Monday , June 17 2024

Questions No Christian Can Answer – Answered!

Recently I saw a video shared around in atheist circles. The video, which can be found here, is a compilation of atheist youtubers putting forward certain arguments against the existence of God, but more specifically, against Christianity. Some of these questions are frankly silly; others are genuinely more of a challenge. Nevertheless, since Christianity is fundamental to my, and indeed, most Western traditionalists’ worldview, I decided to take up my cross (ethereal pen) and attempt to answer them. Here goes (in the same order as they appear on the video):

  1. If God is going to be posited as an explanation for human existence, then by what mechanisms, meaning by what activities or actions that are organised in such a way so as to produce humans, did God use, and by what means could we discover those mechanisms?

It would be impossible to understand the working methods of a God who is completely divine, beyond human existence, outside of the Cosmos. What knowledge we can gather about God’s methods, however, can be drawn from what He has left for us on Earth: namely, natural enquiry and Scripture. For instance, Scripture tells us that God made man from dust and condemned him to return to dust after death, and scientific enquiry confirms that when men die they decompose, and return to the Earth. Scripture does not elucidate the exact process by which dust was made into man, but scientific enquiry confirms that the ancestors of modern humans can be traced to a number of intelligent species of the genus homo. Beyond this, even scientific knowledge is limited to theoretical speculation, since precise evidence is hard to come by. In short, we can piece together a rough idea of the mechanisms by which God actualised the creation of humans by using the same methods as one would reasonably expect: by the rational consideration of extant evidence.

  1. Among even the most fundamentalist of Christians there are always people who interpret some part of the Bible metaphorically. Like in the Book of Job, they talk about “the four corners of the Earth”, even fundamentalist Christians for the most part interpret that as metaphorical because we know there are no four corners of the Earth. So when we find something in the Bible that doesn’t necessarily reflect fact when interpreted literally, how can we definitively tell that it was intended to be interpreted metaphorically and is not actually a falsehood?

The example offered by this questioner is actually quite weak. “The four corners of the Earth” remains a popular idiom today, and idioms often bear little resemblance to ‘fact.’ It is important to remember, for instance, that the Book of Job is a poem, its purpose being to present a moral. The book elsewhere presents an allegory of God defeating the sea-monster Leviathan as a demonstration of His awesome power (or a metaphor for His inevitable victory over Satan, under other interpretations). Literary works often employ such techniques. With regards to the exegesis of Biblical texts more broadly, the Church has a rich tradition of patristic texts which serve as excellent guides. In general, many of the Church Fathers were of the opinion that even more “mythical” books of the Bible such as Genesis contained myths and allegories which were founded in ancient facts, even if those facts had become somewhat ‘blurred at the edges’ over time. I am yet to see any good evidence to doubt that the events described by Biblical texts could be both allegory and history. There are plenty of other texts written long ago which historians are quite happy to use as first-hand (or otherwise) sources from which to piece together a vision of the past; there is of course a reasonable amount of circumstantial critique that can be made, but these texts still stand up to historical analysis. It appears that atheists are unwilling to extend this same courtesy to Biblical history, purely because the Bible also functions as a holy as well as historical text.

  1. What are your reasons for not being a Hindu, Muslim, Buddhist, or follower of one of the many other non-Christian faiths? Is it because you’ve devoted enormous time and energy to systematically investigating and debunking all these other religions? If you haven’t done this, how can you in all honesty claim that your religion is superior?

I personally have devoted some extensive thought to this question; it is perhaps one of the most important questions for every religious person to answer. The vast majority of people adhering to each religion in whatever part of the world will do so because they were brought up that way, and this of course has no bearing on the truth-claims of Christianity, or any other faith. The vast majority of people have no time, energy, or even ability to consider the deep theological questions which may or may not ‘prove’ the truth of one religion or another, and one should respect such people; they practice due to a deep inner sensus divinitatis, an inner connexion with the transcendent which many people feel – the desire to believe in a God. I personally am not a member of any other faith because, based on my own experience and enquiry, I am confident that the Christian Bible, as the Word of God revealed by the prophets of Israel and fulfilled by Jesus Christ, is the purest revelation of the Creator of the Universe to His Creation, and I would seek to persuade others of the same. Remember: the Church of Christ is Universal and not bound by nationality or race. Christianity has become deeply culturally important to certain nations, particularly in the West of course, but there is a rich tradition of Arab Orthodox Christianity, African and even as far a way as India and Western China dating back to the Apostolic period. To claim, therefore, that Christianity is a religion bound by one particular culture, and that it is closed to others, is simply untrue.

