The distribution of Gideon Bibles has again been the flashpoint for a complaint.
This time, the District School Board of Niagara was targeted for maintaining the 5-decade long practice of permitting the pocket New Testaments to be given to Grade 5 students.
Essentially the objection was that in so doing, the Gideons and school board had together trampled on the rights of the complainant – even though each child required parental permission to receive a Bible.
Many of us see this and similar incidents as screaming evidence of the “secularization” of our Canadian culture, a movement away from the recognition of our founding fathers that “He shall have dominion from sea to sea” (Psalm 72:8).
But this legal hearing was striking for 2 reasons:
- first, the objection was not initiated by the adherent to another religious faith, but rather by an avowed atheist.
- second, the resulting ruling determined that atheism deserves protection, because it too is a faith position! The National Post summarized:“Atheism is a creed deserving of the same religious protections as Christianity, Islam, and other faiths, the Ontario Human Rights Tribunal has ruled in a new decision”.*
Now, rewind 2000 years.
When the members of the Areopagus in 1st century Athens grilled Paul for an explanation of the gospel he preached, he began with reference to their overt idolatry.
The great irony of the situation was not lost on the apostle: Athens, the grand intellectual capital of the world was dominated by the worship of man-made idols! (“For as I walked around and looked carefully at your objects of worship, I even found an altar with this inscription:to an unknown god. So you are ignorant of the very thing you worship—and this is what I am going to proclaim to you” Acts 17:23).
Then Paul showed the naked irrationality of their faith position before warning “in the past God overlooked such ignorance” v.30 (how do you think that played with the Athenian intellectuals?)
I think he would do the same today.
In our so-called enlightened, educated society, the atheist has adopted a position that leaves many gaping holes when attacked from science, history, and philosophy. For example, current explanations of the origins of the universe (or the origins of life) border on absurdity.
We shouldn’t be timid about going on the offensive. Paul wasn’t!
Takeaway: as I seek to witness for Christ, have I thought through the atheist’s faith position sufficiently to respectfully ask intelligent questions? make rational observations?