Monday, January 21, 2013

Raising Children Without God?- A Logical Christian Response

Introduction
Earlier this week an article made it onto CNN's iReport that has caused quite the furor in the Christian and atheist communities. The piece was originally published as a blog post entitled "Why I Raise My Children Without God." In the post the author explains that she has lied to her kids about what happens when they die and what heaven would be like. She asks why parents should tell their kids things that they don't even believe. She follows that up with seven reasons she believes that teaching children about God is wrong and should not be done.

I want to look at this from both an emotional and logical perspective (in that order). I will respond to all of her complaints and include links to other posts that have more detail. I will conclude by providing Christianity as a viable alternative and how satisfactory answers to those complaints can only be found in Christ.

I urge you to read the post in its entirety before continuing with this post. To prepare yourself to authentically answer the challenges, ask yourself these questions:

  1. Why do you supposed they are so persuasive to others? 
  2. Have you ever asked these questions? 
  3. What effects do these challenges have on you? 
  4. How would you answer? 
  5. If these challenges hold up to logical scrutiny, are you willing to follow the evidence where it leads and surrender your belief in God or would you continue to believe what has been demonstrated to be false?
But First, A Little Complaint of My Own
Before I begin responding to the post, I want to mention the updated CNN producer's note at the top of the article. The note states that many members have flagged the story as inappropriate. No doubt in my mind that this is an effort by some who can't answer these challenges to silence the challenger and stifle logical and reasonable discussion. As I have stated in past posts: Christians, if our worldview is, in fact, true, there is no challenge that does not have an answer. Don't be afraid of the questions. Don't be afraid that others will see the questions. Don't be afraid to look for the answer. Don't be afraid to give an answer for the hope that is in you (1 Peter 3:15). By avoiding challenging questions and possible answers that you may not like, you are purposely avoiding the truth.

One of the reasons that I was questioning Christianity in my younger years was because people avoided my challenging questions, so I assumed they did not have answers. By ignoring and hiding (from) challenging questions, you are pushing people further from the truth.

The Emotional Response
I want to make it clear that there is a logical answer to every one of the challenges presented (I will give them below). But, the person presenting these challenges is not likely against God's existence because of the logic of the challenges. The reason is because of the emotion that is brought on by the challenges. The prominent issue presented in the post is the issue of evil. Why does God allow evil to happen when He is all-powerful and all-loving? Surely, if He was both, then He would not allow evil to take place. Where was God when these horrible things happened? The fact that evil exists seems to be a positive confirmation that the all-powerful and all-loving God of Christianity does not exist.

 I will quickly present the logical answer to this issue below, but I want the reader to understand that when someone presents this challenge, it is likely because of some hurt they have experienced in their lives. As I have stated in my post Can You Argue Someone Into The Kingdom, it doesn't matter how logically solid your argument is and illogical their argument is, the human heart that is bent on rejecting the truth will reject it anyway. Arguments are not a substitution for the work of the Holy Spirit, nor a substitute for you having a relationship with the person and showing Christ's love to them through your own life. Yet the work of the Holy Spirit is not a substitute for providing reasons. They work hand-in-hand.

Now, I will respond to the logic of her challenges in two groups: logical and moral. This is an attempt to keep related challenges grouped together. I will begin with her second complaint because all seven of her challenges (including itself) stand or fall on this one challenge. 

God Is Not Logical?- Part 1
Logic is the foundation for our thinking. When we try to convince someone of our point of view, we offer arguments. These usually have some supporting claims and a conclusion. There are correct and incorrect ways to argue. As Christians we believe that the laws of logic are grounded in God, and God created our brains with the ability to think logically. Those who do not believe that God exists are forced to appeal to evolution as the source for our brains.

