The following is a post in a series written in letter format to the skeptical non-Christian, although it is intended for the Christian (skeptic or not) to read as well, actual skeptical non-Christians might enjoy reading this also. This is not a real conversation/letters, but simply a way to engage several issues of faith as well as objections showing how Christians might be able to engage various objections also…
The following post is the second in a series, for the earlier portion please click this link Letters to the Skeptic (pt.1).
Now, don’t worry Skeptic, I’m not forgetting the elephant in the room here.
I’ve talked about the problems with explaining justice and injustice based on enlightenment reason, but I’ve not talked about God and injustice, yet. “If God is just, why is there evil in the world?,” you have asked. Honestly, I don’t think there is an easy answer to that question and I don’t know all the answers. I will tell you what could be the case, it is possible that God could have justifiably wiped out humanity entirely after the Garden episode in the Bible. Sin creeps in, wipe out humanity, and sin is gone. There would just be the angel rebellion to deal with. Why allow the whole world to be corrupted by a couple people who made a bad decision? What if God permitted Adam and Eve to live because He is capable of forgiving even the most horrendous of sinners? What if the cruel, judging, malevolent god that you have depicted doesn’t exist, but in fact a good, loving, just God exists? What if the evil in the world could be a result of the sinful rebellion of humanity and the broader rebellion against God, but God could turn that ugliness around and the destruction and the chaos and use it for a good purpose? Am I saying God endorses and wills evil, not exactly. Am I saying that it could be possible that evil is more complex than we think we can explain, completely.
If God is all-knowing being God, could not God understand the world and evil far greater than us? Wanton violence in the world, what if it’s purpose is to propel the rebellion against God, but God used the foolishness of our own rebellion and evil for the purpose of doing something good? It’s not as far-fetched as it sounds. However, that doesn’t explain natural disasters, right? Well, if the whole creation was affected by sin, then it does actually explain that as well. The Christian believes all creation has been affected by sin and that creation is in subjection to the curse of sin, this rebellion against God and God’s good order of the world. You object to the Canaanite genocide and violence in the Bible, but that is because you believe the Canaanites are sinless and that sin is not really as bad as it is. If sin is rebellion against God and the penalty for sin is death, who are you to say these should live and these should not? Are you God? Christopher Hitchens, one of my favorite objectors to not only Christian faith, but all religion, before he passed away mentioned in one of his books 4 primary objections to Christianity: 1) origins of man and the universe, 2) slavery and oppression propagated, 3) it’s the cause and result of sexual repression, and 4) that it is wish-fulfillment.
I’ve spoken a little about the first and last objections, but what about the middle bit on slavery and what about the origin of life (not just survival of the fittest)? Well, you say the world is billions and billions of years old. You say that all things look alike because we have evolved, and that certain animals are more alike than others because they have a common ancestor and origin. I found this view attractive, I’ll admit for awhile in my life, but when I was studying science I too asked deep questions which ultimately brought me to a place where I was more open than before to seriously considering faith in God. My issue was that if humanity came from apes, why are they not still evolving? You say, “Well, we are.” To that, I ask, where are the in-betweens? What about the creatures that would be in various stages of evolution in between human and ape? Isn’t it convenient that they supposedly might have existed, but are all since gone and there is no evidence? Isn’t it convenient that there aren’t human-ape people today to support evolution?
I believe simply that it is a little too convenient. It’s one thing to say things are astonishingly a lot alike, many more like than not. It’s a great jump, a leap of faith, to say that molecules and atoms slowed after an explosive event and all life in the history of the world came into being over time billions and billions of years later. The universe, did it just happen? Why something? Why not nothing? It would seem that the laws of physics are put on hold when describing the origins of the universe? There is not cause, condition were right and it happened. At some point either something has always existed or something must have come from nothing. These are concerns that I have had with science along with the fact that it could be entirely possible that animal life are so similar to one another because they have a common origin in One, singular Creator. Science could not provide answers to my deepest questions. Why something than nothing? That’s philosophy. However, even philosophy did not help me. I came to believe that it was possible that God could exist and create the world. I came to believe that the opening chapters of Genesis do not in fact provide a timeline of God’s creating nor do they provide a lab report about all the details of everything being created. Is every creature named? Of course not. Are dates provided? No. All we know through the Bible is that God created and that He created by the power of His Word and that humanity are made in the image of God, meaning, our innate dignity and value and worth is not within enlightenment reason and our mental faculties or in possessions or professions or relationships, but actually in the fact that we have been made like God.
