XFiles Friday: “The problems with Christianity”September 28, 2007 — Deacon Duncan
(Book: I Don’t Have Enough FAITH to Be an ATHEIST, by Geisler and Turek, pp. 24-25)
For today’s installment of XFiles Friday, authors Geisler and Turek take us on a tour of what they see as the problems with Christianity. After a brief nod at a couple problems in Christianity itself, the authors devote most of this section to “flaws” that really reflect–or purport to reflect–flaws in non-Christians.
Is Christianity reasonable? We believe it is. However, unless one makes a thorough investigation of the evidence with an open mind, belief in Christianity may appear to be problematic. First, there are many perceived intellectual objections, like those mentioned above (the problem of evil and the objections of many scientists).
Right away we start with the insinuations. Belief in Christianity may appear problematic if you have a closed mind. In other words, there aren’t any genuine problems with Christianity, just false perceptions among those who refuse to examine the evidence with an open mind. The emperor is not really nude, there’s just a perception of nudity among those who are not sufficiently wise to be able to see and appreciate the exquisite quality of his rare, fine new clothes.
Geisler and Turek do give a passing nod to the existence of genuine issues in Christianity, like the problem of evil. One brief reference in one single, throw-away sentence, then it’s off to the “issues” that make it sound like everyone else has the problem:
Second, there are emotional obstacles that sometimes obstruct the acceptance of Christianity. Christian exclusivism, the doctrine of hell, and the hypocrisy of Christians are emotional roadblocks to just about everyone. (In fact, hypocrisy in the church probably repels people more than any other factor. Someone once said the biggest problem with Christianity is Christians!)
It’s so unfair to reject evidence about the truth just because you personally happen to dislike it, isn’t it? Christians claim to have God living in their heart, teaching them the truth, giving them the strength to resist temptation, etc. etc., but if we notice that none of that seems to be happening in real life, it’s because we have some kind of irrational, emotional obstacle preventing us from embracing the Christian faith. If it sounds really strange to hear people claim that an all-wise, all-powerful and all-loving God came up with a plan of Creation that involved sending most of His beloved children to eternal torment in a Hell that He created for the express purpose of causing suffering, that’s not a problem with the Gospel, that’s an emotional (and irrational) response that is simply an obstacle getting in the way of open-mindedness. It’s not that Christianity has a problem with self-consistency, it’s the rest of us who have emotional problems that prejudice us against the Gospel.
Finally, there are volitional reasons to reject Christianity, namely, Christian morality, which seems to restrict our choices in life. Since most of us don’t want to answer to anyone, yielding our freedom to an unseen God is not something we naturally want to do.
Gosh, if my pastor says I’m naturally reluctant to put myself under someone else’s authority, I’d better just believe what he says. After all, I want to be a good sheep, just like Jesus says.
Am I being just a tad ironic? Sorry, but I did get a bit of irony overload. Did you notice? Geisler and Turek are insinuating that people reject Christianity because they want to be immoral, in the very next sentence after acknowledging the fact that Christians live lives that are no more moral than those of non-Christians (and not infrequently, less so). Speaking of hypocrisy! Christianity apparently has a tremendous appeal to people who want to live immorally. That “washed in the blood,” “confess and you’re forgiven” stuff is really good marketing, especially if you want to claim the benefits of superior morality without having to live up to the same standards you set for others.
Now for the good stuff:
Yet despite these intellectual , emotional, and volitional obstacles, we submit that it’s not faith in Christianity that’s difficult but faith in atheism or any other religion. That is, once one looks at the evidence, we think it takes more faith to be a non-Christian than it does to be a Christian. This may seem like a counter-intuitive claim, but it’s simply rooted in the fact that every religious worldview requires faith–even the worldview that says there is no God.
This is partly true. As I mentioned in my last post, we do use a significant amount of experienced-based faith in our ordinary, day-to-day lives. Experienced-based faith means that our confidence is based on repeated real-world observations that are consistent with what we expect. This isn’t just a gullible, gosh-I-hope-so credulity, this is a reasonable conclusion based on the principle that the truth is consistent with itself. Because truth is consistent with itself, we can be confident that what we find in the future will be consistent with what has been true in the past. That’s good, trustworthy, warranted faith.