  1. Why would an omnipotent God require a human sacrifice in order to forgive people for their sins? If this being is truly capable of doing anything, has unlimited power and resources, and is all-loving, why would it require a brutal torturous killing? Why would it need a blood-sacrifice and not simply forgive people for their sins, especially since it knows peoples motivations and judges people according to their intentions?

This is a misunderstanding of what the sacrifice of Christ actually was. St Anselm of Canterburypresents, for me, the best explanation. Firstly, of course God can forgive sins without Christ, He does so regularly in Scripture and He could have not sent Christ at all should He have willed it; but of course that isn’t what we believe, based on the evidence we have. As mentioned before, the reasons for God working how He does is unknowable in its entirety, in the same way that I would not know exactly how anyone else is planning their actions without getting inside their heads; this is even more true when it comes to God, since He is not in any way human or predictable by the same methods. This leads me to my second point: Christ was not a human sacrifice, not in the Aztec or barbarian ‘blood for blood’ sense that this questioner appears to be thinking anyway. Christ is the Word of God, the Logos or Divine Wisdom which the Father sent to be enfleshed with the Virgin Mary, which, when born, was established as the person of Jesus Christ. We also know from the testimonies of the time that Jesus gave himself up willingly to be crucified, and we must assume, since he is the Divine Wisdom, that he knows best. Besides from this, there is a very clear message in Jesus’ decision to willingly undergo a torturous, demeaning, horrific execution. We know from the very fact that God has undertaken the act of creating, as well as the characteristics that He has given to nature and to man that He is good, but we also know from the nature of man that we are prone to evil actions, or that we fall short of moral requirements placed upon us fairly regularly. Only man, who has the capacity for rational reflection, is capable of understanding this moral problem. What better way then, for an infinitely good God to make up for our moral shortcomings proven first by Adam’s disobedience (to use Anselm’s term “the debt of honour”) than for God to enflesh His own Word and sacrifice it, only to overcome that most horrible of deaths, in an act which proves that 1. those who strive to obey the commands of the Word will be sufficiently saved from sin; 2. even the most lowly, humble, and suffering can access that salvation and 3. that salvation extends to all humanity, not only those blessed few to whom God has revealed Himself. Christ saves us from our own imperfection, and by willingly enduring so much pain even unto death, he demonstrates something much more important: that his teachings are true.

  1. A variety of religions, form ancient Greek beliefs and Native American beliefs, both past and current, account for gods which have relationships with their believers and with their servants. Why do you feel like the relationship which you claim to have with Jesus Christ is somehow special or unique, and somehow invalidates how all other believers feel about their gods and their connexions with their gods?

The Christian’s relationship to Jesus Christ is unique, since in no other religion has God Himself bridged the gap between divinity and humanity in quite the same way. It is important to remember that Christ is not a “demigod” in the same sense as in pagan faiths; Christ is rather a person of the Godhead enfleshed. In most polytheistic and animistic beliefs, such as ancient Greek and Native American, the gods behave very much like human beings, susceptible to the same vices and sometimes cruel to the point of wanton destruction. Since these gods resemble humans in all but their metaphysical power, is it not reasonable to assume that at least some of the characteristics of such gods were invented by humans? The God of Abraham on the other hand is morally perfect, benevolent, omnipotent, and omniscient. That is true perfection, and I know of no such human. Is it not reasonable to say, therefore, that the God to whom I owe my obedience and love is truly divine?

  1. In the Old Testament God didn’t like all of the unrighteous people on Earth, so why did God choose to get rid of all of them with a global flood? Presumably he could have made them painlessly vanish with a silent snap of his immaterial fingers, and why, after flooding the whole Earth, did God decide to hide all evidence of his act?

