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Dr. James C. Denison
President, Center for Informed Faith, Dallas, TX
October 14, 2010

The 34th miner in the cavern

“I’ve been near God, but I’ve also been near the devil. God won.” So testified Mario Sepulveda, the second miner to be delivered in Chile’s dramatic rescue operation. Their mine collapsed on August 5, trapping 33 men underground. Now all are safe. The New York Times reports that despite so many weeks living in darkness and uncertainty, not a single miner was treated for depression. Why? What was the secret to their indomitable spirits?

A dear friend gave me notes yesterday which she translated from Univision’s reports on the story. They give us more of the faith dimension than I have found in English-language news accounts. Apparently the men were remarkably unified by their common faith in God. While they represented a wide spectrum of denominational positions, they all continued to trust that the Lord knew them and would rescue them.

One miner’s comment was especially striking: “There were 33 of us, but we knew there were 34.” I’m reminded of the testimony of the Babylonian king who threw three of God’s people into his fiery furnace: “I see four men walking around in the fire, unbound and unharmed, and the fourth looks like a son of the gods” (Daniel 3:25).

How would an atheist account for such personal faith experience?

Yesterday we began a discussion of Jerry Coyne’s assertion in USA Today that faith is irrational while science depends on evidence and reason. The University of Chicago professor claimed that Christians allow no evidence to dissuade their faith. But he is wrong: Paul admitted that “if Christ has not been raised, then your faith has nothing to it” (1 Corinthians 15:17, NCV).

What else does Dr. Coyne get wrong?

He claims that “recent work on the brain has shown no evidence for souls, spirits, or any part of our personality or behavior distinct from the lump of jelly in our head.” This is a classic example of what logicians call a “category mistake”—applying the parameters of one kind of reality to another. “How much does the number 7 weigh?” would be an example. “How much does a soul weigh” would be another. Of course there is no material evidence for a non-material reality.

He asserts, “we now know that the universe did not require a creator.” This argument was recently postulated by Stephen Hawking but has been denounced by many well-known scientists, some of whom are atheists, as theoretical and beyond proof.

But Coyne’s most significant mistake is confusing relational and empirical truth. Relationships don’t fit in test tubes. They are not subject to evidential examination. Coyne could not prove scientifically that he loves his family. His words could be lies; his actions could be deceptive. All relationships require a commitment which transcends the evidence and becomes self-validating.

I’d like to watch Professor Coyne try to convince the Chilean miners that God does not love them today. He feels the same way about you, no matter what cavern is yours. Where do you need that reminder most?

Copyright © 2010, Center for Informed Faith. All rights reserved.

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