The re-boot of the series Cosmos (along with the recent slap fight between Bill Nye and Ken Ham) has brought science vs. religion jousting back to the front pages. And the story is exactly the same as it was the last time, and the time before that, and so on, back into infinity (or back to last Tuesday, if you’re a young earth creationist).
It goes like this: some evangelical, or evangelical atheist, writes a book or makes a video or issues a challenge that draws the battle lines and lists all the facts that prove beyond all doubt that everyone on his side of the line is right and everyone on the other side is an idiot. The other side jumps on this bait like a tourist on a timeshare pitch and lists all the facts that prove beyond all doubt that, no, they’re the ones that are idiots! And so on and so on, until Facebook has used up all the exclamation points and the punctuation factory has to make some more.
It’s aggravating because everyone involved thinks they’re making some kind of progress, but they’re all just furiously spinning their wheels because everybody is arguing about the wrong thing. Everybody wants to say the facts are on their side, but the argument over the existence of God — and over religion and faith in general — is not a fact argument. It’s a perspective argument.
What I mean is this: Professional atheist Richard Dawkins is an educated man. I am also an educated man. I have degrees from the prestigious University of Alabama and the prestigious Samford University. Dawkins went to some fly-by-night correspondence school whose name escapes me at the moment, but we won’t hold that against him.
As educated men, Richard Dawkins and I both have the same basic understanding of the universe. We know about celestial mechanics and the speed of light and solar radiation and black holes. We know about the rotation of the earth and weather patterns and tectonic plates and tides. We know about DNA, mitosis and meiosis, the circulatory system, and the brain. One of us may have a greater depth of understanding on some of those topics (ahem), but we both have at least a grasp of the basics. He doesn’t know any secret tidbits about the universe that are going to surprise me; I don’t know any that are going to surprise him.
And yet when Richard Dawkins looks at that universe, he doesn’t see God anywhere. When I look at the same universe, I see God everywhere.
It’s not because one of us is ignorant of some textbook fact that the other knows. There is no secret knowledge that I could throw out to win a debate and thereby force atheists to recant. Likewise, atheists don’t have any evidence they could reveal to me that would make me slap my forehead and cancel my tithe check. We see things differently because we have different perspectives. It’s not the facts; it’s the way we process the facts within our own minds.
So, if you can’t argue people to Jesus, how do you change their perspective? If you figure out the answer to that, please let me know. All I can say is that when we talk about the movement and influence of the Holy Spirit on a life, that’s the kind of change we’re talking about. The involvement of Bill Nye is not necessary.