Tag Archives: Character

How psychology medicalizes character flaws to remove personal responsibility

Story from Town Hall from moderate conservative George Will. (H/T Muddling Towards Maturity)

Excerpt:

The fourth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), psychiatry’s encyclopedia of supposed mental “disorders,” is being revised. The 16 years since the last revision evidently were prolific in producing new afflictions. The revision may aggravate the confusion of moral categories.

[…]This DSM defines as “personality disorders” attributes that once were considered character flaws. “Antisocial personality disorder” is “a pervasive pattern of disregard for … the rights of others … callous, cynical … an inflated and arrogant self-appraisal.” “Histrionic personality disorder” is “excessive emotionality and attention-seeking.” “Narcissistic personality disorder” involves “grandiosity, need for admiration … boastful and pretentious.” And so on.

If every character blemish or emotional turbulence is a “disorder” akin to a physical disability, legal accommodations are mandatory. Under federal law, “disabilities” include any “mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities”; “mental impairments” include “emotional or mental illness.” So there might be a legal entitlement to be a jerk.

[…]Furthermore, intellectual chaos can result from medicalizing the assessment of character. Today’s therapeutic ethos, which celebrates curing and disparages judging, expresses the liberal disposition to assume that crime and other problematic behaviors reflect social or biological causation. While this absolves the individual of responsibility, it also strips the individual of personhood, and moral dignity.

James Q. Wilson, America’s pre-eminent social scientist, has noted how “abuse excuse” threatens the legal system and society’s moral equilibrium. Writing in National Affairs quarterly (“The Future of Blame”), Wilson notes that genetics and neuroscience seem to suggest that self-control is more attenuated — perhaps to the vanishing point — than our legal and ethical traditions assume.

Related to our recent discussions about personal responsibility and blaming others.

How an interest in apologetics is a sign of a friendship with God

Greg Koukl of Stand to Reason wants Christians to be “ambassadors for Christ”. What’s that?

Here is a dictionary definition of ambassador:

1. a diplomatic official of the highest rank, sent by one sovereign or state to another as its resident representative (ambassador extraordinary and plenipotentiary).

2. a diplomatic official of the highest rank sent by a government to represent it on a temporary mission, as for negotiating a treaty.

3. a diplomatic official serving as permanent head of a country’s mission to the United Nations or some other international organization.

4. an authorized messenger or representative. Abbreviation: Amb., amb.

Greg Koukl says that a good ambassador needs 3 things: knowledge, wisdom and character.

Greg writes:

I’ve heard it said that sometimes you will be the only living Bible that anyone can read. Well, that’s what it means to be an ambassador. You will speak for Christ. One way or another, for good or for ill, you will speak for Him if you are a follower of Jesus Christ. So we want to strengthen good representatives, and we know that takes emphasis in three areas.

One are to strengthen as an ambassador is knowledge. In other words, you’ve got to know a few things that your sovereign wants you to represent to the rest of the world. So you’ve got to have this knowledge base.

Secondly, you’ve got to communicate that knowledge in a way that is sensitive to the people that you’re sent to. You need to understand their way of thinking. You need to understand their language after a fashion. You must be diplomatic, tactical after a fashion. So there is a certain wisdom, the right use of knowledge, that’s necessary for you to be an effective ambassador.

A good ambassador, any ambassador, packages that knowledge and strategy in the manner of delivery in himself or herself. It’s all wrapped up in an individual, and if that individual is offensive, if that individual is a bad representative, it doesn’t matter that the knowledge and tactics are sound. If the individual is wrong then the message loses its force. This is why we emphasize not just knowledge, not just wisdom, but also character. You must package the entire message in you personally so that you can be an effective, accurate, and virtuous representative or ambassador for Jesus Christ.

I think that a good ambassador for Christ needs to be motivated, as well. A good ambassador is concerned when some people have false beliefs about God’s existence, character and purposes. An ambassador cannot stand by and do nothing while God’s reputation is diminished in public. It is this concern for God as a friend that drives people to study apologetics, as well as theology,science, history, etc. We want to know what God is like, what he’s done and how we can show these things to be true.