It is rather baffling when atheists make statements like this: “why did God do it this way? Why not do it that way?” as if this somehow disproves His existence. Again, there is no way of knowing God’s precise intentions, and it is curious to assume that an imperfect human would know a “better way” of doing something compared to a divine, perfect God. Nevertheless, Scripture tells us that God brought about the Great Flood because the inhabitants of the world turned away from Him and acted with iniquity. Humans have a sense of justice – so does God; we don’t know what the iniquities were that displeased God, but we can be confident that they must have been rather terrible to warrant such a punishment. Perhaps then, they deserved it (just as humans say that crime deserves y punishment; in some cases even we resort to capital punishment). We know also that God spared the one good man remaining and his family: Noah, along with the pairs of animals necessary to preserve creation. God also sent His sign (the rainbow) to seal His promise to not do such a thing again – a mark of His goodness, one might say. The remark about God “hiding all evidence” of the Flood is strange, or more bluntly, untrue. Even secular historians agree that some sort of ancient flood did indeed occur (many believe the engorged waters of the Black Sea at some time following the ice age caused some sort of envelopment of ‘the Cradle of Civilisation’). We see references to a Great Flood in Sumerian, Mesopotamian and Caucasian texts as well as in the Bible.

  1. Why is it that the believers in every religion in history were wrong about their respective religion, despite having the same amount of conviction and evidence as you do for Christianity? It seems to me that you’re already an atheist when it comes to all other religions in history!

This is a very similar question to Nos. 3 and 5. It is disputable whether or not the statement “[other religions have] the same amount of conviction and evidence as you do for Christianity” is true. As I have touched upon before, many people, even those who live in the simplest of ways have an innate sensus divinitatis, an inexplicable desire to believe in God. Many theologians, and even rationalist philosophers (such as Descartes, for instance) believed that this innate desire was placed in humanity by God Himself. In the 19th century there was a revived interest amongst German theologians in the Urreligion, meaning “proto-religion” or “primitive religion.” This idea was found in the theories of the Church Fathers who believed in the existence of a prisca theologia, an “ancient theology” imparted by God to those who lived before Christ, and even before Abraham. The earliest Biblical Scriptures contain huge gaps, for instance, between the condemnation of Cain and the Flood, between the Flood and Abraham. The precise nature of the worship of God in that time is left undescribed and it is possible (and indeed, strongly implied) that at one point all peoples worshipped the One God, only to be led astray by various idols (one of the first things the Israelites do after leaving Egypt is to create an idol, proving it to be a natural inclination), which in turn became other religions, such as paganism. God then sought to correct this by various means, such as through the prophets and Scriptures. Early Christian writers such as Lactantius, Augustine and Thomas Aquinas note, for instance, that the pseudonymous pagan philosopher, Hermes Trismegistus, came to the conclusion that there was only one God in three parts completely independently of any contact with Jewish writings long before the time of Christ. Therefore, it would not be correct to say that other religious are necessarily ‘wrong’ in purpose – they are certainly right to be directing spiritual attention towards the transcendent, but at best they may have begun practising unorthodox techniques, or at worst have created idols and false teachings for themselves which weaken their relationship with God. That being said, the Church teaches that God will grant salvation to any who accept His grace – those outside of the visible Church (i.e. those not baptised, of other faiths, possibly unacquainted with or only poorly acquainted with God’s true revelations) may still accept God’s grace and be saved. The means by which this might take place, however, are not ours to know, for such matters are between the individual in question and God Himself. When the Day of Judgment comes, some baptised into the Church will be condemned, and some never baptised will be permitted entrance to Heaven. It is a matter for their hearts. The only danger lies in considering the grace of God, or considering a true revelation from God, and actively rejecting Him/it – that is almost certainly a path to destruction, and it is the duty of every right-believing person of God to save others from that path.

  1. If God is all-powerful and all-loving, why does he require blood in order to grant forgiveness? Old Testament or New, someone had to die before God could forgive anyone; human beings can forgive each other without there being a death first, why can’t God?

This question is the same as No. 4. Allow me to clarify, however, that no; someone or something didn’t have to die before God could forgive anyone in the Old and New Testaments. Animal sacrifices in the OT are instituted as votive offerings, which, like many other ‘extreme’ OT practices (such as stoning, polygamy etc.) are explained by Jesus to have been concessions made by God to the people of that age “because of the hardness of your [the Jewish people since Moses] hearts” (Matt:19:8). Christ confirms monogamous marriage, highlights the hypocrisy of extreme punishment, and ultimately saves humanity from the need to sacrifice animals through his own sacrifice (explained above). When Christians partake of Holy Communion every Sunday, the bread and wine takes the place of what would otherwise have been a sacrifice, as the priest says in the liturgy: “Lord, we offer you this reasonable worship without shedding of blood.”

