From time to time I will be using this blog as an opportunity to share quotes, book excerpts or articles that I have found to be particularly interesting, thought provoking, insightful, helpful or challenging. Just because I quote or reference someone does not mean I agree with or endorse them entirely (this first installment should make that very obvious), but I do believe there are great resources available to us as Christians and this is one way to feature such resources.
Sam Harris is not a Christian. In fact, he is one of the most vocal critics of Christianity today. In his book Letter to a Christian Nation, his stated purpose is “to arm secularists in our society.” He is someone who I do not agree with on much of anything and yet, in the introduction of Letter to a Christian Nation there is a paragraph that wonderfully draws a line of distinction and calls people to make a definitive choice about God and the Bible. Here is what he has to say:
“You believe that the Bible is the Word of God. That Jesus is the Son of God and that only those who place their faith in Jesus will find salvation after death. As a Christian you believe these propositions not because they make you feel good, but because you think they are true. Before I point out the problems with these beliefs, I would like to acknowledge that there are many points on which you and I agree. We agree for instance, that if one of us is right the other is wrong. The bible is either the word of God or it isn’t. Either Jesus offers humanity the one true path to salvation (John 14:6) or he does not. We agree that to be a true Christian is to believe that all other faiths are mistaken and, profoundly so. If Christianity is correct, and I persist in my unbelief I should expect to suffer the torments of hell. Worse still, I have persuaded others and many close to me to reject the very idea of God. They too will languish in eternal fire (Matthew 25:41). If the basic doctrine of Christianity is correct, I have misused my life in the worst conceivable way. I admit this without a single caveat....... Of course, there are Christians who do not agree with either of us. There are Christians who consider other faiths to be equally valid paths to salvation. There are Christians who have no fear of hell and who do not believe in the physical resurrection of Jesus. These Christians often describe themselves as religious liberals or religious moderates. From their point of view, you and I have both misunderstood what it means to be a person of faith. There is, we are assured, a vast and beautiful terrain between atheism and religious fundamentalism that generations of thoughtful Christians have quietly explored. According to liberals and moderates faith is about mystery and meaning and community and love. People make religion out of the full fabric of their lives, not out of mere beliefs. I have written elsewhere about the problems I see with religious liberalism and religious moderation. Here we need only observe that the issue is simpler and more urgent than liberals and moderates generally admit. Either the Bible is just an ordinary book, written by mortals or it isn’t. Either Christ was divine or he was not. If the Bible is an ordinary book and Christ an ordinary man the basic doctrine of Christianity is false. If the Bible is an ordinary book and Christ an ordinary man the history of Christian theology is the story of bookish men parsing a collective delusion. If the basic tenets of Christianity are true then there are some very grim surprised for unbelievers like myself. So let us be honest with ourselves. In the fullness of time, one side is really going to win this argument and the other side is really going to lose.” (emphasis mine)
Of course, what Mr. Harris has written is nothing new. Elijah said it much more economically in I Kings 18:21. “If the LORD be God, follow him: but if Baal, then follow him.” I agree wholeheartedly with the claim of Mr. Harris, that “the issue is simpler and more urgent” than we like to admit. If there is a God, and if He truly has spoken to us through His Word, there should be only one rational response - total devotion and service to Him with our lives.