The mission of Christian ambassadors

Consider 2 Corinthians 5:11-21, especially verses 11 and 2:

11Since, then, we know what it is to fear the Lord, we try to persuade men. What we are is plain to God, and I hope it is also plain to your conscience.

12We are not trying to commend ourselves to you again, but are giving you an opportunity to take pride in us, so that you can answer those who take pride in what is seen rather than in what is in the heart.

13If we are out of our mind, it is for the sake of God; if we are in our right mind, it is for you.

14For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died.

15And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again.

16So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view. Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer.

17Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!

18All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation:

19that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation.

20We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God.

21God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

This passage about reconciling God and man is one of my favorites in the Bible.

God has chosen us to communicate on his behalf to people who don’t know him. An ambassador doesn’t treat God as a means to achieving happiness, security, health and wealth in this life. Nor is the ambassador’s job to let other people be happy without a relationship with the real God who is really there. The ambassador has a responsibility to explain God’s existence, character and purposes to those who are still ignorant of him. And that takes effort. God is not interested in making his human “pets” happy. He’s given us a task to accomplish – a task that may well consume a good deal of time, effort and money. A task that may diminish our happiness by making us different and unpopular.

Apologetics demonstrates your friendship with God

I often think about how to test others to see whether they are genuine Christians or not. This can be done for friendship or even when testing a prospective mate. A subjective “Christian” who invents their own view of God subjectively, using intuition and emotions, is not going to put themselves second for God and serve him as an ambassador. Instead, they’ll think that a relationship with God really means projecting their own desire for happiness onto God. “God” is there to make them feel happy, not to make demands on them.

And if a person doesn’t want a relationship with God as a real person, they won’t relate to you as a real person, either. If a person doesn’t think that God has purposes and feelings distinct from their own, they won’t think you have purposes and feelings distinct from their own. If a person thinks that God’s purpose is to make them happier, then they’ll think that your purpose is to make them happier. If a person is not willing to sacrifice their interests for God’s interests, they aren’t going to sacrifice their interests for your interests, either.

am⋅bas⋅sa⋅dor

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// ]]> [am-basuh-der, -dawr] Show IPA

–noun

1. a diplomatic official of the highest rank, sent by one sovereign or state to another as its resident representative (ambassador extraordinary and plenipotentiary).
2. a diplomatic official of the highest rank sent by a government to represent it on a temporary mission, as for negotiating a treaty.
3. a diplomatic official serving as permanent head of a country’s mission to the United Nations or some other international organization.
4. an authorized messenger or representative. Abbreviation: Amb., amb.

Should we prefer a President who has moral standards and character?

By Michael Ramirez
By Michael Ramirez (cropped image, click for full size!)

Image H/T The Western Experience.

Let’s take a closer look at Obama’s response to the Iranian crackdown, courtesy of the Heritage Foundation. They reproduced FOUR of Obama’s talking points in their post, two which I quote in full below:

Only history can tell. As though Hegelian historical forces were at play, on which the president of the United States can have no impact, Mr. Obama was at pains to state that only time will tell how the situation in Iran is resolved. Repeatedly, the president stated that “we are watching,” “we are waiting to see how this plays itself out,” “we have to monitor the situation.” Or, at the very end of the press conference, “The Iranian people know that we are watching.” That must be a great comfort to them.

The choice is up to the Iranian government. If the Iranian government wants to follow the path to international acceptance that Mr. Obama has graciously opened for them, they will have to behave according to international accepted norms of behavior. If not, that is really too bad. Mr. Obama repeatedly declined the opportunity to spell out any consequences for the violence. He did not even want to say that Iranian diplomats might be disinvited from July 4 celebration at the U.S. embassies. Our doors are open, and if the Iranians want to walk in, that is their choice, in other words.

