It’s been an interesting week at work. A non-churched friend of mine at work approached me Tuesday all excited, handing me a flyer advertising a debate scheduled for Sunday entitled “BIBLE, Delusion or Divinely-inspired? Does Science Confirm the Bible?” It was billed as a debate between a local pastor and a representative of the local “Freethinkers” (atheist organization). Having shared quite a bit with him in the past about my Christian beliefs, he assumed I would be excited about going. I mean what could be more exciting than to have the Bible “proved” right before our very eyes?
A long pause ensued, during which an Evangelical friend of mine at work jumped in with “you’re going, right?”, more a declaration than a question. I shook my head, “no, I won’t be going.” “But why not,” he asked incredulously. Patiently, I tried to explain that this has been gone over before. Both sides have solidified their presuppositions and biases, and no one “wins.” I further stated I find these attempts at “proving” the Bible embarrassing and rather sad.
I asked my Evangelical friend if the early church’s growth was due to proving Scripture scientifically, or was it due to the cruciform witness and love shown by early Christians? Furthermore, the early church didn’t even have our Bible, which was not compiled for some centuries later. It was a good opportunity to share with my non-churched friends that the world doesn’t need “proof” of the Bible’s veracity. They want to see proof that Christ makes a real difference in Christians lives. They need to see the Gospel lived out in front of them.
I think that these debates ask the wrong questions, and give answers for questions that no one else is asking. If I were an atheist I wouldn’t concern myself with asking for scientific “proof” of God. I would be asking why 81% of white Evangelicals and 40% of white Catholics supported a candidate so antithetical to the teachings of Christ? How they could refer to his predecessor as the anti-christ, or call him unChristian while overlooking their man’s misogyny, bigotry, disregard for refugees and the poor. I would want to know why the president of the Southern Baptist Convention is facing possible impeachment due to his criticism of Trump’s actions and rhetoric. In short I’d like an explanation of why a group of people who claim to follow Christ act so much unlike him.
That was Tuesday’s discussion at work. Today we continued on with my friend talking about how his fiancée was thinking about them starting to go to church. I found this exciting, but also a bit perplexing. They had attended, a couple weeks ago, the church sponsoring the Bible-Science debate. He referred to the pastor as a “hell-fire” preacher, saved from a life of drugs and now preaching the Gospel. As I had already checked out the church’s website, I told him I didn’t think they’d care for it, as it was fundamentalist and non-inclusive. My own church was too far away for them to attend. What became perplexing was recommending a church in an area known for its conservative churches. (I recommended they try a couple Lutheran and Methodist churches in his area).
We continued talking about how some churches seem to talk a great deal about God’s wrath and people going to hell because they are so wicked and that it would be good to avoid churches like that. Well, wouldn’t you know it, another guy, not from our department, walks up and asks, “what are you talking about?” My friend jokingly said “we’re trying to find a church that will accept me,” (my friend is covered with tattoos and is quite…unrestrained socially), lol. The new guy quickly responded with, “well, we’re all sinners, I’m just glad I’m saved and won’t end up in the “Lake of Fire.” It couldn’t have been more apropos and when he left my friend and I discussed it. This was a sad example of having a relationship with God based on fear, of depending on Jesus to, basically, save us from God. This good cop, bad cop dichotomy of the Father-Son relationship in some church quarters is common. It presents us with a God who is quite different than the Jesus who tells us God loves us. I got to tell my friends that God doesn’t want a relationship with us based on fear. He isn’t out to “get us.” All in all the day ended well. I wonder what tomorrow will bring!