How many public figures in America speak about God or religion in a serious fashion? How many use biblical ideas to make serious points about life or politics? Many liberals don’t believe in traditional Judaism or Christianity, but even many conservatives tend to shy away from mentioning God or the Bible in public.
Eric Metaxas is an exception – and a wildly successful one at that. Host of the Eric Metaxas Radio Show, which is heard in 120 cities, Metaxas is a #1 New York Times bestselling author and the host of “Socrates in the City: Conversations on the Examined Life,” which aims to provide “entertaining and thought-provoking discussions on ‘life, God, and other small topics.’” Featured guests have included Malcolm Gladwell, David Brooks, and Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks.
Metaxas has written 30 children’s books in addition to his more well-known bestselling works, which include If You Can Keep It: The Forgotten Promise of American Liberty, Amazing Grace: William Wilberforce and the Heroic Campaign to End Slavery, and Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy (about a German pastor who was hanged for plotting to overthrow Adolf Hitler).
Metaxas is also a popular lecturer and the author of what is unofficially the most shared article in the history of the Wall Street Journal, “Science Increasingly Makes the Case for God.” To date, it has been shared over 600,000 times on Facebook.
The Jewish Press: You appear on mainstream talk shows and unabashedly discuss God and religion when commenting on current events. Almost no other public figure does so unless he’s a clergyman. Is that a problem?
Metaxas: I think it’s a gigantic problem, and it’s precisely why I do it. I think it’s a shame that we don’t understand the centrality of biblical faith to America.
Every single one of this country’s founders understood that there’s no way to have genuine liberty and genuine self-government without a moral and virtuous people, and there was zero question in the minds of the founders that [the existence of a moral and virtuous people] went hand in hand with faith.
So when I say those kinds of things on TV, there are tons of people like yourself who think, “Why isn’t anybody else mentioning that? He’s not talking about UFOs. He’s talking about something that’s at the center of many people’s lives.”
Some people say religion is fine in synagogue or in the privacy of one’s home, but it’s dangerous when it becomes part of the public discourse. How do you respond?
It’s an utterly ridiculous argument. It’s like saying: People get killed in car crashes; therefore, ban cars.
If you want to live in a country that believes in confining faith to a religious corner, a perfect place to go would be North Korea or communist China. They let you have your rituals on Sabbath, but when you come out of [your house of worship], the state tells you what to do.
That’s the antithesis of America. And the fact that we no longer understand that is at the very heart of most of our problems.
For the last 50 or so years, we’ve had a profound misunderstanding of the [doctrine of] separation between church and state. Faith is supposed to inform everything. Religious liberty means you have the freedom to live out your faith in every sphere of public life. The whole idea of liberty is for the government to understand that they don’t have the ability to tell you how and where and when you’re allowed to practice your faith.
You’ve said in the past that religious people should be more involved in politics.
Much more, yes.
Let’s put it this way: If you believe that we have problems in America but you oppose getting involved in politics, in effect you’re allowing bad things to happen.
My favorite politician of all time is William Wilberforce [1759-1833]. It was because of his Christian faith that he stood up against the slave trade in England. It was mostly the very serious religious people at the time who believed slavery was wrong because they believed in the Bible which says all humans are created in the image of God and there’s a sanctity to every human being. If you don’t believe that, you could be fine with slavery.
So people who have a biblical view of the human being have an obligation to try to bring this view into the public square, and I think politics is a great way to do it.
The social scientist Charles Murray once characterized the secularist European attitude toward life as follows: “Human beings are a collection of chemicals that activate and, after a period of time, deactivate. The purpose of life is to while away the intervening time as pleasantly as possible.” Some people fear America is increasingly adopting this attitude. What’s your take?
This isn’t a European worldview. It’s a secular humanist materialist worldview. The worldview of the Bible says we are glorious beings created in the image of God. We’re the apple of His eye. If you don’t believe that, we’re just what Charles Murray said.
But when you have an atheistic view of humanity, you’re lucky if you live in a place where people while away the hours at cafes. The reality is that if you don’t believe human beings are made in the image of God, slowly but inevitably you get some kind of tyranny….
The biblical view says there’s good and evil. We have to choose life and not death. And I think to the extent that we’re losing [this biblical view] and to the extent that we shrink from discussing it in American public life, we drift in the direction of meaninglessness and chaos.
