Later today, I will portray an atheist for an Apologetics course at the local Bible institute. Although it looks like the word "apology," it's not apologizing for being a Christian. Far from it, apologetics seeks to
demonstrate the reasonableness of the Christian faith against critics, and atheism denies the existence of God. There isn’t a lot of ‘common ground’ between the two different views of reality, and it’s a big challenge to step outside of my own beliefs and fairly represent something foreign to me.
Today’s task exploits what the students don’t know about the Bible, namely the text critical and interpretational nuances that they accept, but atheists generally reject. To interpret any ancient document, you must closely analyze the work to determine the author’s original intent according to the literary standards of the time in which it was written. Otherwise, you end up trying to read the Bible like yesterday’s newspaper and you end up not fully understanding what’s happening in the text. This common mistake keeps many people unaware of the Bible’s message. They may have even read it, but fail to understand its significance.
Similarly, the Pharisees in John 9 face an actual miraculous healing, but refuse to accept it. Jesus heals a man born blind, and the whole neighborhood knows that its him. He even claims for himself that Jesus healed him. The religious leaders, specifically the Pharisees, are consulted and they try multiple ways to deny the miracle. They question the identity of the man: “are you really the one who was born blind?” Then they interrogate his parents about his blindness: “is this your son, the one you claim was born blind?” At every turn the formerly blind man faces conflict with the educated and respected religious leadership, but he doesn’t bend.
He only knows one thing. Jesus healed him. Then he goes on to figure out that Jesus isn’t a normal man. He makes the decision to follow him, and at the end of chapter 9, he worships Him. The blind man knows and believes that Jesus is God. The religious leadership sees the same evidence, they just refuse to accept the consequence of what they see. And that’s not a problem of information, but a problem of will. Will you believe?
The purpose of today’s exercise in the apologetics course isn’t for the atheist to roll over and accept the Bible. Most intelligent people have considered what the Bible says; they just refuse to believe what it says. In many ways, they are like the Pharisees in John 9; they can “see” the healed man before them, but they refuse to believe in the person of Jesus, who healed him.