They argue that since evolution produced our brains, and reasoning takes place in our brains, that logic is the product of evolution. The problem with that is that evolution is not concerned with preserving what is true about reality; rather is is concerned with preserving what will survive. We have evidence that evolution has chosen a brain that has believe something false for thousands of years- that god does not exist (on their view). This is therefore evidence that we cannot trust our brains to reason towards truth; they will only reason towards what will allow them to survive. Interestingly enough, if evolution is the source of our brains, we cannot trust any argument that anyone makes for any claim- including the claim that God does not exist!

The atheist is relying on an untrustworthy brain when (s)he comes to the conclusion that God does not exist. If they think that they are being truly logical, they must rely upon God existing to make the claim that He doesn't exist. Please note that this response alone, is enough to undermine the blogger's entire post. I go into much more detail on this in my post The Fear of Atheism.

God Is Not Logical?- Part 2
That said, under the heading "God is not logical" the author states that she believes that God is not logical because Christians appeal to mystery- they say that we don't know all of God's purposes for evil, and she concludes that God then does not have any purposes, so why not get rid of it, if He's so powerful and loving?

Her complain simply does not logically follow from her observation. She is essentially saying that because she does not know something that it does not exist. There is a lot that we don't know, but that doesn't mean that those things are not true. I do not know exactly what is going on around you as you read this post, but that doesn't mean that something is not going on, and it certainly is not a valid reason for me to conclude that you or anyone else around you do not exist. When she presents this as an argument, she is saying that what is true is only what she has experienced. This is logically ludicrous and should be rejected.

Who Decides What Is "Good" and "Fair"?
The author presented five challenges:

  1. God is a bad parent and role model
  2. God is not fair
  3. God does not protect the innocent
  4. God does not teach children to be good
  5. God teaches narcissism
Notice that she uses terms like "bad", "fair", "innocent", and "good". Also covered in my post The Fear of Atheism is the issue of morality. I explain that if atheism is true, then there is no foundation for morality that everyone is responsible to. Those terms are all moral terms. Since there is no foundation for morality that everyone must recognize, then what is "bad", "fair", and "good" is up to the individual. Ironically, on this misguided view, the author has no right to judge god's or any other individual's morality. What is right for you is not necessarily right for me. What is wrong for you is not necessarily wrong for me. The author is voicing an opinion, not a truth about reality. And an opinion that can logically be disregarded by anyone for any reason or no reason at all.

The word "innocent" implies that a person has not violated someone's morality. If morality is up to the individual, then everyone is innocent, including the violator (the violator is an individual who determines what is right and wrong for themselves too).

The issue the author brings up regarding narcissism is grounded on the idea that narcissism is bad. I'm sorry, but most narcissists believe that focus on themselves is good. They are individuals who determine what is right for them. So if god wants to teach narcissism, that is his business, not the author's.

Please note that the individuality of morality on the atheistic worldview undermines the validity of these five complaints. They are merely opinions. Meaning further that the mother cannot tell her child that what they are doing is "wrong" without lying (ironically, one of the reasons the author cites to stop telling her kids about God is that she doesn't want to lie to her kids anymore- as if there's something really "wrong" about lying). If the author doesn't believe in God yet tells her kids that she does, she's lying, yet if she disciplines her kids and tells them that something they are doing is wrong, she is lying. She is stuck lying regardless of which way she goes on this. Is it okay to lie about what is right or wrong to our kids? I suppose it all depends on who you ask.

God is Not Present
This one is related to my second response to "God is not logical" above in two ways. The first is if her requirement for someone to believe that someone exists is to see, hear, touch, smell (or even taste) them, then I have no reason to believe that the author exists, my readers exist, or anything outside my range of sight, hearing, smell, touch, or taste exists. She cannot experience me using her five senses; should she reject that I exist?

The second is that just because she does not know God's reason for being hidden, does not mean that He doesn't have a reason. And if she wishes to say that the reason is malicious, I would refer her to the fact that in atheism, "malicious" is a moral term that is only a matter of opinion. Not to mention that her whole complaint is that not being present is "bad"- again, mere opinion.