  1. If you’ve never been to the ends of the Earth, if you’ve never been to every planet, if you’ve never been to the corners of the Universe, how do you know that other gods don’t exist?

This is a very strange question. Even if other gods did exist I very much doubt we would find them sitting inconspicuously on rocks at the far-reaches of the Universe, since all deity exists outside of Creation (else they would be created beings, which, if they are the Creators, they cannot ever be). If what the questioner means by this is that the theoretical inhabitants of distant planets worship different gods which might be real, then the answer is the same as that to questions 5 and 7.

  1. There are thousands of other religions out there, many of which have millions of followers, so according to your logic and theirs, anyone who is a blasphemer to your particular deity is going to be condemned, whether that involves going to Hell, or being reincarnated as a less intelligent animal. If your God is real, why is it that he would even allow the minds of humans to be so easily deceived into believing other religions? He essentially would have created brains that can be fooled, and ultimately will send these people down to Hell. In addition, how do you know you’re not one of the people who have been fooled?

This follows similar logic to No. 6 insofar as it presents the “why did God do or allow this?! He clearly could have done better, so he doesn’t exist” line of reasoning, which, as I have shown, is insufficient. Taking offence at, or wanting to limit blasphemy is a natural tendency in humanity, as it protects the teachings of religion (or secular authority for that matter) from being devalued and thus undermined. I will be honest though, if there is a God who is all-powerful, mighty, and the Creator of the Universe, then insulting Him probably won’t end well for inferior beings, aside from just being downright disrespectful – such is common sense. Being ‘fooled’ is humankind’s own problem, not God’s, and as far as I myself am concerned, I am confident that I have not been fooled because I have examined the evidence for Christianity and found it compelling. As for people from other religions who are ignorant of Christianity, however, I have discussed this briefly above. The Bible makes it clear, and the Church has always taught that those outside of the visible Church can still be saved if they accept God’s grace in a way which is acceptable to Him. This means that, so long as he pleases God in some unknown but acceptable way, a Hindu could enter Heaven – but that is for God to know, not me. As for those who claim continuity with the Abrahamic tradition, such as Jews and Muslims, a similar logic applies. Judaism is perhaps the most theologically contentious, since as far as both Christianity and Islam is concerned it has been entirely superseded and Jewish leaders actively reject Jesus as the Messiah. Muslims accept Jesus as the Messiah, but from a Christian perspective they also accept a false prophet who taught heresies about God and His Messiah. If Christianity is true then there will be both Jews and Muslims who are held accountable for these deceptions, just as Christian heretics no doubt will be, but as for the good, God-fearing Jews and Muslims who live their daily lives without giving Christianity much thought, or lacking in proper knowledge of Christianity (often not through their own fault), there is no good reason for a Christian to doubt that most of them will not be condemned by God for not being Christians. So long as one’s intentions are truly good and any faults unintended, one cannot be condemned.

  1. Truth doesn’t fear curiosity, testing, or doubt, which inoculate us against charlatans and scams. But if your beliefs stand up to scrutiny, then why is Doubting Thomas vilified as the ‘bad guy’ for utilising the scientific method, while the rest of the disciples are congratulated for following like blind sheep?

St Thomas is not vilified as the ‘bad guy’ at all. Jesus blesses those who believe in his resurrection without having seen him alive (basically, all Christians since c.33 AD) but he certainly doesn’t condemn Thomas for doubting either – in fact, he encourages Thomas to touch his wounds so that he might believe the truth (John:20:24-29). The idiom “doubting Thomas” is sometimes used pejoratively in modern speech, but that certainly isn’t the case in Christianity, which for the most part encourages the faithful to endure periods of doubt and questioning in order that their faith might be strengthened. Funnily enough, St Thomas went on to be one of Christ’s most passionate advocates, ending up in India, where the communities which he converted became the Indian Orthodox Church; it still exists to this day, and they guard Thomas’ relics.

