He’ll even pose for a selfie if you ask him (that’s him below in the snazzy dungarees).
Part of our mission at Premier Christianity is to connect Christians with those who shape our culture. Derren Brown certainly qualifies. The illusionist commands a huge public following for his extraordinary theatrical productions and TV specials, and when I heard that his latest stage show, Miracle, involved an extended critique of charismatic healing I took a punt and asked for an interview. To my surprise he agreed, and what you will read here is the result.
Not all of it makes for comfortable reading. Derren is an atheist who used to be a charismatic Christian. But sometimes we need to be willing to hear voices that make us uncomfortable. In an age that increasingly encourages us to enter our own ideological echo chambers, we need to risk hearing what others have to say.
And there are important lessons to learn from the illusionist. His stinging criticism of prosperity-preaching healers would be readily agreed upon by many Christians. But are we also prepared to listen to him on the dangers of seeking emotional experiences in our churches or our propensity to be too credulous of miracle claims?
As I interviewed Derren, there was a temptation to leap in and defend Christianity from every criticism he levelled at it, and I did go into debate mode once or twice. But confident faith does not consist of shouting down the opposition at every turn, and sometimes we need to be as quick to listen as we are to speak.
1 Peter 3:15 tells us to ‘always be prepared to give…the reason for the hope that you have’. Too often we forget the next part about doing it ‘with gentleness and respect’. A friendly encounter, even with someone you disagree deeply with, leaves the door open for future conversation. So step outside your bubble and have that conversation. Who knows what miracles may await.