The other day I posted a response to an article written by John W. Loftus, the author of several books on atheism and the incendiary blog Debunking Christianity. To my surprise, he was very quick to reply to my post, leaving several comments, and eventually writing a full length response on his blog entitled More Evidence Christians Just Don’t Think. The evidence, of course, being me. It is not often that one has the opportunity to participate in a meaningful dialog with someone he disagrees with. My hope is that, through this conversation, John and I (as well as our readers) might develop a better understanding of our respective positions. So, with that in mind, the following is my response . . .
To begin with, I noticed that Mr. Loftus, neither in his original comments nor his blog post, addressed my concluding paragraph which reads as follows:
“The Atheist, however, does not have a foundation upon which he might build the argument that anything is intrinsically evil. A physical event–such as the movement of atoms, or the falling of an apple from a tree, or bodily death–has no inherent value. Physical events simply happen; they just “are.” Any value judgment that an Atheist makes about a physical event is totally subjective—for, ultimately, values amount to nothing more than statements about one’s inner feelings (which, by the way, are merely physical events that he has no control of). When Mr. Loftus laments over the death of millions of people—as if death were an objective evil—he is merely sharing his personal feelings. He has no grounds to claim that death is “evil’ in any real sense at all. Furthermore, the Atheist, unlike the Christian, has no ultimate hope. No matter how much power man gains over nature through science, he will never be able to change the fact that he is corruptible, dissoluble, finite, limited, contingent, and mortal.”
I would be interested to hear why Mr. Loftus finds creaturely pain and suffering morally appalling. More precisely, I’d like to know if he believes pain and suffering are intrinsic or objective evils? If so, I’d like to understand how, on Atheism, he justifies this belief? As of now, he has failed to comment on this rather important piece of the puzzle.
I argued that Christians, unlike Atheists, have a reason to believe death is a horrendous evil and hope for a new life and the restoration of all things. I’d like to take a moment to expound upon this. It is because Christians believe human beings are made in the image and likeness of God that we are justified in our belief that human life is intrinsically valuable. It is because Christians believe everything which has being (or existence) is good, in virtue of the fact that God made it, that we have grounds for believing that movement towards non-existence or non-being (i.e. physical death) is a great evil. It is precisely because Christians believe in the resurrection of the dead and in the coming of the New Heaven and New Earth, that Christians have hope. Sadly, none of this can be said for the Atheist.
If God is dead, then human beings are meaningless, temporary, bits of matter with absolutely no intrinsic value or purpose. The pain and suffering we regularly experience is normal and amoral. The subjective meaning that individual human beings ascribe to life is merely an automatic, predestined, physical event (that is because all mental phenomena are ultimately explainable in terms of the laws of physics). Furthermore, there is no hope of ever escaping death–for there is no afterlife and no escaping the reality that we shall forever be finite, limited, dissoluble beings.
Do you get this? Mr. Loftus claims I, and all Christians, “dismiss the pain and death of millions,” while touting a worldview which ultimately teaches us that the pain and death of millions is a normal, amoral, meaningless, physical event and that human life is not intrinsically valuable.
Mr. Loftus states that, “Christians just do not care that people die when their faith is at stake,” but I wonder why it is that he cares that people die? I care because people are inherently valuable (being made in the image of God), and were made to exist and flourish. Death, therefore, is a terrible evil. He cares because . . . well, I’m hoping he’ll tell me why.
Now, there are a host of other interesting things in his article we could talk about. For instance, Mr. Loftus seems to have a limited view of the atonement–assuming that Penal Substitutionary Atonement is the only valid interpretation. Accordingly, he fails to understand why the incarnation, death, and resurrection of Christ are so important in this discussion. At present, however, I think it best to focus on the above topic. Before we can move any further in this conversation, we need to understand why, on Atheism, anyone should be concerned about the pain, suffering, and death of others?