Saturday, May 8, 2010

Part 4 of 10 Non-Biblical Proofs of Christianity

This is the fourth installment in our series:

10 Non-Biblical Proofs of Christianity in which we examine 10 solid areas of evidence that support the unique claims of Christianity.

To read part 1 CLICK HERE
To read part 2 CLICK HERE
To read part 3 CLICK HERE
To read part 5 CLICK HERE

The story is told of a professor and his class which was composed entirely of atheists. Near the end of the semester he shocked his student population with a controversial announcement. He told them that all the women in the class would get an automatic "A" and all the men would get an automatic "F."

Outrage ran rampant throughout his male students.

"But that's not fair!" shouted one gentlemen from the back row. "This isn't right!" retorted another as he jumped up and gathered his things. Even one of the girls showed her disgust over the pronouncement. A similar sentiment spread throughout.

The wise old sage looked up from his podium, and adjusted his bifocals carefully. "How curious," he began. "Ladies and gentlemen, as a group of atheists, who reject all notion or even the concept of God, how can you say that anything is unfair, unjust, let alone right or wrong?"

And he is right.

It wouldn't matter if this incident happened in Brazil, Japan, Germany, or in the remotest parts of the interior of the African continent, the results would be the same. The outrage would be the same. The inner revulsion and feelings of injustice would be the same. In different circumstances, we have all felt these same stirrings, deep convictions that some things are....well, wrong. Unjust. Unfair.

On the nightly news we hear of a child raped and killed, of terrorists who torture and behead their terrified victims, or of ruthless and greedy white-collar thieves who use elaborate ponzi schemes to steal millions of dollars. We are horrified at the deepest levels of our humanity, sometimes to the point of even feeling physically ill.

Perhaps you've never stopped to think about just how amazing and revealing these reactions are. We have them so often that we say that they are "just natural," or that they are just "a part of being human."

But why?

Where do deep-seated feelings and convictions about right and wrong, or of justice or injustice, come from? Why is it that these inner "knowings" are found universally, in all but the most hardened or depraved among us?

We call this universal phenomenon Objective Morality. In other words, since we find a very similar and basic code of acceptable and unacceptable (right and wrong) conduct worldwide, we see that it is not merely subjective to the individual. It is something universal and external, yet ingrained in each of us from birth--Objective. It deals with fairness, justice, and right behavior--Morality. Objective Morality.

This undeniable fact creates a formidable dilemma for atheists and naturalists.

If there is no God, then where could a universal concept of good and evil, right and wrong, justice and injustice, come from? If man is nothing more than a hopelessly improbably series of trillions of chemical accidents over eons of time, then there is no standard of right and fact, in the absence of God or a higher power, RIGHT and WRONG are impossible.

Well-known atheist and witer, J. L. Mackie, was aware of this problem for atheists: "if there are objective values, they make the existence of a god more probable than it would have been without them. Thus we have a defensible argument from morality to the existence of a god."

Worldwide, in every culture, and in every nation, we find a fairly common set of moral principles, ranging from how we treat each other (no murder, rape, kidnapping) to how we conduct our lives (no lying, stealing, dishonesty). Kai Nielsen, an atheistic philosopher, made this observation: "It is more reasonable to believe such elemental things [wife-beating, child abuse] to be evil than to believe any skeptical theory that tells us we cannot know or reasonably believe any of these things to be evil…I firmly believe that this is bedrock and right and that anyone who does not believe it cannot have probed deeply enough into the grounds of his moral beliefs."

The typical way of putting this into a logical form often looks like this:
(1) Only God could cause objective morality
(2) Objective morality exisits
Therefore, God exists.

Naturalists have scrambled in vain over the past 100 years or so to account for the fact that mankind has objective morality, which necessitates, a higher power, or God. Their reactions to this fact center upon two different strategies: (1) to deny objective morality, or (2) to provide an evolutionary model to account for the gradual appearance of morality in man.

Their first attempt to evade this pervasive issue usually goes something along these lines:

(1) Morality and moral values vary around the world.
(2) There is no one set of objective moral values.
Therefore, objective moral values don't actually exist.

It sounds good, it has the appearance of truth, but only until you scratch below the veneer of it's statements. They will insist that there are some cultures that allow polygamy, or others that encourage drunkeness or substance abuse, or they will even point to bizarre ancient rituals of child sacrifice as evidences against objective morality.

But do these extreme cases prove their case? Hardly.

Let's consider that type of reasoning in a few analogies. Are there eating disorders? Absolutely---anorexia and bulimia are real problems for millions of people. But does that mean that there aren't healthy, natural eating habits? Absolutely not.

