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About this episode:
The West has become an increasingly post-Christian world with the rise of the ‘nones’ and the influence of new atheism.
So, where are the next generation turning to in the search for meaning and identity? Is God finally dead, as Nietzsche once declared? Or is there space for a renaissance of religious belief in the modern world?
Justin Brierley hosts a live dialogue between two leading cultural commentators – John Lennox and Dave Rubin. John Lennox is Emeritus Professor of mathematics and philosophy of science at Oxford University. A leading Christian thinker, he has debated many of the world’s leading atheist voices. His latest book is ‘Can Science Explain Everything?’
Dave Rubin hosts The Rubin Report, a talk show that reaches millions of people every week. An agnostic Jew by background, he regularly hosts conversations with the leading cultural and religious thinkers of our day.
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More from this season:
- Episode 1 | Part 1: Religion: Useful fiction or ultimate truth?
- Episode 1 | Part 2: Religion: Useful fiction or ultimate truth?
- Episode 2: The Universe: Where did it come from and why are we part of it?
- Episode 3: The story of Jesus: Can we trust the historical reliability of the Gospels?
- Episode 4 | Part 1: Is God Dead? A conversation on faith, culture and the modern world
- Episode 5: Did Christianity give us our human values?
- Episode 6: Morality: Can atheism deliver a better world?
Justin Brierley (JB) John Lennox (JL) and Dave Rubin (DR)
JB: Let’s give another round of applause if you would to John and Dave. Ok, there’s a lot for you I’m afraid Dave.
DR: Can I text in a couple of questions myself?!
JB: I mean, there is one very obvious one which someone wants to ask, and this could be a whole evening for you John, but someone simply asks: “what for you would be the key evidences for God, if you were in a conversation with someone about that?”
JL: Depends entirely who I’m talking to, because it seems to me there are two kinds of evidence. There’s the objective kind of evidence, that is, from the scientific point of view; looking at the universe, the beginning, the fine-tuning of the universe and all those pointers – the very doing of science – that point to an intelligence behind the universe. That would be one set. The second set would be the revelation through Christ and who he is and what he did and all that kind of thing. And central to it of course would be the fact that I believe the death problem has been solved, in the sense that at the heart of Christianity there’s not only a death but a resurrection, which validates a significance of the death. So I’d want to go into what I believe are the evidences for the resurrection, historically and so on.
And then finally there’s the existential side. And people say to me: “you can’t be a Christian and a scientist, because Christianity is not testable”. And I say, “of course it’s testable!” And to be blunt about that very briefly, Christ makes certain claims, that if we trust him, he will give us peace with God, forgiveness, new life and new power – you can test that. And you know, in my life, which has been quite long, I’ve met many people. And you meet them maybe in the midst of a broken relationship, narcotic dependence – all kinds of stuff. And you meet them six months later, and they’re completely different. And you say: “what’s happened to you?” Now they may express it in different terms. They may say, “well I became a Christian”, or, “I was born again”, or “I was converted”. But when you see that as I have done, again and again – not only in my life and those around me, but in people around – you add two and two, and you get four. And I wouldn’t sit here for a nanosecond as a Christian, if I didn’t believe it can be tested in real experience. If it doesn’t work, then it’s very suspect. So that is the fastest answer I can give to that.
JB: Thank you very much for the answer, that’s a lot of thinking boiled down into a very brief answer. Question for you Dave has come in, and it’s: “what do you find unbelievable about Christianity?” So I guess the question is: ok, you’re on a journey, you’re willing to be open to that potential answer. What are the main objections at this point, that you would have to kind of embrace?
