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Why is Christianity credible?

Why is Christianity credible?

Postby steve » Sun Jun 10, 2018 7:40 pm

I received an email today (copied below) and sent the reply that follows:

Good afternoon Steve.

It is often pointed out to me that without Christianity there is no basis for morality. For the sake of discussion, I will agree with this statement.

If we ask the question "Who is God?" we should be prepared to consider every possibility. People such as ourselves, who live in America, a country of freedom and prosperity, might say God is loving and generous. Someone living in a country where there is starvation and oppression might say that God is cruel and heartless, or perhaps indifferent.

It has not been stated to me in this manner but it's as if the logic of some Christians goes as follows: Christianity benefits humanity, therefore it is true. The fact that it benefits humanity is evidence that it is true. God is a good God and wants humanity to be happy. The Bible says so. Societies that believe in the Bible have freedom and prosperity. This must mean that the Bible is true.

I find this to be a circular argument. For example, if I make the following statement: Burning fossil fuels will cause temperatures to rise. Temperatures are rising, therefore my statement is true. I'm using the fact that temperatures are rising as evidence that my statement is true.

Thanks for your time Steve.


Hi Alec,

Thanks for writing!

I agree with you that the case for Christianity, as you have presented it, lacks logical cogency. It is certainly not an argument I would ever have made. Christianity does not promise happiness, prosperity or political freedom in this life. In fact, it seems to promise the opposite.

The basis for believing Christianity is true is a very objective and historical one: Jesus arose from the dead, just as He predicted He would, and has been promoted to the right hand of God, from which His reigns with supreme authority.

That Christ arose from the dead can be established by the most reasonable synthesis of the witnessed historical facts and the absence of any coherent alternative explanation of the evidence. The impact that Christianity has on societies, or on personal happiness, is secondary or tertiary in importance, in terms of evidence for its veracity.

It is interesting that the belief that God is good and loving did not arise in a peaceful and comfortable environment. It arose among the Jews—the most gratuitously hated, oppressed and persecuted of all races throughout history. It was perpetuated, further, by Jesus, who suffered the greatest and cruelest injustice imaginable, and by His disciples—who lived in poverty, were persecuted and suffered martyrdom. The idea that God is love may be doubted by some, but not on the basis of the theory that this belief flourishes best in comfortable environments.

Thanks again for bringing these points up for conversation.

Blessings!

Steve Gregg

Alec
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Re: Why is Christianity credible?

Postby robbyyoung » Mon Jun 11, 2018 3:09 pm

Hi Steve,

You did a fine job parsing Alec’s concern and indictment of “Christian” circular arguments, specifically regarding the sliding-scale of human suffering. But I find it interesting that Alec asked, who is God? Rather than, what is God?

In order to grasp possibilities relevant to the human condition and consciousness towards God, “who” and “what” should provoke different conversations. What is God? This can be straight forward such as, merciful and loving; as well as, the judge and purveyor of wrath. The context of the inquiry will more than likely provide an adequate answer. I say this because Christians live a life of faith and obedience, i.e., trust in God, especially when we have no clue why things happen as they do. But, the unbelieving world scoffs at this “believing-faith”; some, if not all, find it unacceptable for Christians to argue from this point.

Who is God? I am not sure this can succinctly answer the question that Alec is seeking. Your thoughts?

Blessings.
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Re: Why is Christianity credible?

Postby Paidion » Tue Jun 12, 2018 5:31 pm

Alec wrote:It is often pointed out to me that without Christianity there is no basis for morality. For the sake of discussion, I will agree with this statement.


I, too, have heard that without Christianity there would be no basis for morality. I wonder why that notion is so prevalent. If Christianity didn't exist—or Judaism either for that matter. If we didn't have an inspired Bible to read, wherein there are commands not to murder, would that mean that murder would not be wrong? I don't think so. It would be just as wrong.

I see the test as to whether an act is morally right or wrong, depending entirely upon whether that act harms people, helps people, or does neither.
If you carry out an act that harms either yourself or someone else, it is morally wrong to carry out that act. If the act helps you or someone else, it is morally right to carry it out. If it does neither, the act is morally neutral.