Unfortunately, though, America is drifting away from its biblical moorings and is becoming increasingly secular. Where do you see us heading?
I actually have hope. God has acted in history many times, and we always have the choice to turn toward Him. I’ve been reading in [the Book of] Chronicles lately about how simple it is. When His people obey Him, He blesses them. When they turn away from Him, He doesn’t bless them.
It’s very simple. Whenever we want to be blessed, all we have to do is turn to God and honor Him. There are so many people in America who see what you see and I see – and what the readers of this paper see – and they’re praying fervently.
I believe that sometimes things have to get so bad to realize that you have a problem. I think we’re at that point right now. The absurd chaos of the Antifa anarchists and the Black Lives Matter Marxists have shown most Americans the dramatic manifestation of [the secularist] worldview, and I think when you see that, you say, “Okay, I get it. That’s the wrong way to go.”
There are so many people praying for this nation that I don’t despair. But we’re in a battle. It’s an existential battle, no different than the battle for liberty in 1776. We have to rise to it, and I think that means not just having faith, but living out our faith – making sure we vote and talking to our neighbors about the meaning of life.
If we sit back and say, “It’s all lost, why do anything?” we are not doing God’s will. We are never called to hopelessness. He didn’t give us this great free republic so that eventually we would just say, “Well, it’s not going so well, we’re going to just let it go.”
We’re still the last best hope of earth as Abraham Lincoln said. We’re the ones holding the torch of liberty, and there are people around the world looking to us, so even if we’re only fighting for them, we have to fight.
Do you really think we can turn the tide and return to an era when, for example, homosexual behavior and marital relations before marriage were considered immoral?
Solzhenitsyn said, “One word of truth outweighs the world.” In other words, our job is to speak the truth and to trust God with the outcome. I know that the biblical idea of sexuality is no longer the cultural ideal, but that has led to innumerous problems and we now have decades of data to show the pain it’s caused human beings.
How many children have suffered because of divorce? How many young men are in prison because they didn’t have a father in the home [since their mothers conceived them out of wedlock]?
If people make the case for God’s way… well, first, that’s all we can do – and it’s our obligation to do it – but I also believe that if we do that, it’s really up to God to open people’s ears so that they hear these things and change their lives.
We have had religious revivals in America in the past. The fortunes of nations can turn on a dime. I forget who said it, but the existence of Israel and the Jewish people after so many centuries is proof of God’s hand in history, and I think if we know that, it encourages us to keep going.
You’ve written what is unofficially the most shared article in the history of the Wall Street Journal. In it, you argue that science indicates that this world has a creator. Can you elaborate?
I just signed a contract to write a book on this subject. It’s called Is Atheism Dead? and it argues that the evidence leads to the conclusion that there is a God and it’s probably the God of the Bible.
We live in a culture that has routinely ignored or hidden this evidence, so the impression many people get is that [science does away with God], but the fact is that the evidence is there and there are thousands upon thousands of geniuses and scientists who believe God exists.
The evidence is so overwhelming that I actually laugh whenever I look into it. There’s a guy you should talk to named James Tour. He’s probably the best nanotechnologist on planet earth, and he says we now know from the science that it is utterly impossible that life could’ve come from non-life out of the prebiotic soup four billion years ago. Not improbable, but utterly impossible.
I feel kind of a burden to share this because most people have this faith inferiority complex. They think all the smart people are atheists and that the facts are on their side, but just the opposite is true.
What arguments do you specifically lay out in your Wall Street Journal op-ed?
I focus on what’s called the fine tuned argument. Christopher Hitchens [an avowed atheist] was once asked, “What’s the [best] argument on the side of those who believe in God?” He said, “Without any question, it’s the fine-tuned argument.”
In a nutshell, when you know enough science, you see clearly that a planet like ours perfectly situated and prepared for life should never have happened. Within a millionth of a second of the universe’s creation, the four fundamental forces – the gravitational force, the electromagnetic force, and the weak and strong nuclear forces – were set in stone. If any of them had been ever so slightly different, the universe could not and would not exist.
The more you look into it, the more stunning it is. And the more we learn from science, the more evidence there is for [the existence of God] – not the opposite.