In an article from Forbes magazine, there is an analysis of Obama’s answers to the questions of challengers, who thought that he should have done more to help the cause of freedom in Iran. (H/T Stop the ACLU)

Excerpt:

[Obama] is a man who embodies the opposite of the courage to act. His appalling ignorance of history prompted him to claim at his press conference that “the Iranian people … aren’t paying a lot of attention to what’s being said … here.” On the contrary, from their jail cells in the Gulag, Soviet dissidents took heart from what was being said here–as all dissidents dream that the leader of the free world will be prepared to speak and act in their defense.

The president’s storyline that we don’t know what has transpired in Iran is an insult to the intelligence of both Americans and Iranians. Our absence from the polling booths doesn’t mean the results are a mystery. The rules of the election were quite clear. Candidates for president must be approved by the 12-member Council of Guardians. As reported by the BBC, more than 450 Iranians registered as prospective candidates while four contenders were accepted. All 42 women who attempted to run were rejected. So exactly what part of rigged does President Obama not understand?

Instead of denouncing the fake election, President Obama now tells Iranians who are dying for the real thing “the United States respects the sovereignty of the Islamic Republic of Iran.” Whose sovereignty is that? The Hobbesian sovereign thugs running the place? Sovereignty to do what? To deny rights and freedoms to their own people? In a state so bereft of minimal protections for human dignity, why should the sovereignty of such a government be paramount?

But President Obama didn’t want to dwell on the daily reality of sovereign Iran: A criminal code that permits stoning women to death for alleged adultery and hanging homosexuals for the crime of existing. Instead, he repeatedly invoked “respect” for “their traditions and their culture.”

This is the same mantra he espoused to the Islamic world in Cairo when three times he spoke of the “rights” of Muslim women to cover up their bodies. Knowing full well that women in the Muslim world face the contrary problem of surviving after refusing to cover up their bodies, he never once dared to mention that this was also a human right. What part of cultural relativism and traditional oppression does President Obama not know how it plays out?

And now I want to ask a question about the vocation of the President of the United States of America, the leader of the Free World.

Does morality and character matter in a President?

I found these two videos posted by Smitty at The Other McCain.

First, compare Barack Obama vs. Ronald Reagan.

Notice how Ronald Reagan appeals to fundamental human rights, human dignity and the high ideal of freedom. And then he backs up his fine words with teh threat of economic disaster for Poland’s government if they refuse to comply.

Second, here’s John McCain, the President we could have had, if we had voted purely on substance.

Morality matters. Character counts.

Obama’s secular worldview provides no rational grounding for morality or character. He craves the power to control the lives of others. The plight of the weak and powerless means nothing to him.

Understanding the challenge of becoming a Christian

One thing that I have noticed as I compiled the results of the survey is that none of these non-Christians understood what Christianity is about, and none of them have tried to find out, and none of them wanted to find out. All but one refused to follow Jesus even if it became clear to them beyond a shadow of a doubt that Christianity were true. And he initially answered as the others did.

Somehow, people have gotten into their heads the idea that religions are all the same, and that the purpose of religion is to make people “good”, (or worse, “happy”). And when they say “good”, they mean being nice to others. Surprise! The purpose of Christianity is NOT to make you be nice to others nor to make you happy. In fact, no amount of being nice is going to please God, unless something even more important is secured first.

The purpose of Christianity is three-fold. You must expend time, effort and wealth:

  1. KNOWING GOD’S CHARACTER AS HE REALLY IS.
  2. KNOWING WHAT GOD HAS DONE IN HISTORY.
  3. RESPONDING TO AND PURSUING GOD, AS HE REVEALS HIMSELF TO YOU.

You don’t decide what your purpose is, God does. God was there before the universe and his character was set before you were even born. He created you and designed you for a purpose.

