"Jesus is God": Can That Statement Be True for Me but False for You?

September 1999By John Schommer

John Schommer is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Mathematics and Computer Science at the University of Tennessee at Martin.

What is the relation of reason to faith? It’s a good question, even a grand question, one to which Pope John Paul II addressed an encyclical last year. But what, first of all, is reason? As I learned from spending an evening at the campus interfaith center recently, some Christian students and Christian ministers are not at all sure.

The center hosts a regular weekly gathering, a dinner followed by a program. I often attend the meal and have pleasant conversations with very likable people, but I don’t often stay for the program. On this evening the program was to be a videotape entitled Choosing Your Religion, with discussion afterward. How one chooses among the truth claims of various religions is a subject I find fascinating, so I stuck around while the tape began to roll.

This production of Ligonier Ministries featured the evangelical Protestant professor R.C. Sproul as commentator and showed lots of interviews by field reporters on college campuses, who asked students about various faith-related issues. The students interviewed were nice, normal college kids, but on the topic of faith they proved to be less than informed. Their religious opinions were genial, but their thinking was rudimentary and often enough self-contradictory. Sproul in his commentary was straightforward in noting their muddles, and Catholics who might disagree with Sproul on any number of things would find little to disagree with here.

When the lights went on, the discussion began among the three “mainline” Protestant ministers and the two dozen or so students. (Our local Catholic priest occasionally attends but was not there that night.) It was evident that some students were troubled and some downright angry. If it was Sproul’s intention to provoke, he had succeeded. But what had he said that was so provocative? Had Sproul hit viewers over the head with frightening “fundamentalist dogma”? Had he threatened viewers with fire and brimstone? What could the good professor have said to have caused such disquiet?

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