It was pretty clear that the few folks attracted to the movie were already fans of Bill Maher and his open hostility to all things religious. Why, then, so little laughter from them? I think it’s obvious. Anyone who fits that strange “I’m smarter than Blaise Pascal, John Milton, C.S. Lewis, Maimonidies, and Averroes put together” mold has already had his laughs. After all, anyone who is able to work a TV remote control has immediate and never-ending access to some of the strangest displays of human religiosity imaginable on global network broadcasts. Those who get affirmed in their irreligion by watching such things have already tuned into the craziness many times to reassure themselves that believers are some fully evolved species of super kook. They do not need Bill Maher to replay it with a new soundtrack. The movie audience seemed pretty bored—and rightly so. They’d seen it all before on their own living room TVs.
Well, if it’s not very funny, then what does it have to offer? Nothing, really, except a chance for Maher and Charles to make a fast buck (glad I got my ticket for free). Maher is pitching this film as mavericky—telling the truth about religion that everyone else is afraid to address. But Religulous is nothing more than filthy, nudie, druggie, and obtusey. There is little to laugh at and nothing to learn (except maybe that if you quit being religulous you get to act like Caligulous)....
If there is one important lesson for Christians of all sorts to learn from this movie it is this: we have got to start talking differently about “faith.” Unfortunately, we have let the secular world and antagonists like Bill Maher define the term for us. What they mean by “faith” is blind leaping. That is what they think our commitment to Christ and the Christian view of the world is all about. They think we have simply disengaged our minds and leapt blindly into the religious abyss.
The biblical view of saving Christian faith has never had anything to do with blind leaping. Jesus himself was fixed on the idea that we can know the truth—and not just in some spiritual or mystical way. Rather, he taught that we can know the truth about God, humans, and salvation objectively. That is, the very best forms of investigation, evidence, and careful reasoning will inevitably point to God and His great plans for us. The early church learned well from the Master because they too were fixed on the idea that they knew that Jesus was raised from the dead and that we could know it too. The Apostles never made any room for interpreting their experiences of the risen Christ in some mystical or fictional fashion. As the Apostle Peter put it, “We did not follow cleverly invented stories when we told you about the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty” (2 Peter 1:16).
What we mean by “faith” is not blind leaping that is oblivious to the evidence, especially evidence to the contrary. Rather faith in it’s biblical context is trust grounded in objective knowledge. Faith is trusting that which we can know to be objectively true. I run a graduate program in Christian Apologetics at Biola University in which we train students at the highest levels to give compelling reasons for their faith. Maher did not knock on our door. But unfortunately, I think many of the Christians he interviewed would be surprised to learn that there is a robust knowledge tradition in Christianity. I long for the day when a guy like Maher would never consider making a film like this because it would be so difficult to find Christians that he could hound and hoodwink.
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