I believe, my friend, in Christianity not because it answers all the questions I can think of and ask, does anything do that? I believe in Christianity because I believe it is the best answer and way of understanding the world around us. We all try to understand the world on some level, and I believe that Christianity makes a great deal of sense. However, there are issues with understanding parts of it like the Trinity, evils in the Bible and world and church, the Bible itself has some difficult passages, and the seeming disconnect of a Christian worldview from the world we live in. These are obstacles, but for me I have found that most of the things I didn’t understand and were obstacles before believing in God have been clarified upon believing, having faith in God through Jesus Christ. You can look at something and understand so much, but when you look in and through something, if you will, it then provides answers to many questions and a different experience that simply looking upon it. C.S. Lewis described this in terms of looking at a beam of light in a toolshed, how it can illumine strangely a small part of the toolshed, but when one looks through the beam one can see through the shed, through the leaves on the trees, and see the source of the light itself (hopefully one doesn’t do this long enough and end up like Ptolemy, right?).
I talk a lot about Lewis, I know. He didn’t have all his “theological ducks” in a row, per se, but I still enjoy reading him. Lewis was a skeptic too, like you. He was an atheist. He didn’t become a Christian overnight either. He first became a theist, believing in the possibility that a god could exist. He struggled with belief in Christianity because he had so many questions and there seemed to be so many problems. However, a couple wise friend talked to him and one them, J.R.R. Tolkien told him that perhaps he was not asking the right questions. Lewis had been asking about whether this is true, or this is true, or this is true; however, Lewis had not asked the question, if it is true, what does it mean? What are the benefits of it being true? Are those benefits desirable? Do you want it to be true? Wish-fulfillment again, not quite. Lewis didn’t believe in Christianity because it was a Never-Neverland. He believed in Christianity as he has said, “… like the sun has risen, not only because I see it, but because by it I can see everything else.”
What if your skepticism was due to your not asking the right questions? What if you have spent your whole life picking and choosing what to believe and not believe in terms of understanding existence and the world around you, but what if there were one way to understand all of it? Do you need to desire something to be true for it to be true? No. If Christianity is true, which I believe it certainly is, my belief in it doesn’t make it any more or less true. It would be true if I didn’t believe just as it is in my believing. However, I wouldn’t believe, and thus, wouldn’t know what it might be like to look into that beam of light as opposed to upon it. I would simply see the sun, but not all that the sun illumines. The trouble with many Christians, I know, is that once you do believe, you wonder how you could not believe and there is a losing touch with what it is like to not believe. This is probably why there are such sad, embarrassing, and perhaps pathetic attempts at evangelism by Christians. “All non-Christians desperately want to attend worship and church, so if we have desserts and foods they will come. Perhaps if we just had some loud speakers and a good sound system in order to more loudly share what they disbelieve, that would work better.” I know, it’s really sad. It’s kind of embarrassing.
You don’t even like us evangelizing, but as an atheist actually has put it, a Christian who doesn’t evangelize is a strange thing and something is wrong with them. “…If I knew someone was going to be hit by an on-coming truck and impending harm would come upon another person, there’s a point where I shout at them and push them out of the way…” What kind of Christian would promote only the diagnostic of the problem with the world, yet, not the cure? That certainly wouldn’t be loving or of much use.
Christianity is the only religion that redeems humanity, but it is also the only religion in all the world where God Himself has come into His creation in order to take on the problem Himself, self-sacrificially. You want to talk about love, God on the cross dying for the sins of humanity when God is sinless, so that those who believe in Him, Jesus Christ, might have their sins forgiven and have life in, by, and through Him. No greater effort in all of the world is spent to redeem humanity than in Christianity, and at no greater cost than God giving His life on the cross so that we might live. Yet, still, the Christian decries “He lives!” while the skeptic with Nietzsche decries “He is dead!”
One issue that you commonly raise is all the immorality and oppression within the Bible itself. However, just because the Bible shows that people are sinful doesn’t mean the Bible or God endorse sin. If you read a Bernstein Bears book (I know, but I used to love those when I was a kid) on telling the truth, it’s likely that there will be lying within the book as well as the repercussions of not telling the truth, the hurt and damage it can cause, and possibly punishment. The end of the story would be to show how it is good to tell the truth and the whole book is still ultimately about telling the truth while showing the problems with lying. Would you say that is a book that endorses and promotes lying? No, so why would you use that same logic with the Bible?
For the next letter in this series of posts or the rest of the ‘conversation,’ please click the link Letters to the Skeptic (Pt.3).