DR: Well I suppose it’s a good question, because I don’t have a particularly good answer for it, so I think we could probably do this one pretty quickly. There’s no… well other than what would be a generic about any religion – let’s say some sort of like truly ?1:20:02 – to ultimately say: “this” – whether it’s Christianity or Judaism or whatever you want to say; whatever religion or set of ideas we’re talking about. Beyond that full jump, I don’t have any… there’s nothing that’s been said up here; there’s nothing that John has talked about – or that any of the religious thinkers that I’ve had on recently… The conversation that I had with Ravi Zacharias that’s going on next week I think is one of the best interviews that I’ve ever been part of. There was nothing that he said there in the course of that hour and a half that I found objectionable or I found completely incongruent with my set of beliefs, let’s say. So there’s no answer for that, in that I’m willing to keep continuing that conversation.
JB: A few people have asked a follow-up question, effectively. It’s phrased in a few different ways, so I’ll try and…
DR: Is it hot in here?!!
JB: It kind of goes to the heart of Christianity though, which is: “what do you think of the central claim that Jesus rose from the dead?” Because that, at the end of the day, is at the heart of the faith John holds. Is that something you would be open to investigating, to kind of see whether there’s anything in that claim?
DR: Yes. Look I think… I don’t know how many types of these questions there’s going to be…!
JB: I won’t do too many more…!
DR: But yes. I wish I could think of a better way to say it, but I’m completely open to these discussions as they happen. Your answer actually John was perfect. That if these things weren’t testable, in that you did not see the evidence that people were living better lives – more fulfilled lives, happier lives and all those things – then you couldn’t, as a man of science, sit up here. That’s a really beautiful answer that feels to me to be complete as a person of faith and a person of science, right. And I think that would be a world-view that I could prescribe to, and that actually is a world-view that I prescribe to. And that doesn’t exclude the fact that very early on I said that at the micro-level some of my best friends are atheists, and they are deeply moral, good, decent people – and you’ve debated many of them. So there’s nothing that is so separate, let’s say.
JB: Thank you. I mean, I promise no more grilling you on faith questions. But John, a kind of the opposite question coming in is: “have you ever questioned if there is a God?” And another person asks whether you’ve ever been presented with an objection that you found difficult?
DR: Can I do that one?!
JL: Of course I have. You see, this interests me, because I’ve spent my whole life not only questioning myself but exposing myself to some of the most powerful questioners in the world, who are against my view point. And the reason for doing that is partly the Freudian one – the accusation that was made against me in Cambridge: you believe because your parents believe and their parents believed and that’s Irish genetic – end of story. So I have questioned everything in that sense, and it’s through that my certainty comes. You see, the word faith has flitted in and out of this conversation, and we need to be careful what we mean by that. By faith, I don’t mean a leap into the dark – I mean a step into the light that’s evidence-based, and it’s exactly the same kind of commitment in science. We believe certain things about the universe, because we have evidence.
Now in Christianity it is exactly parallel. Real faith is a commitment – a step – based on evidence. And of course, there’s a personal dimension to Christianity that doesn’t occur when you’re believing Einstein’s equations for example – it’s not quite the same as trusting a person. But still, it’s got to be evidence-based, or it’s a blind faith. And blind faith is extremely dangerous – particularly in the sphere of religion.
So asking questions all the time is a process that I discover in the Bible itself, which is one of the things that makes it credible. Jesus was always asking questions, and he didn’t always answer them – and his disciples were asking questions. My great intellectual hero was Socrates, who was forced to commit suicide because he corrupted the youth of Athens, which meant that he taught kids to ask questions their parents couldn’t answer – which is usually what kids do. But it seems to me that it’s very important. My whole process of relating to people – as Dave’s is – is asking them questions, and getting them to open themselves. So yes, absolutely – this is the way the thing works. And that is where assurance comes; it’s fear that stops us questioning the propositions or the commitments of what we believe. And I want to break through that fear barrier; get into a proper public discourse.
JB: There’s a question here which relates to a story you told on your podcast, of being I think at a Jordan Peterson lecture night, and you met a couple who had both been through a difficult time – perhaps you can tell the story – I think a miscarriage was involved, and there were difficulties in the family. And the way you responded was interesting, perhaps part of that story as well. Do you want to tell the story and just maybe dig into that a bit, because the person asked then they’d just like to hear a little bit more about that?
