‘The Question of God’

It's hard to imagine two institutions less associated with a classical Christian worldview than Harvard University and the Public Broadcasting System. That's why it comes as a pleasant surprise that, starting September 15, the two will come together to give Christianity a chance to make its case against the secular alternative. The two-part series, airing September 15 and 22, is called "The Question of God." It's based on the book by my good friend Dr. Armand Nicholi, a professor at Harvard Medical School and editor of the Harvard Guide to Psychiatry. The book grew out of one of the most popular courses at Harvard: Dr. Nicholi's "Sigmund Freud and C. S. Lewis: Two Contrasting Worldviews." As we're told, "arguably, few individuals have influenced the moral fabric of contemporary Western civilization more than Sigmund Freud and C. S. Lewis." That's because Freud and Lewis represent two clear worldview alternatives: secular materialism and theism. Freud's worldview led to moral relativism, while Lewis's led to a belief grounded in absolute truth. Freud saw traditional ideas about God as illusory and even infantile -- that is, that we imagine God, it's wish-fulfillment in our own minds -- while Lewis championed faith grounded in reason. As Nicholi puts it, many of Lewis's writings can be understood as replies to Freud's theories, which makes studying them side-by-side especially fruitful. Just as the book made it possible for non-Harvard students to benefit from Nicholi's work, the PBS special now spreads the benefits even more widely. During these two two-hour segments, viewers watch discussions of questions that everybody asks at some point: "What is happiness? How do we find meaning and purpose in our lives? How do we reconcile conflicting claims of love and sexuality? How do we cope with the problem of suffering and the inevitability of death?" By way of showing that these questions are not just the stuff of abstract philosophizing, the two installments weave Freud's and Lewis's personal stories together with the development of their worldviews. The audience comes to see that what these men believed shaped the way they lived their lives, and they see the difference: how much better Lewis lived than Freud. These stories are told using a mixture of "dramatic storytelling . . . visual re-creations . . . interviews with biographers and historians, and lively discussion." In the end, the audience is left with no doubt as to the difference between with the Christian worldview and the secular alternative. I have always been confident that when the Christian worldview is presented fairly, an open-minded person will see that it does answer life's most important questions better than any alternative. Any alternative, in fact, is irrational. So, please, I encourage you: Watch "The Question of God" on PBS and get your friends and neighbors to do the same thing. And then start a discussion. Then you should write or e-mail PBS and thank them for putting the program on. There's a good chance they will rerun a special like this, and the more people who see it the better. Finally, read The Question of God, because it is a "must-read" for thoughtful Christians. I've just re-read it and found it to be even more powerful the second time. It teaches us that the faith Lewis championed is not an illusion as Freud taught. On the contrary, it's faith for those open-minded enough to see the world as it really is. For further reading and information: Dr. Armand Nicholi, The Question of God: C. S. Lewis and Sigmund Freud Debate God, Love, Sex, and the Meaning of Life (Free Press, 2002). Learn more about the PBS program "The Question of God." Find out where and when the program will air in your area. PBS has provided a free discussion guide. (Adobe Acrobat Reader required.) Buy the video or DVD of the PBS program "The Question of God." Find out the address and phone number of your local PBS station and thank them for airing "The Question of God." Carla Brown, "PBS debates 'The Question of God'," Arizona Republic, 11 September 2004. Gene Edward Veith, "TV review: The Question of God: Sigmund Freud and C. S. Lewis," World, 9 September 2004. David Neff, "Christian History Corner: Think TV," Christianity Today, 10 September 2004. Armand M. Nicholi and Theodore Dalrymple, "C. S. Lewis vs. Sigmund Freud on Good and Evil," American Enterprise, March 2002. Armand M. Nicholi, "When Worldviews Collide, Part 1," The Real Issue, Leadership U., January 1998. (See also Part 2 of this article.) Ken Gewertz, "The Question of God," Harvard Gazette, 19 September 2002. Matt Kaufman, "Lewis vs. Freud," Boundless, 9 September 2004. Gina Dalfonzo, "Lewis vs. Freud: On God, Love, Sex, Etc.," Boundless, 9 May 2002. For more information about The Question of God, see these past commentaries: "Freud, Lewis, and the Ivy League," "Grow Up or Wake Up," "The Question of Love," and "Life in Enemy Occupied Territory." (Free registration required.) Kelly Monroe, Finding God at Harvard (Zondervan, 1997).


Chuck Colson


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