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Ricky Gervais and Borrowed Moral Capital

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Ricky Gervais is a British comedian and actor. I first saw in Night at the Museum (2006). He starred in the original British version of The Office. He has a long list of media accomplishments. I suspect that most conservatives don't know him except for his opening remarks at the 2020 Golden Globes Awards.

He tore into Hollywood. this line is classic: "If ISIS had a streaming service you would be calling your agents."

You can read his comments here or watch them here.

Conservatives and conservative media loved it. The thing of it is, Gervais is not a conservative. We might have loved his Balaam's ass remarks at the Golden Globes, but most of us would not like much else he says and believes. For example, he's an atheist and supports same-sex rights. Why not? There are no moral absolutes in the cosmos. There's no one to tell anyone what to do.

And yet, Gervais used something of a moral club to attack Hollywood by revealing its hypocrisy. Of course, many in Hollywood were offended. But why should they be offended? In a matter-only cosmos, there's no such thing as being offended. It's kill or be killed, and there's no one to judge you.

Here are some items from Wikipedia:

He has been in a relationship with producer and author Jane Fallon since 1982, and says they chose not to marry because "there's no point in us having an actual ceremony before the eyes of God because there is no God" or have children because they "didn't fancy dedicating 16 years of [their] lives [...] and there are too many children, of course".

He is an atheist and a humanist, and states that he abandoned religion at the age of eight. In December 2010, he wrote an editorial for The Wall Street Journal defending his atheism. He is an honorary associate of the UK's National Secular Society, and a patron of Humanists UK, a British charity which promotes the humanist worldview and campaigns for a secular state and on human rights issues.

On 3 September 2019, Gervais was awarded the 2019 Richard Dawkins Award. The award recognizes individuals who proclaim "the values of secularism and rationalism, upholding scientific truths wherever it may lead." Gervais received the award during a Center for Inquiry-sponsored award ceremony at London's Troxy Theatre. Dawkins praised Gervais for being a "witty hero of atheism and reason."

This ending statement from Gervais caught my attention. It was the best line of the night:

So if you do win an award tonight, don't use it as a platform to make a political speech. You're in no position to lecture the public about anything. You know nothing about the real world. Most of you spent less time in school than Greta Thunberg.

As a Christian, I can benefit from the truth he tells about Hollywood since I have an operating foundation for truth. Gervais does not. He can't account for rationality and reason, values, science, or human rights.

While he rejects God, Gervais is using all the things God has created. He's using borrowed moral and rational capital that only exists if there is a God. But not just any God -- the God of the Bible. An atheist is an “interloper on God’s territory. Everything he uses to construct his system has been stolen from God’s ‘construction site.’ The unbeliever is like the little girl who must climb on her father’s lap to slap his face.... [T]he unbeliever must use the world as it has been created by God to try to throw God off His throne.” [1]

Here's a further comment using Cornelius Van Til's classic analogy:

Once while Van Til was a youth traveling on a train in Holland, he noticed a father with his young daughter sitting in his lap. Apparently, the father urged his daughter to do something when she suddenly slapped her father in the face. Van Til's application? The girl's behavior illustrates rebels who live in God's world and who are supported by God's common grace (Ps. 24:1). They sit, as it were, on the lap of God, and it is precisely because they sit on God's lap that they are able to deliver the slap of ingratitude. Thus unbelievers who toot their own independence and autonomy are only able to do so as they are supported by God Himself (Jn. 19:10 -11). Their denial of God is His affirmation. Atheism does not invalidate theism, but proves it because atheism is only possible given the premise of theism. As the atheist Nikita Khrushchev once described the Soviet Union, In Russia, thank God, there is no God (my emphasis).

As a Christian, I can appreciate some of Gervais' comments because I have a way to interpret what he said and something to compare it to. The Bible has a lot to say about hypocrisy. Charles Darwin and Richard Dawkins don't since atoms, molecules, electricity, and meat don't know anything about hypocrisy.

There is a fixed external standard.

  1. John A. Fielding III, “The Brute Facts: An Introduction of the Theology and Apologetics of Cornelius Van Til,” The Christian Statesman 146:2 (March-April 2003), 30.[]
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