I wanted to highlight a story in Daniel 3 in order to show what it is that atheists choose not to do, which God considers moral. An atheist cannot stand for God in public, and remain faithful and loyal to him in the midst of suffering and persecution. And Christians are required do this. This is following the example of the Old Testament prophets, as well as Jesus himself.

It should be no comfort to atheists that they stick to their chosen diet, or stop at stop signs, practice yoga and recycle. God is not the least bit interested in your compliance with your own arbitrary personal preferences, nor the arbitrary standard of your culture in the time and place you live in. That’s not morality! That’s just giving yourself happy feelings by effortlessly complying with made-up standards.

One way of loving God, (which is the most important commandment), is by keeping faith with God publicly, even when things don’t go your way. Atheists can’t do that. It just isn’t rational for people who will be alive for 75 years and then gone, to deny themselves for any higher purpose, especially when it involves suffering. And when being good isn’t rational, people don’t do it, especially when it’s hard to do.

That is why it is impossible to please God unless you first believe certain things that are only possible if God exists. For example, you need an objective moral standard, free will, someone to whom duty is owed, moral accountability, moral significance, etc.

And to illustrate what counts with God, let’s take a look at this sermon on Daniel 3 that I found that tells the story of Daniel and his 3 friends.

The Scripture is here. You’ll need to read this if you don’t know the story.

And the sermon excerpt is here:

Now, before we set up Nebuchadnezzar as the worst guy ever, we don’t have to go back very far to see similar things that have happened in our own day and age.  Every totalitarian the regime in the 20th century had statues erected in honor of their own tyrant.  Whether it was statues of Lenin in the Soviet Union, statues of Mao in China, or statues of Saddam Hussein in Iraq, people had to pay homage to these statues is they wanted to advance in society, and in some cases, simply to stay alive.  Usually one was allowed to keep believing in whatever ‘god’ they wanted as long as it was subordinate to the empire.  Allegiance to the state was more important than allegiance to any god.

Our society is certainly different in that we don’t have a dictator, and nobody, at least not yet, is threatening to shoot us or toss us into a fiery furnace.  But in some ways our society is actually worse, mostly because its pressure is very subtle and sometimes we don’t even realize it’s going on.  Our culture places the same type of pressure on each one of us to put God in second place.  We find ourselves constantly pressed to keep our beliefs private and secondary. We can believe whatever we want as long as we don’t ever talk about it.

…Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego… had failed to bow down and worship the statue, thereby disrespecting not only the statue but the king as well.

They were accused of ingratitude, verse 12, “There are certain Jews whom you have appointed,” and impiety,” they do not serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up.”  But the fundamental element of both these charges was their offense against Nebuchadnezzar himself. But that’s not how Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego saw it.

They were simply trying to be obedient to the commandment, Exodus 20:4­5a, “You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. 5 You shall not bow down to them or serve them, for I the Lord your God am a jealous God …”

It’s worth noting that there were only three men in the whole crowd who refused to bow down to Nebuchadnezzar’s statue…. this highlights the fact that sometimes standing up for God can be a lonely activity.  And it doesn’t matter if you’re standing on the national stage or you’re simply visiting with all your unbelieving relatives who think you’re some sort of moronic freak.  There are times in life when doing what’s right means you can’t hide in the crowd.

…I’ve come to see this same battle being fought daily in my heart over much lesser issues.  Am I going to declare the Lord to be my primary allegiance, come what may, or will I bow to the multitude of idols that the world presents?  Unless you’re an actor, our idols aren’t usually golden statues.  Our idols are the various pleasures, desires, and attitudes that the culture tells me I need to have in order to live a fulfilled and worthwhile life.

For some, their golden image is the respect and admiration and acceptance of others.  For a lot the young adults here, high school and college, there’s the pressure to be part of the “in­ crowd,” even though the cost of admission to this club is that we shouldn’t show respect to our parents, or talk about God, or keep ourselves pure until marriage.  This image of acceptance says, “Bow to me or I’ll throw you into the fiery furnace of the mockery and ridicule of your peers.’

