Ligon Duncan on the Non-Negotiables of the Gospel

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  • Saturday, August 04, 2007

    A bridge too far

    The bridge fell. Within hours, I saw many calls to prayer for the survivors, rescuers and families of victims. And just as swiftly, the normal atheist barrage of "Where was God?"

    The debates ensued, with atheist accusations of a cruel God who didn't hold up the bridge, and Christian answers about the larger purpose of God, unknowable to man. And so it rages back and forth, Scripture counters to anti-theist moral indignation, amidst a backdrop of anti-theist claims of purpose and sadness.

    Are we granting too much moral authority to man?

    It is the easy way, let's argue as God's jury. All of us...including Christians. Because not claiming to know God's purpose is an implicit judgment on God too, yes, we agree it is sad and bad, and God let it happen for an unknown reason. But if God let it happen, then as Christians, how are we to condemn it? On what moral basis do we then operate?

    It's even worse for the atheist. His argument for God being evil has to assume a lot, in fact it is an insurmountable problem. And in the debates I saw, the Christians, in my opinion, grants the atheist way too much in terms of a moral basis. The old canard of societal morals does not hold up, because it merely shifts the problem. (Because for societies to decide on the morality of a certain act, it still has to hold to a higher standard to begin with.)

    But I don't want to get ahead of myself. For the atheist to call God evil, these assumptions must be made:
    1. Finding evil. Because for the atheist to claim evil, he must materialize it. How does he know when something is evil? Does he sense it? Where is the "evil" neuron in his brain? Can he point it out? Can we buy a bottle of "evil" at Walmart? If evil is not a material thing, then what is it? It cannot be a transcendent entity, because universal transcendent entities are inductively unprovable. Or, if the atheist then inconsistently insists that it is such an entity, where did it come from?
    2. The intelligibility of the word "evil". How does an atheist make sense of the word "evil". How does he understand what evil means? It can only be defined in terms of its opposite, "good". But how is anything understood as good or evil in a purely material universe, where everything is presumed to be the deterministic outcome of the laws of nature. Is the law of gravity good or evil? How can the words good or evil make any sense whatsoever in the "blind, pitiless" existence of Dawkins?
    3. What is the standard? There can be no assumptions of what God ought to do unless the standard is set higher than what God sets. This creates another dilemma for the atheist. He has to invent something that is more authoritative than God in order to establish that standard. But how do you invent something that, even in theory, has more authority than God? Of course, the atheist skirts by this issue claiming human moral authority, but we all know how well that works. Genocide, murder, rape, torture etc are all examples of human moral authority at work. So unless the atheist wants to claim that as morally sufficient behavior, the human paradigm fails. It fails on other grounds too. For example, how does an atheist condemn something as morally evil without proof? If the standard for the existence of God is scientific proof, how does he prove that something is good or evil by the scientific method?

    So before the Christian even starts to engage the atheist on the topic of whether it was right or wrong for God to let the bridge fall, he should not even grant the existence of evil from the atheistic perspective. It simply cannot exist. Moral indignation is ignorance of the highest order from the non-believer perspective, since he cannot logically account for its base assumptions. It is unintelligible garbage produced by the universal laws of nature, like the random interference of sunspots. Atheists, quite curiously, in general do not deny the existence of evil. Even their high priest Dawkins, while calling the universe a cold and pitiless place, wants to claim that raising Christian children is evil. But they have no foot to stand on.

    But let this also serve as a sober warning to Christians. Be careful not to agree with the atheist on the evilness of an event based on their condemnation of God. It is a tacit admission that God is not omnipotent and transcendent based on the illusionary anti-theist standards. Remember this, you cannot judge God. We stand in awe and wonder of His creation, and sheepishly and humbly accept His grace and love. Let's not also judge Him by human standards, let's believe His revelation where He tells us that all things are for His glory.

    The atheist's blind condemnation of God is not because God is evil. It is born out of the atheist's own lack of ability to see evil for what it really is, that which is contrary to God's expressed will.


    1 comment:

    jdlongmire said...

    "Moral indignation is ignorance of the highest order from the non-believer perspective, since he cannot logically account for its base assumptions."

    Spot on.