Johnny Depp stares at you from the cover of May’s “Esquire” magazine, framed on one side by “How to be a better man (17 new ways to live longer and stronger)” and on the other by “Dude, Where’s My Jesus?” I read the latter standing at the news-stand in the drug store. I’m always curious and rarely hopeful about what secular magazines do with Jesus. I ended up buying the magazine. It was impressive.
“Who is Jesus?” Writer Tom Junod answers, “Jesus is a man who called himself the Son of God and a god who called himself the Son of Man.” Pretty good. “Where is Jesus?” Junod writes, “Jesus is everywhere.” That’s how the article opens. This clearly is not another put-down of my Lord and a smirk at those of us who worship Him.
“The president is one of the millions of Americans who call themselves evangelical Christians. What does that mean, exactly?” Junod answers, “It means that he has accepted Jesus Christ as his lord and savior. It means that he has a personal relationship with Jesus.” Well, okay, but what does that mean? Junod responds, “It means he acknowledges that he, like all the rest of us, falls short of the glory of God. He acknowledges what Gary Bauer…acknowledges: ‘As a sinner, I have no right to stand in front of God.’ Our sins are indeed repellent in the eyes of God, but he loves us so much that he sent his only begotten son to suffer the torment that is rightfully ours…We either accept the gift of his sacrifice and join him in heaven, no questions asked, or we refuse it and suffer the torment he suffered, but eternally. ‘He’s either your savior or your judge’ is how Anne Graham Lotz…puts it.”
Now, I know these things and we say them around the church all the time, but I can’t ever remember a magazine like Esquire proclaiming the gospel of Jesus to the world. Not that most of us will agree with everything in the article, although my own complaints are minor. The writer also drops in some profanity occasionally (hey, it’s Esquire and the writers have to appear cool to keep their audience). But considering the source, this is incredible.
I was just as fascinated by the way the article ends. “Either you are saved or you aren’t. You either love Jesus or you don’t. It’s a zero-sum religion.” Question: “Should we be scared?” Answer: “Depends on who you are,” says Franklin Graham. C’mon. No kidding around. “No. You shouldn’t be scared.” Why not? “Jesus loves you.”
A lot of people who would never be caught dead inside my church will read Junod’s article, and I’m sending up a prayer for them, that some will open their minds and believe and live forever. For those who need more before taking that step, there’s a just-off-the-press book I want to recommend.
“I Don’t Have Enough Faith to be an Atheist” is directed toward those who freely admit they do not believe in God or Jesus and give you reasons. Authors Norman Geisler and Frank Turek have answered a lot of people’s prayers with this readable, solid, low-cost volume that hits atheism and agnosticism right between the eyes. David Limbaugh says, “This is the best single book I’ve seen to prepare believers to give the reasons for their faith, and for skeptics who are open to the truth.” Limbaugh says, “As we know, the intellectual obstacles are usually just an excuse for nonbelievers, but when you remove the substance of their excuse they are left naked to confront their real obstacles, their real demons.”
I spent a week with Norman Geisler in the summer of 1978. Not that he will remember. Some of us locked ourselves up on the campus of Western Kentucky University and brought in leading Christian thinkers for a week at a time. Carl F. H. Henry came, as did Gary Collins, Ray Stedham, and others, including Norman Geisler, a professor of apologetics at–I believe–Dallas Theological Seminary at the time. These days he serves as president of Southern Evangelical Seminary and has authored 60 books. I remember him as kind and logical, traits still evident in his new book.
“The claim that religion is simply a matter of faith is nothing more than a modern myth,” write Geisler and Turek. “It’s just not true.” They continue, “While religion certainly requires faith, religion is not only about faith. Facts are also central to all religions because all religious worldviews–including atheism–make truth claims, and many of those truth claims can be evaluated through scientific and historical investigation.”
Atheism is a religious worldview. It speaks of God. It claims knowledge about the existence of God. Atheism requires faith.
Astronomer Carl Sagan made no secret of his atheism. “The Cosmos is all that is or ever was or ever will be,” he said. Geisler and Turek ask how he knew that for certain. “He didn’t,” they answer, because “How could he? He was a limited human being with limited knowledge.” In actuality, Sagan was operating in the realm of probability in the same way Christians are when they say that God exists. The question then becomes, who has more evidence for their conclusion? Which is more reasonable? They conclude, “The atheist has to muster a lot more faith than the Christian.” Hence the title of the book.
All of this reminds me of a conversation an unbeliever had with his church-going friend. “I’m an atheist and don’t mind admitting it,” he said. His buddy said, “What is an atheist?” “An atheist knows there is no God.” “Oh?” said the friend, “and how do you know this?” “From my own reasoning and the arguments of science.”
The friend said, “Let me ask you: of all the knowledge in the universe, what percent do you personally have? Two percent? Five percent?” “Let’s say five,” said the atheist, wondering where he was going with this. “Then,” said the believer, “isn’t it possible that God exists in the 95 percent of knowledge you don’t have?”
“Okay,” said the atheist, “I’ll grant you that. So, maybe I’m not an atheist. I’m an agnostic.” “And what is an agnostic?” his friend asked. “Agnostic is a Greek word meaning one who does not know. That’s me. I don’t know whether God exists or not.”
The Christian said, “I prefer the Latin word in place of the Greek one.” “Oh?” said the new agnostic. “What is the Latin for one who does not know?” “Ignoramus.”
The Bible says, “The fool has said in his heart there is no God.” Sorry, friend, God’s word does not have much respect for those who deny the obvious.
Jesus Christ is real, He died for our sins on a Roman cross and rose from the dead, He lives forever, and He comes into the lives of all who turn to Him in humility and repentance. He forgives sins and makes you a child of God, starting today and lasting forever. If you are looking for the truth, you have just found it.
Winston Churchill said, “Men stumble over the truth from time to time, but most pick themselves up and hurry off as if nothing happened.” Let us pray it does not happen this time.
The issue of Esquire with the feature article on Jesus also has major sections on “How to be a better man” and “How to save the world.” I wonder how many readers figured out that Jesus Christ holds the answers to both.
(“I Don’t Have Enough Faith to Be an Atheist” is published by Crossway Books of Wheaton, Illinois. 2004.)