DR: Yes, you know it’s so interesting that someone’s asking this because I actually don’t remember telling this publicly, but I must have said it publicly at some point. We were in the UK – I don’t remember what city we were in – but a couple came up to me before the show, and they both looked very… they were just sort of distraught. You know, sometimes people come up to you and you just see it in their face, you can feel it in their body language. And they started talking to me, and basically it turned out that… they were both…they were a young couple – they were maybe in their late 20s or early 30s – and the guy had just found out that he had like stage four cancer, and he didn’t have much time to live. And I mean, you can’t believe this is actually real, but the woman found out that she was pregnant – she was a few months pregnant, and the foetus had died, and she was going to have to have it removed the next day or something like that. I mean, unimaginably horrific circumstances.
And they said this to me, and then said Jordan’s helped them get a little meaning over the last few weeks as they’ve been going to doctors and all of these things. And I think the reason that the person is mentioning that I bring it up is, the only thing that I could say was, “God bless you” – that’s what I said. There was nothing else… there was just nothing else I could say. What could I possibly say? – “I’m sorry to hear what you’re going through”. I tried to just stand there and be with them, but that happened to be what popped up in my brain. So in a weird way if that is evidence of something; if that is… when faced with unimaginable… I mean, no one can possibly imagine the level of hard in that situation – I hope I’m getting it fully technically right – that’s what I had left.
JB: It was the only words you felt…
JL: Can I make a brief comment?
JB: Yes, please do.
JL: Because I didn’t answer your question. And one of your questions to me was: “do you meet objections that you find difficult to answer?” And I do, and that’s one. The problem of moral evil and pain – which is what you talked about – is the hardest question that any of us face. And it has been a very important part of my life to try and think that through. I arrived in Christchurch, New Zealand, two days after the earthquake. And I had to cancel all of my talks and replace them with: “Earthquake, why?” And that’s not easy to do.
The atheists say: well it’s just the way the world is; there is no God, and that’s just what you’d expect. But you see, if you abolish God – and I’m not going to go into details on this, but it’s hugely important – if you abolish God, actually you can make the problem worse, because there’s now no hope. If you bring God into the equation – from the Christian perspective – there is the hope of the resurrection. And not going into it in detail, I want to say two big things to this problem. They’re not answers; that would be simplistic and trivial. But they’re a window into a possibility, and the window into the possibility is this: if it really is true that that’s God incarnate on the cross, what does it mean? Well at the very least, it means that God does not remain distant from human suffering – he has become part of it. And so your, “God bless you”, I think, has huge layers of meaning underlying it; that’s the first thing.
And the fact that Jesus rose from the dead means that ultimately there is real hope. Why? Because one of the things the early Christians preached was that the resurrection guaranteed a final judgement. And we don’t like that idea, but think about it. If there’s going to be an utterly fair assessment – and as I’ve said, I’ve been to Auschwitz many times – if there’s going to be a judgement that deals with these things, that gives me a window of hope. And so therefore I think this is the hardest problem for anybody and any philosophy in any world-view; nobody escapes it.
JB: A question for you this time John; maybe you might want to comment on it as well Dave. But someone asked: “what does it take for a person to move from an abstract, intellectual belief in God, to this personal experiential faith which you have?”
JL: Well that’s assuming that they start with an abstract faith. Now people come different ways; our journeys – and that’s why it’s so interesting talking about journey, and I haven’t finished my journey yet. There are lots of questions I’ve got; things that are unresolved. I started by the existential side – the personal side I thought was real. But then as a child, I was taught to ask the questions; so the intellectual side and the practical side walked hand in hand throughout my life. And some people come to faith in Christ because they’ve been befriended by somebody that shows them real friendship, and it’s existential.
