ANDY BANNISTER writes:
A few weeks ago I had the incredible privilege of speaking at the headquarters of National Geographic Magazine in Washington DC in the USA. I had previously spoken there a few years ago, which was one of my favourite speaking engagements of all-time. I have a friend who is a commissioning editor for the magazine who has created a lovely lunchtime event there. Once a month he brings a Christian speaker in and lots of people invite their friends to come and listen. So we had a room full of people, the majority of whom didn’t have any kind of faith – and there was me!
I spoke on the question, ‘What does it mean to be human?’ For me it is one of the most important questions of our time. On the one hand we have naturalistic atheism which wants to say that we are nothing more than atoms, particles, and molecules; that we are nothing more than the stuff of which we are made. That has huge implications because it is utterly corrosive if you want to think about human rights or dignity or justice. On the other hand you have the Christian worldview, that says that human beings are made in the image of God (Genesis 1:26-27). I talked about that for half an hour and then took questions.
It was really interesting to see how many people there in that audience were searching spiritually. Lots of people have figured out that atheism doesn’t really work but they are not convinced that religion really works either, and so are very, very open. We see this wherever we go, on university campuses or in coffee shop events, or even here at places like National Geographic, in some ways the ‘high-temple’ of scientific naturalism. You’ll know that if you read National Geographic Magazine or watch their TV shows that many there think that evolution is the only game in town. But it was great to speak to a group of people who really were looking for something more and it was an incredible opportunity to present the gospel.
Too often Christians lock the gospel up within the four walls of the Church but we forget that the message of the gospel is persuasive and powerful and has something to say. The gospel has something to say, whether it’s on university campuses, or in culture-shaping institutions like National Geographic.
The icing on the cake, was that as well as the National Geographic’s own offices, they have a little museum and every time I’ve been there they have had different exhibits. This time they had an exhibition on the Church of The Holy Sepulchre — the church in Jerusalem, built over the site which is thought to have been the tomb of Christ. They had produced this amazing three-dimensional show in which you could “fly” through the church, round it, under it and over it! It turns out that National Geographic were involved in restoring the church a couple of years ago. The exhibition around it was incredible, and there were clearly Christians involved because while it tried its best to be neutral, some of the language was pretty Christian. So it was really encouraging to see the gospel being preached, either directly through my opportunity to stand up and say something, or indirectly on the panels about this church in this amazing location. It archaeologically has a good claim, that it very well maybe was the place where Jesus’ body laid for those three days between his burial and his resurrection.