Thursday, December 5, 2013

Debating the obvious - "It is written ..." meets "It is logical ..."

Gotta give credit to Premier Christian Radio in the UK - they don't mind getting into some deep discussions about faith issues, and Justin Brierley's "Unbelievable" program is a great example. Intelligent design, same-sex marriage, Old Earth versus New Earth, all get a good airing on the program. Coming up on Saturday (Dec. 7), noted atheist Richard Dawkins will debate the existence of God. (If you want to listen to it, it starts at 2:30pm GMT, which is 6:30am Pacific time ... 9:30am Eastern ... and, of course, 11 in Newfoundland*.)

Dawkins, of course, not only denies the existence of God, but goes on the offensive against those who believe. In describing Our Father, he uses expressions like "pestilential, sadomasochistic, capriciously malevolent bully." Sounds like he got his knuckles twapped a few times for making spitballs out of his hymnal during Morning Chapel at school. (I wonder how he'd fare against Native Indians who've gone through the infamous, church-run residential schools and still have faith in God and Jesus Christ.)

Of course, that's the sort of baiting language someone would use if they want to goad another person into a fight, and it's exactly why I'll be giving Saturday's debate a miss. I would completely fall into the flesh, wanting to outwit such a person with some deft, rapier-like strokes of my own verbal sword and find myself pulled down to the same level as the other person. As Noel Jones once said, "You could win an argument but lose a soul."

If, by some miracle, Mr Dawkins has a revelation of God while on-air and renounces everything he's said in the past and starts speaking in tongues, praising God, we'll hear about it soon enough. But debating the existence of God is exactly what we're not supposed to do.

(I explained my reasons a few years ago, when a similar debate took place at the University of British Columbia. The late Douglas Adams was considerably wittier in The Hitch-Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy, when he showed how Man can win a logical argument against the God Himself, but "...  for an encore goes on to prove that black is white and gets killed on the next zebra crossing.")

I digress.

Even Jesus wouldn't let Himself get drawn into that discussion: during His 40 days in the wilderness, when the devil said, "if You are the Son of God ...", Jesus didn't even address that point; to do so would have allowed the possibility that He wasn't the Son of God, after all. He simply said, "it is written ..."

Noting that Jesus resisted the devil with the same tools at our own disposal, all we need to do is say, "It is written: 'In the beginning, God created the Heavens and the earth.'" That declares the truth and declares our faith, all in one go.

Then we can get back to what we're supposed to be doing: praying for the unbelievers, because they're God's children, too; making disciples of all nations; spreading the Gospel; being fruitful and multiplying the Kingdom; and doing all of the above in faith and in the power of the Holy Spirit. That is the greatest argument in favour of the existence of God that I can think of.

*a source of countless Great Canadian Jokes, Newfoundland's time zone is half an hour ahead of the Atlantic time zone. Some have suggested that it's because Newfoundland & Labrador joined Confederation over 40 years after the last of the mainland provinces (Saskatchewan in 1905) and therefore everything else runs later, but it's more likely due to its distance east of the mainland Atlantic coast.

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