“If there’s a God, please lift that dustbin lid.”
by Michael J Penfold
The British TV series Dixon of Dock Green ran for an incredible 25 years. In 1990, the atheistic playwright behind it, Ted Willis, moved an amendment to the Broadcasting Bill in the British Houses of Parliament, hoping to pave the way for the presentation of humanism alongside Christianity on religious programmes on the BBC.
Explaining his motives to a committee in the House of Lords, Baron Willis confessed, “I am a total non-believer. I do not apologise to the committee for that. I was brought up as a primitive Methodist. I do not think they exist any more. If one sat in chapel on a cushion, that was a great sin. I lost my faith when I was 14. I went to the bottom of the garden and said, ‘If there is a God, please lift that dustbin lid. Let that dustbin lid rise and that will prove him to me.’ I am sure that we have all done that at some time or another. Of course God ignored me and the dustbin lid did not rise.” Baron Willis proceeded to expand in greater detail on his other objections to God, but clearly his atheism commenced at the bottom of his garden waiting for a dustbin lid to rise. So why did God not answer his prayer?
An analogy might help. Picture the following scene. On the morning of their 50th wedding anniversary, Mary enters the kitchen to find her husband John holding up a playing hoop. After secretly entertaining doubts about his wife’s devotion for many years he asks, “Do you really love me?”
Taken aback Mary replies, “What do you mean John? Of course I do.”
“Well, if you really love me, I want you to jump through this hoop.”
Mary’s mind begins to spin. John’s facial expression makes it clear he isn’t joking.
Confused and indignant Mary runs from the kitchen in tears saying to herself, “If he doesn’t know I love him after all these years, I’m certainly not going to jump through any hoops for him.”
Lord Willis’s dustbin lid failed to rise for the same reason that Mary refused to jump through the hoop. As Mary’s 50 years of devotion had unequivocally proved her love to John, so God had provided the young Willis with unmistakable evidence of His existence, if only he had eyes to see.
Start with nature. From the gigantic universe down to microscopic DNA, all of nature loudly proclaims the existence of God. The stars daily speak of a God who may be discerned through what He has created (Psa 19:2). God’s ‘general revelation’ through nature alone leaves every single human being without excuse (Rom 1:20) – so much so that, to avoid the obvious, atheists must live in denial. Co-discoverer of DNA, Sir Francis Crick, warns his fellows, “Biologists must constantly keep in mind that what they see was not designed, but rather evolved.”1 Staring intelligent design in the face, atheists have become skilled at shutting off the voice of creation and explaining away the obvious.
Then there’s the Bible. Given by inspiration of God, the Bible is a truly miraculous book. Its accuracy when touching on scientific, medical and historical facts is legendary. Its harmony, despite being written by 40 authors over 1,600 years is striking. Most impressive are its prophecies of future events. Before His birth, the Bible predicted that Christ would be born in Bethlehem, would have his hands and feet pierced, would be sold for 30 pieces of silver and would appear to Israel (riding on a donkey) exactly 483 years to the day from Artaxerxes’s decree to rebuild Jerusalem. Each new prediction recorded in the Old Testament hikes up the probability stakes to staggering proportions. Taking just eight prophecies, Professor Peter Stoner calculated: “We find the chance that any man might have lived to the present time and fulfilled all eight prophecies is 1 in 1017…that would be 1 in 100,000,000,000,000,000.” Yet dozens of such prophecies were fulfilled in the person of Christ, some while He was still in Mary’s womb and others while He hung lifeless on the cross. What more evidence could anyone want? Truly, if people will not believe the Bible, even a miracle will not convince them (Luke 16:31).
As if all this evidence were not enough, God has spoken again in Jesus Christ, His final word to humanity (Heb 1:1-2). Nothing more needs to be said. With creation on show through microscope and telescope, and with the Bible’s supernatural nature proved beyond reasonable doubt to the honest enquirer, God has now given His crowning revelation. He has spoken in His Son. The virgin birth, sinless life, unique speech, atoning death and miraculous bodily resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth are the ultimate voice from God to humanity. Any who choose to reject the Son, reject the Father who sent Him.
The dustbin lid is not going to move. It doesn’t need to.
Michael J. Penfold (firstname.lastname@example.org)
1. “Lessons from Biology,” Natural History, vol. 97 (November 1988), p. 36