“Unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.” – John 12:24
“The last enemy to be destroyed is death...Death is swallowed up in victory.” – 1 Corinthians 15:26, 54
"The greater the sin, the greater the mercy, the deeper the death and the brighter the rebirth.” - C. S. Lewis
"This story...has the very taste of primary truth." - J. R. R. Tolkien

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Examine the Claims/Beliefs Themselves, Not Just the Person Who Makes Them

A common objection to Christianity is that Christians only believe because they were raised that way. If they had been raised in a Muslim or Hindu environment, their beliefs would be different. There are at least two problems with this objection.

First, it applies equally to whatever worldview is held by the person who makes the objection. His or her beliefs are “socially conditioned” as well – if not by parents or family, then by friends or authors or teachers or events in their lives.

Second, the objection is completely irrelevant – it dodges the real issue of whether or not there is evidence for the worldview in question. If there is good evidence, we would be hasty to dismiss it because those who believe the worldview are affected in their belief by other factors as well. After all, none of us can reasonably claim to be completely objective and wholly unaffected by anything but the sheer intellectual evidence.

For any given worldview there are certainly people who hold it without good intellectual reason – they simply accept it as the traditional worldview, or the popular worldview, or the “rational” worldview,” without really looking at the evidence. Even those who have come to their worldview through reason and rational observation and deduction cannot claim to have been influenced in their thought solely by reason – every human on earth is shaped significantly by his or her experiences and genetic makeup. But this is no reason to reject a person’s beliefs, or else we would necessarily have to reject everyone’s beliefs. Nor should we na├»vely accept the beliefs of attractive people. We must look more carefully – at whether a person has passively allowed their environment to shape their beliefs, or actively processed their observations and experiences in order to put together a reasonable view of reality. In the latter case, it is more likely that their beliefs are warranted. In either case, though, it is the beliefs themselves that must ultimately be scrutinized, not the causes of belief for any person or people who hold the beliefs.

Furthermore, the Christian worldview provides an explanation for the fact that many Christians are unkind to others, selfish, or closed-minded (as are many people who are not Christians). According to the Bible, we live in a fallen world and all people are corrupted by sin, including Christians. Thus, Christianity teaches us to expect that not all Christians will be kinder or more attractive people. We should expect to find broken and struggling people in the church. Indeed, Christ came to help not the healthy, but the sick (Matthew 9:12-13), and even his original disciples were slow to learn and struggled with pride and fear.

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