  1. In Christian theology, there’s one of two afterlives you’ll get in to when you die: Heaven or Hell. Why would you want either of those? You can either go to Heaven and have no free will, or you can go to Hell and burn forever. If you go to Heaven, everything’s happy at all times, which means you’re not allowed to feel sadness, you’ll be worshipping God for eternity, which effectively means you have no will of your own; if you go to Hell you’re going to be burning forever, but at least you have your free will. In both of these you will effectively be a slave.

This is another baffling question. Imagine for a moment that atheism is false, and the insignificant human stands before the Almighty on His Throne of Judgment and says “I don’t want what you got.” Remember what I said about disrespect? If you don’t want Heaven or Hell, I dare say that God will give you neither, but I’d hate to think what could be worse than Hell, because there certainly isn’t anything better than Heaven. Also, there’s no reason to believe that free will doesn’t exist to some extent in Heaven – all we know is that there is no suffering in Heaven; I find it hard to believe that any reasonable person would want to feel sadness, as this question seems to imply. But, I would also like to add: the nature of the afterlife proves nothing about God’s existence, although if there is an eternal Heaven free from suffering and full of love, and there is an eternal Hell where wrongdoers are punished, then that proves something about God’s nature: He is both infinitely good, and infinitely just.

  1. Can a person simply choose to believe in something that they are not convinced of? If not, and God created our brains to require a certain level of evidence in order to be convinced, why has he chosen to not provide that level of evidence, even for those whowant to believe?

Many people want to believe, and I am convinced by theological arguments which attribute this to some sort of innate tendency of the human soul (sensus divinitatis, or Muslims also have a term for it, fitrah). It’s for this reason that some converts to Christianity and Islam alike occasionally use the term “revert” rather than “convert” to refer to themselves, because they feel as though they are reverting to their natural state of being, acknowledging their innate sense for God. For the vast majority of believers, a simple acknowledgement of the sensus is good enough. For the rest of us, it is difficult not to ask questions, and so we seek out evidence. God, being perfect, infinite, and mighty, does not owe us any evidence of His existence whatsoever, contrary to what this question appears to assume – God created our brains, and he expects us to use them. Despite Him not owing us, there is still plenty of textual, empirical (in the sense of personal experience) and historical evidence which points to the existence of a God. I repeat: why is reported experience and written account sufficient to testify to history, but not to God? In answer to the first point, yes, it is possible for someone to choose to believe in something which they are not fully convinced of, particularly in the case of Pascal’s wager. I wouldn’t recommend taking such a view however, as such ‘agnostic theism’ is difficult to reconcile with many of the other supernatural teachings of various religions. I also don’t believe that it is necessary to make that wager, since sufficient evidence exists so as to testify to the truth.

  1. Often, creationists will characterise the Big Bang theory as impossible, since it is something magically created from nothing, but then you have creationists that literally believe a supernatural being created the entire Universe spontaneously out of nothing. Why is the first one irrational, but the second one logical?

It is not only a metaphysical reality, but a rule of logic that ex nihilo nihil fit – nothing comes from nothing. To claim that the Universe “just happened” from a Big Bang is possible, but even the most serious secular cosmologists follow this claim with the next big question: what caused the Bang in the first place? I’ve seen various answers to this question proposed, the most amusing being that the stimulus of “particle winds” prompted a cosmic explosion, which seems unlikely to me, considering that the Universe was void, or focussed on a singularity before the Bang, according to this theory; nevertheless, we end up in the same situation, asking “what caused the particle wind?” There are only two possible explanations, both identified by Plato and Aristotle long before Christianity – either there is a demiurge, a Creator or Prime Mover who was the first cause of everything; or the causation of the Universe is in a state of infinite regress, with each action being linked to an infinite number of causes. If the Big Bang theory is correct in identifying that before the Universe existed there was a material singularity, then it is reasonable to believe that nothing could reasonably have stimulated the singularity into expansion outside of the singularity itself. Nothing comes from nothing, so, there must have been something. That something cannot have been materially connected to the Universe, since the Universe was not yet formed: hence, it is reasonable to assume that there is an extra-cosmological entity which has the power to influence the Cosmos itself. Enter: God. The Big Bang theory is therefore not impossible, but it is overwhelmingly unlikely, to have occurred spontaneously – science shows us that materials do not operate like that. Bear in mind also that the Big Bang theory is exactly that – a theory. It is nigh impossible to prove scientifically exactly how the Universe was formed; all we know is that the Universe is now expanding, and there are extant particles which imply that this has been going on for a long time, and which bear residue from some sort of ancient of ancients high-energy event. If you believe in the Big Bang, you are utilising just as much if not more faith than the average Christian who believes in God.