Others come become they’ve been challenged intellectually. I was speaking in Germany a week ago, and speaking with a very intellectual person. And what started him off in his journey was at school… he grew up in a home where all his father said about everything was: “everything’s lies” – total scepticism. And he had a school friend, they sat together, and the school friend said to him one day, he said: “Jesus Christ rose from the dead”. And this chap thought: “what?” And he started to investigate it, and that led him to become an ancient historian. And now in Germany he will fill a hall with 5000 people, talking about how he became a Christian from scepticism. So the intellectual side got him first.
So you can’t generalise at all, but I think in that sense if a person is just cerebral about it, they haven’t understood it. Because Christ does make demands – there’s a relational thing; there are moral dimensions to it. And so it needs to move… how shall I put it… I’m worried about the distinction. Because even when we’re emotional about something, the emotions are precipitated by our thoughts; you can’t separate thought and emotion. But I think the important thing is… let me put it this way. God is not simply a philosophical theory; he’s a person. And therefore, our response to persons is different from our response to say a mathematical equation. And we need to take the various dimensions and aspects into account. So I’d simply want to encourage a person like that to think about: well, what does Christianity mean that you should be doing? But since it’s an abstract question, I don’t know the person – everybody’s different.
JB: I’m tossing it over to you Dave. There’s a sense in which you know, we’ve talked a lot about Jordan Peterson this evening, but when I see him on stage he’s not afraid of getting emotional. In fact, he quite frequently is close to tears very often when he’s talking about the search for meaning; when he’s engaging with where people are at in their struggles and so on. And in that sense, he’s quite the antidote to the kind of very coldly rational kind of approach that many sorts of big thinkers often take to these issues. Is that something that’s attracted you, I don’t know, to the way in which he engages with that kind of aspect of reality – the very personal way, in a sense, in which he approaches these kinds of issues.
DR: Yes, well I can answer that two ways. First not specifically with Jordan, but I think one of the reasons that the YouTube game and the podcast game and all of the digital stuff – and all of this new set of personalities that you guys all watch and consume and listen to – the reason it’s working is because these people are being people. These are actual people. I mean, the person that you see when I’m doing something on YouTube, that’s this guy that’s right in front of you right now – I happen to be on stage with a mic, but I’m the same person when I step down there and talk to you guys. Jordan’s the same person – as I said, he lives those 12 rules, he’s the same exact guy, right.
There’s a little something when there’s a camera there – there’s a theory that when the camera’s on, you turn it on like 5% or something. But I think what’s happened over the last 20 or so years with Cable News it that everyone on television became so incredibly fake and overprepared and really ridiculously robotic, that there’s a breath of fresh air when people just actually are decent; when people just actually can look each other in the eye and not pretend that they have every answer to every question – I think that’s a deeply powerful thing.
So when Jordan would go on stage… and I kid you not, it’s almost unimaginable, but the guy – 110 shows that we did together – he never gave the same lecture twice. Some nights he would talk about all 12 rules; some nights he would talk about one rule; some nights four rules; sometimes he would just talk about the media; some nights he would talk about YouTube – I mean, whatever was in his mind. And you know, he was on a book tour – they wanted him to sell books – sometimes the book never came up! But to answer your question specifically, he was being present as much as possible. That is something that I really try to do in my life. And when you’re doing it right, you don’t really have to try; because it just starts happening, and you just start being real. And that’s why I actually I’ve thoroughly – as I just said to you guys at half time or whatever we’re calling it, the Dave Rubin grilling! – I’ve really enjoyed this, because this is real; this is real. And the more that we can do that, the better we can understand each other.
So there would be nights when he would be on stage telling the story that I’m sure many of you have heard, when he talks about Pinocchio and the reason why you have to wish upon a star and what that means, and then he would link it to a Biblical story. And he would tear up and he would cry, and you could hear the crack in his voice, and it was real. We would be backstage right after the show just sitting in the green room, and I’d just kind of sit there and give him his moment to collect himself; so it was real. And I think all that really is, is being vulnerable; being open, being… the best way I can describe it was what I saw the guy do was that every night that he went on stage, he tried to take as much of his intellect and his set of beliefs, he would take them as far as he could on any given night. And there were nights where I could see him stretch that a little bit further. That’s a pretty incredible thing to be around.
