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Life runs on denial

A Spacehab is shown at the after party for the premiere of Fox's 'The X-Files' at the California Science Center on January 12, 2016 in Los Angeles, California.
A Spacehab is shown at the after party for the premiere of Fox's "The X-Files" at the California Science Center on January 12, 2016 in Los Angeles, California. | Getty Images/Kevin Winter

In the sixth episode of its second season, The X-Files has its FBI agent hero Mulder furiously trying to locate his kidnapped partner who is the target of a government conspiracy. Frustrated and angered that no one in power will acknowledge the crime, he meets with his mysterious informant who glibly tells him why he is being stonewalled.

“They only have one policy: deny everything.”

While I would love to say that The X-Files mantra of “The Truth is Out There” applies to the way society thinks, instead the practice of denying everything seems a much more fitting description of our current culture.

One can really argue that today, life literally runs on denial.

Differences between men and women? Only two genders? A man can't get pregnant? An unborn baby having a heartbeat? It's bizarre that a woman would marry a ghost? Crime and violence out of control? Being overweight is unhealthy? The price of everything going up? Free speech being shut down?

Deny everything.

The concept and practice of denial were first described from a mental health standpoint by Sigmund Freud, who defined it as refusing to acknowledge upsetting facts about external events, internal ideas, memories, thoughts, and feelings. Writing for verywellmind, psychologist Kendra Cherry says that denial is “a type of defense mechanism that involves ignoring the reality of a situation to avoid anxiety.”

And what’s the ultimate goal of denial? Cherry writes, “[By] not acknowledging reality or denying the consequences of that reality … you don't have to acknowledge the problem … it also allows you to minimize the potential consequences that might result.”

I agree with her up until the last sentence. You might think you’re minimizing the potential consequences of something by denying it, but reality has a way of biting back in severe and unalterable ways.

And nowhere is this truer than when people deny God and His truth.

Smacking of divine intervention     

In an interview with Dr. Stephen Meyer, Skeptic Magazine founder Michael Shermer chided Meyer about how his latest book, Return of the God Hypothesis, had not done much to woo unbelieving scientists over to theism. Shermer then quoted skeptical cosmologist Brian Keating who intimated that Meyer’s conclusions about God were the result of confirmation bias.

Meyer’s response landed a direct hit when it comes to how many unbelievers deny God’s existence.  

“First of all, there may be confirmation bias in the scientific community that would prevent a majority consensus congealing around something as provocative as I'm proposing. We do know that there is a default rule of method known as methodological naturalism that says that if you're going to be a scientist you have to explain everything by reference to purely materialistic causes whether you're even including things like the origin of the universe, the origin of life, its fine-tuning, or the origin and nature of human consciousness. If that's taken as normative then no amount of evidence for creative intelligence could move a group of people who already hold that as normative.”

Yep. And as Stephen Hawking admitted years ago, “Many people do not like the idea that time has a beginning, probably because it smacks of divine intervention.”

The truth is, we as a people (including scientists who are just as human as you and me) are exceptional at forming beliefs and acting contrary to evidence. Whether a denial comes in the form of “it can’t happen to me” or manifests in a post-truth mode of admitting reality but personally denying it because it conflicts with how we want to live, we’re really good at being the proverbial ostrich with our head in the sand.

In philosophy, this pursuit of personal reality is called “creative anti-realism.” It asserts that human behavior, thought and language are responsible for the world's fundamental structure and for what exists.  

If that sounds ridiculous, it’s because it is. Christian philosopher Alvin Plantinga calls it “at best a mere impertinence, a piece of laughable bravado.”  

Jesus covered why we pursue our silly personal realities when He said, “This is the judgment, that the Light has come into the world, and men loved the darkness rather than the Light, for their deeds were evil. For everyone who does evil hates the Light and does not come to the Light for fear that his deeds will be exposed” (John 3:19-20).

Speaking of judgment, there is perhaps no greater denial these days than saying no eternal consequences await us for our actions in this life. In his work “The Discreet Charms of Nihilism,” poet and Nobel Prize winner Czeslaw Milosz refers to Karl Marx calling religion the opiate of the people, and then says, “Now we are witnessing a transformation. A true opium of the people is a belief in nothingness after death — the huge solace of thinking that for our betrayals, greed, cowardice, murders we are not going to be judged.”

The Bible warns us that denials about that and God, in general, will only lead to catastrophe. Jesus said, “whoever denies Me before men, I will also deny him before My Father who is in heaven” (Matt. 10:33). and Paul writes “if we deny Him, He will also deny us” (2 Tim. 2:12).

Scripture is clear that no amount of wishing away a reckoning with our Creator will make it so. That being the case, the only form of denial our life needs to run on is one where we give ourselves completely over to Him: “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow Me” (Luke 9:23).

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.

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