Last week ABC’s Nightline Face-Off hosted a discussion on the Existence of Satan. The panelists included Annie Lobert, Bishop Carlton Pearson, Deepak Chopra, and Pastor Mark Driscoll. It was a very intriguing and provocative discussion, but at the end of the show the host concluded by saying, “It is always difficult to have one’s core beliefs challenged, but it is also healthy.” Interestingly enough, I agree. Nothing is, I believe, worse than a firm believer unwilling to engage in intelligent, critical and thorough analysis of his faith. The reason, I would imagine, that so many are afraid to do this is because they either do not believe that the Christian faith can stand up to such scrutiny, or because they are afraid they will embarrass themselves. But last week I was reminded again of how logically consistent and foundational the Christian worldview is to all of life.
The “Face-Off” began with opening statements from each of the panelists. Mark Driscoll began with a simple and clear presentation of the gospel which identified who Satan was, what sin is, who Jesus is, and why man needs Jesus. Chopra followed up with a detailed explanation of the ambiguity of human nature (the divine and diabolical in us all). He simply stated that the concepts of “Satan” and “sin” are the products of our own guilt and lack of enlightenment, and simply put, “healthy people do not have any need for Satan.” The other two participants each presented their introductions with equal conviction. Annie was a former prostitute who gave her testimony, which indeed was sad, and Bishop Pearson explained his shift away from Fundamentalism to a position much closer to that of Deepak Chopra, a sort of Christianized version of Hindu spirituality.
The discussion touched on all sorts of related topics: The nature of God (Pearson repeatedly attacked the concept of the God who destroys his enemies); The words and person of Jesus (Driscoll and Chopra got into a heated discussion about what Jesus meant when He said “I am in you, you are in me, and I and the Father are one”); Evolution (Chopra was very committed to the science behind evolution); and frequently the concept of morality. The three men were each well versed in philosophy and were greatly prepared to interact with one another, but repeatedly the only one who could give real justification for his convictions was Mark Driscoll.
When discussing the concept of Morality both Chopra and Pearson could give no clear statement that the terrible things done to Annie Lobert (rape, torture, etc.) were evil. Both wanted to psychologize the event, Chopra in particular kept stating that both evil and good were necessary for one another and part of life (the ying and the yang, you can’t have one without the other). When it turned to Q&A the audience’s questions made it even more evident that only Christianity can make sense of morality. One audience member asked how one could judge something as bad if everything was “one” and there was no distinction between good and evil (terms Chopra stated we should not use). Driscoll alone gave an answer, saying that without God you can’t judge something to be evil. God is outside the world and can judge it, and He alone can set up the standards by which we can judge all things in our world. Another audience member asked Chopra, “You said that belief was a cover-up for insecurity, do you believe that?” Chopra answered, “Yes” to outbursts of laughter and applause. The joke was totally lost on him…for someone with such a higher enlightenment I would have expected more, but he repeatedly looked silly and revealed the incredible short comings of his philosophical worldview.
It was encouraging for me, as a Christian, however, to see that there are godly, theologically-sound, people out there who can interact at these levels in intelligent and meaningful ways. Driscoll was his usual self: witty, funny, sharp-tongued, but compassionate and sensitive, and very intelligent. We’re not all Mark Driscoll. Many of us (most of us?) don’t have the philosophical knowledge and apologetical skill that he does, but what we can rejoice in is that Christianity can hold up to the weight of scrutiny. The culture at large likes to mock and demean Christianity as stupid and ignorant, and indeed some are, but here we have a prime example from popular culture of an intelligent Christian interacting both graciously and firmly for the faith. At one point during the Q&A a woman asked Mark, “If you believe that the underlying issue for all sin and evil is pride, then isn’t it wrong for you to believe you have the market cornered on truth?” It was a keen question, but Driscoll’s response was good. He stated that the whole reason he was doing a show like this was to show that Christians could intelligently engage in conversations like this and entertain other’s ideas of truth, but in the end what he was most concerned with was “truth” itself…and if something turns out to be true, and something else not true, then it isn’t selfish to affirm the one and not the other, it just makes sense.
Friends, Christianity can stand up to the criticisms, the analyses, and the investigations of the culture, so engage with earnest intelligent conversations about the faith. If you fear that you don’t know enough then study more, but don’t fear that the faith will fall apart. So remember two things, you can discuss intelligently the Christian faith and it will endure, and if you ever have the chance to make Deepak Chopra look like a fool…you should take it!