All Complaints Logically Undermined
I have shown how every one of the author's complaints fail, not on one account, but on two. Defeat by only one account is required to justify total rejection of her conclusion of each argument. Since all seven arguments support the same conclusion, and they have all been defeated on two accounts, atheism can logically be rejected as true. But does Christianity offer something better (logically)? Can someone find satisfaction to these concerns in Christ?

Christianity?
As I have mentioned in my post "Positive and Negative Arguments", just because someone defeats a certain worldview (offers the negative arguments) does not mean that they have presented a case for their own worldview. That must be done independently (offer the positive arguments).

One of the cautions about a positive case that I want to bring up is that people have different concerns. Along with what I said at the beginning about the emotions, everyone has their own standard of what constitutes enough evidence for proof. You may have the knowledge and skill to marshal all of reality as evidence for Christianity, yet a person will still reject Christ.

Now, my two primary responses to this CNN article points out that atheism has no foundation for logic or morality. But does Christianity provide these foundations? Absolutely!

Logic is grounded in God's nature- which is unchanging. God created our brains to be able to reason using logic. Our senses were also designed by God to accurately sense our environment. We can use our senses to learn what is true about our environment. Our brains were also designed to reason logically using the unchanging laws, that are grounded in God's nature, about reality (find truth). Christianity provides a solid foundation, not only for logic existing, but for us to trust that our brains can reason using logic properly. With atheism, neither are possible.

Morality is also grounded in God's nature. God is the moral standard that all people must hold themselves to. Morality, in Christianity, is not dependent upon the person. It is dependent upon something outside of any individual. There is a "tie-breaker" when two people want to say that contradicting acts are moral. This does not exist in atheism.

Christianity gives a person a foundation for reasoning to truth and for making moral judgments. Atheism provides neither of these. If an atheist want to pronounce judgment on God for His decisions and acts, the atheist must appeal to an objective moral standard somewhere...they must appeal to God to judge God. If you want to do more research on Christian Ethics, I highly recommend the book "Christian Ethics" by Norman Geisler.

We must remember that God does have a purpose for our lives that must be completed. Rick Warren actually makes a powerful scriptural case for God having five unique purposes for our lives, in his popular book The Purpose-Driven Life. When we see our suffering and the suffering of others in light of the ultimate purposes, we see that God is actually weaving a beautiful and unique tapestry of our lives. If atheism is true, suffering has no meaning and no value; if Christianity is true, suffering has meaning and value. I would also recommend Ravi Zacharias' book "The Grand Weaver" for more on the purpose of suffering.

Conclusion
Atheist try to bring up many reasons for why they reject God. Because of the fact that reason and morality cannot be founded in atheism, none of their "reasons" amount to anything logical- rather the complaints are emotionally grounded. Taking the philosophical approach that I took in this post is great to use for people who are not asking the questions, but may be shaken by them. However, it will not likely produce results for the person offering the challenges, but I certainly will not discourage one from using them if they think that the person is authentically offering them as logical challenges. We need to pray for wisdom in our approach- God knows the state of the heart (if they're looking for emotional support or logical support), and He can change the state of the heart.

This response was primarily focused on only two of the philosophical issues with the post. I did not cover the lack of purpose in atheism or the lack of value of human beings in atheism. Further I didn't even begin on the theological issues or scriptural issues- the author offered many misrepresentations of Christianity and God that she attempted to use to justify her rejection of God. There is no reason for the Christian to fear these challenges; rather they should have confidence that Christianity can answer them, while atheism cannot even ground them.

Other posts that I think would benefit the reader:
How and Why The Problem of Evil?
Solving The Problem of Evil
Atheism, Evil, and Ultimate Justice

Other responses on the CNN article:
Philosopher William Lane Craig Responds- Reasonable Faith Q&A

On Raising Children Without God- From WellSpent Journey
Why I Raise My Children With God- From Confident Christian