by John Tutten
Clash Daily Contributor
‘Tis the season and this time of year, most families like to get together and spend time reuniting and celebrating. In today’s world many families are scattered about the country and Christmas or New Years may be the only time of the year when family members can actually be together and catch up on what the last year has been like and what has been going on in their lives.
And your family may be like many today in that it is a mixed family. No, I don’t mean that you are of mixed races (certainly nothing wrong with that). What I’m getting at is that you may be a family of mixed worldviews. Some in your family view the world through the lens of Christian understanding and values while others may subscribe to a materialist or atheistic explanation for creation.
Now everybody gets along fine provided the conversation stays in the realm of the college football playoffs, the latest zany pet video on YouTube, or the great deal mom got on the holiday ham. Whatever you do though, do not let the conversation stray into such inconsequential questions like was Jesus a real person or is the universe the result of an intelligent agent or is there a purpose to life? Nothing can curdle the eggnog faster than the vitriol that steams up between Christians and atheists when stepping on one of these intellectual land mines.
Generally, I think Christians do not fare well when the conversation breaks through the unsaid but understood boundaries preventing talk about topics that can be so divisive. Honestly, I find atheists better prepared to evangelize for their worldview than Christians.
Our Bible makes clear that we each have an obligation to defend our faith but most Christians when pressed about what we believe can do little more than rattle off a few verses. Nothing wrong with having some scripture memorized but it is simply not enough if we are going to be the effective ambassadors we are called to be.
It is much more likely that an atheistic cousin will take the offensive and challenge our beliefs than for us to initiate a dialog about how our faith may have strengthened us during a difficult time. And today atheists are seizing on the presence of evil and suffering in the world to dismiss the validity of Christian belief.
They cite examples of the terrible, seemingly senseless violence perpetrated on innocent children and proclaim the conclusion that the existence of God and evil and suffering are incompatible and since there is evil and suffering in the world, the Christian God cannot exist.
If you were confronted with this challenge, how would you respond? Could you respond? The existence of evil and suffering in the world is a very difficult question and does not lend itself to a quick and easy answer that will send your cousin scurrying back to the punch bowl. However, there is a way to diffuse the attack and hopefully, set the stage for a substantive dialog.
Atheists very freely make judgments about events or actions people take and describe them as wrong or evil or immoral. They see a child being abused and call it awful. They see racial discrimination and call it unjust. They see a corporate tycoon rip off his investors and call it deceitful. Well, do atheists have a right to make such value judgments? Well no, they don’t.
If you believe that the material universe is all that exists, if everything is nothing more than molecules in motion, you can’t say something is right or wrong, moral or immoral. The atheist can say they don’t like it or that it makes them unhappy or they wish this wouldn’t happen, but they cannot say that anything is right or wrong. Why?
In atheism, any moral judgment has to be made within the confines of a closed material universe. Nothing exists beyond the molecules and physics that the universe consists of. The material and physical laws of this universe simply do not supply any basis for making moral judgments.
Therefore they have no objective standard to judge morality or goodness against. For something to be truly right or wrong, there must be an objective moral standard against which to compare the events. In an atheistic worldview, there is no objective standard. Therefore, everything is simply a matter of opinion.
In the Christian worldview however, we do have a standard. We can objectively affirm something is good or bad, moral or immoral. Our standard is the perfect moral nature of a transcendent God, a God that exists outside of space and time and impresses this standard on each of us. We all have a sense of right and wrong built into our nature, both Christians and atheists.
So I’m not saying that atheists can’t be moral or know when something is good or unjust. They most certainly can. What I’m saying is that they cannot justify their morality since it is not grounded in anything. Their judgments of morality can only be opinion because they deny the transcendent basis for morality.
Therefore, if you have an atheist throw some moralistic challenge at your faith this holiday season just tell them they are not entitled to make such a judgment because their beliefs are not grounded in objective morality. It will be good for hours of fun!
John Tutten holds degrees in both engineering and business management. He is veteran of thirty-three years in the high technology business world where he spent time in development engineering and technology management predominantly in the area of custom semiconductor circuits. He recently retired to the mountains of north Georgia where he devotes his time to the study of Christian Apologetics and writing in defense of the Christian worldview.