In my numerous discussions with atheists I’ve frequently encountered the charge that religion (viz, Christianity) is weak in its claims to hold “Truth”, whereas Science is very robust in that regard, because it uses more “rigorous” evidence and procedures in its quest for truth. Thus the (atheist) presumption that “science is everything” : scientific knowledge is the measure of all truth.
This claim is highly problematic, containing numerous unstated premises – – the omniscience of academia; the infallibility of the human mind; the perfection of current knowledge; the supremacy of a cerebral, analytical, skeptical way of understanding the word around us. It’s left-brain thinking to an absurd degree.
I’ve encountered a similar attitude when discussing the book of Genesis with very literal-minded readers. Truth is truth, plain and simple they say. If it’s not “true” according to their understanding, then it’s all a lie — are you calling the Word of God a lie!?? Such binary thinking is quite frustrating. Readers should not assume they have an infallible interpretation of what the original author wrote, and what was meant for readers to understand, when all sorts of context is missing, and language itself is an imperfect tool.
In the same way, reducing a religious faith to a bunch of propositional truth claims and cerebral arguments, to be verified or falsified by a scientific experiment, is a gross failure to comprehend religion’s broader purpose as a cultural touchstone. “What is Truth?” is an important question but not the *most* important question. Surely theists and atheists can agree that “How should we Live” is a more vital question facing humanity.
In this talk, Ravi Zacharias presents a solid case for why atheists have no acceptable answer for this all-important question. Pursuing the question from the angles of philosophy, the arts, and morality, Zacharias provides an illuminating discussion about the importance of this question and the consequences for failing to answer it adequately, while arguing that Christianity presents a satisfying answer.
Yes propositional truth and “proofs” are an important and significant part of the intellectual heritage of the Christian faith. There are numerous independent pieces of evidence to support a a rational conclusion that God exists. But endless philosophizing and arguing over abstractions won’t change the world. The most important part of Jesus’ message was not “I am God so everybody else shut up”; it was “This is how you should live”
Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians shows a better way:
Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I have become sounding brass or a clanging cymbal. And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, but have not love, it profits me nothing.
Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
Love never fails. But whether there are prophecies, they will fail; whether there are tongues, they will cease; whether there is knowledge, it will vanish away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part. But when that which is perfect has come, then that which is in part will be done away.
When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child; but when I became a man, I put away childish things. For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part, but then I shall know just as I also am known.
And now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love.
Incidentally, the title of this post is a tangential reference to Ezekiel 33, where the prophet revealed a God who was not confined to earthly boundaries. God himself promised to be the shepherd of a scattered people. Without a prophetic voice and word the people would not have recovered. Ezekiel plumbed the depths of the spiritual nature of humanity, revealing both the negative of human sin and the positive of God’s deliverance. True religion is not an [intellectual] veneer, but an inner spiritual strength. The need is not for superficial change [mental assent], but an alteration at the center of living. The prophet recovers from the ashes of destruction a new and living faith. Yahweh is the defender of his people and not their destroyer; the preserver and giver of life, not the taker.