Plato’s greatest challenger to his philosophical interlocutor, Socrates, came in his writing of the famous rhetorician Protagoras. Protagoras’s notorious challenge to this philosophical mastermind of the ancient world was a simple one, “Man is the measure of all things”, the humanist creed of the last two and a half millennia. Plato’s response, an equally simple one, was that theos, the divine, particularly a God, was the measurer of all things. If the billboard on I-65 in Louisville signifies anything, it is that this argument hasn’t progressed very far since the birth of philosophy in Ancient Greece.
While it seems silly that some have expressed outrage over something as insignificant as a billboard message, it seems equally ridiculous that those who confess a lack of evidence to support the idea that there ever was a God in the first place, manifest their skepticism in a marketing campaign, particularly one whose structure has taken the form of trendy buses, subway signs, and now billboard advertisements. Isn’t a portion of the frustration felt against Christianity partly blamed on its salesmanship structure? Yet this is what the so-called free-thought, humanist wing of our city is now embracing. Doesn’t it seem a great irony to anyone that a society which espouses itself as principled by reason and free inquiry would confine its most controversial message to the encapsulation of a billboard sign?
Now of course this group has the right to display their advertisement, just as any local church group has the right to write whatever they want on billboard signs, and believe me they do. It was earlier this year that the state house debated over a sign that read, “Hell is Real”. Anyone advocating the abolishment of this sign purely on the basis that it is somehow too invasive should be a prime candidate for the collection of all those annoying church tracts that are placed on cars, in between doors, and clandestinely throughout restaurants. Both methods are cheap ways of imitating greater thoughts, thoughts that deserve attention, interaction, and in their boldness perhaps even dialogue.
Dialogue, after all, has always pervaded throughout the history of this debate among the most reasonable of apologists for both humanism and monotheism. Socrates reasoned dialectically with Protagoras, as did Paul with the Stoics, and Augustine with the Manicheans. The resignation to continue this tradition in the modern era is surprising, particularly since the Louisville CoR and their correlated groups market themselves as being open-minded societies. It also says something of the tenability of the position of those who most boisterously proclaim they have discovered the absence of a God. If the conversions of men like Anthony Flew, T.S. Eliot, and C.S. Lewis speak anything to the degree of significance that is contained within an open dialogue about this topic, it is perhaps understandable and even strategic for these free thought societies to continue to reject an open dialogue with christian academics and instead flood more resources into marketing.
However, for those truly open-minded individuals who wish to see an open debate about this topic, I highly recommend the debate between John Lennox and Christopher Hitchens. And for those who are resigned to the truth of the billboard message but wish to add a bit of skepticism to their life, I highly recommend the lecture of Dr. Gary Habermas on August 21 in Louisville. A world renowned Christian apologist, Dr. Habermas has a PhD. from the University of Michigan and certainly will give any participant more than a billboard sign to think about.