Reflections of a Broken Man

Life in a world without religion by StephenMac
August 19, 2008, 9:45 pm
Filed under: Reflections | Tags: , , , , , ,

I was lucky enough this evening to hear the IQ2 Debate on the question”The world would be better off without religion”. For those who like spoilers, here are the results:

    • Before the debate: 55% for, 11% undecided, 34% against
    • After the debate: 54% for, 10% undecided, 36% against

Praise be to God for that 2% swing! I am reminded that numerically, that is a very small number, but to God, that is at least one person who is moving towards Him, that is at least one person whom He died for acknowledging in part His existence. This should fill us with joy!

Obviously, the debate concluded that the motion was passed, yet I think it is fair to take even a small victory in that.

But, and there is always a reservation, there are a number of things that struck me.question-mark Firstly, praise God for Dr. John Lennox, the only Christian speaker, and though I’m biased, the most convincing speaker. He spoke the truth faithfully, did not resort to cheap shots unlike SMH columnist Richard Ackland (who was nothing but offensive and rude in his comments, and rightly chastised by negative speaker Prof. Suzanne Rutland who pulled him up for his offensive comments. It was disappointing to hear the audience response of laughter and cheering as he made his “jokes” at the expense of the disabled and mentally ill – which he equated with those who were religious), but humbly reminded the audience that there must be a difference between what is written (and what God expects of His people) and the horrific events that are perpetrated in the name of Christ. As a Northern Irishman, he probably knows that better than most.

Secondly, it was disappointing for the debate to remain purely academic. There was only minor, and often weak, references to religion being personal. Even John Dickson, who asked a question during question time, merely reminded the audience of the debate rules – that to make the win the debate, the affirmative side had to prove that religion has done more harm than good. This, while true, still makes the debate academic, and not personal. Prof. Rutland made the saddening comment that she didn’t care which religion you belong to – that is a product of your social upbringing – but faith and belief in a higher something is what is needed. This was the sum total of the personal aspect of religion. There was a comment from the house by a gentleman, a very strong Christian by the sound of it, who made the unfortunate mistake of making his comments at the top of his voice, practically shouting at the audience that he and everyone else in the room, was going to die and be judged, and that he was glad he had a Saviour to save him. True, but not very sensitive… (but should the message be watered down? No, but I don’t think his approach was very helpful). Perhaps I shouldn’t be so judgemental, but I was genuinely shocked and embarrassed by his rant… This I need to figure out better how to deal with.

Thirdly, it was disappointing that the negative were split in their position. There was a “spiritual agnostic” (Professor Ian Plimer, Emeritus Professor of Earth Sciences at the University of Melbourne and Professor of Mining Geology at the University of Adelaide), an “academic Jew” (Prof. Suzanne Rutland, Associate Professor and Chair of the Department of Hebrew, Biblical & Jewish Studies at the University of Sydney and the main lecturer in the program of Jewish Civilisation, Thought and Cultures, who advocated a “religion as a blankie” approach) and a Christian (Dr. John Lennox). Such a divided team against a united atheistic team meant that the argument had to remain on “religion” in general, even though the atheists were taking swipes at the “Judeo-Christian” God.

I found the overall debate quite disappointing, filled with nothing but high level theoretical or scientific “proofs”, or sweeping generic statements, or simple insults or rhetoric (both of which are empty). Is this were religion stands today? Is this all that people think of it? I read the “Your Say” section of the SMH on the issue: so much of the atheism in the world is caused by those who do evil in the name of Christ. And people therefore conclude – how can a loving God exist in a universe filled with such evil? How can God exist when I do not experience his presence? The condemnation of us as Christians is worth noting. On Sunday, I preached on the topic relationships, and how Philippians 2:14-16 pleads with us, that our relationships may stand out, shining like stars in the universe, as we hold out the word of life. Imagine (a theme continually raised in the debate) if the world experienced Christians who had attitudes like that of Christ Jesus:

6Who, being in very nature God,
did not consider equality with God something to be grasped,
7but made himself nothing,
taking the very nature of a servant,
being made in human likeness.
8And being found in appearance as a man,
he humbled himself
and became obedient to death—
even death on a cross!
9Therefore God exalted him to the highest place
and gave him the name that is above every name,
10that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
11and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father.

How many atheists would still hold to the claim that they do not experience God’s presence, in light of the body of Christ living as it should, shining like stars, holding out the word of life to them?

Praise God for that 2%, who heard the word of life God spoke through Dr. Lennox and others, for the conversations that will take place as a result, and for the marvelous work of Christ that made it all possible.