JB: On a slightly lighter note, someone asked: “Jordan Peterson vs Ben Shapiro wrestling match – who would win?”
DR: Well, Jordan’s tall and lanky; Ben is quick and short. So I feel like he’d take out the legs, you know. So Ben probably… Ben also, you know, Ben’s about 20 years younger, so.
JB: So many of these questions actually are…
DR: He could use the yarmulke as a kind of boomerang or something, you know! There are things the guy can do!
JB: Here’s a serious question; this is a tough one. And I’ve heard this… you’ve put this position, but… as much as you obviously have a great deal of respect for Ben Shapiro and other religious figures, you disagree with them on some pretty fundamental things – on ethical issues, for instance. So for instance, Ben Shapiro is very strongly opposed to abortion, and someone asks you on text here: “what about you? What would it take to change your position on that particular ethical issue, knowing that you are pro-choice?”
DR: So I describe myself as grudgingly pro-choice; so I take no pleasure even in discussing abortion – I find this to be the issue beyond any other political issue… I find this to be the most polarising and almost impossible to talk about. Because you’re talking about the most existential question there is, which is the beginning of life, right. And the way that it gets framed unfortunately through the media is that if you’re on the right, you somehow hate women, and if you’re on the left, you somehow hate babies – and that sort of ridiculous false choice that we’re constantly basically playing Ping-Pong between is insane.
My position basically is that… Look, I believe in the individual. Now, I get why that can be messy in a conversation about abortion, because I do believe that a foetus is a life – I do. And it’s up to ethicists and philosophers and all sorts of scientific-minded people and theologians actually as well, to decide is that the moment the sperm meets the egg, or is that two weeks later – and there’s different religious traditions that can teach you all sorts of different things. My belief is that we as a society cannot have a perfect system that is perfect for everyone all the time. What we can try to do is have some set of rules that can maximise human flourishing the most it can.
What I believe is basically that you have a couple week window. You know, a few years ago and the first time I debated this with Ben Shapiro – who is obviously completely pro-life, so he’s completely anti- abortion – I used to say 20 weeks. Because there was scientific evidence that at 20 weeks the foetus can actually feel pain. And what Ben said to me, which I think is a completely legitimate argument, he said: “so you’re saying you’re admitting it’s a life. And well if you’re saying 20 weeks, well then 18 weeks it’s obvious it’s still a life. Why not 18 weeks?” And I granted him this inconsistency in this view, because I’m not trying to come up with a perfect system – I’m trying to come up with some system that will allow the 350 million people that live in this country to have some guideline that we could somewhat agree on – something like that.
The problem right now is that the 12 Democratic candidates have gone so off the deep end with this, that they’re literally talking about post-birth abortions – like, we have heard some beyond hysterical crazy stuff. Tulsi Gabbard who I had on my show, she said that she would not want third term abortions, which by any measure – even if it’s not for you guys here because I’m assuming you’re mostly pro-life – that would have been considered a pretty moderate position for a Democrat 10 years ago. But for her now in that field, that is a wildly out-there position, because they all believe basically you can have an abortion at any time. I mean, this is even where Biden who was supposed to be the adult in the group, is now kind of… I mean, that’s why they dragged him back into this; he didn’t want to do it. But he was supposed to be the adult and go: “guys, no, you’re all bananas”, and settle down – but it’s not working. So, was your question what would get me to change…?
JB: I suppose that will be a really interesting thing to ask: would this journey that you’re going on of being open to potentially God and to religious answers to things, cause you to reconsider your view?
