman next year and enjoy fantastic relationships with great friends, and at University stretch my thinking and use my amazingly complex brain each and every day. There is more to creation than just things, we also enjoy love, good times and all the benefits of life.

As the biologist Edwin Conklin said, “the Oxford Dictionary did not result from an explosion in a printing factory.” To believe in a Maker to all this is not unreasonable in any sense of the word.

Faith often does require a leap in the dark, but then we all have faith in many things, for example the roof you’re under or your steering wheel. As a man of faith in God this does not mean I am blind to reason or do not base decisions and beliefs on reasonable thought. I believe in the Bible as a historically accurate document, confirmed through archaeology and geography and the like, and yes, I even take Genesis literally. I hold that I am not naive to say I find the Bible reliable from cover to cover, though it often needs to be carefully studied in its proper context. The previous article touched on the Flood story; only recently a physics project in Leicester has confirmed that the Bible’s dimensions for Noah’s Ark would actually create a seaworthy vessel that could carry up to 70,000 animals. There is so much out there confirming the Bible has a strong foundation in all disciplines, and it still remains unmoved.  Being a Christian means that I believe in a God that made himself a man, Jesus. I believe that this man really lived, and really died and as a historian by subject I am happy to point people to the evidence for this for anyone who asks me. More than that though, and again as a thinking historian; I also believe that this man did die, and did rise again.

I won’t go into all the details here for sake of length, but the existing evidence in history – of the spread of documentation, the contemporary commentators, the application of established historical, psychological and sociological fact and the lives of Jesus’ disciples post-resurrection points to a strong basis for confidence in a risen Jesus. The God-man.

The legal journalist and investigator Lee Strobel in the process of trying to disprove the resurrection concluded that his atheism had “buckled under the weight of historical truth.”[2] The former Atheist and Harvard Law Professor, Simon Greenleaf puts it like this: “According to the laws of legal evidence used in courts of law, there is more evidence for the historical fact of the resurrection of Jesus Christ than for just about any other event in history.” [3]

Just briefly on the issue of morals. Could we have morals without religion, yes, absolutely – because I don’t think morals come from this, they are an inherent part of the created order. Your own internal conscience confirms that a sense of morality lives inside everyone and is capable of good, and sadly, bad. The Bible suggests that our morality is God-given, we know when stuff is wrong, and conversely right. The morality debate could go on, but just so I’m answering previous questions I will say that of course you don’t need to have faith in God to be ‘good’ and a generally lovely member of society. But I do think that our inherent morality points again, like this world, to a creator, who by definition- is good.

I hope this has done something to help you think as an inquisitive reader. Like a said, I do not have all the answers, but I believe I know the one who does.

The previous article was entitled ‘An Argument against Religion.’ The argument was really against a worldview based on (mainly) biblical faith.

I’m a Christian, and I don’t like religion that much. That might surprise you. The way the Bible speaks about faith is that it’s like a relationship with a friend, or a father, and that ultimately, knowing God is not about how many prayers you say or good things you do, it’s about what Jesus did by dying for you personally, removing the sentence from you and I that a just God has to give. But because Jesus took it for us, we get the chance to have that same personal relationship that God designed us for. In a nutshell, that’s what we call the gospel, Greek for good news!

This isn’t really an argument for religion, it’s not even an argument against atheism as such – it’s a gentle suggestion that there might be more to all this life stuff than we are often told. My faith and the above points are all laid out in the Bible, history’s best selling, most impacting piece of literature ever written. Any strong counter argument to any book has to come from someone who, with an open mind has read, and thought about it.

Are you brave enough to give it a go?

This article is the second part in our debate on religion and the Yorker welcomes anyone interested in writing a part to contact the Comment editor, Tom Stranney at blogs@theyorker.co.uk or through social media.

 

[1] Quote from “A Scientific Dissent from Darwinism,” Citation found in Lee Strobel, The Case for a Creator

[2] Lee Strobel, The Case for Christ

[3] Simon Greenleaf, The Testimony of the Evangelists