Thursday, April 15, 2010

Assumptions


By definition, an assumption is: "the act of assuming or taking for granted." I've been surprised lately by how often I've encountered the thought-stifling power of assumption. We all do it. We look at someone and we draw a quick conclusion by appearances and we place someone in a category - often the wrong one. Or sometimes even worse, we make assumptions about our own, or others, ideas and beliefs that are based on nothing but tradition or regurgitated opinion. It reinforces my opinion that a large majority of people do not want to do the hard work of thinking.

I can relate to this myself because, particularly as a High School student, I spent my time looking for creative ways to get out of doing anything that required serious thought. But that changed for me in College. Somehow the lights came on and there awakened in me an insatiable thirst for knowledge. I love to read from a wide variety of fields and subjects and explore new concepts and ideas.

One of the common denominators that I have found in my reading is that, as I alluded to earlier, there are a great number of people who have not learned the discipline of critical thinking. I think that this is so important for all of us to master: to be able to ask the right questions, to question the assumptions and the preconceptions of those who would presume to teach.

We live in a culture that has moved far from the ideal of a free exchange and debate of ideas. Now we live in an age of political correctness, of acquiescence for fear of offense, with some notable exceptions. The problem with this is that we end up in the ridiculous position of moral relativism which, taken to its extreme, contends that all views have equal merit and that objective moral truth does not exist.

But ideas have consequences. It was Malcolm Muggeridge, the distinguished British journalist, who commented, “One of the peculiar sins of the twentieth century which we've developed to a very high level is the sin of credulity. It has been said that when human beings stop believing in God they believe in nothing. The truth is much worse: they believe in anything.” He did a great deal of writing about the consequences of the atheistic communist regimes of the Soviet Union, China, et al. Those regimes were/are responsible for the murder, imprisonment and denial of human rights to billions of people. These abuses flow directly from the idea that people have no intrinsic value; there's nothing special or unique about anyone except as a cog in a machine. A Chinese official, when confronted by an American tourist about the fact that thousands of people had died at the hands of their own government in the Tianenmen Square massacre in 1989 replied, "so what, we have billions of people in China."

While communism has gone out of vogue for the most part in the 21st century, we are still left with its intellectual roots - atheism. The new atheists (men like Richard Dawkins, Daniel Dennett, Sam Harris and Christopher Hitchens) have become more and more strident in their condemnation of all who would dare to differ with their assertions. There have been bestselling books recently trying to convince people that God is simply a figment of our imagination.

The good that comes out of this is that there can at least be debate, and there should be. This question is the greatest question of our time, or all time: Does God exist? This question needs to be asked because the greatest assumption of our day is the negative statement that God does not exist. This basic assumption underlies much of our culture: science, education, our judiciary, government, etc... The results of this belief can be seen in virtually every corner of our culture. It is at the root of the "intelligent design" debate in the U.S. Since the basic assumption of modern science is that there is no God and therefore there can only be a naturalistic explanation for everything that is, anything appearing to demonstrate "intelligent design" must be the result of other processes. I have read two articles recently in which respected scientists have gone so far as to say that either intelligent aliens somehow implanted life forms on the earth or life must have arrived here on the back of a meteor. This leap of faith was necessary in order that we not appeal to someone called God. Bizarre to say the least.

Complicating things further are what I would term "functional atheists." These are that large group of people who would claim to be Christians and to believe in the God of the Bible, yet who live their lives as if He does not exist. They are a far bigger threat to the Church than the new atheists will ever be. They ignore, or are completely unaware of, the clear teachings of Jesus. They confuse those who are sincerely seeking because of their hypocrisy.

Part of this (most of this?) must be laid at the feet of the church, which has failed to disciple people properly. Much of the church has turned away from the confusing controversies and hard questions and retreated to their "holy huddles" where they sing Kum-By-Yah and reminisce about the good old days. Well, the good old days are gone, and it's time to ask the hard questions. Is the Gospel of Jesus Christ relevant for today? Is there evidence for the existence of God? Why should I believe the Bible? How can we know the truth? Is there such a thing as truth?

There are good answers to these questions and, if Christians really care about people around us, we would be making sure that we know why we believe what we believe. And no, just because your Momma told you so is not a good enough reason. As 1 Peter 3:15-16 says: "But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander."

What we believe does matter. I love the C.S. Lewis quote: “Christianity, if false, is of no importance, and if true, of infinite importance. The only thing it cannot be is moderately important.” I believe that it's of infinite importance. Jesus Christ has made all the difference in my life. Let me challenge you to start looking at the evidence for yourself.

You can start by attending a debate we're showing live via satellite on Sunday, May 2, 7:00 PM at Clearview Community Church in Stayner. It features Christopher Hitchens vs. William Lane Craig on the subject "Does God Exist?" It ought to be very interesting. Who knows, it might even make you think.
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