DR: Well, I would say these things don’t have nothing to do with each other. So if we find a speck of something on the moon that has some resemblance of life – a cell or something – we say it’s life. So I’m not denying that from conception… I’m actually not denying that’s life. What I’m trying to do – just as someone that talks about things in a public way – is to… you’re not going to satisfy everybody all the time. And by the way, the most uncomfortable truth about this is that humans get left with all sorts of horrific choices that they don’t want to have to deal with. And if abortion was completely illegal, that actually would not stop abortion. It would also make it much more dangerous; there would be access for people to have certain resources financially that other people wouldn’t have – there’s just a series of uncomfortable truths that we would have to deal with to do that. But I would say I’m begrudgingly pro-choice, and trust me, this one more than a God question – because this is a sort of policy issue – up here and now, I find it to be the most difficult one to answer.
JB: I mean John, I’d just be interested in your reflection on this. Not necessarily getting to the bottom of this issue, which could take us all evening. But to what extent for you does being a believer in God and specifically Christianity, mean that your views on that kind of thing have to take a certain direction; in terms of the views of abortion and the sanctity of life and that kind of thing?
JL: I think the important thing to realise – and we don’t focus it sharply enough – is that in part, ethics are world-view dependent. What I mean by that is this: if you think that a foetus is just simply at the early stage an undifferentiated block of cells, it’s only matter – “why not deal with it?” – as has been put to me by a world-class gynaecologist. And I pointed out to her, I said, “but you come to that because of your atheism”. Now I said to her, “what would you do? That’s not only life after conception, it’s human life. From where I sit, it bares the image of God – what right have I to stop it?” So the ethics are world-view dependent, and this is one of the huge problems – way beyond that question.
You know, if we teach kids in school that they are purely animals, full stop, we’ll see they start to behave like animals. And that’s exactly what we see in our society; knife crime in London is just gone off the map – but it’s because people have been taught. And you were talking about abortion – these killing infants after birth. That’s Peter Singer’s view, and I’ve debated him – and the issue stems straight from his atheism. And so I think we ought to be more upfront about the connection between some of these issues and the world-view of the society around.
DR: If I could just add on that quickly, you know I mentioned this equality forum that the Democrats had last night, and one of the things that… it seems to me that they’re always trying to outdo themselves in who can be the most left or the most progressive or the most collectivist. And you may have heard this last night, but Beto O’Rourke basically said the churches and places of worship that aren’t for same-sex marriage, he would want them to lose their tax exemption. That’s an absolutely absurd position, but this is why those of us… we can disagree on these sort of margin issues, but we have to come together around the freedom issue, number one. Because what will come next is that they’ll say: all right, well now if you’re not completely pro-choice you should lose your tax exemption – and they will just keep encroaching on every set of beliefs you have. So I may not share that exact belief with you, but I would 100% defend your ability to have that belief in the place that you worship, without question.
JB: I’ve got one for you here John, and it’s keeping on a sort of pretty serious tack as well. This person asks: “on the premise that we are created in the image of God and we each have value, how do you respond to the growing rate of suicide in the West?” I think we’re seeing this especially among men – that suicide is increasing at an alarming rate. Where do you see that coming from, and how do you speak to it as someone who does believe people are made in the image of God? What’s the response I suppose to someone who goes that route?
JL: This is a very complicated question, because suicides are all different. I have a colleague who is one of the world’s experts on suicide, and just talking to him makes me realise that this is a very complex thing. But just thinking about it simplistically, people tend to commit suicide when they’ve nothing to live for; they’ve got no future that they can see. And I do believe that the Christian message addresses that head-on, by giving people that. And I have personally seen people come from the edge of suicide and become settled, balanced, everything else, because they’ve come to faith in Christ, and they’ve got that meaning that has answered that need to destroy themselves.
And the difficulty is… I’m too old now to really understand the vicious effect that Facebook, for example – likes and dislikes – have on young people. Where they get bullied in cyberspace, and they feel completely awful, and they lose all their self-worth. I mean, the cruelty that people exhibit to one another is unbelievable. And what’s the answer to that? Well, I’ve got to start with me. I love Jordan’s thing: clean up your own room before you clean up the world. And it needs to start with me – the people I know, looking for the signs of depression, of feeling down, of feeling lonely, of feeling meaningless – and all do a little something. It may not be much; it may not hit the headlines – but it could take someone back from the brink. There is no universal answer to it.
