My friend David sent me a link to a Fox News article about an ad campaign launching on Washington D.C. buses that asks “Why Believe in a God? Just Be Good for Goodness’ Sake.” The ads have certainly sparked controversy, but I’m not as bothered as you might think. For me, it would be tragic if someone saw the ads and decided that rationalism excluded the possibility of God, but I actually think the opposite may be true, and it causes me to wonder if the humanist group that sponsored the ads really thought their branding through.
First off, I’m immediately reminded of Acts 17 when Paul sees the idolatry of Athens. Reaching the end of the main thoroughfare he sees a monument inscribed “To the Unknown God.” The Bible says that Paul’s “spirit was stirred in him, when he saw the city wholly given to idolatry.” The ads appearing on D. C. buses might be seen as the opposite of idolatry, but for me, humanism makes an idol out of self. Like Paul, we should be “stirred” (literally ‘heated up’ or passionate) over the emptiness of a society without God. These ads, hopefully, will serve as a visible monument to humanism that will serve to stir up believers in Christ who realize that we are not our own gods, but fulfill our greatest role in humanity in submission to our Creator.
Second, as Matt Staver put it, they’ve become the ultimate Scrooges. They’ve said “bah humbug” to what most Americans either believe in, respect, or at least give sentimental value to, the baby in the manger. I think it’s an illustration of the emotional emptiness left at the end of our search for the good in ourselves. The whole book of Ecclesiastes is written from the perspective of an agnostic and humanistic grump who seems bitter about life’s vanity until he brings it all into perspective in the last two verses…
“The end of the matter; all has been heard. Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man. For God will bring every deed into judgment, with every secret thing, whether good or evil.” -Ecclesiastes 12:13-14 ESV”
So life is empty and meaningless: the daily routine, the repetitive work cycle, the endless continuity of sunrise and sunset, and even suffering and death. Unless! Unless and until we realize that it all matters because there is a God.
Here’s the biggest reason I think the ads will actually work in the favor of Christianity… everybody, no matter how much we try to deny it, is in search of the Creator of the Universe. Everybody. Even the atheist has to struggle with the concept of a god before deciding there is none. So I think most people who are on the fence, wandering and searching for answers, will see the ads and say “Hmm… not so sure I’m comfortable with that.” And hence the search begins. Where will it end? Hopefully in eternity with Jesus.