Yes, God commands his people to refrain from murder or theft, because it harms someone, and God, whose very essence is LOVE, does not want to see anyone harmed. And He commands his people to do good to others, even their enemies, because He wants to see people benefitted. But an act is morally right, not because God commands it; rather, God commands it because it is morally right. The same with the corollary. An act is morally wrong, not because God forbids it; rather, God forbids it because it is morally wrong.
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Re: Why is Christianity credible?

Postby mattrose » Tue Jun 12, 2018 9:38 pm

Paidion wrote:I, too, have heard that without Christianity there would be no basis for morality. I wonder why that notion is so prevalent. If Christianity didn't exist—or Judaism either for that matter. If we didn't have an inspired Bible to read, wherein there are commands not to murder, would that mean that murder would not be wrong? I don't think so. It would be just as wrong.


Well, that actually depends. Murder was wrong the minute God created Adam & Eve (long before Judaism or any law was given). But murder was wrong because human beings were made in God's image and because God is the author of life.

If there were no god at all... and material just somehow existed by random chance... murder would not be wrong. It would simply be something that some organisms do to other organisms. There would be no such thing as morality at all.

I see the test as to whether an act is morally right or wrong, depending entirely upon whether that act harms people, helps people, or does neither. If you carry out an act that harms either yourself or someone else, it is morally wrong to carry out that act. If the act helps you or someone else, it is morally right to carry it out. If it does neither, the act is morally neutral.


That's a fine test, but it only makes sense in a theistic world view. In a non-theistic worldview, who are you to determine that harming people is bad or helping people is good?

Yes, God commands his people to refrain from murder or theft, because it harms someone, and God, whose very essence is LOVE, does not want to see anyone harmed. And He commands his people to do good to others, even their enemies, because He wants to see people benefitted. But an act is morally right, not because God commands it; rather, God commands it because it is morally right. The same with the corollary. An act is morally wrong, not because God forbids it; rather, God forbids it because it is morally wrong.


I disagree with you. Morality flows out of God's character (love). Because the Creator is love, murder and theft are wrong in that they are unloving acts. There wasn't some mystical 'morality' floating around before God existed only to have God come along later, recognize morality, and put it into words. No. God is eternal. Morality flows out of God's nature (not the reverse).

Did I misread you?
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Re: Why is Christianity credible?

Postby Homer » Tue Jun 12, 2018 11:05 pm

Matt wrote:

Well, that actually depends. Murder was wrong the minute God created Adam & Eve (long before Judaism or any law was given). But murder was wrong because human beings were made in God's image and because God is the author of life.

If there were no god at all... and material just somehow existed by random chance... murder would not be wrong. It would simply be something that some organisms do to other organisms. There would be no such thing as morality at all.


I was listening to Dennis Prager one day and he related how some Catholic missionaries several centuries ago went into a land of barbarians and thought they should be taught the ten commandments. When they taught "thou shalt not kill" the response was
"what do you mean you shouldn't kill? The strong kill the weak and that's just the way it is". Which fits right in with survival of the fittest and atheism.
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Re: Why is Christianity credible?

Postby Paidion » Tue Jun 12, 2018 11:34 pm

Yes, God created people. But that is irrelevant. The framers of the statement that I challenged didn't presume the non-existence of God. They presumed the non-existence of Christianity and presumed that that would imply the non-existence of morality, supposedly because the morality of acts depends upon God's commands. That's the position that I challenge. So the non-existence of Christianity (we could even add the non-existence of Judaism) would NOT imply that there would be just a bunch in insentient atoms here on earth. God would still be the creator of life. Indeed, the advocates of Deism presume a creator who does not relate to the world of people in any way. If that were the case, people could be conscious, free-will agents just as they are now, and the definitions of morality and immorality that I gave might hold. But we wouldn't have to presume the extreme position of Deists for this to be true. We need only to understand that morality is directly related to helping people and immorality is directly related to harming people.

