Tag Archives: Christian

Contrasting the moral values of an authentic Christian with an authentic Darwinist

Let’s start with someone who acted consistently on the plain, intended meaning of the Christian worldview, as expressed in the New Testament.

The case of William Wilberforce, an authentic Christian

Consider this article from the Wall Street Journal about the abolitionist William Wilberforce.

In fact, William Wilberforce was driven by a version of Christianity that today would be derided as “fundamentalist.”

…William Wilberforce himself, as a student at Cambridge University in the 1770s and as a young member of Parliament soon after, had no more than a nominal sense of faith. Then, in 1785, he began reading evangelical treatises and underwent what he called “the Great Change,” almost dropping out of politics to study for the ministry until friends persuaded him that he could do more good where he was.

And he did a great deal of good…[h]is relentless campaign eventually led Parliament to ban the slave trade, in 1807, and to pass a law shortly after his death in 1833, making the entire institution of slavery illegal. But it is impossible to understand Wilberforce’s long antislavery campaign without seeing it as part of a larger Christian impulse. The man who prodded Parliament so famously also wrote theological tracts, sponsored missionary and charitable works, and fought for what he called the “reformation of manners,” a campaign against vice.

Even during the 18th century, evangelicals were derided as over-emotional “enthusiasts” by their Enlightenment-influenced contemporaries. By the time of Wilberforce’s “great change,” liberal 18th-century theologians had sought to make Christianity more “reasonable,” de-emphasizing sin, salvation and Christ’s divinity in favor of ethics, morality and a rather distant, deistic God. Relatedly, large numbers of ordinary English people, especially among the working classes, had begun drifting away from the tepid Christianity that seemed to prevail. Evangelicalism sought to counter such trends and to reinvigorate Christian belief.

…Perhaps the leading evangelical force of the day was the Methodism of John Wesley: It focused on preaching, the close study of the Bible, communal hymn-singing and a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. Central to the Methodist project was the notion that good works and charity were essential components of the Christian life. Methodism spawned a vast network of churches and ramified into the evangelical branches of Anglicanism. Nearly all the social-reform movements of the 19th and early 20th centuries–from temperance and soup kitchens to slum settlement houses and prison reform–owe something to Methodism and its related evangelical strains. The campaign against slavery was the most momentous of such reforms and, over time, the most successful. It is thus fitting that John Wesley happened to write his last letter–sent in February 1791, days before his death–to William Wilberforce. Wesley urged Wilberforce to devote himself unstintingly to his antislavery campaign, a “glorious enterprise” that opposed “that execrable villainy which is the scandal of religion, of England, and of human nature.” Wesley also urged him to “go on, in the name of God and in the power of his might, till even American slavery (the vilest that ever saw the sun) shall vanish away before it.”

Wesley had begun preaching against slavery 20 years before and in 1774 published an abolitionist tract, “Thoughts on Slavery.” Wilberforce came into contact with the burgeoning antislavery movement in 1787, when he met Thomas Clarkson, an evangelical Anglican who had devoted his life to the abolitionist cause. Two years later, Wilberforce gave his first speech against the slave trade in Parliament.

…This idea of slaving as sin is key. As sociologist Rodney Stark noted in “For the Glory of God” (2003), the abolition of slavery in the West during the 19th century was a uniquely Christian endeavor. When chattel slavery, long absent from Europe, reappeared in imperial form in the 16th and 17th centuries–mostly in response to the need for cheap labor in the New World–the first calls to end the practice came from pious Christians, notably the Quakers. Evangelicals, not least Methodists, quickly joined the cause, and a movement was born.

William Wilberforce believed that slaves were made in the image of God – that they were embodied souls who could be resurrected to eternal life. Wilberforce believed that the purpose of human life is to freely seek God, and to be reconciled with God through Christ. He wanted all men and women to have the opportunity to investigate and respond to God’s self-revelation to them.

You can read more about Wilberforce’s beliefs here and his public activities here. And you can still see modern-day abolitionists, like Scott Klusendorf, consistently acting out their Christian convictions in the public square. Only today they’re called pro-lifers. By the way, like Wilberforce, I am also a Wesley-inspired Evangelical Protestant Christian. Hooah!

