Going the Distance: How Christ is Central to our Thinking

     Recently I viewed a debate on the topic 'Does God Exist' between Dr. William Lane Craig and Dr. Stephen Law.  Both men are published authors, philosophers, and noted scholars.   Now this type of debate isn't necessarily rare, but it was Dr. Law's particular approach to this question that grabbed my interest.  Dr. Craig always argues in the affirmative for God, and puts forth the notion that the universe is caused and thus has a beginning.  From there he normally mentions the historical evidence of Christ and the multiple attestation of his apostles.  But Dr. Law's defense of atheism was unique to me.  Law did not attempt to discredit the origins of the universe or the concept that there may be some type of deity out there (as Craig mentions, this is quite strange for an atheist to ignore), but rather he maintains that the idea of a Good God is equal to the idea of an Evil God - therefore they cancel each other out.  Let me explain.
    
     Dr. Law advocates a view called the evidential problem of evil.  He says that because we can look around and see bad things in our world, that this must negate the possibility of a good god.  In a way this is the classic Problem of Suffering that has been around for ages, and I think Christianity has a good rebuttal for it.  In fact, most atheist philosophers stay away from attempting to argue against God in light of evil and suffering because it is almost entirely an emotional argument.  But then Law goes on to say that even though we see bad things in our world, it isn't strictly possible to disprove a good god ... so the reverse must also be true.  It isn't possible to prove that there is a good god just from the good things we see around us.  Because a person can interchange the concept of a good god with an evil one, and thus build some kind of an argument in favour of both - there must not be a god at all (as if to level the playing field, so to speak).  Though I think the reader can note some flaws in this thinking on their own (just because you could argue something two ways, couldn't there be a third or fourth way that may actually be correct?), I was more interested in what I seemed to be hearing between the lines.

     Now my next point may seem somewhat presumptuous or even egocentric, but here it goes.  I have noted that a great number of extremely intelligent and articulate thinkers have fallen prey to what I can only term the "glass half empty" view.  In this view, I believe that someone who doesn't know God - and in particular Jesus - will arrive only halfway to the destination for which they are arguing.  In other words, if the arena of philosophy could be thought of as a football field, then Stephen Law put forth a concept that traversed to the fifty yard line, but not all the way to the end zone.  He made a rather bizarre statement that because you cannot prove or disprove the concept of a good or bad god, therefore it is okay to throw your hands up and walk away from further attempts to seek out the god that may actually exist.  Is it really okay to give up on finding God just because it is possible to build an argument that may be interchangeable and fallacious based on evil and suffering?  In other words, it isn't enough to level the playing field by juxtaposing two conflicting philosophies next to each other; we must then move on to attempting to discover what might actually be out there.  It isn't intellectually sound for Dr. Law to claim atheism, but then offer what I can only see as enhanced agnosticism,  and then walk away from the issue altogether.  William Craig picked up on this during the debate, and in fact commented that Law's brand of atheism was indeed peculiar (if it is atheism at all).

     However, the thing I am intrigued with is not atheism vs. theism.  This was just the platform from which I noticed the next concept.  Namely, that without Jesus, we are only ever able to get halfway down the football field.  Never all the way to the end zone.  In Judaism for example one can be very familiar with the Septuagint, but simultaneously unable to see that the entire Old Testament points to Jesus Christ (see especially Scriptures like Isaiah 53).  Another example would be that someone can argue that all truth is relative and morality has nothing to do with God, but systematically miss the notion that morality necessitates an objective good and evil - hence negating any chance for relativism (ie: rape is bad all the time, no matter what a culture or people group decide about it).  Or an evolutionary biologist can argue that love and beauty exist in this world, but that they both come from animalistic instincts preserved through natural selection down through our ancestral lines, but in the same breath miss the fact that love and beauty (in the higher sense) have nothing to do with preservation of the species.  The list goes on and on.

     Like I said before, this line of thinking can probably sound a bit presumptuous and egocentric.  But after all, when we discuss theological ideas during debates with questions like 'Does God Exist', aren't we moving past strict naturalism and entering the realm of the supernatural?  And if so, then worldviews which seek to exclude the historical understanding of Jesus Christ from the outset must necessarily begin with a large disadvantage.  It is one thing to argue for or against God based solely on natural data, but another thing to enter into a debate on God and ignore any or all of the claims of the Bible (and specifically Jesus).   We would find ourselves in effect arguing against something we don't believe in, at which point (I think) we must concede that because we don't allow for Christ, we don't understand Him.  And when we don't understand Him, we will always fall short in our attempt to explain Him away, because every argument against him is a straw man.**  We will only ever get halfway down the football field.  Our glass will always be half empty.

     And so it is that we have this great dilemma.  Those of us that don't know God yet, cannot understand Jesus.  Once we know Christ and love God, the tables turn.  But (and this is the issue) until we know God, we don't want Him.   And this is where His grace and mercy emerge.  Because if we were all left to our own devices and our own attempts to seek Him, we would miss the mark.  We need God because the human spirit needs the glass to be half full, not half empty.  And until this meeting between us and Him occurs, we must go through life being incomplete.  I just wish that the human heart wasn't so stubborn and rebellious sometimes.  The skeptic is an interesting invention, but the problem is that he is proud of the skepticism itself.  By God's grace alone can we move past our Pride and finally into the end zone.


** The concept of the straw man is used in the realm of debating to signify that one side fallaciously manipulates the argument of his/her opponent on purpose, and then proceeds to tear down that phony construct.  My point here is that if Jesus is nothing more than an academic deity to someone, they will never be able to adequately address any argument against Him because they are on the outside looking in.  It will always be a "straw man" understanding of God.



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Comments

  1. Great thoughts...I'm going to have to think about this and reread your arguments. Can anyone really truely ever understand the depths at which both God and Jesus operate? I do believe it is possible to know one without the other or making the choice to know one with out the other.

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  2. Anonymous, thank you for reading and commenting. It is always stimulating to watch these debates. During the question and answer period I also noticed that Dr. Law was honest enough to admit to having no idea as to the origin of the Universe, or the foundation of morality with regard to the human species apart from a God. He acknowledged that there was something indeed unique about humans, as different from other animals (something more than just having a more complex nervous system). I respect anyone's thoughts: but I believe an honest agnostic who says "I don't know", more than I believe someone who says that they are certain God doesn't exist. But both deserve an equal hearing I think, which is what these debates provide.


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