|Paul at the Aeropagus|
It was a good night for everyone but me. The food was delicious and highly appreciated by the guests. Attendance was up. The travellers were very attentive to Peirce's talk on "New Life".
But for me it was a different kind of evening. It started so well. I was excited to snag a seat at a table with a young Frenchwoman who professed faith in Jesus last week, and a French couple who are very engaged and engaging. Also at the table were two new German guys and a lad from Yorkshire.
As soon as the talk was over the young German guys monopolised my attention, and I never got back to my amiable French friends.
They started out by "politely" correcting me thus - it is inappropriate, they said, to refer to religious/spiritual claims as "facts". Perhaps it was a language problem, and my husband did not mean to make this embarrassing mistake of speaking of "facts".
A conversation followed in which every relativistic, naturalistic fallacy you can think of showed up in a sort of ghastly, unstoppable parade. There was barely any kind of recognisable train of thought to hold the fallacies together, and if I managed to reasonably confront one of them, they just tag-teamed on to the next one. It was like Cliff's Notes on the last 200 years of German philosophy.
"Do you know," one of them demanded gravely, "that it has been absolutely scientifically proven that God didn't create the world like the Bible says?" Actually, that was probably my favourite part of the conversation because it gave me a good, honest laugh. Neither of them could tell me how it had been scientifically proven, though they did seem concerned that after hearing this information my faith might instantly crumble, reducing me to quivering mess.
I could give you a blow-by-blow and tell you about the couple of moments that I think I might have actually lodged a tiny doubt in their minds. But that's not the point.
At the end of the evening, while I had not been actually rude or unfriendly to them, I knew that in my heart I had not been really acting out of love for these young men. I let their arrogance and condescension irk me. I wanted to WIN the debate -- for Jesus, yes, but also because I wanted to hang their rotten worldview out to dry.
While I was busy shadow-boxing a whole education system, I missed the thing. What was the thing? All the truly soul-destroying things they claimed to believe -- it was a smokescreen. The screen dropped for a moment and here's what was said in that moment:
"I don't want it to be that way [i.e I don’t want there to be objective truth]. I want to make my own way. I don't want God to give me a purpose. I will make my own purpose."
And that, my friends, is the reason. Not all that guff about religion being violent, and morality being a social construct, and love being made up of nothing but chemicals. I want to be in charge. I'll give up on love, meaning, and rationality -- I'll give up everything -- if only I can be in charge.
"They exchanged the truth about God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator" Romans
If you find yourself in a maddening debate with someone - whether it's because you are in over your head philosophically or because your opponent won't face facts - be patient. The Holy Spirit can show you what the real thing is. Not the smokescreen reasons for rejecting God, but the real heart reasons. If you are attentive, they will eventually show up.
Francis Schaeffer, himself a very skilful debunker of rotten worldviews, said that "love is the final apologetic." And any Christian, even if he doesn't know much about German philosophy, should know a good bit about love.
Getting home that night, feeling restless and dissatisfied, I picked up a book from my bedside table and was surprised and comforted by this from C.S. Lewis:
"I have found that nothing is more dangerous to one's own faith than the work of an apologist. No doctrine of that Faith seems to me so spectral, so unreal as one that I have just successfully defended in a public debate. For a moment, you see, it has seemed to rest on oneself: as a result, when you go away from that debate, it seems no stronger than that weak pillar. That is why we apologists take our lives in our own hands and can be saved only by falling back continually from the web of our own arguments...from Christian apologetics into Christ Himself."
So my friends, I give you the story of the night I took my life in my own hands, and escaped to Christ.