Last week, I posted a list of 13 questions that Christians could use to get discussions going with their atheist friends. We got 10 responses to the questions. On Monday, we took a look at the minimal requirements for robust, prescriptive morality. On Tuesday, we evaluated whether the minimal requirements are rationally grounded on atheism. Today, we’ll evaluate Christianity.
The case for Christian theism
Christian morality is based on the objective truth of the Christian faith. So, let’s recall how people argue for Christianity.
Arguments for theism:
- The argument from abstract objects
- The argument from contingency
- Kalam cosmological argument
- Fine-tuning of cosmological constants
- Galactic, stellar and planetary fine-tuning
- Origin of biological information in the simplest replicating cell (Advanced article – First Things)
- Sudden origins of all major body plans in the 3-5 million year Cambrian explosion (Very Advanced – peer-reviewed paper!)
- The moral argument (see below)
- The argument from non-physical minds
- The argument from near-death experiences
- The argument from irreducibly complex molecular machines (Michael Behe)
- The argument from evil (yes, that’s what I said)
- The arguments from mathematical effectiveness, simplicity and beauty (Eugene Wigner)
- The argument from the incompatibility between naturalism and rationality (Alvin Plantinga)
- The argument from the natural limits to biological change (Ray Bohlin)
And then there are arguments for Christianity in particular:
- The minimal facts case for the resurrection
- The argument for the resurrection from changes in Jewish belief and practice
- The argument from fulfilled prophecy
- The argument from accuracy in describing the human condition
- The logical consistency and testability of Christianity
- The superior moral character of authentic Christians in history
And here are the rebuttals and refutations to the arguments against Christian theism:
- Postmodernism, relativism and skepticism
- The problems of evil and suffering
- Divine hiddenness
- Religious pluralism
- The fate of the unevangelized / divine sovereignty vs free will
- Incoherence in the concept of God
- Isn’t faith supposed to be irrational and evidence-free? (only for atheists, not for Christians)
- Materialist speculations against the kalam and fine-tuning arguments
- The progress of science
So, let’s assume Christian theism is true, and go on to see if it rationally grounds the minimal requirements for morality.
1) Objective moral values: GROUNDED
Objective moral values are grounded in God’s unchanging nature. His own character is the standard for what counts as good and evil. The standard is not variable, but fixed, by God’s unchanging nature.
2) Objective moral duties: GROUNDED
Objective moral duties are grounded in God’s commands, which flow from the values in his nature and become duties for his creatures.
3) Moral accountability: GROUNDED
On Christian theism, there is a final judgment after death in which good will be rewarded and evil will be punished, proportionally.
4) Free will: GROUNDED
On Christian theism, each person is a union of a material body and a non-material mind / soul. The actions of the non-material mind / soul are not determined by material processes, and humans are therefore able to make real choices.
5) Ultimate significance: GROUNDED
On Christian theism, death is not the end of the story. Each moral action performed is part of on ongoing relationships with God, and people. So, no action is meaningless, because all your actions relate to God, who exists eternally, or to other people, who also exist eternally into the future.
Christian theism grounds all of the minimal requirements needed for rational morality. In Christian theism, we see the fusion of prudence (Acting morally is what I am designed to do in order to flourish, i.e. – “eudaimonia”) and submission to a loving God (I will act morally to respect God, because he loves me the most). More to come on the latter point!
Tomorrow, I’ll post my own answers to the 13 questions, since Commenter ECM and moderate-leftist unitarian Rick demand that I do.
You can get the full story on the requirements for rational morality in a published, peer-reviewed paper written by William Lane Craig here. You can also hear and see him present the paper to an audience of students and faculty at the Georgia Institute of Technology in 2008. The audio is clipped at 67 minutes, the video is the full 84 minutes. There is 45 minutes of Q&A, with many atheist challengers.
The video of this lecture is the best material you can get on this issue, and the Q&A from the hostile audience is vital to the lesson. More debates on atheism and morality can be found on the debate and lecture page.
You can find a post contrasting the morality of an authentic, consistent Christian with an authentic, consistent non-Christian here. A post examining how atheism is responsible for the deaths of 100 million innocent people in the 20th century alone is here. A post analyzing the tiny number of deaths that religion was responsible for is here.