I posted yesterday about Christopher Hitchens’ thoughts on Christians that he’s debated and one reader responded with a different, secularist perspective (which we welcome here!). I was going to respond to them in the comments section, but I found my response becoming a bit too long and figured I would put it up in a separate post since it had some serious thoughts on what makes Christianity unique. This is by no means exhaustive, but only a surface-level introduction to ‘why Christianity’ rather than Islam, or Buddhism, etc.
Here we go….
1. The existence of God cannot and does not need to be demonstrated. It is evident and is no more subject to “proof” than “disproof.” This is not similar to anything else, no matter how hard we try to draw correlations to spaghetti monsters (cf. Bertrand Russell), etc. Such elusive arguments actually fail to consider the definition of what they’re arguing about. I’m not interested in arguing for the existence of “deity” in and of itself. I’m an atheist in many respects: I don’t believe in “Allah” or the god of Judaism or the gods of Mormonism, et al. I believe in the one God revealed in Jesus Christ. He has been seen and we have eye-witness testimony to this event and his deity.
Rational proofs for/against the existence of some otiose deity dangling before our eyes are rather vain projections of our own minds onto a blank canvas (thank you Cornelius Van Til). They are thus fruitless. I can understand why a “secularist” would want to go down this road, but we share different presuppositions and thus have no neutral ground from which to argue. Someone might retort and say, “Reason is the only neutral ground, why not simply agree to the dictates of logic and reason and then go from there?” Ok, fine, but whose reason? Reason is not an abstract, independent reality floating outside of actual people, outside of time and space. Reason is built upon the foundations of beliefs that people assume without argumentation (“presuppositions). Thus, reason is anything but neutral. I might just as well say that your perspective assumes the non-existence of something you call “god,” for which there is no evidence. I hope I’m being concrete enough with what I’m saying.
Furthermore, we cannot speak of the “non-existence” of the God revealed in Jesus Christ because existence is part of his very definition. To say otherwise would be to separate the signifier from signified. Most people haven’t made the proper correlation between the two such that they posit the non-existence of something they claim is the Christian God, when in fact they have something wholly different in their sights. This is what makes Richard Dawkins such an amateur in this respect and why no philosopher or theologian has yet to take him seriously. Yhwh is self-existing (‘a se‘ in Latin), thus requiring no cause for himself, etc.
2. SO, if we start from the fact of Jesus Christ, then we actually have something to work with. We know about him through Scripture, which then leads to all sorts of questions as to how that’s interpreted, etc. I don’t have time to get too far into this (I’m not going to convince anyone anyway), but the gospel – the good news of salvation in Jesus Christ alone from our sinful separation from God – is the basis for racial and sexual equality, for nonviolence, for the inherent value of human life. Other religions might profess to hold to similar beliefs, but they are actually radically different.
If you cannot see this, it is because you are not a follower of Christ. So you can’t see the ways in which the value of human life is bound up with the fact that God has shared our time and space with us by assuming flesh, and in that same act, redeemed us. You don’t understand what it means to be made in the image of Yhwh, rather than to made in the image of “god.” You can’t see the intricacies of the many ways that the gospel breaks down social divisions and makes everyone equal beggars at the foot of the cross. You don’t understand how race is a sinful human taxonomy that finds little basis in our ontology. According to Scripture, you are either “in Christ” or “in Adam;” redeemed or not. You don’t see how Grace removes privilege. Neither can you see how the creating activity of a TRIUNE God (as opposed to any other “god”) ontologically grounds proper relations between the sexes and proper sexual relations. You cannot grasp the depth with which Christ’s death on the cross puts an end to coercive force and violence.
My point is this: I cannot show you all these things because you would not believe them, but Christian answers are just as hostile to other religions’ answers as your own brand of secularism is. They are not the same, not even close. Why do we all find an inherent need for racial equality, sexual equality, nonviolence, etc? It cannot point to a condition prior to God’s creating activity. If you posit that, then you have to explain how it is human life can have any inherent (read: not culturally or socially assigned) value in a secular system.
Instead, the answer is that all of these things – these values and longings – are built into the fabric of who we were created to image. Christians say that image is Christ. When you begin to understand the colossal implications of that view, then you begin to understand how Christianity is not one religion amongst many. Instead, it stands opposed to all forms of human religion. It stands opposed to all human ideologies. When it stands properly, it stands alone in this world as the consequence of a summons to discipleship; to humbly, obediently, and faithfully follow Christ, our creator and the only true image of God.
So, why not Islam? Why not Judaism? Why not Buddhism? Why not secularism? Why not any other “peaceful” religion? Because they cannot explain everything and thus cannot explain anything. That is a dogmatic claim, I realize. But it gets back to my point in yesterday’s post about being sincere. I’m not trying to convince, only clarify….