I sometimes hear atheists say that as science advances, religion retreats, and soon there will be no need for religion. It's a particularly narrow understanding of our relationship with God (speaking as a Christian here)—as if God's main function in our lives is to provide an explanation for events in nature. While some primitive, pagan religions may have focused on explaining and manipulating nature, the Bible presents quite a different picture of the true God. He's a Person Who interacts with us in all aspects of our lives—not just in the area of nature, but also love, morality, guilt, meaning, justice, forgiveness, worship, and so much more.
Along these lines, philosopher Bill Vallicella (not a Christian) has a post titled "Why Science Will Never Put Religion Out of Business," in which he discusses the aspects of our humanity that only religion can address. He concludes that since religion responds to problems science is not equipped to solve, no amount of scientific knowledge could ever take its place:
But I have said enough to make clear what sorts of problems religion addresses. It follows that the salvation religion promises is not to be understood in some crass physical sense the way the typical superficial and benighted atheist-materialist would take it but as salvation from meaninglessness, anomie, spiritual desolation, Unheimlichkeit, existential insecurity, Angst, ignorance and delusion, false value-prioritizations, moral corruption irremediable by any human effort, failure to live up to ideals, the vanity and transience of our lives, meaningless sufferings and cravings and attachments, the ultimate pointlessness of all efforts at moral and intellectual improvement in the face of death . . . .
I should add that anyone who doesn't feel these problems to be genuine problems will have no understanding of religion at all. And I remind the reader that I do not assume that any religion can deliver on its promises of salvation from the above litany of problems. My point is that natural science and its resulting technologies are powerless to solve these problems.
My point is not to say that we (Christians) embrace God because we need Him to fill these unfilled gaps. Rather, I write this to widen atheists' understanding of the areas of our lives in which we relate to God. And notice that I put this in terms of His "interacting with us" in these areas, not merely saying that His existence answers questions in these areas. Our experience of God as a Person entails far more than a provision of intellectual answers.
Russell Moore gives seven reasons why "Judgment Houses" (or "Hell Houses")—haunted-house-type attractions created by churches, depicting sin and judgment for the purpose of evangelism—"often miss the mark." I thought these three points were particularly strong:
They abstract judgment from the love of God. I know most “Judgment Houses” present the gospel at the end. But in the Bible the good news doesn’t come at the end. The prodigal son leaves the father’s house, but the father is eager to receive him back (Luke 16:11-31). The awful news of God’s judgment is always intertwined in Scripture with the message of the gospel of a loving, merciful God. “For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him” (John 3:17).
They abstract judgment from the glory of God. The prophet Isaiah doesn’t see that he’s “undone” first by the horror of judgment. He sees it in light of the glory of God’s presence (Isa 6:1-6). The Apostle John tells us the glory Isaiah saw was Jesus of Nazareth (12:41). When we preach Jesus, the glory of God breaks through (2 Cor 4:6). Some people recoil at that light; some people run to it (John 3:19-21).
It’s hard to cry at a Judgment House. But Jesus does when thinking about judgment (Matt 23:37). And so does the Apostle Paul, pleading with sinners to be saved (2 Cor 5:20). These evangelistic tools though are meant to take on the feel of a “haunted house,” a place of thrill-seeking and festivity. It’s hard to convey the gravity of the moment in such a way.
Read the rest here. And I think I have one more to add: Haunted houses are terrifying because you're falling into the hands of twisted and sadistic evil. But there is a qualitative difference between this kind of terror and the terror that comes from facing a perfect judge, unable to hide the truth about yourself and with nothing to stand between you and Him, knowing you have committed a serious and heinous crime and are facing an equally serious sentence (the second point quoted above touches on this idea of being confronted by God's glory and authority).
I think that by using the haunted house genre to convey their message about judgment, they're confusing the two kinds of terror in people's minds and inadvertently promoting the idea that God's judgment is likewise twisted and sadistic rather than being a righteous, just expression of His authority as our Creator and Judge.
The words of C.H. Spurgeon, quoted by J.I. Packer in Knowing God, on the ways in which the study of God changes us:
There is something exceedingly improving to the mind in a contemplation of the Divinity. It is a subject so vast, that all our thoughts are lost in its immensity; so deep, that our pride is drowned in its infinity…. No subject of contemplation will tend more to humble the mind, than thoughts of God….
But while the subject humbles the mind, it also expands it…. Nothing will so enlarge the intellect, nothing so magnify the whole soul of man, as a devout, earnest, continued investigation of the great subject of the Deity.