Notice how this example of obedience and endurance parallels the life of Jesus, as well, which provides the model for Christians who are called upon to do the same – and this is central to Christianity. Where is this on atheism? Clearly, atheists cannot meet this standard. It is irrational, on atheism, to perform acts of self-sacrifice like this in obedience to an objective moral law, and to the moral lawgiver.

So, what is important to Christians is not what is important to atheists, obviously. Our primary goal is not our feelings and well-being, or being “nice” to others or being liked by others. That is irrelevant. What is considered normal in Christianity is put yourself second, and to put God first, under fire. That is loving God. The most important commandment.

Greg Koukl put it nicely in one of his lectures in the Q&A session when he said “With respect to God’s purposes in the world, your happiness is expendable”. That is the normal Christian life. And it isn’t for everyone.


Ex-atheist A. N. Wilson’s reasons for returning to Christianity

UPDATE: A very special welcome to readers from 4Simpsons blog! If you do not have Neil’s blog bookmarked, you are missing out on perceptive commentary on current events and apologetics, all packaged in an attractive and functional layout! For example, check out this post on Obama’s record on abortion, and this post analyzing a recent encounter with a pro-choice challenger! Neil can fight!

Thanks so much for the link and the kind words, Neil! I appreciate it very much!

UPDATE: Welcome readers from Free Canuckistan! Thanks for the linky, Mr. WebElf!

This story is all over the Christian blogosphere, so let’s try to cover all the people who’ve written about it.

Wilson’s initial statement is found in his article in the New Statesman. (H/T Truthbomb Apologetics)

Excerpt where he describes his conversion to atheism:

…I realised that after a lifetime of churchgoing, the whole house of cards had collapsed for me – the sense of God’s presence in life, and the notion that there was any kind of God, let alone a merciful God, in this brutal, nasty world.

Yeah, that’s why I would never send my kids to church until they begged and pleaded to go, and knew why they were doing it. The problem of evil and suffering that he mentions is a solid argument against God, one well worth responding too, that I answer fully here.

But another cause of his atheism was peer pressure – the desire to want to be thought of as smarter than others, the desire to not be bound by morality, the desire for autonomy from the hard task of seeking after the Lord in study and service. (More on this below)

If I bumped into Richard Dawkins (an old colleague from Oxford days) or had dinner in Washington with Christopher Hitchens (as I did either on that trip to interview Billy Graham or another), I did not have to feel out on a limb. Hitchens was excited to greet a new convert to his non-creed and put me through a catechism before uncorking some stupendous claret. “So – absolutely no God?” “Nope,” I was able to say with Moonie-zeal. “No future life, nothing ‘out there’?” “No,” I obediently replied. At last! I could join in the creed shared by so many (most?) of my intelligent contemporaries in the western world – that men and women are purely material beings (whatever that is supposed to mean), that “this is all there is” (ditto), that God, Jesus and religion are a load of baloney: and worse than that, the cause of much (no, come on, let yourself go), most (why stint yourself – go for it, man), all the trouble in the world, from Jerusalem to Belfast, from Washington to Islamabad.

He talks about the importance of the moral argument, which is the argument that converted me to Christianity so many years ago. There can be no doubt that when you meet an atheist, you are talking to someone who is disdainful of the demands of the moral law, (the objective moral standard that is imprinted on every human heart).

Everyone who has any conscience at all believes in God as the ground for that morality. It is only the immoral man who reduces morality to personal preferences or evolved social conventions. And there are so many immoral atheists today… inventing more and more speculations like Darwinism and postmodernism in order to justify full flight from the moral law they know is there.

I haven’t mentioned morality, but one thing that finally put the tin hat on any aspirations to be an unbeliever was writing a book about the Wagner family and Nazi Germany, and realising how utterly incoherent were Hitler’s neo-Darwinian ravings, and how potent was the opposition, much of it from Christians; paid for, not with clear intellectual victory, but in blood. Read Pastor Bonhoeffer’s book Ethics, and ask yourself what sort of mad world is created by those who think that ethics are a purely human construct. Think of Bonhoeffer’s serenity before he was hanged, even though he was in love and had everything to look forward to.