The case of Adolf Hitler, an authentic Darwinist

Now let’s take a look at the opposite of Wilberforce someone who despised and rejected Christianity entirely. Adolf Hitler was strongly influenced by the anti-Christian zealot, Nietzche, but also by Darwin’s evolutionary ideas such as human inequality, moral relativism, the non-existence of human rights, equality of humans with animals, denial of the soul, and survival of the fittest.

You can see the entire case presented by tenured professor of history at the University of California, Dr. Richard Weikart, in a lecture presented at the University of California at Santa Barbara, here:

Here’s the blurb on the lecture from the University of California Television web site:

First Aired: 11/15/2004
58 minutes

In his book, From Darwin to Hitler: Evolutionary Ethics, Eugenics, and Racism in Germany (2004), Richard Weikart explains the revolutionary impact Darwinism had on ethics and morality. Darwinism played a key role in the rise not only of eugenics (a movement wanting to control human reproduction to improve the human species), but also on euthanasia, infanticide, abortion, and racial extermination. This was especially important in Germany, since Hitler built his view of ethics on Darwinian principles.

But for those who don’t like watching video lectures given by tenured professors, with nice Powerpoint slides, in front of a live audience of students and faculty, at a major university, then here is an article by secular Jew David Berlinksi writing in Human Events to give us the briefest of summaries of Weikart’s argument.

A little bio of David Berlinski:

David Berlinski received his Ph.D. in philosophy from Princeton University and was later a postdoctoral fellow in mathematics and molecular biology at Columbia University. He has authored works on systems analysis, differential topology, theoretical biology, analytic philosophy, and the philosophy of mathematics, as well as three novels. He has also taught philosophy, mathematics and English at such universities as Stanford, Rutgers, the City University of New York and the Universite de Paris. In addition, he has held research fellowships at the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA) in Austria and the Institut des Hautes Etudes Scientifiques (IHES) in France.

He starts his Human Events piece like this:

Published in 1859, Darwin’s On the Origin of Species said nothing of substance about the origin of species. Or anything else, for that matter. It nonetheless persuaded scientists in England, Germany and the United States that human beings were accidents of creation. Where Darwin had seen species struggling for survival, German physicians, biologists, and professors of hygiene saw races.

They drew the obvious conclusion, the one that Darwin had already drawn. In the struggle for survival, the fittest win out at the expense of their rivals. German scientists took the word expense to mean what it meant: The annihilation of less fit races.

…At Hitler’s death in May of 1945, the point was clear enough to the editorial writers of the New York Times. “Long before he had dreamed of achieving power,” they wrote, [Hitler] had developed the principles that nations were destined to hate, oppose and destroy one another; [and] that the law of history was the struggle for survival between peoples … ”.

Berlinski concludes by analyzing an answer given by Richard Dawkins to Ben Stein in the movie Expelled:

Would he care to live in a society shaped by Darwinian principles? The question was asked of Richard Dawkins.

Not at all, he at once responded.

And why not?

Because the result would be fascism.

In this, Richard Dawkins was entirely correct; and it is entirely to his credit that he said so.

The difference between consistent Christianity and consistent Darwinism is the difference between day and night. There is not now, nor will there ever be, an atheist Wilberforce. Atheists live their lives seeking pleasure and avoiding social disapproval, and they will never be able to consistently and rationally sacrifice their self-interest to oppose the fashions of their culture in obedience to a higher objective moral standard.

Atheists acknowledge no higher moral standard. If there is no God and the universe is an accident, then there is no way humans ought to be. The only thing to do in life is to invent your own arbitrary “morals” and hold to that, or not, (you do whichever gives you pleasure, since there no ultimate accountability one way or the other), while avoiding social disapproval for breaking the arbitrary cultural standard of your time and place. That’s atheist “morality”.

The moral character of a consistent Christian towers above the base animal selfishness of a consistent atheist like a Colossus towers over an ant. Atheists understand morality like a cat in a library, seeing the words, but lacking all understanding of their meaning.

Here is a quote I am stealing from the Anchoress to summarize: “The Christian ideal has not been tried and found wanting. It has been found difficult; and left untried.”

Other debates on atheism and morality

My summary of the William Lane Craig (of Biola) vs Shelly Kagan (of Yale) debate at Columbia University on the topic “Is God Necessary for Morality?” is here.

Here are some prior debates on the rationality of morality on atheism.

