United Kingdom Justin Brierley knows a thing or two about miracles: But, as you probably guessed, it's not Christian radio as you'd imagine it. Already this year on his British program Unbelievable? Other past episodes include illusionist Derren Brown questioning the veracity of miracle accounts, given the susceptibility of the mind to be tricked, and perhaps the most famous atheist in the world Richard Dawkins laying into the "capriciously malevolent bully" God of the Old Testament.
There's no catch, either. Unbelievers aren't brought onto the show to be harangued or interrupted. They're given equal time to the Christians they're debating and Brierley acts as an impartial moderator. If you were flicking through channels in the car, you might not guess you were listening to a station called Premier Christian Radio.
So why does Brierley do it? Well, he says his station does a "great job of talking to Christians about Christian things", but he wanted to burst the bubble. That's why for the past 11 years, Brierley has been inviting people onto the air to hear why they don't believe, putting them into conversations with leading Christian thinkers like philosopher William Lane Craig, New Testament scholar NT Wright and Oxford mathematician John Lennox.
It wasn't just atheists that he had to win over Brierley says many Christians appreciate having a show which deals with questions they themselves might have had and which helps them navigate their own interactions with nonbelievers. But he frankly admits that not everyone liked the idea. He could see their point — you don't tend to tune into Christian radio to have your cherished beliefs challenged. But he says it's not like you can avoid scepticism in a digital world.
A lesson in how to get along with each other Brierley doesn't shy away from the fact that he'd love it if people converted after listening to his program. But he also says simply improving the tone of the faith debate is its own reward. Brierley says he thinks the conversation has improved since then, with many atheists he encounters keen to disassociate themselves from the new atheism movement.
He says we live in an age where "we tend to dehumanise people" who disagree with us, but just getting people of different beliefs into the same room for a chat makes them realise they're not talking to the enemy. Both parties were excellent in defending their positions!
Simply put, he says he felt the presence and love of God. But he was aware this subjective experience wasn't going to convince anyone else, which is why he looked towards apologetics — basically, a wonky word for the rational defence of Christianity.
I'm just saying I don't see how that worldview makes sense of the world as I see it," he said. Atheists have an answer for all of these arguments, of course, which is why his show will never be short of things to debate.
First posted August 09,