What are the modern alternatives to God?
Back in 2012, I had a memorable conversation with a young man called “John.” My friend and I were walking at the top of Bromley high street one night, when a group of three crossed our path. John and I made eye contact. We smiled and acknowledged one another from a distance. I still don’t know why.
Once we reached the other side, he greeted us. "You both look like friendly guys to talk to,” he said smiling. “My friends won't listen to me anyway."
As we started walking together, John asked us if we were around during the riots in Bromley. My friend and I shook our heads. Thankfully we were elsewhere at the time.
John then offered his very colourful opinion about what he thought of the perpetrators. When he finished, I asked him,
"Why do you think what they did was wrong, John?"
He replied, "Well it just is! They were causing mayhem. What they did was evil!"
"Well, my friend and I are Christians from the local church. We think that people do those things because they are in rebellion against God. What do you think about that?"
John said that he respected our opinion, but believed that the only “god” is Mother Nature.
Once we got a bit deeper into our conversation I challenged him about his world-view.
“John, you seem to hold that there are moral absolutes (good and evil). But let me ask you this. If Mother Nature is all that there is, what was really wrong with what the rioters did?"
John’s eyes widened.
“Well… we all have this sense of right and wrong!” he explained. “We just know certain things are wrong.”
I continued, “But on your world view, what happened during the riots was ultimately nothing more than chunks of matter colliding in motion. I mean, if we're all destined to return to soil, why should anyone feel obligated to live a moral life?"
At this point John seemed to understand where I was coming from. But his answer was interesting.
“Man is not in tune with Mother Nature. That's one of the reasons they cause evil,” he said confidently.
I thought carefully on those words for a moment.
“They may not be ‘in tune’ with it, John, but they are certainly living as if Mother Nature is all that there is. There is no foundation for morality on that view.”
John went on to tell me he was a pagan and brought up the fact that England was once a pagan country before Christianity came in. He moved the discussion to religion.
"I think all religions are great, don't get me wrong,” he said. “But I think they're all in place to control people. I like Buddhism and its worldview, but I couldn't live it...lots of wars are started by religion as well..."
"Well, religions can't all be true,” I replied. “They can all be wrong of course, but they can't all be right because they teach completely different things. You see, religion teaches that man can earn his way into heaven through his own efforts or good works. But what separates Christianity from all the other religions in the world is grace. The Bible says that no-one can match up to God’s perfect standards. But in His mercy He sent Jesus into the world to reconcile sinful humanity to himself."
In regards to religious war I argued, "What that reveals is the darkness that lies within the heart of man. He will even use religion to justify his wrongdoing. But it's not just religion. The Nazi’s used their own secular ideology to justify the extermination of Jews and disabled people."
John seemed to agree on this point.
MAN AS GOD
John explained that man is blind to his own potential. He claimed that people basically have god in them, or they are gods. If they could only harness or channel their energy, everything would be fantastic.
This idea of each person having "god" in them or having the potential to become like gods is called New Ageism. It’s a popular belief system which is especially common among young people.
I responded by saying, "John, I think what you’re saying has already happened. But I believe the result is a negative one not a positive. The Bible says sin originated in man’s desire to be god and rule his own life. But in so doing, he turned his back on the one, true, almighty God. That's why the world is so messed up today."
My discussion with John was cut short when his friends screamed at him to stop talking to me and leave. Despite this, we parted on good terms.
John had some very challenging beliefs which I wholeheartedly disagree with. But he was surprisingly forthright and open with me when I asked him about them. The lesson I took away from this encounter was not be afraid to question people about their beliefs! Most people are quite happy to talk to you about what they believe if you show a genuine interest.
Often times, people will tell you what their real problems are without you even asking. This will allow you to be more effective in sharing the gospel and directing the conversation. In John’s case, he felt a real sense of injustice about what the rioters did in 2012, but he also believed that we are a result of Mother Nature which makes morality relative, so there was a big inconsistency! This allowed me to show him that the sense of injustice he felt only makes sense if God is real (Romans 2:14-15). This is a helpful way to switch to the Gospel, and it’s one I wholeheartedly recommend.
Adam Brennan is a digital producer at Premier
Next Time: God's Providence in McDonalds