Truthbomb Apologetics also linked to an online interview with Wilson. Peter Williams, a British Christian apologist, highlights one question, “Can you love God and agree with Darwin?”, from the interview.

Here is Wilson’s answer:

I think you can love God and agree with the author of The Voyage of the Beagle, the Earth Worm, and most of the Origin of Species. The Descent of Man, with its talk of savages, its belief that black people are more primitive than white people, and much nonsense besides, is an offence to the intelligence – and is obviously incompatible with Christianity. I think the jury is out about whether the theory of Natural selection, as defined by neo-Darwinians is true, and whether serious scientific doubts, as expressed in a new book Why Us by James Lefanu, deserve to be taken seriously. For example, does the discovery of the complex structure of DNA and the growth in knowledge in genetics require a rethink of Darwinian “gradualism”. But these are scientific rather than religious questions.

twoorthree.net has another analysis of the initial article.

A second article emerges

Here’s Wilson’s more recent article from the UK Daily Mail in which he describes his reasons for returning to the Christian faith even further. (H/T Apologetics 315)

The new article has a very striking title, “Religion of hatred: Why we should no longer be cowed by the chattering classes ruling Britain who sneer at Christianity”. There are some neat parts to this article as well.

For example, why are atheists who are force-fed faith so angry?

Like many people who lost faith, I felt anger with myself for having been ‘conned’ by such a story. I began to rail against Christianity, and wrote a book, entitled Jesus, which endeavoured to establish that he had been no more than a messianic prophet who had well and truly failed, and died.

This next point is the critical point of this entire story. Atheists dismiss God for three reasons. 1) They want to appear intelligent in comparison others (i.e. – pride, vanity), 2) they do not want to dedicate any time to seeking and serving the person who loves them most, and 3) they believe that God should give them happiness and their needs are not met by God.

When a person becomes an atheist, they are giving an answer to questions like “does God exist?” and “does God have a will for the way I ought to live?”. Atheists do not accept that their purpose in life is to work on knowing God by first accepting Christ’s sacrifice for their current rebellion and then by re-prioritizing their lives based on the character and deeds of Christ.

Instead of accepting the need for a Savior, and the process of following Christ, they want to earn eternal life by dedicating their efforts to projects of their own choosing. Atheists choose a project that they like and work on that hoping to somehow gain eternal life by excelling at that. Similarly, atheists choose a different moral standard (i.e. – yoga, vegetarianism, recycling, socialism, etc.) and work to fulfill this standard of their own choosing in the hope that meeting that standard will justify them morally with God.

The thought that they would have to discover and reflect on God’s revealed character and love for people revealed in the origin and design of the universe, and in the incarnation and sacrifice of Jesus on the cross, is totally repulsive to them. They seize on the most childish opinions about God, (God is unknowable, Christians are stupid hypocrites, I don’t want to be moral, I don’t want to be unpopular, etc.), and refuse to engage in debate to correct those childish objections.

But let’s hear from Wilson about the peer-pressure he received from smart atheists:

Like most educated people in Britain and Northern Europe (I was born in 1950), I have grown up in a culture that is overwhelmingly secular and anti-religious. The universities, broadcasters and media generally are not merely non-religious, they are positively anti.

To my shame, I believe it was this that made me lose faith and heart in my youth. It felt so uncool to be religious. With the mentality of a child in the playground, I felt at some visceral level that being religious was unsexy, like having spots or wearing specs.

This playground attitude accounts for much of the attitude towards Christianity that you pick up, say, from the alternative comedians, and the casual light blasphemy of jokes on TV or radio.

It also lends weight to the fervour of the anti-God fanatics, such as the writer Christopher Hitchens and the geneticist Richard Dawkins, who think all the evil in the world is actually caused by religion.