And whilst humbling and expanding, this subject is eminently consolatory. Oh, there is, in contemplating Christ, a balm for every wound; in musing on the Father, there is a quietus for every grief; and in the influence of the Holy Ghost, there is a balsam for every sore. Would you lose your sorrow? Would you drown your cares? Then go, plunge yourself in the Godhead's deepest sea; be lost in his immensity and you shall come forth as from a couch of rest, refreshed and invigorated. I know nothing which can so comfort the soul; so calm the swelling billows of Sorrow and grief; so speak peace to the winds of trial, as a devout musing upon the subject of the Godhead. It is to that subject that I invite you this morning.
The Bible doesn't ask us to make a leap of faith or have blind faith. Biblical faith is entrusting ourselves to what we have good reason to believe is true. God didn't ask for blind faith - He gave reason to believe. Here are a couple of examples.
God makes a covenant with Abraham in Genesis 12, which requires Abraham to exercise faith. God reaffirms it in Genesis 15 and gives Abraham tangible reason to trust Him and the promise. God literally cuts a contract with Abraham according to the custom of the day. Abraham could reflect back on this when circumstances required faith. His faith wasn't blind or wishful, it was based on a contract. We often do things based on contracts - it's a common occurrence in our world. It gives us reason to place our faith in someone else to fulfill their end of the agreement and we act accordingly to keep our end. We invest ourselves, our time, our resources into something because we have faith in the other person due to the contract. In Abraham's case, the contract was unilateral - it was all God's to keep. But the contract gave Abraham reason to trust God.
Fast forward to Matthew 9. Jesus tells a paralytic man that his sins are forgiven. The scribes question Jesus' authority to do this. Jesus didn't answer that they should just trust Him blindly. He healed the man to give them reason to believe He had the authority to forgive sins. Jesus gave a tangible reason to believe what wasn't tangible.
Now every time an exercise of faith is called for, we aren't promised some tangible proof. There's already abundant evidence and reason to place our faith in God. And these are only two examples. Jesus rising from the dead and witnessed by literally hundreds was the penultimate evidence that makes it entirely reasonable to place our faith in Him as Savior.
This documentary about North Korean filmmakers is utterly fascinating—not only because it gives you a glimpse into the lives of North Koreans, but also because it gives you a glimpse into the minds of atheists.
Christopher Hitchens compares Christianity to Kim Jong-il's beleaguered country, calling it a "celestial dictatorship, a kind of divine North Korea." And watching this video, I found there is a certain similarity. Everything the North Koreans do is undertaken in relationship to their "Dear Leader." Whatever gives him joy is what they desire to do, and he is honored in the center of their every activity.
Listening to those poor students in the documentary, how can you not feel the horror of seeing people happily throw their lives away supporting the very man who oppresses them? That is how atheists view Christians and Christianity. With shining faces, we make our decisions based on whatever God is pleased to ask of us. We thank Him, we praise Him, we suffer for Him. And there is no part of our lives that lies outside His involvement.
Atheists watch with horror as we willingly constrain ourselves, giving up the autonomy they hold so dear. And for what? They do not see God as He is. Instead, they imagine Him as a human being with absolute power—an image that's understandably appalling. So they're convinced our joy is as artificial as that of the North Koreans—a joy that's only possible as long as we're not allowed to know anything better beyond our walls. Our lives make no sense to them because Kim Jong-il is their image of God.
Yes, Kim Jong-il reigns over North Korea and God reigns over us. The only difference? Kim Jong-il is not God. Kim Jong-il is not good. Kim Jong-il is a liar.
And that's a big difference.
Do you not know that when you present yourselves to someone as slaves for obedience, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin resulting in death, or of obedience resulting in righteousness? But thanks be to God that though you were slaves of sin, you became obedient from the heart to that form of teaching to which you were committed, and having been freed from sin, you became slaves of righteousness….
For when you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness. Therefore what benefit were you then deriving from the things of which you are now ashamed? For the outcome of those things is death. But now having been freed from sin and enslaved to God, you derive your benefit, resulting in sanctification, and the outcome, eternal life. For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.
The Evangelical Philosophical Society's apologetics conference MP3s are available for purchase and download on their website for $1.99 each. This page is the starting point, and from there you can search by topic (e.g., The Historical Jesus) or by conference year (e.g., 2010: Set Forth Your Case). And if you click on the name of any speaker, you'll see a list of all of his or her available lectures (e.g., Greg Koukl). There's even an Apologetics for Youth section. Enjoy!