Christian faith, however, is not experience-based, or more precisely, not based on objective, real-world experience. God does not show up in the real world, so Christians have no alternative but to base their faith on the stories, superstitions, and subjective feelings of men (such as themselves). Though Geisler and Turek would like us to believe that non-Christian worldviews depend on the same kind of sham-faith as Christianity does, the fact remains that evidence-based faith has a solid basis for its confidence, and Christian faith, based exclusively on trusting the dogmatic assertions and subjective perceptions of men, does not.
But now, at last, we finally get to a real, genuine, apologetic argument:
The authors apparently regard this as a virtually self-evident truth, but in fact it is a false conclusion. We are not talking here about any being or beings whose existence and influence lie entirely outside the reach of human intellect, perception and experience. The term “God” is a term that men have invented that refers to something men claim to know something about. Thus, their claims are not about something that lies outside our limited knowledge, they’re about something that allegedly lies within our perceptual and intellectual reach. (If they didn’t, apologetics would not exist, and Geisler and Turek wouldn’t be writing this book.)
We do not need omniscience to know that when men start telling us stories that are inconsistent with themselves, with each other, and with the real world, they are telling us stories that are not true. All we need to know is that the truth is consistent with itself, and that fact will give us a reliable basis for evaluating the truthfulness of what men say about God. We do not just have to “take it on faith.” That which contradicts the truth is not itself true, so if men tell us stories about God that contradict themselves, we know those stories cannot be true. Likewise, if the stories men tell are inconsistent with what we observe in the real world, we can have strong, evidence-based faith that the stories are not consistent with the truth either.
This is particularly the case with Christianity, which is a story about a God who, rather than wanting to hide from us and isolate Himself from us, wants very badly to be with us, and to have us be with Him, in the kind of close, tangible, 2-way interaction that the marriage itself is only (allegedly) a poor reflection of. It’s about a God who saw our sins as an obstacle between Himself and us, and about a God who so strongly desired to be with us that He took on our human form, and gave His life as a sacrifice for our sins. It’s about a God so powerful that, after giving His own life to remove the obstacle of sin that separated Him from us, He was able to rise again in victory over the grave so that He could be with us forever.
Is this story consistent with what we’re seeing in the real world? We’re not talking about some unknown, inconceivable being somewhere so far off that only an omniscient being could know about Him, we’re talking about a story that men tell about a God who was willing and able to overcome death itself in order to eliminate the barrier that separated Him from us, so that He could fulfill His own desire to be with us forever. Has this God continuously shown up in the real world to participate in this relationship forever, as was His alleged purpose and desire? Never mind who’s more moral than whom, or who’s more hypocritical. What do we see in the real world? Do we see a real world God behaving as though He agreed with what the Gospel says about what He wants and about how He’s done what was needed to make it possible despite our sin?
Clearly not. If God were showing up in the real world, Geisler and Turek would be talking about that instead of wandering off into some abstract philosophical discussion about what limited humans can and cannot know. Heck, they wouldn’t even be writing a book about atheists’ “faith” (as though faith were a bad thing to have). Just wait for God to show up, write down what He says, shoot some video and put it up on YouTube, grab some audio and make it available as a podcast–voila, apologetics mission accomplished.
But no, apologetics needs men like Geisler and Turek to show up and make philosophical arguments, and to insinuate that Christians are more moral than non-Christians (and if you don’t agree, that’s just an emotional obstacle on your part)–apologetics needs men who show up and do the work precisely because God Himself does not show up in the real world, outside the stories, superstitions, and subjective feelings of men. That’s not consistent with what the Gospel claims concerning God’s purpose, desire, and accomplishments. Since we know that the truth is consistent with itself, and the Gospel is not consistent with what we see in the real world, we can reasonably and confidently conclude that the Gospel story is not consistent with the truth.