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🦃Thanksgiving, Gratitude, And The Case For Christianity✝️

The very origin and existence of gratitude provide evidence of the truth of Christianity.


Is it possible that gratitude points to the true worldview? I believe so; in fact, I believe that gratitude's origin, practice, and acceptance as true all help to eliminate certain worldviews and is strongly supported by another one. Everything from the origin of gratitude to its practice in everyday life points to the truth of the Christian worldview. Allow me to explain.

Origins and Survival of Gratitude

It is quite a challenge for gratitude to take hold in a culture of organisms that are fighting for the existential survival of the fittest among the individuals. Gratitude may be shown to another party in multiple ways, usually involving the giving of some resource, to the disadvantage of the grateful party. If the other party does not see value in the gratitude, they may respond by further reducing the grateful party's resources to the point of elimination of that party. Given simple survival-of-the-fittest naturalism, gratitude did not stand a chance to survive as a characteristic of the "fittest" of organisms. 

Gratitude, from a naturalistic evolutionary psychological point of view, does not have a chance to originate, must less survive. The fact that gratitude has survived and is commonly extended and accepted by parties today indicates that there were more than just naturalistic mechanisms involved in its origin and survival. If more than naturalism is required for gratitude, then naturalism (atheism) has been eliminated as a viable explanation for the world that we see and experience every day. I go into more detail on this in my post "Thanksgiving, Evolution, and Design."

Gratitude Requires Agency

In that post, I explain that gratitude requires two subjects: the one communicating gratitude and the one the gratitude is communicated to. Both of these subjects must be free agents capable of choosing to (or not to) extend and accept the gratitude. Naturalism does not have the resources for agents to truly exist- all "agents" in naturalism are ultimately just different configurations of deterministically controlled (no free choice at all) matter, thus all gratitude (extended or accepted) is robotic and not true or authentic. Ultimately, if naturalism is true, not only is the environment antagonistic for gratitude's origin (and survival), gratitude is not truly extended or accepted anyway.

The fact that we all know that we have a free choice to authentically extend gratitude and a free choice to authentically accept gratitude tells us that agents exist and that naturalism is, therefore, false. In his book "Agents Under Fire," philosopher of mind Dr. Angus Menuge goes into great detail about the current state of the debate over the existence of actual agents in reality and naturalists' attempts to explain their existence. See my review of the book here: Book Review: Agents Under Fire. Ultimately, naturalism only has room for imitations (no matter how sophisticated) of free will and thus it only has room for imitations (no matter how sophisticated) of gratitude.

The Morality of Gratitude

Most people would grant that it is better to be grateful than to not be grateful. This "better" judgement is not merely understood to be a judgement of practicality; it is understood to be a judgement of morality. There is a clear distinction between practicality and morality that people generally recognize, and gratitude (independent of a practicality judgement) is understood to have a "good" moral judgement. And this judgement is not just a subjective opinion about morality but an objective claim that is independent of how many people do claim or do believe it or do not claim or do not believe it.

If naturalism is true, then all morality reduces to practicality, and practicality and morality ultimately are not independent of or even distinct from one another. On naturalism, the "moral" status of a specific instance of offering gratitude is necessarily dependent upon its practical implications. Which means that if showing gratitude could result in negative effects on the one showing the gratitude (such as in gratitude's natural origins), then it is judged to be immoral. But most people understand that showing gratitude is never immoral. And since naturalism does not allow for such a judgement, naturalism is defeated on this third count.

But That's Not All!

Naturalism is not the only worldview defeated by these three tests of reality. Any worldview that denies the existence of free will and/or agents is defeated (this would include worldviews like atheism, Buddhism, deism, and some forms of theism that deny free will). Any worldview that does not allow for the distinction between practicality and morality is also defeated (this would include atheism, pantheism, panentheism, new age and other occultic worldviews). And the most sweeping test of the three: Any worldview that posits a naturalistic origin of human psychology is defeated (this would be all non-theistic worldviews). When taken together, every atheistic, pantheistic, deistic, and deterministic worldview is removed from the table of possibility by the existence of gratitude.

What Is Left?

Ultimately, Christianity is the only worldview that escapes all three of these severe tests. But it is not always enough to merely exercise the use of the process of elimination to arrive at the final answer. We need to positively identify Christianity as the correct worldview to explain the existence of true, authentic gratitude.

First, let's examine where we left off: the distinction between practicality and morality. Practicality is a judgement based upon something's ability to bring a purpose or goal closer to fruition. Something is said to be "good" if it brings the goal closer, and it is said to be "bad" or "evil" if it moves the goal further away. An example would be a "good" move in the game of Chess would bring the player closer to check-mating his or her opponent. The philosophical term for these is "teleology;" it is a judgement based upon a purpose. Morality (that is the philosophical term, by the way), on the other hand is a judgement of intrinsic right and wrong that is independent of teleological implications. For instance, it is morally good (right) to run into a burning house to save the life of a stranger's child even if it would result in the (practical) loss of our own life. Self-sacrifice is morally good despite its teleological wrongness.

However, without some objective standard by which to judge right and wrong, there is only subjective or relative opinion, which ultimately would lead to "might makes right." With Christianity, God is the standard by which moral judgments are made. This standard is independent of how many of whoever believes whichever way. If one society believes that murder is good and another believes that it is evil, the objective standard of God's nature allows us to know which society is right and which is wrong. This video from Reasonable Faith helps to explain morality:

Last year I came across an article about a study that empirically demonstrates seven benefits of gratitude. The problem for the atheist (or agnostic or skeptic) is that unless Christianity is true, gratitude is nothing more than a generally "useful fiction"- evolution has preserved those who embrace falsehood in order to survive not those who embrace truth. If your intellectual goal is to go beyond what simply works to what is true, then Christianity is the only worldview that makes sense of all the evidence, including the ability to make sense of evidence (philosopher Alvin Plantinga goes into great detail on this implication in his book "Where the Conflict Really Lies"). I like how Os Guiness explains the reality that we experience and how it relates to the truth of Christianity: 


Christianity is not true because gratitude works; gratitude works because Christianity is true. Gratitude merely reflects this reality. If you understand the value of gratitude, it is time to take your understanding of it beyond mere pragmatism to discover its foundation and why it works. As we move into the Christmas season it is the most appropriate time to investigate the evidence for the truth of Christianity. Start with investigating the linchpin of Christianity: the claim of the historical resurrection of Jesus Christ. Here is a post that provides an overview of the evidence: Did the Historical Jesus Really Rise From The Dead? I encourage you to also follow the links contained in the post to dig deeper into the details of the evidence.