I observe that you are very religious in all respects. For while I was passing through and examining the objects of your worship, I also found an altar with this inscription, 'TO AN UNKNOWN GOD' ~Acts 17:22,23
Faced with a decision of how to respond to the Epicurean and Stoic philosophers in Athens he could have chosen to ignore them or berate them. After all, they had just been calling him an "idle babbler" and a proclaimer of strange deities (17:18). Furthermore, Paul had already learned that he might not be well received by those to whom he proclaimed his message (17:5), His choice, however, was neither ignoring nor berating. Rather, he chose to engage with them. How? He found a point of intersection--"an altar with this inscription, 'TO AN UNKNOWN GOD." From that point of intersection he reasoned with those in the midst of the Areopagus, explaining the true nature of God, making clear how humanity relates to God, and establishing the proof for the resurrection of Jesus Christ.
The result? Some mocked him. Some wanted to hear more from Paul. Some believed Paul and joined him.
On March 24th there will be another assemblage of people talking about the latest ideas of the day. They will not be promoting an altar to an unknown God, but an altar to 'No God.' Joining together on the National Mall in Washington D.C., secularists from all over the country will be meeting for the Reason Rally (ReasonRally.com). In their own words,
The intent is to unify, energize, and embolden secular people nationwide, while dispelling the negative opinions held by so much of American society…
Whether people call themselves atheists, agnostics, secular Humanists, or any of the other terms used to describe their god-free lifestyle, secularism is coming out of the closet. . .
The purpose of this particular rally will be to advance secularism (in the broadest sense of the word) in society. . .
. . . the event is indeed a celebration of secular values.
They have every right to gather and express their views. We respect that right. Is it going to be just another "opportunity to trash religion?" They say, "No. This will be a positive experience, focusing on all non-theists have achieved in the past several years (and beyond) and motivating those in attendance to become more active." It sounds like another Areopagus, though some might object that the Reason Rally is not a gathering of people who are "very religious in all respects" as in Paul's situation (17:22). However, Paul's statements to the "very religious" included the Epicureans who were materialists, hedonists, and had no use for the involvement of divine beings. In some ways the Epicureans were not altogether different than the modern secularist. It is also interesting to note from the Reason Rally website and one of their press releases that "The Reason Rally will give secular Americans an opportunity to unite under a banner of reason and community at a level of impact that has never been seen before." Atheists are seeking community and a transcendent approach to life. Philosophy of Religion, by Geisler and Corduan, talks about several important observations on religious transcendence in the modern world.
First, religious experience has many dimensions. It is much broader than theism. Second, humans are incurably religious. When one way to transcend is cut off, people find another. When fully religious ways are not possible, then quasireligious means are devised, as is evidenced in secularized societies (e.g., Communistic societies). For better or for worse, in reality or illusion, a human being must transcend. If traditional religious symbols or myths are incapable of evoking an experience of ultimate transcendence, new ways are created. The sacred or secular history of humanity supports the thesis that by nature a person has an irresistible urge to transcend himself. And even those who see no ultimate meaning or religious significance in their form of transcendence admit nonetheless that they too seek to transcend fundamental nihilism.
So, at this altar of 'No God' in Washington D.C. what should be the response of the Christian community? One option is to ignore it and hope that it goes away quickly with little notice. That is not likely. The website says they are in Washington to "deliver the good news: 'We’re huge, we’re everywhere, and we’re growing.'" Neither should hiding the light under a basket be the modus operandi for Christians. Another option is to mock, berate, or quarrel with those organizing or going to the rally. Though this may seemingly be the easiest option, it is neither effective nor Christian. We hope that the Christian community's response is neither passive nor hostile.
Ratio Christi, among others, is suggesting engagement. Like Paul we believe there is a point of intersection: reason. Though disputed by the secularists, Christianity has a long lineage and impressive resume as a proponent of reason. We grant that this has not been the case in many circumstances, but contend that Christianity as properly understood embraces reason and finds in it a powerful and compelling ally. Beginning in the very nature of reality, truth, and logic, Christians have long demonstrated the existence of God and pursued historical truth in the event of the resurrection of Jesus Christ.
A group of Christian thinkers and writers has come together to publish a book responding to the Reason Rally that will argue that atheism can not and does not fully embrace reason. Christianity is both good and reasonable. The book is pending publication prior to the event in Washington. Further, this group along with other sponsoring organizations are planning to meet the atheists at their own rally and to graciously share truth with them. This will involve person to person sharing with anyone that is willing. By carefully and lovingly using the premise of the rally itself, reason, we hope to begin dialogs with atheists and skeptics in order to point them to Christ.
We invite the Christian community to participate. Training prior to the event is being planned for everyone who attends. For more information you can go to www.TrueReason.org. Ratio Christi is planning a chartered bus trip from North Carolina to the D.C. event to be a part of this outreach (details here). If you are from any other part of the country and want to attend this important opportunity for engagement please coordinate with TrueReason.org here.
The result? Most likely, some will mock us, some will be interested in hearing more, and, Lord willing, some may actually decide secularism is not true and Jesus Christ is worth following. The results, however, are matters outside of our control.
- Defending Christian Faith: Reason Rally 2012
- The Point Radio: Come to the Reason Rally!
- RTB Take Two: Science, Faith, Reason, Sporks
- Reason for God: The Reason Rally
- Josiah Batten: The Reason Rally- A Christian Evaluation
- Two Books Approach: Reason Rally- Secular Values and Reason
- BreakPoint (Chuck Colson): Taking on the Spaghetti Monster
- Luke Nix Blog: Reason Rally and True Reason
- We Should All Make an Effort: Brief Word on Reason Rally
- Songs of a Semi-Free Man: Reason Rally
- Thinking Christian: Come to the Reason Rally