On a side note – consider the developments in quantum physics which seem to show anomalies in the laws of nature which science rests upon. Cosmological work done in black hole theory has led to an interesting development (which I cannot go into great detail about here) called the holographic principle. In a nutshell, if the holographic principle is true, then there is a very real possibility that the Universe contains information mathematically coded into its very essence about all of Creation before, during, and after organisms are actually alive. If this is true, then there is a strong case to be made in favour of intelligent design.

  1. Atheists get asked all the time what the basis of our morality is. I don’t think you have to have the promise of Heaven to see that doing good is just good. The basis for my morality is simple: I believe that doing the most good and the least harm benefits not only me but those around me. I believe that things like kindness and love and laughter benefit not only me but those around me. However, I also believe that things like judgment, condemnation, and a wilful ignorance to follow something that has no basis in reality is ultimately harmful to me and those around me. What’s the basis for your morality? Is it the Bible, that same Bible that doesn’t condemn slavery or rape? Instead, it says things like “if your daughter is raped, she should marry her attacker” or, if you’re a slave-owner you are within your rights to beat him within an inch of his life. Not one word says that rape or slavery is wrong.

“Doing good is just good” is perhaps one of the most sophistical arguments I have ever seen. The questioner is correct to say that you don’t absolutely need the promise of Heaven to be a good person, but it certainly makes things much easier for most people. Religious teaching adds clarity and definition to what are otherwise vague and frankly meaningless abstractions such as “just do what’s good.” It begs the question, what is ‘good’? I agree that kindness, love and laughter are generally good things, but then again the goodness of these things depends upon how they are used. Without clarity one swiftly falls into the utilitarian trap of having no choice but to say that the sadistic torturer who “loves” hurting other people is doing good because “love and laughter is just good, man.” This sort of definition links goodness with happiness, which is not always expedient. What if the amount of happiness that the torturer gains from hurting others exceeds the amount of pain he inflicts upon his victims? We cannot condemn him, using this logic. Judgment and condemnation are bad when they are hypocritical (Christ condemns these things almost always when they are used hypocritically), but not when they prevent evil. By that logic good people would not be permitted to prevent evil, which is manifestly unjust. For Christians, yes, the Bible is the basis of all morality, specifically the Ten Commandments (which Christ confirms to be the only important part of the Law) as well as the two Great Commandments which Jesus added to the Ten – that is, to love the Lord your God with all your heart, and to love your neighbour. The criticisms of the Bible offered here demonstrate an ignorance of the various Christian moral traditions that are extant. Both slavery and rape are condemned by the Commandments: 1. Rape is condemned by the seventh commandment “thou shalt not commit adultery”, which is a condemnation of extramarital sex: homosexual sex, cheating within marriage, rape of married or unmarried women – all of these things fall within the purview of extramarital sex and thus, adultery. If you’re worried about rape within marriage, then fear not, St Paul helpfully clarifies in 1 Corinthians 7 that marriage relies upon a “giving up” of the husband and wife for each other, and that sexual relations require “mutual consent.” 2. Slavery is condemned by the eighth commandment. The Hebrew phrase “thou shalt not steal” can also be translated as “thou shalt not kidnap.” Since human slaves were considered in proprietary terms there is a clear admonition against carrying off people against their will to be used as property. I understand that the Old Testament contains numerous examples of the Israelites enslaving people, but certainly by Jesus’ time they Jewish people had no such arrangements. In St Paul’s letter to Philemon, he requests that a new member of the Christian community and ex-slave, Onesimus, might be “welcomed no longer as a slave, but as more than a slave – a beloved brother” (Phile:1:8-16). The Canons of both the Catholic and Orthodox Churches confirm the judgment upon both rape and enslavement of others as grave sins, based on this exegesis of the Biblical Law. Whilst it may be said that some of these concessions were made to ancient Jews due to the “hardness of their hearts” it is in fact not true that the old Jewish Law dealt with rape by marrying victims to their attackers. In some cases this was used (and was in fact very common in the rest of the ancient world) but a more common punishment by far was the stoning of rapists.

