Image via WikipediaAn interesting observation from the director of Biola University’s Graduate Program in Christian Apologetics, Craig J. Hazen, Ph.D. in his review of Bill Maher’s new film Religulous. While I might want to tweek his language a little here and there, I think Dr Hazen is on the right track. He writes:
If there is one important lesson for Christians of all sorts to learn from this movie it is this: we have got to start talking differently about “faith.” Unfortunately, we have let the secular world and antagonists like Bill Maher define the term for us. What they mean by “faith” is blind leaping. That is what they think our commitment to Christ and the Christian view of the world is all about. They think we have simply disengaged our minds and leapt blindly into the religious abyss.
The biblical view of saving Christian faith has never had anything to do with blind leaping. Jesus himself was fixed on the idea that we can know the truth—and not just in some spiritual or mystical way. Rather, he taught that we can know the truth about God, humans, and salvation objectively. That is, the very best forms of investigation, evidence, and careful reasoning will inevitably point to God and His great plans for us. The early church learned well from the Master because they too were fixed on the idea that they knew that Jesus was raised from the dead and that we could know it too. The Apostles never made any room for interpreting their experiences of the risen Christ in some mystical or fictional fashion. As the Apostle Peter put it, “We did not follow cleverly invented stories when we told you about the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty” (2 Peter 1:16).
What we mean by “faith” is not blind leaping that is oblivious to the evidence, especially evidence to the contrary. Rather faith in it’s biblical context is trust grounded in objective knowledge. Faith is trusting that which we can know to be objectively true. I run a graduate program in Christian Apologetics at Biola University in which we train students at the highest levels to give compelling reasons for their faith. Maher did not knock on our door. But unfortunately, I think many of the Christians he interviewed would be surprised to learn that there is a robust knowledge tradition in Christianity. I long for the day when a guy like Maher would never consider making a film like this because it would be so difficult to find Christians that he could hound and hoodwink.
Maher and Charles successfully put some of the goofiest strands of the Christian movement on public display for cinematic ridicule. Great skill, intellect, or cleverness, that did not require. The greater feat would be for the two documentarians to jump out of their own shallow presuppositions and prejudices to get a fresh look at what has made Christianity attractive to some of the greatest minds in human history. But I think it’s a good bet that they don’t have a sequel like that on the drawing board.
Too often I think Orthodox Christians, especially those of us who seem allegeric to all things Western, retreat from a rational presentation of the faith. Specifically, we seem often to fall into some polemic variation that begins with something along the lines of “Trust us, we’re old” or “We’re not [insert strawman of choice: Roman Catholic, Evangelical, Mainline Protestant, Liberals, etc.].”
In my own explaination of the faith and practice of the Church, I have found that a more anthropological or natural law approach is usually best. I try to root my explaination of Holy Tradition in how it illumines for me the truth of what it means to be human.
Anyway, hadn’t posted for a while and though Hazen had an idea worth offering for consideration.