As of late, I haven't been able to get enough of the radio program Unbelievable?, a Christian British program that is hosted by Justin Brierley. Brierley has on prominent Christian apologists, scholars, and thinkers, as well as non-believing writers and scholars. Among some of the guests who have appeared on the program are William Lane Craig, Rob Bell, Mark Driscoll, Bart Erhman, atheist John Loftus, John Hick, and the list goes on. (I've also enjoyed listening to guests whose names I did not know previously, but who have interesting things to say: I think of Holly Ordway, an academic, who wrote a book about her conversion from atheism to Christianity, and who is updating that book because of her later conversion to Catholicism.) The program has also had episodes about world religions, in which Christians discuss (say) Islam or Buddhism with a Muslim or a Buddhist.
What particularly impresses me is
that the discussions are generally respectful. Yesterday, for example, I
was listening to an episode about the religious right, which had on a
British Christian who was a socialist, a British gentleman who was part
of a political party that is socially conservative yet economically
progressive, the emergent Christian Brian McLaren, and someone from the
right-wing American Family Association. You would expect for sparks to
fly on that episode, and, on some level, they did! But each of the
guests made reasonable, albeit different, points, and, overall, they
seemed to me to be respectful to one another. It was an intelligent
conversation, not a shouting match!
I was listening to one of the
programs, and it had on the Christian apologist Josh McDowell, as well
as a skeptic. I was rolling my eyes at a lot of McDowell's arguments
(especially the one about Jesus fulfilling a bunch of prophecies), but I
had to admire his skill as a debater. He knows his spiel and how to
articulate it! Anyway, after experiencing the ordeal of listening to
him mop up the floor with the skeptic (who asked valid questions, but
who I wished had manifested more familiarity with the relevant issues,
while making his points in a crisper manner), I suddenly heard McDowell
say something that changed my outlook on life for the rest of the day.
He was saying that it's his responsibility to tell people about Jesus,
but that it is up to them what to do in response to that. And, he went
on, even if a person chooses not to believe in Jesus, that will not
affect how he treats that person, for that person is created in the
image of God and deserves respect and love.
That really ministered
to me. I am the sort of person who cannot stand a lot of people,
especially people who see things differently from me. But McDowell was
sharing another way of seeing the situation: I should respect people's
right to make their own decisions, and how I treat them should not be
conditional on whether they do or see things my way. Revolutionary,
isn't it? Well, right now, I think I can do that, but who knows if that
sentiment will last!