Tuesday, January 25, 2011
The Ballad of Ricky Gervais
Which reminds me, the Brits have some great things going...wonderful humor (thank you Monty Python, Mr. Bean, etc., etc., etc.), delicious beer, fun words like "git" and "sod." And we definitely cannot forget about Harry Potter (pronounced potta), football without pads and my personal favorite, the Inklings of Oxford. Finally, after all his cheeky jokes were done his closing line caught my ears: "and I'd like to thank God for making me an atheist." Which reminded me of his awful movie The Invention of Lying, a movie so bad it doesn't even warrant a review much less a Golden Globe. But this little stunt is nothing new.
Back in December, Mr. Gervais wrote a little piece that found its way into the Wall Street Journal entitled, Why I'm An Atheist. If you'd like to read the article you can find it here. In it he tries to answer the question he is frequently asked, "why don't you believe in God?" There are several things to address. Many of the things he says are common objections from unbelievers. Which, by the way, you can listen to on Issues Etc. with the premiere apologist, Dr. John Warwick Montgomery. He has done several segments on The Existence of God, Miracles, the Scandal of Particularity and Alleged Contradictions in the Bible. Too bad Mr. Gervais did not hear that from his mother instead of whatever was being taught around the Gervais household or in the church he grew up in. Instead of commenting on all this and making you drool on your keyboard from dozing off. I'll focus on one quote in particular:
"Science seeks the truth. And it does not discriminate. For better or worse it finds things out. Science is humble. It knows what it knows and it knows what it doesn’t know. It bases its conclusions and beliefs on hard evidence -- evidence that is constantly updated and upgraded. It doesn’t get offended when new facts come along. It embraces the body of knowledge. It doesn’t hold on to medieval practices because they are tradition. If it did, you wouldn’t get a shot of penicillin, you’d pop a leach down your trousers and pray. Whatever you “believe,” this is not as effective as medicine. Again you can say, “It works for me,” but so do placebos. My point being, I’m saying God doesn’t exist. I’m not saying faith doesn’t exist. I know faith exists. I see it all the time. But believing in something doesn’t make it true. Hoping that something is true doesn’t make it true. The existence of God is not subjective. He either exists or he doesn’t. It’s not a matter of opinion. You can have your own opinions. But you can’t have your own facts."
Well, I wonder where the objectivity of science was when our good friend (and non-Christian, ftr) Ben Stein went around interviewing so-called objective scientists on scientific theory in regards to Evolution and Intelligent Design (not creationism). But never mind the bollocks; that's another topic altogether. Mr. Gervais wants facts. Agreed. Nothing but the facts, sir. And when it comes to the facts, Christianity is far and above any other world religion. Furthermore, Christianity is the only religion that openly invites investigation (see 1 Corinthians 15). I'm not sure if they talked about that at Mr. Gervais' Sunday school, but they should have and so should we. Christianity, unlike the other religions of the world is verifiable. St. Paul even seems to think it's falsifiable. If Jesus did not rise from the dead, what does this mean? But the critic has to answer the other side of the question, if Jesus did rise from the dead what would that mean?
This kind of clarity, and openness to true scientific, historical, investigative, evidential inquiry is exactly the reason why Christians can rejoice that science and history, faith and fact, belief and reason are not necessarily at odds with one another. Rather, as Lewis reminds us, in the Gospels, myth and history have met; the Gospels do not have the sound of myth, but of primary history, eye-witness accounts. The question is not, first and foremost, "how does that make you feel?' But rather, "is it true?" Ironically, as much as Mr. Gervais talks about reason and logic he cites no evidence for his disbelief anymore than his mother did for her belief. Both are grievous errors. Logic and reason and good science would also dictate that he examine the evidence before making a conclusion, rather than launching into presuppositions before any evidence is given. And yet this is precisely what Mr. Gervais has done. You can't have it both ways: claiming to be logical and reasonable and yet ruling out certain conclusions beforehand even if they do have metaphysical ramifications. You can't claim to have reason and science on your side and not do the investigation of the evidence for Christianity, evidence which, by the way, would pass the bar a court of Law beyond a reasonable doubt. In other words, you can not claim to have the facts on your side and ignore or dismiss certain accounts that claim to be facts. That - thanks to Spock - is illogical.
So, for the benefit of Mr. Gervais and others who might be interested in facts and reason. And for those Christians who are seeking to make a reasoned defense in truth and love (1 Peter 3:15) here are some facts that both Christian and secular scholars (read: atheistic, without agenda or bias, i.e. the hostile witness) agree upon. If science truly did embrace the "body of knowledge" they would not, for example, rule out miracles as a priori simply because they are recording supernatural events and have eternal consequences. C.S, Lewis dealt with this in his smashing success, Miracles. Here is a reliable "body of knowledge," what Gary Habermas calls the "core resurrection data." This is a minimal base approach, meaning, that there are more items agreed upon and no scholar grants only these. Do not be fooled by their brevity. They are multifaceted and complex, full of history, evidence and facts, beyond what is listed. Sometimes he lists 6 things, other places he lists 9, 10 or 12. Here are two such lists.
1. Jesus died due to the process of Roman crucifixion.
2. Once a persecutor of Christians, Paul became a believer because of an experience that he believed was an appearance of the resurrected Jesus.
3. The disciples had already experienced what they also thought were actual appearances of the risen Jesus.
4. The apostle's proclamation of the resurrection dates from an exceptionally early time after Jesus' death.
5. James, the brother of Jesus and a skeptic, was converted after experiencing what he also thought was an actual appearance of the risen Jesus.
6. The disciples were utterly transformed by their conviction that they had seen the risen Jesus, even being willing to die for this belief.
1. There was an empty tomb thought to be Jesus'.
2. Believers and unbelievers alike had access to it.
3. The earliest reports are too early to be legendary (mythical).
4. The account is simple, showing earliness and accuracy.
5. Women were the first to declare that Jesus rose.
6. The unbelieving Jews knew they had to come up with a counterclaim.
7. Many Jews in power converted to Christianity, weakening their story.
8. The disciples went from being scared, depressed and disorganized to confident, assertive and willing to risk everything on this one single claim, namely that Jesus died and rose from the dead.
9. The disciples were certain they had seen the risen Christ.
You see, facts are stubborn things. It may even sound strange - a God who takes on human flesh, enters history, time and space, dies on a cross, and rises from the dead appearing to hundreds in the flesh - too good to be true perhaps. However, in the words of Sherlock Holmes, "when you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth." Please, parents, pastors, Christians, teach your children and parishioners and friends about these things so that when they are asked the question, "why do you believe in God," they are able to give a ready answer and defend the faith once and for all delivered to the saints (Jude 3).