Letters To The Editor
Dear Edwin Smith,
Thank you for your article on Know Truth in Palatinate this week. Your article is well thought through and your argument is presented in a mature fashion. I hope you have time to read this response to your article, in it I wish to challenge a few ideas that you present.
I should probably start by nailing my colours to the mast, as it were, by saying that I am a Christian and a member of the CU. I am sorry if some of my fellow Christians have come across as arrogant and smug, this I am sure was not their intention. I have spoken to other people who have said similar things, so clearly the CU must not give a good impression of itself. Please don’t let that skew your opinion of Christianity as a whole. I hope you find this reply is neither arrogant nor closed-minded.
The first point that I would like to make is that clearly some ideas “regarding religion or spirituality” are objectively true. For example there either is or there is not a God – there cannot be both a God and no God simultaneously. To this extent some people must be right and some must be wrong – there is no point saying something post-modern like “everyone is right” – as this ultimately must be wrong. I agree with you when you state that there should be “open-minded discussion about such issues”, but I just want to clarify that this is not the same as no-one having an opinion.
Secondly, I believe that there is a good deal of evidence to support the existence of God, the existence of Jesus, the death and resurrection of Jesus and the accuracy of the Bible. Whether or not this constitutes proof, I do not know! It probably depends on what you mean by proof. The evidence is certainly compelling though – Lee Strobel was a journalist who investigated the facts behind Jesus and the Bible and ended up becoming a Christian. He documented his findings in his book “The Case for Christ”. As a physicist, I find the approach to science is an apt one to use in discovering spiritual truth. When I first became a Christian about 5 years ago, it was because I was searching for answers to the why questions – Why am I here? Why is anything here? Why am I asking these questions? – and I felt that Christianity offered the best (and most supported) solution. I was not certain at the time that it was true but as I have gone on living as a Christian, testing out the Bible, asking questions, etc, my belief that it is true has grown. Christianity has stood up to everything that I have thrown at it, and more than that, I have had experiences of the God which the Bible presents that I cannot ignore or forget. Occasionally, I do have pangs of doubt but these tend to be brief in the face of all the evidence and my own experiences. This mirrors my approach (and many others’) to science where a theory is presented, tested a little, tentatively accepted, tested more and then fully accepted. I would go as far to say that the evidence is better for Christianity than for some of the accepted scientific theories.
Jesus is someone you have to have an opinion on. He makes epic claims and he is either the Son of God (and therefore his claims are true) or else he is not (and his claims are false). C.S. Lewis, the author of the Narnia books sums this up succinctly in a collection of essays he wrote called “God in the Dock”, where he writes: “Christianity, if false, is of no importance, and if true, of infinite importance. The only thing it cannot be is moderately important.” The CU believes it is true and consequntly very important. We do not mean to be arrogant, but rather factual in saying that we believe that we have found some amazing truths in Jesus Christ.
I hope that you continue searching for truth and to that end may I recommend Him to you.
Initially, when deciding how best to respond to the engaging reviews of ‘know truth’ week featured in the comment section of the last issue of the Palatinate, I thought it would be best to directly contend with the assertions and opinions of Edwin Smith and Chris Wright.
Instead, however, I decided that it would be better to set forward my own views about the role of the CU and the motivations for Christian evangelism in general. I am sure that, as Edwin rightly points out, ‘the highly intelligent, thoughtful young people’ of Durham can make their own minds up as to whether my beliefs and opinions are, ‘arrogant and aggressive’, ‘fundamentalist and uncompromising’ or even ‘strange and silly’.
Christians are not driven to share their beliefs by a desire to prove that they ‘know better’. I would be disappointed to find a Christian who believes that their faith is a consequence of their own superior powers of reasoning, and I would be surprised if any member of the CU thought that they could ‘convert’ someone by the overwhelming logical force of their argument. Of course faith is an irrational thing, but that does not make it ‘backward’ or wrong; nor does it make it irrelevant.
Indeed, the whole point of ‘know truth week’ is to demonstrate the relevance of Christian beliefs to contemporary life, and to provide people with enough information to make their own decision. In no way is this intended to be conducted in an arrogant or aggressive manner. Instead, central to any Christian’s faith should be the idea of love. It was love that, we believe, caused God to send his only son to die in order that we could have a relationship with him and inherit eternal life. It is for reasons of love that we believe this message, and the consequences of not responding to it, have been revealed to humanity and are too important to go unheard.
