The spate of atheists on the bestsellers list dismiss Christianity as irrational. They exude a palpable condescension. But what they ignore or are unaware of is that some of the most significant thinkers in western civilization have been Christians. Stringent rationality and Christianity have found harmony in the minds of some of the most lettered people in our history books.
I noticed something stunning a few years back while paging through Frederick Coppleston’s landmark work, A History of Philosophy, for a class. Virtually every major thinker in the history of western civilization since Aristotle was a deeply committed Christian theist.
The list is impressive: Irenaeus, Eusebius, Augustine, John Duns Scotus, Anselm of Canterbury, Thomas Aquinas, William of Ockham, Rene Descartes, Gottfried Leibniz. It isn’t until the Enlightenment that God and the Bible are not a standard part of the philosophic equation.
For 18 centuries, those who thought deeply and carefully about reality did so with the conviction that God was real, that Jesus was His messiah, and the Gospel was the power of God to change lives.
Let me tell you why this discovery was so important to me. As you may know, I used to think I was too smart to be a Christian. As an Honors College student in pre-law at Michigan State University, I thought Jesus was for socially unacceptable fools who needed someone to do their thinking for them.
So when I was drawn into the Kingdom, it was an epiphany of sorts to realize how wrong I was. Early on I discovered Francis Schaeffer and his seminal trilogy—The God Who Is There, Escape from Reason, and He Is There and He Is Not Silent. Then there was C.S. Lewis, Josh McDowell, J.P. Moreland, and a host of others since.
These luminous minds convinced me that Christianity is worth thinking about. It’s a phrase I use often. I open my talks at radically liberal schools like Cal Berkeley, UC San Diego, UCLA, and Ohio State with those words.
It’s become almost synonymous with STR. In fact, I frequently use both phrases together: “Stand to Reason—Christianity worth thinking about.”
Even with the popularity of the so-called “new atheists” – Christopher Hitchens, Daniel Dennett, Richard Dawkins— it’s clear to me that it’s no leap of faith to believe in God. In fact, the more we learn about science, the more credible Christianity becomes. Recently the number one philosophical atheist in the world, Antony Flew, did a dramatic about-face and embraced theism—against his will, as it were—on the strength of the scientific evidence for a designer.
Gregory Koukl is founder and president of Stand to Reason, an organization devoted to a thoughtful and engaging defense of classical Christianity in the public square. He is also a radio talk show host and author of Relativism—Feet Firmly Planted in Mid-Air.
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