Houston Baptist University’s Dr. Jerry Johnston and Dr. Cristie Jo Johnston spent two intriguing days in England with both a chief proponent and a main opponent of the Christian faith. They filmed with respected thinkers Dr. Richard Swinburne and Dr. Richard Dawkins.
The day after meeting influential atheist Dr. Richard Dawkins in a prison-turned-hotel, champions of Christianity Dr. Jerry Johnston and Dr. Cristie Jo Johnston turned their attention to Christian apologist Dr. Richard Swinburne. The noted philosopher welcomed the Johnstons into his central England home with the unassuming kindness of an old friend. The contrasting beliefs held by the British thought leaders represent the tug-of-war for the modern place of the Judeo-Christian worldview.
Dr. Swinburne wrote the classic book, The Existence of God in 1979. He recommends that every questioning believer read his popular 1996 book, Is There A God? His remarkable intellect and warmth embody the quiet revolution taking place in modern-day Christian philosophy.
Swinburne, Emeritus Professor of Philosophy at the University of Oxford, is no less than a catalyst of the movement evident in the finest universities in the country. During the last 50 years, Swinburne has been an influential advocate of philosophical arguments for the existence of God. He made a dramatic impact on Antony Flew, for example, who previously set the agenda for modern atheism with his 1950 essay, “Theology and Falsification.” Flew shocked the academic world when he renounced the atheism he had both embraced and espoused, and became a believer in God as creator. He then wrote, There Is A God: How the World’s Most Notorious Atheist Changed His Mind. (America’s equivalent to Swinburne, undoubtedly, is the renowned Dr. Alvin Plantinga at the University of Notre Dame, who recently was awarded the 2017 Templeton Prize.)
Dr. Jerry Johnston and Dr. Cristie Jo Johnston Aim To Encourage Christian Critical Thinking
Swinburne’s emphasis remains upon the necessity of analytical thinking. It is an issue close to the Johnstons’ hearts. “Atheists have told Cristie Jo and me that Christians don’t know how to critically think,” Jerry Johnston said. “Even J.P. Moreland, named one of the 50 most influential philosophers alive today in America, said the condition of the church makes him ‘sad.’”
The Johnstons, with the help of Pew Research and their extensive data tracking on the religious “nones,” are helping to encourage critical thinking among believers. They are producing multiple digital media resources, including curricula, to train leaders and students to address what may be the most serious issue of our day: the massive exodus from the church. They emphasize that the most alarming demographic is millennials; the young people are tomorrow’s leaders and, consequently, merit our undivided attention.
Furthermore, Drs. Jerry and Cristie Jo Johnston are exploring the future impact of virtual reality technology and artificial intelligence on religion, and have filmed with some of the finest minds regarding how these emerging technologies will affect religious behavior. Interviews with subject-matter experts such as Dr. Jonathan Lanman, anthropologist at Queen’s University in Belfast, Ireland, are virtual mind-benders. Presented evidence demonstrates that the digital era brings both vast opportunities and great challenges.
Jerry Johnston said he and Cristie Jo are grateful for project contributors. “We are honored that such an esteemed group of international leaders and ‘nones,’ themselves, are participating in our documentary and future digital resources,” he said.
To view video clips of the documentary filming, please visit JerryJohnston.com.