Not long ago I saw the familiar car bumper sticker that says “Co-Exist,” comprised of various symbols including a peace sign, the Islamic crescent, the Star of David, and the cross. It’s an interesting mix and an appealing idea, kind of along the lines of “Why can’t we all just get along?”
In some respects there’s nothing wrong with that. We should be able to appreciate different viewpoints, and respect those having beliefs other than our own. If we associate with and listen only to people that reinforce our prejudices, how will we learn and grow? Times when people challenged what I believed have often proved to be opportunities to revisit my own convictions and ask myself, “Why do I believe that?” But in reality, some things simply can’t co-exist.
|Even a tiny candle has the power|
to cast away darkness.
Take for example, light and darkness. Complete darkness ceases to exist even in the presence of a single lit candle. Turn on a bright overhead light and, like Elvis, darkness leaves the building. True darkness has no alternative but to cower in the presence of light.
Perhaps this is why, especially on topics of profound depth and strong conviction – including faith, religion and spirituality – the notion of totally opposite points of view “co-existing” is at best unlikely and, for all intents and purposes, impossible. I submit as an example two men, both of great intellect, highly educated, and from the same part of the world.
Stephen Hawking, an English theoretical physicist, cosmologist affiliated with the renowned University of Cambridge, and acclaimed author, has said, “There is probably no heaven, and no afterlife either.” A declared atheist who believes science alone holds all the answers of the universe, Hawking has offered his opinion that, “Heaven is a fairy story for people afraid of the dark.”
Another Britisher, Dr. John Lennox, professor of mathematics at the equally esteemed University of Oxford, philosopher of science, and staunch defender of the Christian faith, posits an opposing view: “Atheism is a fairy story for those who are afraid of the light.” His view is that science and matters of faith need not – and should not – be regarded as mutually exclusive.
Even the most starry-eyed Pollyanna would be hard-pressed to reconcile such contradictory perspectives. Judging from their credentials, neither Hawking nor Lennox is lacking in intelligence, reasoning powers or educational pedigree. Yet they have reached totally different conclusions. So which one is right?
We might as well ask: which is right, light or darkness?
The Bible speaks a lot about both. Jesus, never one to hem or haw on important matters, was even bold enough to declare, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life” (John 8:12). A bit later He added, “I have come into the world as a light, so that no one who believes in me should walk in darkness” (John 12:46). According to Jesus, light is a far better choice than darkness – and stated He was the one certain way for finding light that can’t be extinguished.
Elsewhere Jesus asserted He had no intention of keeping this light to Himself – and neither should we. In fact, He assured His followers, “You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden…. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:14-16).
It’s interesting that our society seems committed to redefining what is light and what is darkness. This is hardly a new phenomenon. Thousands of years ago the prophet Isaiah warned, “Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter” (Isaiah 5:20).
Sadly, many in the media, the political realm, centers of so-called higher education, and in some cases, even churches, affirm a mantra that darkness is good, and therefore light should be avoided. This message appeals to what the Bible calls our “flesh” or “sinful nature,” and can be strongly seductive. So we have a choice. We can follow the path society directs, or heed the admonition of the apostle Paul: “For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light” (Ephesians 5:8). It’s a pivotal choice no one can make for us.