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The human search for God
Skepticism is mounting in America. Christian Post reporter Leonardo Blair writes that now “more than half of American adults, including 30% of evangelicals, say Jesus is not God”.
What is the real reason for this loss of faith? And if the modern skeptic’s problem isn’t that he doesn’t believe in God, but deep in his heart, he doesn’t want there to be a God. There is clearly a big difference between âI don’t believeâ and âI don’t want to believeâ.
Philosopher Douglas Groothuis made this observation about the truth:
âThe truth is a daunting and difficult thing; it’s also the greatest thing in the world. Yet we are chronically ambivalent about it. We seek itâ¦ and we fear it. Our better side wants to pursue the truth wherever it leads; our darker side balks when the truth begins to lead us where we don’t want to go.
This is especially true of the human search for God. The proof of God is really of little use if a person does not want Him in their life.
In this article, I want to consider the life of Antony Flew and CS Lewis and their journey from atheism to theism. Both men were members of the Oxford Socratic Club, a student-run organization dedicated to providing an open forum for the discussion of intellectual issues related to religion and in particular Christianity. The club clearly had an impact on those intellectual giants who spent more than a decade together embracing Socrates’ practice, following the argument wherever he leads. The members pledged to follow the veracity of all arguments, even if it led them in a direction they did not want to take.
Most people don’t know that British philosopher Antony Flew was one of the most famous atheists of the past 50 years. For five decades, he launched an aggressive attack on the existence of God. And then, in 2007, he stunned the world by announcing that he had changed his mind. He set out his reasoning in his book There is a god:How the world’s most famous atheist changed her mind. In the book he states:
âI now believe that the universe was created by infinite intelligence. I believe the complex laws of this universe manifest what scientists have called the Spirit of God. I believe that life and reproduction come from a divine Source. Why do I believe this, given that I have exposed and defended atheism for over half a century? The short answer is this: it is the image of the world, as I see it, that has emerged from modern science. “
At a symposium at New York University, Flew shared some controversial thoughts:
“What I think the DNA material has done is that it has shown, through the almost unbelievable complexity of the arrangements necessary to produce life, that intelligence must have been involved to make these elements work extraordinarily. various.” When asked how his atheist friends reacted, he replied, âI have been denounced by my fellow unbelievers for stupidity, betrayal, senility and whatever else you can think of, and none of them have read a word I never wrote.
It seems that one of the reasons Flew changed his mind is because he saw how easy it is to let preconceived theories and beliefs shape how we view evidence instead of leaving evidence behind. shape our theories and beliefs. When Flew began to let the truth of the evidence shape his real beliefs, he changed his mind about God.
Ultimately, Antony Flew’s opinion changed because of the principled practice he has followed all his life: following the truth wherever it leads. It makes perfect sense that if we don’t have a great love for the truth, we will certainly never find it.
CS Lewis is one of the most influential writers of the twentieth century. Many people are somewhat surprised to learn that Lewis, who was conscientiously raised in a traditional Christian family in Ireland, became an avowed atheist in his early teens while attending public school at the prestigious Malvern College in England. It will be years later, after World War I, and well after his years at the University of Oxford, before he begins his great search for a deeper and richer understanding of the existence of God. .
Lewis writes that there were two events in his life that ultimately led him to the Christian faith. The first stage began when he read GK Chesterton’s book The Everlasting Man, and the second, he wrote, had an “earth-shattering impact” on him. This event happened one night, when one of the most militant atheists on the Oxford faculty, a man named TD Weldon, came to his room and said he believed the historical authenticity of the gospels seemed surprisingly solid.
This conversation deeply troubled Lewis. He felt that if an atheist as convinced as Weldon thinks the gospels can be historically true, where does that take him? Lewis, you see, had always believed that New Testament stories were nothing more than mere myths; there was not the slightest trace of history or practical truth in them.
He began to think that if the gospel stories are, in fact, true, then that would mean that all other truth would have to fade into insignificance. For the first time, he says, he began to wonder if his whole life was going in the wrong direction.
Weldon’s remarks on the historical authenticity of the gospels did not leave him at rest, as the conversation echoed in his memory and continued to haunt him. So Lewis, a determined seeker of truth, began an investigation.
One of the things we learn about CS Lewis is that he was very open-minded and unafraid of the truth, even though it took him away from his atheistic beliefs that he had become so used to. .
As a professor of English literature at Oxford, he had spent his entire working life studying ancient manuscripts. And if, until then, he had never seriously read the Bible, he nevertheless considered it one of the great myths of the world, like Norse mythology. The gospels, Lewis noted, lacked the rich and imaginative writing techniques of most ancient writings. With the ear of a literary critic for language and metrics, Lewis recognized that the New Testament lacked the stylized and carefully groomed qualities one would expect in any myth-making culture.
“[The Gospels] appeared to be mere eyewitness accounts of historical events primarily by Jews who were clearly unfamiliar with the great myths of the pagan world around themâ¦ I was now too experienced in literary criticism to consider the Gospels a myth. They didn’t have the mythological taste.
Lewis goes on to point out that the gospels were unlike anything he had ever read in ancient literature.
âNow, as a historian of literature, I am fully convinced that whatever the Gospels are, they are not legends. I have read a lot of captions and I am quite clear that they are not the same thing. They are not artistic enough to be legends. Imaginatively, they are clumsy; they don’t work. Most of Jesus’ life is totally unknown to us and no one building a legend would allow it to be so. “
And so, as an expert on ancient documents and languages, he began to wonder: if these aren’t myths and legends, then what are they? Were they really eyewitnesses to historical events that actually took place?
Here we have this brilliant man, CS Lewis, an expert on ancient literature, a man of integrity and a great education, who for so many years had rejected the Gospels – the most influential body of writing in the Western world. – simply because they sounded so unconvincing and without merit.
That all changed, however, when Weldon, his friend and trusted colleague, an atheist with no trace of bias or hidden intentions, admitted that he found it very likely that the gospels did present historically accurate accounts of life. of this man Jesus. This is what prompted Lewis to embark on a search for spiritual truth.
So my challenge for you, reader, is to follow the truth wherever it leads, always reminding yourself that the truth is your friend. It allows you to believe responsibly. It leads to your ultimate well-being.
Get your copy of Richard’s latest book Reflections on the Existence of God on Amazon or on richardesimmons3.com
Richard E. Simmons III is a Christian author, lecturer, and executive director of the Center for Executive Leadership, a nonprofit faith-based ministry in Birmingham, Alabama. His best-selling titles include The true measure of a man, the power of a humble life,Wisdom: Life’s Great Treasure, and his latest book, Reflections on the Existence of God. Follow Richard on Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn @thecenterbham. Tune in to Richard’s Reliable Truth Podcast on your favorite podcast app.