With regard to these consequences, it is really important to stress that neither I, nor DICCU as an organisation, believe that access to heaven or hell is in any way based on what Edwin describes as ‘embodying Christian virtues’ and ‘seeking to live a moral life’. To do so would be to place Christians on a pedestal that we are in no way worthy of occupying.
In other words, as a CU member, I do not claim to be a better or nicer person than anyone else – if anything I’m probably worse than most. The only way that I can get to heaven is through faith in Jesus and his sacrifice for me. Therefore, whilst I believe Edwin’s claim that, ‘if you do not truly believe in God’, good deeds are ‘not enough to spare you eternal damnation’, if you invert that argument you are left with an amazing promise: no matter what you’ve done, or what you do in the future, if you believe in God and the sacrifice of Jesus, then that is enough.
I realise that this response is too short to answer all of the issues that Edwin and Chris understandably raise, but why not investigate it for yourself? After all, if there is even a chance that the claims made here and by Jesus himself are true, surely it is worth digging a bit deeper. That is what ‘know truth’ week and the subsequent course, ‘investigate truth’, are all about.
Dear Palatinate Team,
I have recently read the Feb 11th issue. Now I’m not a big Palatinate fan – I find the paper lacking in self-identity, more of a wannabe-mainstream tabloid than anything else. I find most articles in it lacking in any solid substance. The news sections are lightweight, attempts to stir up a massive controversy over something so pitiful, and this issue does its best at not being the exception with the ‘Vice-Chancellor Rubbishes “Staff Restaurant” Claims’ headline. I find opinions often tailored for acceptance by masses, making them uninteresting. Not this one though – imagine my surprise when I read the comment by Chris Wright on the very thing the paper is guilty for.
I agreed with a lot of what Chris has to say (for once, a rare event in a Palatinate paper). And this is why I was quite disappointed to read what he had said on the final column. He advocates against taking offense, yet he seems that he was more than offended when he read Letita Clark’s article in The Sanctuary. I have read but not kept the copy of the article in question, so I must say I may not be able to make a fair judgement. But we all know that The Sanctuary is partially satirical paper and it seems that it is a futile effort to try and bash an article which is essentially a comedy. It’s like trying to disapprove a joke that mocks Irish people. We all know it’s downright unsophisticated as the joke goes, but we laugh at the joke whilst acknowledging this. What more this makes him look like a hypocrite by changing his position from earlier on in the article about being able to stomach controversy. I would be interested in what Chris might want to say about this.
As a Christian and active member of the DICCU, I am both encouraged and disheartened by Edwin Smith’s comments (11 Feb). His awareness of the events put on by the CU is a great encouragement and compliment to the effort in publicity put in by CU members.
I am disheartened by the fact that, despite the effort put into events week, he seems to have completely misunderstood the Christian faith. He says that he does not claim that Christianity is wrong yet denies the fact that God can be known objectively (a clear claim of the faith since the time of Abraham). He says that he does not demand that members of the DICCU turn their backs on their faith, despite the fact that he does not want Christians to share their beliefs even though we are commanded to by Jesus (Matt. 28v19).
He also seems to think that we “foisted” our beliefs onto him. Might I point out that no one was forced, cajoled, blackmailed or bullied into attending any of the talks, people were there of their own free will. A polite question: “Would you like to come to this talk with me?” does not count as forced in my humble opinion.
In addition he has completely failed to understand the Christian message. He seems to believe that we claim to be able to do the things God wants and thus spare ourselves damnation. This is completely wrong. The Bible’s central claim is that no one can earn heaven (Rom. 3v20-25), it is only through believing in Jesus that we can attain it (John 14v6).
This may seem arrogant to many, and it would be if this were invented by humans to bolster the claims of their belief system. But it is not. These are the Words of God. Surely an omnipotent and omniscient being can speak objectively about himself?
Whilst I applaud Edwin Smith’s polite and reasoned approach, I cannot agree with many of his statements. Although if he has any more to say on this matter then the DICCU would love to hear it, feedback is always appreciated.
Nick Trenholme, Impact Leader, Grey College CU
“How did we come to censor our novelists?” – I already wrote this article for the Sanctuary last term! (see “Freedom of Speech?”)
It’s good though!
Photo Copyright Dave Fitch