JB: There is a follow-up question that this has sparked and has been coming in, which is: what about the case of believing Christians who perhaps commit suicide? And I think there has been quite a significant case here in Southern California recently.
JL: I know of one or two very significant cases of people I actually knew. And I’m not a doctor; I’m not a psychologist – but we’ve got to realise that our minds can actually break down. There used to be a time – fortunately it’s passed – where psychiatrists and psychologist were looked upon by many in the Christian community with a lot of suspicion. If you broke your leg, you went to a doctor – that was fine; everybody thought that was fine. But if your mind broke, that wasn’t fine. And I think we’ve got to realise that even to believing Christians, they’re still human – they still have got flaws and difficulties. Your temperament doesn’t change overnight you may have noticed when you become a Christian. And if you haven’t noticed it, you ought to wake up and notice it!
And therefore, we can break down; the chemical imbalance in our brain can go – and people jump off a cliff or shoot themselves. We need to be very careful how we judge people, because we don’t see inside their mind. And I want to say: ok, this has happened; it’s tragic. But don’t judge what was going on in their mind. You’ve got to leave it to God, ultimately.
DR: One thing to that quickly, which is there’s a strange paradox right now, because we’re more connected than we’ve ever been – we’re all on Twitter and Facebook and YouTube and all these things – and we can connect with people and we can send pictures to people and do all this stuff, right, and it feels very connected. And then on the other hand, the number one type of email that I get is people that are afraid to say what they think, and they say they watch my show because they’re afraid to say what they think, and I happen to be having some of the conversations that are the things that they’re thinking about. And I suspect that if you’re walking around – as most of us do, probably every day – not really saying the things that you’re thinking, the end result of that will be such a disconnect from reality, because all you’ve got then left is your own mind. And if you do that over and over and over and over again, you’ve got nothing left. And I suspect that would be the type of place where you could see yourself having to make that horrific choice, because you’re so…
JL: Connectedness is not friendship.
JB: Absolutely. We’ve gone over some really big issues tonight, and we’ve had many, many more questions in than we can answer. There’s just one maybe which kind of sums up the evening, to some extent, that we’ve had. Which is a question for John, referring to Dave, which is: “John, do you want Dave to become a Christian?”
DR: I really have to ask my agent what the original pitch was!
JB: I don’t choose… well, the questions just kind of choose themselves here! So many people are basically asking: “hey, can you ask Dave this question about Christianity?” – so I had very little choice in the matter. But yes, I mean, I’m guessing the answer is yes, John.
JL: You’re not guessing! – because I’ve experienced a life which I don’t deserve, which has been full of profound joy; a journey that has been deeply meaningful to me, and it’s connected with my relationship with Christ – of course. Not only Dave, but everybody here. Because there may be many sceptics here, people watching online. Of course, my desire is that they can share experience that I share and become Christians. But I’m not in the business of browbeating people and forcing them beyond where they are. I feel very strongly – and that’s why I believe in public discussion – let’s have the discussion on the table from different points of view, but trust the people to make up their own mind.
So my motivation is to get the message out and leave the results with God. But my desire is that – of course it’s that. But don’t specify Dave alone, poor chap!
DR: Thank you John!
JL: Just think of our neighbours and our friends. Is it our desire… I think when I’m asked a question like this, I get very slightly nervous. Because I want to relate to people as whole persons – not just as evangelism-fodder. And that’s very important.
JB: Dave, you have been a tremendous sport tonight, and I can only say you’ve been so gracious and willing to engage with occasionally being brow-beaten, actually, on this. But I guess, you know, if we come to do some final thoughts at the end of our conversation now, what for you has been the value of having a conversation like this? Why do you sit down, week in and week out, with people that you may not necessarily agree with on everything, but you’re interested in finding stuff out from them? What’s the value of these kinds of big conversations for our culture, faith and God?
