It’s a familiar scene. Person A explains that the reason for a particular behavior is that “everyone else is doing it” (or so it seems). Person B, believing such behavior to be foolish or naive, responds with the unassailable retort, “Well if everyone jumped off a cliff, would you do that too?” Apparently winning debates is just that easy.
But the truth emerges easily here: just because all or most people are saying it, doing it, or otherwise advancing it, that doesn’t mean that “it” is right. No amount of sincerity, kindness, and/or altruism that might attend a particular consensus can make something true when it is false. For a society that largely considers “sincerity” to be a synonym of “honesty” (I confirmed this with the thesaurus on my word processor), that can be difficult to swallow. You can in fact be sincerely wrong.
So today I get to stand in for person B. Who might be standing in for person A? Well, the entertainment industry for one. I submit to you the conversation from just about any medical drama (Scrubs, House, Grey’s Anatomy, etc.) that goes something like this:
Sick Patient: I guess all we can do is pray.
Doctor: What good is that? Fantasies don’t heal people. I heal people.
Sick Patient: Well, science and medicine can’t do everything. You don’t need science if the good Lord is good enough to give you faith.
Doctor: I don’t have faith, I have facts.
Apparently faith and facts have nothing to do with each other, right?
If you’re paying attention, you’ll see this dualism all over the place. Something can be known or believed—but never both. It can be religiously true or scientifically true—but not both. It can be personal or it can be universal—but you’d better not push your “personal” values on me. You might think abortion is wrong for you because you think it’s taking the life of an innocent human being, but that doesn’t mean I shouldn’t be allowed to do it. Do you see the dangerous implications of this kind of thinking?
Yet so many Christians have bought into it. “It doesn’t matter what science says; you just have to take the leap of faith,” one might say. I recently read an article about a new archaeological find that may provide significant corroborating evidence for the biblical account of David (“may” being the key word). What struck me when I read the article online, however, were some of the comments made by believers, essentially arguing that it was irrelevant because “archaeology is about science and religion is about faith.”
Again I can’t help but think—why do people accept the idea that science and faith have to be so sharply separated? I thought the Bible commands us to “love God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength” (Mark 12:30, emphasis added). Can we really love God with all of our mind while simultaneously disparaging its role in the life of the believer? And we mustn’t forget what Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 15:14: “And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain” (ESV). Think of that. If Christ didn’t in fact rise from the dead, no amount of faith, no leap of faith, can do anything to change that. For that matter, it can’t save us either, for ultimately it isn’t faith itself that saves; it’s the object of our faith that really counts.
So I ask again: If everyone else leaped off a cliff, would you do it too?
Just don’t forget to think before you jump. It’s a thrill when there’s someone there to catch you. But if not, well, . . . not so much.