  1. From Christianity Today, a written debate: Douglas Wilson vs. Christopher Hitchens
  2. From the University of Western Ontario, a transcript of a public debate: William Lane Craig vs. Kai Nielsen
  3. From Schenectady College, a transcript of a public debate: William Lane Craig vs Richard Taylor
  4. From Franklin & Marshall College, William Lane Craig vs. Paul Kurtz (audio, video1, video2, video3, video4, video5, video6, video7)
  5. From the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, William Lane Craig vs. Louise Antony (audio1, audio2, video1, video2)

Further study

A good paper by Bill Craig on the problem of rationally-grounding prescriptive morality is here. My previous posts on this blog on this topic are here and here. The first one is about whether atheists can use an ungrounded, arbitrary standard to judge God for his “moral failures”, the second (better) one is on why the concept of morality is literally meaningless on atheism.

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!

Why do conservative Catholics support Obama so strongly?

Let’s see what the story is, from Hot Air:

I know I’ve said this before on the site, and I know many devout Catholics’ experiences are different, but having grown up in the Church, there’s nothing here that surprises me. Most Catholics I know treat the Church’s commands as essentially hortatory, to be politely ignored when need be — as in the case of torture — which is why I can’t quite fathom the outrage over a pro-choicer as adamant as The One speaking at Notre Dame. His job approval this month among Catholics is 70 percent, and 65 percent among those who attend church weekly. They’re fighting a losing battle here.

Allahpundit then goes on to quote the findings here:

Even Catholics who consider themselves “conservative” politically are more likely to approve than disapprove of Obama’s job performance [49/40]…

In fact, 53% of Catholics voted for Obama for president in November, almost identical to the 52.9% of the popular vote Obama won in the 2008 election. Catholics’ 67% approval of Obama in his first 100 days is slightly higher than his overall 63% average approval rating for the same period. Thus, relative to the population, Catholics have become a bit more supportive of Obama as president than they were in the election.

This news makes the Wintery Knight sad… so sad, that he is tempted to cry tiny icicle tears.

I am an evangelical Protestant Christian who believes in the inerrancy of the Bible (in the autographs). I think that one of the reasons why evangelical Protestants are more politically conservative than Catholics (and some mainline Protestants) is because there is more emphasis on free market capitalism in evangelical Protestantism.

Evangelical Protestants are also more conservative on the exclusivity of salvation than Catholics are. We believe that salvation is based on knowing God, not on doing good works. I think some Catholic voters are being swayed by Obama’s emphasis on helping the poor, even by government redistribution of wealth. This is also true for mainline Protestants, who seem to be increasingly concerned with social justice instead of economic liberty, and they are also soft on exclusive salvation.

UPDATE: Commenter ECM says that I should not make too much of this poll, because it is done by Gallup and their polls lately have been way off.

UPDATE: And now I’m going to rebut my own post: Pastor Joel Hunter says Obama Displaying “Wisdom and Balance” During First 100 Days. (H/T The Pugnacious Irishman)

Excerpt:

As someone who is completely pro-life (concerned about the vulnerable outside the womb as well as inside the womb), I am encouraged by the vision (and budget) President Obama has cast for empowering those marginalized with the resources they need to become responsible citizens.

…By supporting sex education and contraception, we reduce the number of unexpected pregnancies and thus reduce the likelihood of abortion. Also, by supporting expectant mothers who are feeling pressure to have an abortion because of financial concerns, education interruptions, or the baby having development problems, we again decrease the likelihood and therefore the incidence of abortion.

…Even the overturning of the Mexico City Policy had a pro-life side to it, in that sex education, contraception and family planning almost certainly will decrease the number of abortions performed.”

It’s the social justice that does them in, and I should write something about how social justice suddenly became the main job of the church instead of spreading the Gospel and answering speculations against it. What do you expect when people abandon truth? If religion is about meeting people’s needs, then everybody goes to Heaven and we should all focus on making people feel good about their sins in the here and now.

EVERYBODY: Say it with me: when you subsidize something, you get more of it. When you tax something, you get less of it. Subsidizing pre-marital sex gives you more pre-marital sex, and more accidental pregnancies, and more abortions. Reduce government subsidies and support for risky sex, and you lower the number of abortions.

UPDATE: Maritime Sentry has a much more reliable Rasmussen Reports poll shows that Catholics are more serious about their faith than the flawed Galup poll indicated.