The vast majority of media pundits and intelligentsia in Britain are unbelievers, many of them quite fervent in their hatred of religion itself.

Wilson goes on to explain what finally did work to change his mind. One of the reasons for his conversion is also the second reason why I converted: discomfort with the moral evil of the godless and their hatred of God. Observing the godless can create a powerful feeling of sympathy and allegiance to God revealed in Christ, such that you naturally rebel against those who reject God.

Rather than being cowed by them, I relish the notion that, by asserting a belief in the risen Christ, I am defying all the liberal clever-clogs on the block: cutting-edge novelists such as Martin Amis; foul-mouthed, self-satisfied TV presenters such as Jonathan Ross and Jo Brand; and the smug, tieless architects of so much television output.

One thing you need to understand about being a Christian is that the life consists in being an ambassador for Christ and then taking the lumps from those who will mock you, blacklist you, expel you, suspend you, fire you, jail you, torture you and murder you. This path of suffering is rejected by atheists and church Christians alike, even though imitating Christ’s suffering for obeying God rather than men is central to Christianity.

We humans somehow internalize the idea that God should desire our happiness, and our freedom to seek that happiness in whatever activities we choose to be meaningful for us. The idea that God may have made us for a purpose – to acknowledge and defend him in public in word and deed – is so repulsive to our wills that it is totally suppressed, not just from inquiry or discussion, but in our thoughts as well.

A third argument that convinced me, that Wilson also finds convincing, is the superior character of Christians when compared to atheists. Atheists have no idea how horribly immoral they look to Christians – about as immoral as Christians look to themselves. For once the horizontal dimension of loving your neighbor is dropped, and the vertical dimension of loving God is taken up, the mask is off. The horror of sin is revealed.

And in the face of that horror, men can do extraordinary deeds as they respond to God’s forgiveness. Actions that are irrational on a naturalistic, materialistic universe are rational for Christians. Atheists simply cannot engage in self-sacrificial behaviors against their self-interest the way that Christians can. Doctrines like eternal life, the incarnation, the atonement, and objective morality, make self-sacrifice rational.

And in contrast to those ephemeral pundits of today, I have as my companions in belief such Christians as Dostoevsky, T. S. Eliot, Samuel Johnson and all the saints, known and unknown, throughout the ages.

When that great saint Thomas More, Chancellor of England, was on trial for his life for daring to defy Henry VIII, one of his prosecutors asked him if it did not worry him that he was standing out against all the bishops of England.

He replied: ‘My lord, for one bishop of your opinion, I have a hundred saints of mine.’

Now, I think of that exchange and of his bravery in proclaiming his faith. Our bishops and theologians, frightened as they have been by the pounding of secularist guns, need that kind of bravery more than ever.

The Christian life is a life of self-sacrifice, self-control and bravery, punctuated by periods of loneliness and defeat. It is not for everyone, and it is certainly not for atheists. Responding in love to God’s initiative in reaching out to us is the most difficult task that can ever be assigned to any human agent. Atheists, having rejected the laws of logic, scientific discovery, the demands of the moral law and the obligations of moral duties, are simply not up to the task.

Wilson concludes his case with a final argument:

…an even stronger argument is the way that Christian faith transforms individual lives – the lives of the men and women with whom you mingle on a daily basis, the man, woman or child next to you in church tomorrow morning.

Let me just say that I have not had the happiest experiences in life, as I have alluded to elsewhere. Things are going great now, as you know from my bio. But I know, and I hope that others can see, that the kind of acts of love that I unleash on my neighbors cannot – cannot – be explained merely as a result of human effort. Life is hard, but God makes love possible in the midst of suffering.

William Lane Craig weighs in on this Daily Mail article in his audio blog here.

I am planning an entire series of posts on atheism and the Christian life next week, and I have been interviewing atheists in order to collect data for the series of posts. I highly recommend that you tune in to the blog next week for this series!