This is the second in a series of open letters to well-known individuals. You can read the first one here.
You were not on my short-list of people to whom I planned to write one of these open missives. That changed, however, as I read the touching letter detailing your deteriorating health situation. If the doctors are correct, you have mere weeks to live. And that gave me a special urgency in writing this.
I want to start out by expressing my admiration for the courage and grace of your letter. I cannot begin to imagine the turmoil you are going through at this moment, and yet your words were calm, measured, and without bitterness or recrimination.
And come to think of it, that description, “calm, measured, and without bitterness or recrimination” could accurately describe your demeanor in every situation where I have seen you at work. You see, during my stay in the United States in 2016, I lost a lot of respect for many in your profession. Journalists and pundits whose opinion I had respected four years earlier seemed to have lost their minds. But you, you were always a constant. You stubbornly refused to submit to hype, and your calm voice of reason was a welcome oasis to me during that turbulent year. It got to the point where I would only watch a Fox News discussion if you were one of the panelists.
Not to put too fine a point on it, but you helped me get through 2016 without going completely bonkers.
Now, I would like to try to return the favor, if I can.
As I read your letter, one paragraph stood out to me above the rest:
However, recent tests have revealed that the cancer has returned. There was no sign of it as recently as a month ago, which means it is aggressive and spreading rapidly. My doctors tell me their best estimate is that I have only a few weeks left to live. This is the final verdict. My fight is over.
“This is the final verdict.” My purpose in this letter is to tell you that this is not the case. The final verdict has not been handed to you by your doctors, nor could it ever be.
Let’s start from the beginning. You are obviously aware of the cosmological problem posed by existence. Where does the Universe come from? You have yourself dove into this question, and come up agnostic. Now, with the clarity that is often presented by time limitations, I would ask you to dive in once again. It is not possible that the origin of the material universe can be matter. This much is clear. At some point, there must be a non-matter origin, a First Cause that is not subject to the confines of time, space, or matter. So we are talking about a First Cause that is eternal, transcendent, and spiritual.
We’re talking about God. And God must exist…or we don’t.
Now we have no time to quibble about the Genesis account of creation or the final points of theology. At this point, there is one major concept that we need to agree on: That this God, this Eternal First Cause, it is He who will pass the final verdict.
Now bear with me as I take what might seem to be a leap here, but it’s important to specify that we are talking about the God of the Bible, or, if you prefer, the God presented in your own Jewish scriptures. A whole lot of discussion could be had about the merits of various deities proposed by sundry world religions…but time is of the essence. For the sake of argument, let’s leave it at this: there is no other god in the world pantheon who fits the “eternal, transcendent, and spiritual” criteria we have established thus far.
We are informed by this God, through his Word, that He is absolutely Holy (which is only in keeping with the qualities we have mentioned beforehand). We are then told that mankind is sinful and rebellious, which, were it not included in the sacred text, would still be one of the most imminently observable facts in the Universe.
On the face of it, none of this bodes well for you, for me, or anybody. We are rebellious. God is holy. God is the judge. We’re screwed.
But the God who is perfect in holiness is also perfect in love, and has made a way for reconciliation. You are probably ahead of me now…that way of reconciliation is Jesus.
Now, we’ve skipped over a lot of material here. There are a lot of arguments that could be raised, a lot of discussions that could be had. But there’s no time for any of that. What you need to know is this: 1) The verdict is not in, yet. 2) God is the one who gives the verdict. 3) Peace with God is available, in Christ.
And as the clock runs down on what is, by anybody’s standard, a very accomplished life, I would urge you, implore you even…look to Christ.