When I’m requested to sit down with a skeptic to talk about God, the first question I ask them is this: Do you want Christianity to be true?
You should see some of the expressions I get.
If I take the person by surprise with my question and get a panicked look, they sometimes will toss out a flippant “yes,” so I’ll then briefly explain what accepting the truth of Christianity will personally mean to them. That epiphany can cause them to backtrack like they’ve just seen a ghost.
That's not an uncommon reaction. There are more skeptics out there than you might think who will come clean and admit they don’t want the Christian faith to be legit, even if the evidence is there.
For instance, philosopher Thomas Nagel has written: “I want atheism to be true and am made uneasy by the fact that some of the most intelligent and well-informed people I know are religious believers. It isn't just that I don't believe in God and, naturally hope that I'm right in my belief. It's that I hope that there is no God! I don't want there to be a God; I don't want the universe to be like that.”
Charles Darwin felt the same way saying, “I can indeed hardly see how anyone ought to wish Christianity to be true; for if so the plain language of the text seems to show that the men who do not believe, and this would include my father, brother, and almost all my best friends, will be everlastingly punished. And this is a damnable doctrine.”
Christopher Hitchens went so far as to declare he wasn’t an atheist but an “antitheist” because he didn’t want God to exist: “I am not even an atheist so much as an antitheist … I do not wish, as some sentimental materialists affect to wish, that they were true … I am relieved to think that the whole story is a sinister fairy tale; life would be miserable if what the faithful affirmed was actually true … I cannot imagine anything more horrible or grotesque.”
When a person has a strong predisposition for not wanting something to be true, they’ll go through some of the most contorted gymnastics you’ve ever seen to squirm out of admitting its actuality, which means anything more you say on the subject will be spilled milk on the ground. As philosopher and historian Richard Weaver says in his book Ideas Have Consequences: “Nothing good can come if the will is wrong. And to give evidence to him who loves not the truth is to give him more plentiful material for misinterpretation.”
Let me give you an excellent example of this from Scripture.
I don’t want Jesus to be the Messiah
Jesus’ healing of the man born blind is one of my favorite episodes of His ministry.
Recorded in John 9, Jesus assumes the role of a supernatural vision doctor and brings sight to a man who’s lived in the dark his whole life. Verified by multiple independent witnesses that include the man himself and his parents, surely no one in their right mind could deny the miracle had taken place and, therefore, that Jesus was who He said He was, right?
The verdict of the Jew’s religious body labeled Jesus a “sinner” (vs. 24). Come again? How in the world would they reach that conclusion? Perhaps because He healed the man on a Sabbath?
No, that was just a spur-of-the-moment excuse. John’s biography of Christ says the Jewish leaders had already made up their minds about Jesus: “… for the Jews had already agreed that if anyone confessed Him to be Christ, he was to be put out of the synagogue” (vs. 22). Acknowledging Jesus’ miracle would be tantamount to an admission of His identity.
So, the Jews didn’t want Jesus to be the Messiah so therefore He couldn’t be the Messiah and nothing was going to change that predetermined decree. Not even an undeniable miracle.
We see the same unwillingness to admit the truth about God today.
OK, every drop of science today says the universe isn’t eternal and you can’t get something from nothing but hold on now, that doesn’t mean there’s a Creator.
Sure, a child can walk into a cave, see primitive drawings on a wall, and conclude an intelligent being vs. time and erosion was responsible, but I’m going to follow skeptics like Francis Crick who, when confronted with the massive design evidence in biological life, remarked: “Biologists must constantly keep in mind that what they see was not designed, but rather evolved.”
Yes, something can’t give what it doesn’t have, but I’m still going to believe that an impersonal, amoral, meaningless, and purposeless universe accidentally created personal moral beings who are obsessed with meaning and purpose.
If that’s your attitude, you can certainly accept those things if you want, but in my opinion, it takes far more faith to believe in them than in God. This brings us back to the first question I ask skeptics…
If you deny God’s existence, is it because you don’t want Christianity to be true?
If so, why? Come on now, be honest. What’s really the reason?
Maybe you’re like Nagel, Darwin, or Hitchens and, for selfish reasons, don’t want the moral or other impositions a Creator brings to the table. Or … maybe, it’s because it seems too easy; too awesome to be true?
G. K. Chesterton thought this might be the case when he wrote, “What the denouncer of dogma really means is not that dogma is bad; but rather that dogma is too good to be true.”
That’s why Blaise Pascal offered this advice to those speaking about Christianity to others: “Make religion attractive, make good men wish it were true, and then show that it is. Worthy of reverence because it really understands human nature. Attractive because it promises true good.”
Of course, wanting something to be true doesn’t mean that it is, but in the case of Christianity, doing what Pascal said and showing that it really is true really isn’t that difficult. Plus, I don’t know anyone who isn’t eager for some “true good” these days, do you?
Robin Schumacher is an accomplished software executive and Christian apologist who has written many articles, authored and contributed to several Christian books, appeared on nationally syndicated radio programs, and presented at apologetic events. He holds a BS in Business, Master's in Christian apologetics and a Ph.D. in New Testament. His latest book is, A Confident Faith: Winning people to Christ with the apologetics of the Apostle Paul.