In last week’s blog, I closed by asking if the problem of the modern skeptic is not that he does not believe in God, but in his heart of hearts, he does not want there to be a God. There is clearly a big difference in “I don’t believe” and “I don’t want to believe.”
For so many people, recognizing there is a God naturally means I have to submit to Him, because I know one day I will be accountable to Him. Therefore we resist Him. I have found it is much easier for someone to declare that they do not believe in God, than to say “I believe in Him, but I reject Him.”
One of the great philosophical thinkers of the 20th century was Mortimer Adler. Adler taught philosophy at The University of Chicago. He also helped found the Aspen Institute. He was co-editor of the 55-volume series entitled, The Great Books of the Western World. He wrote fifty-two of the books as the sole author.
For most of his life, he was a self-described pagan. Then, to the shock of his colleagues, he became a Christian at the age of 82. Adler lived to be 98 years old, and as he reflected back upon his life, he acknowledged that at times he had been intrigued by the Christian faith. Even so, he never took the leap. As he examined his heart, Adler realized that he ultimately did not want to change his lifestyle. He did not want to live the Christian life; instead, he wanted to be free to live the way that he wanted. He said, “The decision to become a Christian lies in the state of one’s heart (will), not in the state of one’s mind.” It dawned on Adler late in life that his atheism was not intellectually driven, but it came down to how he wanted to live his life.
John Stott, the famous Anglican leader tells of a conversation with a young man who had grown up in the church. Somehow this young man had lost his faith. Stott discussed with him at length all of the objections that the man had. Stott then asked him, “If I can answer all of your questions to your satisfaction, will you return to the church and surrender your life to Christ?” There was a silence, and the young man blushed and said, “No.” Stott pointed out this man did not have a problem with the existence of God, he simply did not want God.
When Jesus stood before Pontius Pilate, He and Pilate had an interesting exchange that was quite revealing. Pilate asked Him if He was a king. Jesus responded by saying, “You are right in saying that I am a king. For this reason I was born and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of the truth hears my voice.” Jesus is revealing something significant about human beings. We will never hear and believe the truth He reveals unless we love and are committed to the truth.
One of the most celebrated atheists of the last fifty years is the British philosopher, Anthony Flew. For five decades he launched an aggressive attack on the existence of God. And then back in 2007, he stunned the world by announcing that he had changed his mind. He laid out his reasoning for the change in his book, There is a God: How the World’s Most Notorious Atheist Changed His Mind. In the book he states:
I now believe that the universe was brought into existence by an infinite intelligence. I believe that this universe’s intricate laws manifest what scientists have called the ‘Mind of God.’ I believe that life and reproduction originate in a divine source. Why do I believe this, given that I expounded and defended atheism for more than a half a century? The short answer is this – this is the world picture as I see it that has emerged from modern science.
It seems that one of the reasons that Flew changed his mind is because he saw how easy it is to let preconceived theories and beliefs shape the way we view evidence instead of letting the evidence shape our theories and beliefs. As Flew began to let the truth of the evidence shape his actual beliefs, he changed his mind about God.
In the end, Anthony Flew changed his mind because of the principled practice he followed all of his life: follow the truth wherever it leads. It seems quite logical that if we do not have a great love of truth, we most certainly will never find it.