Are there tyrannical and oppressive forms of government, such as despotic dictatorships and hard-core communist regimes? Unfortunately, yes, and untold millions suffer under them everyday. So, does that mean that there are no legitimate and beneficial forms of government? Of course, the answer is no.

So, does the fact that some cultures have allowed themselves to sink into immoral behavior mean that there are no objective moral standards? Absolutely not. Think of biology: did you know that most cells divide regularly, as part of the normal cycle of life? But cancerous cells often divide far more often, and therefore cause tumors and other destructive effects. So, is cellular division bad or abnormal? No. But the way cancer cells divide is abnormal, it is a deviation from the norm, from the standard. Likewise, abberations in moral behavior in some cultures is in no way a denial of morality, it is merely an affirmation that they have deviated from the norm, the standard.

How does this happen? It can happen a multitude of ways, but most probably through improper education and example. For instance, no child is born with extreme prejudices against other people groups. Yet, by raising that child in an environment of consistent, demonstrated racism (as if it were the norm), gradually conditions that child, and over time, hardens them against some particular group of people. It is not natural, and it is wrong, but over time that tender conscience becomes jaded in that particular moral aspect.

Think about a guitar player. As a struggling and occasional guitar player myself, I can tell you that when one first starts to learn to play the guitar, you end up with many days of sore finger tips. It is not natural to consistenly force your fingers down onto thin bands of (usually) metal strings and slide or strum them. The first few months are very painful. But what happens over time? Eventually calluses build up and deaden your feeling from reaching those nerves (that are still there). Initially you feel the pain of offending those nerves, but over time you build up a hardness, an "unfeeling" to what was once very tender.

This is exactly what can happen in a culture or a society. We can start to allow things into our lives that "offend" our moral values (our conscience). But over time, as we continue to turn a "deaf ear" to those inner intuitions, can become jaded, hardened, and become emotionally callused to our objective moral standards.

So, the reality that some groups and cultures have varying moral standards does not deny objective morality, it merely points to the reality of human rationalization and our free will to override what we know internally. The famous lexicographer Samuel Johnson wrote, "The fact that there is such a thing as twilight does not mean that we cannot distinguish between day and night."

The second area that skeptics will use to attempt to deny objective morality falls within the ever-changing domain of their old friend, evolution. If God doesn't exist, there MUST be a natural, chemical explanation for everything that occurs in life---even something as immaterial and abstract as morality. They imagine that moral behaviors, such as kindness or integrity, slowly evolved in mankind, since we are social creatures. It is offered that "moral leaning" individuals were somehow more fit to survive, and to pass on their genetic information in greater numbers.

This bizarre theory has so many problems and "just-so" explanations, that it is hardly worth discussing, if it weren't the fact that it is pushed so heavily in journals and in the classroom. Even a casual survey of this fanciful model reveals serious flaws. First of all, evolution is not at all concerned with society, supposedly it is about the fitness to survive and to pass on genetic information. Remember, mindless chemical accidents cannot have a goal in "mind" or an objective to achieve. It is simply that the fittest survive.

But, if that were true, then the most selfish and self-serving individuals would necessarily be the fittest to survive. Those who cared little for the welfare of others (except for their own offspring) would be the best to survive, as they would necessarily horde resources. Remember, man does not need to be social to survive. We are the smartest and most cunning animal to walk the earth. We can use our incredible mental abilities to overcome nearly any foe, and construct nearly any shelter or trap.

To say that those "early" humans or hominids were selected to survive because they had evolved types of morality (no lying, cheating, stealing) is not something that belongs in serious science journals, but in children's books that start with "Once upon a time..." and end with "...and they lived happily ever after." They are otherwise known as fairy tales.

As we conclude this 4th non-Biblical evidence of God and Christianity, Paul Copan makes an illuminating observation: "Intrinsically-valuable, thinking persons do not come from impersonal, non-conscious, unguided, valueless processes over time. A personal, self-aware, purposeful, good God provides the natural and necessary context for the existence of valuable, rights-bearing, morally-responsible human persons. That is, personhood and morality are necessarily connected; moral values are rooted in personhood. Without God (a personal Being), no persons - and thus no moral values - would exist at all: no personhood, no moral values. Only if God exists can moral properties be realized."

Objective morality exists, as does the God that necessarily created the awareness of it in us, His creation.

Reflecting back to the first example in this treatise, an atheist cannot explain why the concepts of fairness, and justice, and right and wrong exist. The next time an atheist or skeptic tells you that ojective morality is a fantasy, tell them that all atheists should not be trusted. They will probably say that you are being unfair.

Just smile.

They have just proved your case.

Coming up next time, our 5th installment in this series--a discussion of a little reality we call evil.

To read part 5 CLICK HERE

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