Practical Theists: The Heroes of 2007

Note: This commentary was delivered by PFM President Mark Earley.

2007 was a banner year for atheism. Anti-God manifestos by Christopher Hitchens and Richard Dawkins were bookstore blockbusters. And The Golden Compass, a not-so-subtly atheistic children's film, hit theaters last month.

With all the attention the atheist agenda is receiving, doesn't it seem strange that most Americans find heroes among those who reflect a biblical worldview?

Earlier in 2007, CNN began polling people for a list of their heroes. As the results began rolling in, it became apparent that the frontrunners had something in common. Whether or not they professed belief in God, they all lived their lives in a way that would not make sense if He did not exist.

One of the nominees, Wesley Autrey, a construction worker with two small children, jumped onto the New York subway tracks to rescue a young man who had fallen off the platform. Then Autrey sheltered the man with his own body as a train passed overhead.

After the rescue, Autrey told an interviewer: "It was as if something was telling me to do what I done. A voice out of nowhere said, ‘Go and save that life, that life is a life worth saving, and don't worry about your own.' It seemed like something just lifted me up off the platform."

Another nominee was Major Scott Southworth of the Wisconsin National Guard, who adopted a severely handicapped orphan boy when he was serving in Iraq several years ago. Now he is working to bring more than 20 other neglected and abused handicapped boys from Baghdad to the United States for medical treatment.

Then there was Liviu Librescu, a Holocaust survivor and the professor at Virginia Tech who used his body as a shield to protect his students from the gunman. And 15-year-old Zach Hunter from Atlanta who has raised more than $20,000 to help free modern-day slaves. And American Jewish doctor Rick Hodes who volunteers his time and expertise to care for the sick in Ethiopia.

Atheism has no explanation for these acts of self-giving and even self-sacrificing charity. As Chuck Colson has said many times, Darwinian evolution cannot explain this kind of altruism: How does one who willingly dies for another pass on his or her genetic traits for the improvement of the species? No, defenders of atheism and Darwinism, if true to their convictions, should sneer at this kind of self-sacrifice as weak and pointless.

But we know better. Why? Because we-and these modern-day heroes-are made in the image of God. His very character is stamped into our beings. We see in these heroes a reflection of the same God, who in Christ "being made in human likeness . . . humbled himself and became obedient unto death-even death on the cross." This is the same God who tells us "to lay down our lives" for our friends, "to let the little children come," and "to act justly and love mercy."

Tragically, many people, including many Christians, are practical atheists, living our lives in a way that ignores God's existence. But in the final analysis, we are all still wired to find heroes in those who live life as though God does exist.

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