DR: Yes, well first off it never struck me as so obvious, you know, Jews don’t try to convert people – that’s made this doubly funny for me, I think. No first off, just joking aside, this has been an absolute pleasure. You know, I have found that when I’m having an interview with someone that is really real – when we’re suddenly hitting some unchartered territory when I can really see somebody exploring a new idea, or not giving me the packaged answer, and really connected in that deep way – that I can actually feel something. And I really mean that; I can feel a physical reaction to that sort of warm – I can’t really fully describe it – but it’s not just something physical, truly it’s almost like I can see almost like an aura around somebody, so this is sort of like a religious something I guess I’m getting here. But I can feel something when something is truly real, and I think we all know those moments when you sort of let all the other stuff go and you’re having something that’s real – there’s something there, however you want to describe that.
I love being on this type of adventure; this time of conversation is exactly why I do what I do, because we desperately need it, you know. I think the theme throughout all of this – beyond the personal stuff to me – I think the theme really was that there is a crisis of meaning, and we’re all sort of realising that the world is in complete flux right now; the future feels like it’s in flux. I’m 43 years old – I was born in 1976 – at no point in my life until say the last two years or three years, did the world feel like it was in flux, like, the future is actually confused. Will America continue to exist the way it exists? Will the West continue to exist the way it exists? The UK? I mean, you guys have all sorts of crazy things going on there.
JB: Oh yes, it’s an interesting adventure for us too…
DR: Yes. I mean, I could do with an hour on Brexit – we’ll let that be, that’s more difficult than God! So many are people are feeling that though; that sense of uncertainty. And for the final Jordan reference that I’ll make tonight, I mean, he has been trying to hand people some of the tools to make the world a little less uncertain. Because if you can hold yourself first, then you can deal with the rest of it, right.
So this is an absolute, absolute pleasure, and I will gladly have you both on my show – we can do this together or we can do it separately – and we can continue these conversations. And more than anything else, what I would say is for you guys here, I think there’s a feeling out there that, you know, if you listen to the way the mainstream frames everything, it’s like somehow you guys are the bad guys – or Christians are the bad guys or conservatives are the bad guys – and this is just sort of factory setting boring drivel. I know it’s not true, because I’m in this room, right, and I’m not going to get lynched on the way out. Right, like, we know that, like – yeah, I know, I got it, I’ve got like a few people answer that: “he’s not getting lynched!” Ok, we know that, right!
And I think take confidence in that, and you know, start saying what you think – that’s all that I’m doing, truly. I’m talking to people and interviewing people, but really all I’m really doing is saying what I think. And for some reason in 2019, in the freest country in the history of the world, that’s a special thing – I have no idea why. Well I know why, but I don’t know why I don’t fear it – I just don’t. But I think if all of you started saying what you think a little bit more, you might find out that the people that are your neighbours and your friends and even your co-workers and even your family members who you disagree with politically, you might actually start changing them. But you’ll never change them if you don’t say what you think. So that would be my main message.
JB: I think that’s a great place to draw it to a close. So let me first of all say thank you to John, thank you to Dave, for a really amazing, very open, very honest conversation tonight. Thank you all for all of your interactions, the questions that came in – sorry we didn’t get to all of them tonight. I just want to say a big thank you as well to Calvary Chapel, Costa Mesa, who have hosted us – can we give a big round of applause.
It just remains for me to say, thank you very much for coming this evening; it’s been such fun to share the evening with you. If you’re able to come back tomorrow for our Big Conference, please do – we’d love to see you there. You can book the ticket if you haven’t yet at Unbelievable.live. Some of John’s books are available out in the foyer and we’d love for you to pick one up before you go. Do make sure to check out Dave’s book as well on pre-order: Don’t Burn This Book. And all that remains for me to say is thank you very much for coming this evening, one more round of applause and we’ll be on our way!