Their disbelief is my strength

MICHAEL COREN

I suppose itís the greatest joke of all. Deliciously ironic as well. My Christian faith has been profoundly encouraged by those most eager to smother it.

Put simply, I was helped along the road from indifference to belief by the banality of atheism. Since reaching the age of reason, I’ve had the usual old regulars thrown at me. Why do bad things happen to good people? Why doesn’t He make Himself more obvious? Why is evil committed in the name of religion? Throw in the Inquisition, the Crusades and some lies about Papal culpability during the Holocaust and you have the standard God-hating manifesto.

The more I dealt with all this, the more I realized that the very belief being attacked was absolutely and abundantly true. More than this, the reason it was under attack in the first place was precisely because it was true.

The tiniest seeds of my Christianity were planted, I think, much earlier and by an Oxford professor who happened to be one of the finest children’s writers of all time. I was six-years-old when C.S. Lewis’s The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe was read to be me by Miss Power — I assume I was also in love with her, and yes my wife does know — at Redbridge School in Essex, England.

Part of Lewis’s gift is that he strokes rather than grabs. As a child from a working-class, secular, part Jewish family, I had no idea then that Lewis was writing about Christ. Leave the beauty and the story to stew for a few years, expose the child to the natural-law certainties given by God that permeate the human condition and then send him out into a series of great universities where atheism is as predicable as self-indulgent moans about tuition fees. To quote the philosopher Pat Benatar: “hit me with your best shot.” So they did.

If God were good, He would make Himself obvious. Not really. God makes himself just sufficiently evident to allow us freedom. If He were easy to find, we’d all believe and thus have no real choice. If He were almost impossible to find, it would be cruel and unfair. He chooses the middle path. He’s there if we seek to look, but not so if we don’t care. He’s the great lover, not the satanic rapist. He desperately wants us to love Him and return to Him, but we have to make that decision ourselves.

Yes, but even people who believe in Him often suffer. And look at all the pain in the world.

Bad things happen to good people because, well, bad things happen to good people. The teachings of Christ do not guarantee a good life but a perfect eternity. These 70 or 80 years on Earth are merely time spent in the land of shadows and, anyway, human suffering is more an indictment of humans than of God. Also, if life has no ultimate meaning and people are often absolute swine, why does any of this matter in the first place?

But Christians are sometimes hypocrites and awful things have been done in the name of Christianity.

Yes, yes, yes! Christians can occasionally not live up to the teachings of Christ. Whoopee. People failing as Christians is not the same as Christianity being untrue, any more than people voting for a poor government is the same as democracy being a failure.


It was popular among rationalist thinkers in the late 19th century to assume that advances in textual analysis, archaeological discovery and scientific breakthrough would disprove the Bible. Not quite. Virtually every time we find out something new in these fields it supports rather than challenges Scripture.


As for crimes in the name of Christ — of course. Crimes in the name of atheism, freedom, love, Canada, everything. It’s human nature. Which is precisely why the supernatural is so important. In fact, Christ Himself tells us that His name will be exploited.

You’re weak, God is a crutch invented by scared and threatened people and the more we know the less we believe.

Could be. Sure, God could be an invention. Then again, absence of God could be an invention — by scared and threatened people who are too weak to follow His laws and are terrified of judgement. Be careful with the notion that knowledge means wisdom. 1930s Germany was one of the most educated and sophisticated cultures in human history. There are twits who do not believe, geniuses who do, and vice versa. It signifies nothing. It was popular among rationalist thinkers in the late 19th century to assume that advances in textual analysis, archaeological discovery and scientific breakthrough would disprove the Bible. Not quite. Virtually every time we find out something new in these fields it supports rather than challenges Scripture.

What became apparent to me was that the opposition to faith was as unappealing and bland as faith was appealing and thrilling. I read, prayed and thought myself into faith more than 20 years ago. It was gradual but inevitable. Miracles occurred but they need not have. I do not need a miracle to remind me that water quenches my thirst. Christ was there in my life, with me and in me and around me. Atheists showed me the way. God bless the little devils.

Then, just recently, the tarnished old arguments from the flimsy and trendy were re-published in new editions by the likes of Christopher Hitchens and Richard Dawkins and we were all supposed to run away and hide. So I read them. Then began to laugh. It’s the emperor and his new clothes. Naked, quite naked.

Nothing new here. Nothing clever or challenging, either.

Busting with errors, hysterical, clumsy, nasty and obviously incredibly frightened. Suddenly, I realize what’s going on. It’s that God again, helping to strengthen my faith. “The best they can do,” He’s saying, “is blast you with the same old nonsense they threw at you when you first thought of coming my way.”

Clever old God. Must remember to thank Him next time on my knees. Thanks for the non-believers, the God-haters, the atheists and all of their kind. Yes, the greatest joke of all.

ACKNOWLEDGEMENT

Michael Coren, "Their disbelief is my strength." National Post, (Canada) December 24, 2007.

Reprinted with permission of the National Post.

THE AUTHOR

Michael Coren (born January 1959 in Essex, England) is a Canadian columnist, author, public speaker, radio host and television talk show host. He is the host of the television series The Michael Coren Show. His articles and speeches often include stories of his own personal spiritual journey. Coren is half Jewish through his father.

 

He converted to Evangelical Christianity after a conversion experience as an adult, greatly influenced by Canadian televangelist Terry Winter. In early 2004, he embraced Catholicism. He cites St. Thomas More, C.S. Lewis, Ronald Knox and his God-father Lord Longford as spiritual influences, but remains connected to the ecumenical scene in Canada and beyond. He is the author of twelve books, including Mere Christian: Stories from the Light, Gilbert: The Man Who Was G. K. Chesterton, C. S. Lewis: The Man Who Created Narnia, J.R.R Tolkien: the Man Who Created 'the Lord of the Rings'. He is published in many countries and in more than a dozen languages. He is currently writing a book entitled Socon, A Handbook for Moral Conservatives. Michael Coren is available as a public speaker. Visit his web site here.

Copyright © 2007 National Post



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