In July 2010, the Does God Exist? ministry spent three
weeks in Scotland doing forty-one presentations in nineteen days. The
presentations in Livingston were in a church building, but in Aberdeen
and Dundee the presentations were in neutral ground sites — a hotel
meeting room in Aberdeen and a gymnasium (a multipurpose room) in
Just traveling in Scotland was a joy. The country is
beautiful with a rugged coastline and mountains rising over 1,000 feet
in what is called “The Highlands.” With the Gulf Stream on one side and
the North Sea on the other, there are wild swings in weather
precipitating the comment from the locals that “we have all four
seasons every day.” Winters are mild, but wet. Summers are cool and
wet. All of this wetness produces green everywhere and beautiful
gardens abound throughout the country.
Scotland is also called “The Land of Castles.” Everywhere you go you
see castles with their own claim to fame. While each has its own story
to tell, they have a common history of religious strife. The story is
that Christianity was brought to Scotland by Saint Columba in 563 A.D.
on the Isle of Iona known as the “Cradle of the Celtic Kingdom.” Bodies
of kings of Scotland, Norway, and France as well as clan leaders were
sent to Iona for burial. As political and national struggles evolved,
religion was used as a tool of those in power. The histories of
Scotland and Ireland are full of stories of religious massacres,
executions, assassinations, and abuses. The wisdom of Jesus’ teaching
“render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s and unto God the
things that are God’s” can be seen clearly. Most people in Scotland see
God as a man-made political tool used to enforce the view of the
aristocracy, not as a reality and relevant to the common people.
References to the “post-Christian Era” are everywhere and Richard
Dawkins and his associates are viewed as heroes by a significant
percentage of the Scottish and Irish population.
This picture shows the result of all this.
The “Dog House” was a
beautiful old church building across the street from the gymnasium
where we conducted our lectureship in Dundee. Like most church
buildings in Scotland, it now serves a secular purpose. Most church
buildings are nightclubs, like the Dog House, or bars, banks, museums,
bookstores, restaurants, and liquor stores. The
rejecting Christianity are readily visible everywhere you go in
Scotland and Ireland. We took a tour of the countryside of Ireland
around Dublin, and our tour guide was a walking encyclopedia not only
of the history of Ireland, but of the current state of its people. “We
are a grumpy lot,” he said, and went on to ask us if we had met people
on the street who actually smiled. When someone said they had, his
response was “they must have been tourists, because we are not a happy
people.” We found people to be friendly and very helpful, but also
quite defensive and distant. Distrust was a constant reminder of the
pervasive mind-set of the people that all of life is a competition, and
only the fit survive.
A consequence of this secular viewpoint is an enormous use and
dependence on alcohol. We advertised our lectureship in Dundee by
passing out leaflets on the city streets, but we learned to do it in
the afternoon. My wife attempted to pass out leaflets in the evening
when we started the presentations and found that most of the people in
the area surrounding the gymnasium were too intoxicated to be able to
function in the lectures and discussions. Our guide in Ireland said
that the average adult in Ireland spends 6,000 euros (roughly $8,000
American) on alcohol per year. He drove us by a huge hospital in Dublin
that he said was totally dedicated to treating alcohol related
disorders. This guide was not a religious person or someone who was on
a campaign of some sort. This was a regular comment of his
presentations as he took tourists around the sites and scenes of
Ireland. Obviously, statistics can be misleading and inaccurate, but
the prevailing influence of alcohol in this culture, and the social
struggles taking place cannot be minimized or dismissed.
Our presentations were well attended in every place where
we gave them.
We found that people rejected out of hand anything that involved the
word “church.” The history of religious and church struggles has soured
most people to the point where they would not even consider something
connected to church in any other way than a historical way. By the same
token we found enormous interest in God and the evidence for God’s
existence. Getting people to understand that the church is people (1
Corinthians 3:16 ff.) and not a building was a major struggle. We
enormous interest in the question of what God is — that God is a Spirit
4:24) and not an old man in the sky — and what that really means.
People had a skeptical view of the Bible, but most of their knowledge
was what they had heard the Bible says, not what the Bible actually
says. Discussing the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew
chapters 5 through
7 and the radical concepts of Christ piqued a great deal of
One night we had a long discussion of Matthew
5:38 – 48 in which Jesus
talks about turning the other cheek, going the second mile, and loving
your enemies. After this, one man said, “Well then all of this war that
has decimated our country was in contradiction to what Jesus taught?” I
jumped on that, of course, pointing out that the Crusades were also in
opposition to the teachings of Christ. He responded by saying he wanted
to know more about “this Jesus which I have never heard of.”
We left Scotland and Ireland with many studies underway and with large
numbers of DVDs of our lessons being distributed. My e-mails have been
flooded with people who have UK in their URL, indicating that they are
writing from the United Kingdom. The questions continue to be on the
unique message that Christ actually gave, and how much it is at odds
with the history of religion in Scotland and Ireland.
I have to think of what has happened in
the United States, and how that
is still unfolding. Christianity has been distorted by many in this
country, both in the past and today, to a political/militaristic
concept. We have people today who are urging churches to contribute to
military action in Israel to facilitate the return of Jesus to the
throne of David in Jerusalem. In the past we have had racism promoted
by pseudo-Christian groups such as the Ku Klux Klan. Christianity has
been used to fleece people of their savings to promote religious
causes, or to say to them that God will give them back more than they
give if they will turn their savings over to a Christian minister.
Religious scams are everywhere, even in things that appear to be
positive causes. Some relief money given to charities has been
embezzled by religious leaders, and immoral actions by religious
figures are commonplace. The result of all of this is a growing
distrust of religion, and a tendency to reject Christianity because it
is viewed as the tool that enables this bad activity.
The U.S.A. may be a few years behind Scotland and Ireland, but the same
problems and abuses exist, and Satan will use them effectively. Will we
profit by the experiences of our brothers and sisters across “The
Pond”? Will we work to bring a fresh new message to people
of the United States that says that God’s existence and the validity of
His Word, the Bible, is strongly supported by evidence? Will we call
people to live as the Bible says — not as we or anyone else says?
Christianity works when lived as Jesus taught us and as the Bible
presents it. Christianity elevates all human beings while bringing
peace, trust, love, and understanding to a world that desperately wants
what God has to offer.
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Does God Exist?, JanFeb11.