Thoughts on a recent Late Show interview.
“It has nothing to do with the credibility of the truth; it has to do with the popularity of the idea.”
This insightful quip by Ricky Gervais got me thinking about James Sire’s important question *Why Should Anyone Believe Anything At All?*
As a professing atheist, Gervais can tell us why he loves Jesus but does not believe in god. As a creedal and confessional Christian, Colbert can tell us who and what he believes about the triune God and Jesus Christ. (The Nicene Creed is both a personal and propositional statement of our faith.)
We all rely on, trust in, hold to someone or something for all kinds of reasons — intellectual, affectional, volitional, relational, and more.
Believing is inescapable. Believing in this or that specific person or thing not so much.
But the question remains: Why *should* anyone believe anything at all? Are we morally obligated to believe one thing over another — or many others?
All people everywhere believe whether they acknowledge it or not. Ricky Gervais is just as much a believer as Stephen Colbert is. The difference lies in the different objects of their belief. Gervais believes in man, in himself, and his own understanding of human experience. Colbert believes in the triune God, in the Church, and the faith once for all delivered. The object of each man’s faith persuades and obligates them to live, move, and exist in particular ways. That is to say, both feel compelled in some sense to walk by faith in someone or something.
Again, believing is inescapable and avoidable. Deciding who or what you believe is a different matter.
So, is just believing enough? No. All believing has an object — and believing in X is only as strong as X. What matters is the object of one’s belief. Faith is only as strong as its object. If the object of your faith is too weak or unwilling to do what you believe it can do, your faith will prove null and void, empty and vain.
Why should anyone believe anything or anyone at all?
Like believing, the answer is deeply complex.
On the one hand, we believe because we are naturally inclined to believe, trust, rely. It’s how we’re created, designed, hard wired. On the other hand, we believe because we are morally obligated to believe: we simply cannot not believe.
Colbert wants his friend Gervais to believe in the triune God, the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit and so become a Christian. He is right to ask questions and listen, to reason with his friend and love him. But there are limits to what one can do. Colbert seems to understand that no one can be persuaded to believe by reason alone — no matter how “persuasive” the argument.
People come to believe in Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior for all sorts of reasons — intellectual, affectional, volitional, relational — and more. God works through these ordinary means to accomplish his extraordinary ends.
Believing in the triune God, believing Jesus is God in the flesh, the Lord and Savior, does not come naturally. The deepest reason anyone believes in Jesus is spiritual. No one is able to come to faith in Christ of his own accord, all by himself, all on his own — not even the best and brightest among us. Why? Faith in Christ is a supernatural gift of grace. It comes to us by the gracious work of the Holy Spirit through hearing the word of Christ in the gospel: Repent and believe the good news!
Faith in Christ is neither rational nor irrational but supra-rational. It comes to us from the Spirit of God, from above and without, it does come from us from below or within.
True Christian Faith is a fruit of the Spirit, not a work of the flesh. It is initiated by God not by self.
In fine, Gervais quoted Ghandi as a reason for not believing the exclusive truth-claims of Christianity. Colbert absorbed the blow by confessing that he is an un-like Christ Christian. Gervais was disarmed and responded by conceding that some Christians are good. (By what standard? — he did not say.)
I wish Colbert had called BS on Gervais’ remark and returned this friendly fire:
Since you say you love Jesus and like our Christ, in what ways are you living like him and following his teachings?
All in all, I admire Colbert for his public declarations of faith and his evangelistic desire to point his audience to the historic orthodox faith expressed in the ecumenical Nicene Creed.
As it turns out, true saving faith has nothing to do with the popularity of the idea; it has to do with the credibility of the truth.
Click here to watch the Late Show interview.
[ https://www.cbs.com/shows/the-late-show-with-stephen-colbert/video/FwH1Ultnd3Ow9eJUNwJu_J0vs4KV32Lp/ricky-gervais-chooses-dogs-over-gods/?fbclid=IwAR1qnAgHL5lkg6ZoMnM69VH3yHBb8zZPU4T6q5OZInYT4J5AtQiiM_IOlH ]