In an attempt to use my day off to do some reading unrelated to Theology, I picked up Derren Brown’s book entitled ‘Tricks of the Mind’. I was looking forward to seeing how some of his tricks were done, I was also intrigued to read about the memorisation techniques I saw the promise of in the introduction page. To my surprise the first line, on the first chapter read, “The Bible is not history”[i]. Brown then continues for a few pages to describe his becoming an atheist while making a few errors and throwing out a few informal fallacies, and then the real ‘magic’ begins…
Brown eventually comes to what he puts forward as his main issue, and he is right in his assessment, he identitifes the resurrection as the central clain on which Christianity stands or falls, as the Apostle Paul said “If Christ did not rise we of all men are most to be pitied”. After presenting an oversimplified version of the evidential apologetics surrounding the resurrection Brown says, “…but all are based on the notion that we can take the New Testament stories as accounts of real events. But to decide that the Bible is history, one must ignore the vast amount of impartial biblical research that shows it really isn’t…[ii]”(emphasis added). Here Brown has snuck something into the argument, much like he sneaks things into many of his tricks.
Brown rightly assesses, as should anyone, that if the Bible is an accurate account of history, then Christianity is true. But according to Brown, there is a “vast amount of impartial research” that suggests otherwise. One could at the point ask him to show such evidence, instead of expecting us to take his word for it, granted, that is beyond the scope of his book. Let me examine though the magic word ‘impartial’. How are they impartial? Does impartial mean they believe in a sovereign God Who orders the universe and preserves His Word? Or does impartial mean they oppose the idea of a sovereign God Who orders the universe and preserves His Word? Since if they don’t believe that, how can they possibly interpret the facts in such a way that allows for that as a viable interpretation of the facts?
What Brown fails to realize, as do many atheists, is that facts do not change people’s minds in the big issues of life. Take for example ‘prophecy’; in Matthew 24 Jesus is recorded explaining the soon coming destruction of Jerusalem, which occurred in 70 A.D, I the ‘impartial’ scholar who does not believe in God comes to the text and reads these words of Jesus, yet I am convinced that there is no God, and therefore no real predictive ability as displayed by Jesus, therefore I ‘know’ that these words ‘could not’ have been written before the event, since it is impossible for someone to know that unless they are God, and since there is no God, they couldn’t know that. You see Brown would trick you into thinking that the scholars he chooses to follow are impartial, but the ones you choose to follow are not, that is a lie. There is no neutrality when examining facts!
Everyone has assumptions… the question is, do the assumptions you espouse match reality. Are the consistent? Are they arbitrary assumptions? Brown merely gave up one set of unchallenged assumptions (the unhelpful kind that sadly often emanates from the more Charismatic group of Christianity) for another set of unchallenged assumptions that match his chosen lifestyle a bit better.
This is the error that atheists make that leads to their own kind of circular reasoning. If one begins a logical argument regarding the existence of God with the assumption that God does not exists, the conclusion has already been snuck into the premise, albeit an unsaid premise.
It is my hope that the Lord saves Brown, that he would the grip that sin has over him, and turn to Christ for life.