Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Ignorance is a Good Excuse, but we’re not Ignorant!

The Bible has some bad news for atheists and others who claim that they are unaware that they are violating Divine decrees. The late brilliant British mathematician and atheist, Bertrand Russell, had been asked what he would say to God if he died and was asked, “Why didn’t you believe me?”

Russell famously responded, “Not enough evidence, God, not enough evidence.” However, his terse dismissal is directly contradicted by Scripture:

“What may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. For since the creation of the world God's invisible qualities--his eternal power and divine nature--have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse.”
(Romans 1:19-20)

I can imagine Russell’s retort: “Of course, I must admit that we are all aware of strong moral impulses, but how can you blame us if we wrongly ascribed them to mere bio-chemical reactions and therefore didn’t attach much importance to them?”

However, the wisdom of Scripture is prepared for such a retort:

“You, therefore, have no excuse, you who pass judgment on someone else, for at whatever point you judge the other, you are condemning yourself, because you who pass judgment do the same things.” (Romans 2:1)

It’s easy to say with our mouths that we just didn’t have enough evidence, but it’s another thing for our lives and behaviors to agree with this assessment. They just don’t agree. Our lives acknowledge that transcendent, absolute laws exist. This is demonstrated by the fact that we “pass judgment do the same things.”

As C.S. Lewis wisely put it, even the atheist will make judgments like, “Give me a bit of your orange. I gave you a bit of mine!” or “Come on; you promised!”

“Now what interests me about theses remarks is that the man who makes them is not merely saying that the other man’s behavior does not happen to please him. He is appealing to some kind of standard of behavior which he expects the other man to know about. And the other man very seldom replies, ‘To hell with your standard.’ Nearly always he tries to make out that what he has been doing does not really go against the standard, or that if it does there is some special excuse.”

“Whenever you find a man who says he does not believe in a real Right and Wrong, you will find the same man going back on this a moment later. He may break his promises to you, but if you try breaking one to him he will be complaining, ‘It’s not fair.’”
(Mere Christianity)

God’s laws are so persuasively written on our hearts that we can’t but make judgments against others. By doing this, we endorse the very laws or standards about which we assert that we lack the evidence. When we judge others, we are in effect saying, “This is a standard by which I’m judging you!” While our mouth denies this, our lives say affirm these standards.

Here’s the bad news: When we affirm these judgments, we acknowledge that they are just and that everyone, including ourselves, should be subject to them. But there’s also good news. Jesus promised that if we seek, we will find. John extends this great hope:

“If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:8-9)

However, many atheists protest that we haven’t freewill – that our choices have all been pre-programmed or determined by our chemical-electrical neural circuitry. This, I’d simply like to ask the atheist, “Is not then your rejection of freewill and your responsibility before God just a chemical-electrical reaction?”

To meaningfully deny freewill requires freewill, the very freewill that the atheist claims he lacks. Why then take his denial seriously? I don’t think God will.

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