The Argument from the Bible in the Briefcase

Last night James Croft attended a lecture by famous Christian apologist (and Oxford Professor of Mathematics), John Lennox. James was struck by the especial susceptibility of the American audience to emotional appeals, which led them to give a charming but intellectually shallow, evasive, and unoriginal defense of belief a standing ovation:

This shows us something about the importance of Pathos and Ethos, about how much they affect audiences. And, I have to say, in my experience, how very open American audiences are to emotional appeals and to the likability of a speaker. Don’t get me wrong – I love this characteristic. As a speaker myself it is wonderful to have an emotional demonstrative audience. But it is striking to note how, in comparison to British audiences, Americans seem to get into stuff more. They audibly emote with sighs and swaying and facial expressions throughout stories, they laugh more at jokes – they are very generous with their emotions. And this is something for atheist speakers to consider – we can use this to our advantage.

But Lennox wasn’t all flash and no substance. He did have one powerful argument up his sleeve that seems to have had a life-changing effect on James:

The Argument from the Bible in the Briefcase

Many years ago, John Lennox was doing the Lord’s work, spreading the Gospel in Russia when he encountered a man on a train. They started to talk about God. Lennox was overcome with the sense that he should give the man a Bible – whence came this strange compulsion he knew not. He remembered that, but two weeks previously, he had been given a bible, in Russian, by someone else. He wondered if, by some strange and serendipitous alignment of circumstances, that Bible might still be in the briefcase where he had put it those two weeks prior.

He reached into the briefcase and, heart palpitating, his spirit fixed on the Lord, grasped the spine of a book. He pulled it from the bag, hand shaking, knees knocking, soul hoping.

Yay, verily, it was indeed the very same Bible, still in Russian, that he had himself placed there weeks ago!

Handing it to his interlocutor they were both overcome by the power of the Spirit of God – for surely it could only have been He, in his vast might, who ensured that the Bible had not been spirited from where it had previously been placed. The gentleman was so overcome by the presence of the Bible in its anointed place that he almost had a heart attack! Surely, God works in mysterious ways.

Praise Jesus!

It was at this point that I converted to Christianity. I asked afterward if Lennox had the very same briefcase in which the bible had been kept safe by God, that I might touch the Holy Relic, but sadly he had brought a different book bag that day. Perhaps The Briefcase is enshrined in a chapel on a high mountaintop, where it receives pilgrimages from newly-converted Russians daily.

This reminds me of my brother’s “Argument From The $20 He Had Thrown On The Floor”. It went something like this:

There came a time at which he, while holding forth in the School of Sunday, decided to illustrate the fleeting and vain nature of money by casting to the ground a bill of twenty dollars. Lo, though he had no other in his wallet, he did not retrieve this bill of twenty from whence he had cast it.  Erelong, he opened his wallet to discover the bill of twenty dollars had returned there of its own. Eftsoons, his telephone of cellularity rang and a stranger spake to him of an emergency with his automobile, saying that unto him my brother’s telephone number had been given, for my brother was a minister of the LORD. The LORD said unto my brother, “I have returned thy bill of twenty dollars to thee so that you may give it unto this stranger.”

Your Conversions?

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About Daniel Fincke

Dr. Daniel Fincke  has his PhD in philosophy from Fordham University and spent 11 years teaching in college classrooms. He wrote his dissertation on Ethics and the philosophy of Friedrich Nietzsche. On Camels With Hammers, the careful philosophy blog he writes for a popular audience, Dan argues for atheism and develops a humanistic ethical theory he calls “Empowerment Ethics”. Dan also teaches affordable, non-matriculated, video-conferencing philosophy classes on ethics, Nietzsche, historical philosophy, and philosophy for atheists that anyone around the world can sign up for. (You can learn more about Dan’s online classes here.) Dan is an APPA  (American Philosophical Practitioners Association) certified philosophical counselor who offers philosophical advice services to help people work through the philosophical aspects of their practical problems or to work out their views on philosophical issues. (You can read examples of Dan’s advice here.) Through his blogging, his online teaching, and his philosophical advice services each, Dan specializes in helping people who have recently left a religious tradition work out their constructive answers to questions of ethics, metaphysics, the meaning of life, etc. as part of their process of radical worldview change.