I won't say that morality and immorality are not related to God's commands. They are. He does command moral acts and forbid immoral acts. But that fact doesn't imply that God's commands define the MEANING of morality and immorality.
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Re: Why is Christianity credible?

Postby Paidion » Tue Jun 12, 2018 11:46 pm

Homer wrote:I was listening to Dennis Prager one day and he related how some Catholic missionaries several centuries ago went into a land of barbarians and thought they should be taught the ten commandments. When they taught "thou shalt not kill" the response was
"what do you mean you shouldn't kill? The strong kill the weak and that's just the way it is". Which fits right in with survival of the fittest and atheism.


There exist basic moral principles that are generally accepted as such throughout the whole world in every culture. But sometimes tribal groups may consider an immoral act to be right on the basis of false beliefs. I heard about a tribe where it was believed to be morally right to kill one's father when he reached the age of 60. But that was due to the false belief that at whatever age a person died, that would be the age at which he would spend eternity in the after-life. So by killing your father at age 60, he would spend eternity fairly healthy instead of being eternally decrepit and suffer the pains and discomfort of old age forever. However, they held to the basic moral principle that one ought to benefit his father whenever possible.

By the way, Homer, I think it is a mistake to make the generalization that atheists are immoral. I'm sure you've met a number of them who help needy people or serve down-and-outers, and who consistently avoid doing that which harms others. I know I have.
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Re: Why is Christianity credible?

Postby robbyyoung » Wed Jun 13, 2018 9:35 am

The assumption is, before Christianity morality had no basis. IMO, this is a faulty presupposition from both an atheist and theist paradigm. I believe it is untenable to suggest that mankind’s quest for right and wrong resides only in the Christian faith. Mankind have always sought to live by principles necessary for survival, understanding, and purpose. Christians simply believe they have the unadulterated truth regarding such matters. Some innate moral traits conflate across many belief systems and some do not. But, morality didn’t come to fruition at the advent of the preaching of the gospel in the 1st century.

Blessings.
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Re: Why is Christianity credible?

Postby Homer » Wed Jun 13, 2018 9:43 am

Paidion,

You wrote:
By the way, Homer, I think it is a mistake to make the generalization that atheists are immoral. I'm sure you've met a number of them who help needy people or serve down-and-outers, and who consistently avoid doing that which harms others. I know I have.


Yes, I agree. But they are not rational in doing so. If there is no God, nothing but materialism, then total selfishness makes sense. "Eat and drink for tomorrow we die". I knew a man at work for many years who was an atheist. He wasn't mean but he was the most selfish person I have ever known. He always acted in his own interest, even when at the expense of others. For him it made sense.
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Re: Why is Christianity credible?

Postby mattrose » Wed Jun 13, 2018 11:08 am

Paidion wrote:Yes, God created people. But that is irrelevant. The framers of the statement that I challenged didn't presume the non-existence of God. They presumed the non-existence of Christianity and presumed that that would imply the non-existence of morality, supposedly because the morality of acts depends upon God's commands. That's the position that I challenge. So the non-existence of Christianity (we could even add the non-existence of Judaism) would NOT imply that there would be just a bunch in insentient atoms here on earth. God would still be the creator of life. Indeed, the advocates of Deism presume a creator who does not relate to the world of people in any way. If that were the case, people could be conscious, free-will agents just as they are now, and the definitions of morality and immorality that I gave might hold. But we wouldn't have to presume the extreme position of Deists for this to be true. We need only to understand that morality is directly related to helping people and immorality is directly related to harming people.

I won't say that morality and immorality are not related to God's commands. They are. He does command moral acts and forbid immoral acts. But that fact doesn't imply that God's commands define the MEANING of morality and immorality.


I guess what tripped me up was that I've never (or rarely) encountered the argument that morality is dependent on Christianity specifically. The debate has always been part of the 'is there a god?' debate in my circles. I do believe morality depends on God's existence (and even character as love), but I don't think morality depends on any one religious system.
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