“Jesus is the problem to our solution!” That’s what a guy on our mission team announced to a class full of kids this morning. He meant it the other way around, but there was so much conviction and authority in his voice that apparently he got away with the mistake.
It’s an oddly profound mistake though…
Last night we hosted a debate between a representative of the Australian Sceptics Association and a Christian minister from Sydney. It was an disappointing experience in many ways (honestly, most religious debates are).
When the Atheist Case is coherently, passionately, and sensitively argued it is a beautiful and compelling testimony. The best example I know is in the words of Ivan Karamazov from Dostoevsky’s The Brothers Karamazov (I’ve been reading it for the past few weeks). It is an atheism of despair and wounding, that wishes above all to hold God accountable for his non-existence. It is an atheism of inconsolable grief. And rightly so, for if God is dead then that which is most beautiful and wise has perished from the Universe and we are terribly alone. The Atheist who can suffer that wound and still love is worthy of my respect, even admiration. In the light of Jesus’ Resurrection, such a view is folly, an unimaginable tragedy, but it is nevertheless remarkable, and in its own strange way, a testimony to the Creator who set his image on humanity.
That’s the atheism of Camus’ The Plague.
Sadly, we heard nothing like that last night.
If fact, we didn’t hear Atheism at all, just Fundamentalist Scientism.
Idols always have to be constructed from materials that are good in themselves – gold, silver, wood.
And Idols need to represent ideals that are good in themselves – fertility, wealth, beauty.
It is precisely the same with Science. The lower-case ‘science’ is something profoundly good – a useful, powerful tool. But when ‘science’ becomes ‘Science’ – when an idol is constructed from these valuable materials – the result invariably has the same binary poles, the same classic traits, as all the various forms of primitive idolatry.
It is at once both pathetic and terrifying.
Fundamentalist Scientism cannot recognise the limits of science, and so, it either ungratefully borrows huge portions of its proclamation from other religions (particularly in the realm of ethics) and so becomes a pathetic parody of religion, or it utterly denies the existence of anything beyond those limits, and so is led inexorably towards Totalitarianism.
(In the hands of particularly silly Atheists, i.e. last night, it does both at once…
Scientism is a false religion, a foolish idol, a human, all too human solution.
And Jesus came to be The Problem to our Solutions.