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.
Believing in leprechauns is a leap of faith. Believing in God is like believing in atoms. You follow the evidence of what you can see to conclude the existence of something you cannot see. The process is exactly the same. The effect needs a cause adequate to explain it.
There is nothing unreasonable about the idea of a personal God creating the material universe. A Big Bang needs a “big Banger,” it seems to me. A complex set of instructions (as in DNA) needs an author. A blueprint requires an engineer. A moral law needs a moral law giver. This is not a leap. This is a step of intelligent reflection.
It’s also not a leap to believe in the Jesus of the Gospels. Eminent historian Will Durant, author of the 11 volume set, The Story of Civilization, after a careful assessment of all the evidence, concluded:
No one reading these scenes can doubt the reality of the figure behind them. That a few simple men should in one generation have invented so powerful and appealing a personality, so lofty an ethic, and so inspiring a vision of human brotherhood, would be a miracle far more incredible than any recorded in the Gospels.
All views and religions give you a picture of the world. That’s what a worldview is. The more I read, the more I study, the more I thoughtfully reflect, though, the more I’m convinced that Jesus doesn’t just give us a view of the world. He gives us a view of reality. When you follow Him, you’re not wishing on a star, you’re living in the real world.