In all of these questions a few common themes have shone through: repetition of certain arguments, a sense of intellectual superiority when compared to God, and a more general ignorance of the Bible, the historical studies which have been conducted around it, the relationship of the New Testament to the Old, and of Church traditions and influential theologians. Now, there are certainly others far more qualified than me, a humble student of theology, to make the case for God’s existence, and more broadly, the truth of Christianity when compared with other faiths. However, these supposedly “unanswerable” questions lent themselves quite easily to systematic answers. My message to atheists who think that these questions are clever, therefore, is this: don’t pretend that you are scientists, or that science itself somehow disproves religion, or that it cannot ever serve religion positively. Don’t just cherry-pick the nasty-sounding parts of holy Scripture, read it all, learn the context, dip into the history a little more, and read both the Church Fathers and contemporary theologians who present the theist side of the case, rather than just relying on Dawkins’ The God Delusion at every possible moment. I am quite convinced that many of the questioners here have never picked up a book by someone presenting the other side of the case in their lives. There is a widespread and misleading perception that Christianity semantically means Biblical fundamentalism of the Southern Baptist kind.

I also noticed some gaping holes, not just factually but logically, in some of the arguments behind these questions. Some advice to everyone, believer or atheist alike, is to brush up on argumentative reasoning if you are able; I cannot even begin to sing the praises of learning some classical logic. Whatever your beliefs, you will be able to critique your own arguments, and those of others, far more effectively with this tool than with almost anything else.

It is, however, ultimately God who knows best. I myself, unlike Him, am fallible, and so I am always happy to be proved wrong. If anyone would like to talk to me more about Christianity, its truth-claims, its history, or the existence of God more generally, feel free message me directly via twitter.

This post was originally published by the author on his personal blog:

About Alex Illingworth

Alex Illingworth lives in Oxford where he pursues studies in philosophy and theology, having previously studied Classics. He has written extensively on conservatism, and on British politics, and is a co-founder of the conservative blog aimed at students: The Burkean. His debut book in political philosophy "Political Justice" is a forthcoming publication with Arktos Media.

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One comment

  1. Isaac Anderson

    Wow Alex – Are you writing a catechism here? If not, I think you should be! I’d buy a copy for a certainty: I think we have some new Chesterbelloc levels of apologetics & thought going on here.

    A couple of additions if I may add to your excellent rebuttals:

    15. The rape verse – suggesting the marriage of the rapist & victim is a misreading of the Exodus 22:16 passage. It does not mention rape, but seduction. In other words they key aspect is consent.

    And Deuteronomy 24:7 clearly outlines what punishments are to be meted out on convicted slave traders who kidnap others: Death. One suspects the enforcement of that law would have seriously affected the Atlantic Slave Trade

    Also, the continuous discussion on Hell is always noteworthy, and one to which I’d like to add my tuppence:
    If the universe runs on laws (as most Physics & Chemistry professions will tell you), it then naturally follows that if sin is wrong – or rather a conscious act of separating oneself from God as done by Adam and Eve in Eden – why would either God or I be happy to spend eternity in the presence of somebody we don’t like or trust? (I have done so for an hour or two and I can tell you it can be a hell!)

    Further, personal forgiveness and the act of saying sorry does not remove the offence in earthly courts, so it would be incongruous for it to do so in heavenly ones if we are made in God’s image. If “sin” is a natural or scientific law, like those of thermodynamics, once performed it is a one-way act of separation. The key thing is that at great expense to himself, Jesus/Yeshua died to take the punishment for all who sinned, thereby ensuring that if we wished to return to God, we can. According to the gospels, It is an entirely optional invitation.

    And lastly, the Bible speaks to those who have accessed or are accessing it. It would be pointless for it to make moral judgements on those who have never heard or read it as it would be useless for them and unnecessary for me to know about their relationship with God. We read he is a God of Love and it repeatedly says he doesn’t want to send people to Hell.
    One might as well say that Newton is a murderer because his writing down the Laws of Gravity explains why those who fall from heights typically die. Both just put all the facts before us about how the universe was created and it is entirely up to us what course we choose to take.

    There is nothing truly as enjoyably philosophical as theological discussion, eh?