God Is STILL Good
Continued from the previous essay...
Carrier's argument is based on a definition of Christianity allegedly given by C. S. Lewis in Mere Christianity. We might well ask why Carrier used C. S. Lewis and not the Bible. Most likely because Lewis is often referred to as the strongest counter-argument to atheism. Lewis was converted from atheism to Christianity on the basis of the argument he makes in Mere Christianity. So it's natural that the atheists will focus on Lewis. Carrier didn't understand C. S. Lewis, however, and that is the reason his definition of Christianity is off the mark. What Lewis actually said is this: "Now, once again, what God cares about is not exactly our actions. What he cares about is that we should be creatures of a certain kind or quality-the kind of creatures He intended us to be-creatures related to Himself in a certain way." (Book III, Ch. 12) God cannot simply overpower our will and achieve the end result of the type of relationship He wants. That's why God doesn't do that except in rare cases like Moses, Gideon, and Paul. Later in the same chapter Lewis wrote: "I think that all Christians would agree with me if I said that though Christianity seems at the first to be about morality, all about duties and rules and guilt and virtue, yet it leads you on, out of all that, into something beyond." That "something beyond" is a union of man with the Divine. In the final chapter of Book IV, Lewis sums it up perfectly:
The more we get what we now call "ourselves" out of the way and let Him take us over, the more truly ourselves we become. There is so much of Him that millions and millions of "little Christs," all different, will still be too few to express Him fully. He made them all. He invented-as an author invents characters in a novel-all the different men that you and I were intended to be. In that sense our real selves are all waiting for us in Him. It is no good trying to "be myself" without Him. The more I resist Him and try to live on my own, the more I become dominated by my own heredity and upbringing and surroundings and natural desires. I am not, in my natural state, nearly so much of a person as I like to believe: most of what I call "me" can be very easily explained. It is when I turn to Christ, when I give myself up to His Personality, that I first begin to have a real personality of my own.
But there must be a real giving up of the self. You must throw it away "blindly" so to speak. ... Give up yourself, and you will find your real self. Lose your life and you will save it. Submit to death, death of your ambitions and favourite wishes every day and death of your whole body in the end: submit with every fire of your being, and you will find eternal life. Keep back nothing. Nothing that you have not given away will really be yours. Look for yourself, and you will find in the long run only hatred, loneliness, despair, rage, ruin, and decay. But look for Christ and you will find Him, and with Him everything else thrown in.
To the atheist, humanist way of thinking, the idea of throwing away the "self" is absurd. That's why they don't get it when it comes to Christianity. We can just leave it with something like, "we have different starting points in our thinking and can thus never agree." But we need to dig a little further because C. S. Lewis hits atheism where it really hurts. How is it that Lewis, an intellectual and expert in literature and mythology, converted to Christianity and became one of the strongest apologists of the twentieth century? It should not have been possible. What convinced Lewis was a very simple, yet profound observation about mankind. We have morals. Not only that, but some of us think that the highest moral virtue is to sacrifice self on behalf of an unseen superior being called God.
The atheist view, and the cosmos predicted by the Theory of Evolution, is based on self-survival as the driving force of everything. According to that way of thinking, you do what you do because it either improves your chance of survival or increases your pleasure in life. They even claim that idea as the basis of morality. Carrier writes in other essays that he tries to love other people because that is what he would want, the Golden Rule in other words. That sounds strange coming from an atheist, but analyzed carefully, what he means is that he loves others because it makes him feel good about himself. (That is not the same idea of love that Christianity requires, by the way.) However, morality based on self happiness simply does not work. A serial killer can just as easily say that killing other people makes him feel good about himself, therefore he should do it. The same applies to the "ethics" of a street gang or criminal syndicate. The motivation for love and hate become indistinguishable from each other and neither can be considered more moral than the other. The atheists will no doubt object saying that such a person is abnormal, irrational, or even insane. Really? How so?
You see, if what exists as man is the result of "random mutations" reinforced by improved chance for survival, then ANYTHING that exists in man's thinking must be considered an equally valid variation within the species. What is called normal is a statistical norm, not some measurement against an absolute standard. A given pattern of behavior may apply to only a small subset of humanity, or have a lesser chance of survival and eventually fall by the wayside. Nevertheless, where such behavior exists, it cannot be put into some arbitrary category of abnormal or immoral behavior. But the observed behavior of humanity is that we do, in fact, apply absolute standards to what is moral. Why?
That's the big question-why is it this way and not that? Why should we have any concept of morality at all? If man truly is driven by an instinct for survival, the only "moral" measure we should be able to conceive is self-survival and self-happiness. But we have this strange thing called Christianity that says, "no greater love has a man than this, that he lay down his life for his friends." Again, why? It was the attempt to answer that question that eventually led C. S. Lewis to believe in Jesus Christ. As Lewis put it, no one would make up a religion like Christianity. Furthermore, they certainly wouldn't be willing to die to promulgate it.
Because Christianity claims you should deny the self for the benefit of another despite an instinct for self-gratification, it is a threat to the whole cosmology of contemporary atheism. It means that man can act contrary to an instinct for survival. That attitude should not even exist since we supposedly are driven only by self-gratification. The typical atheist response, therefore, is to consider us Christians abnormal, irrational, or just plain-ol' insane. As already explained, they have no basis in that claim at all. Whatever any man does is part of humanity, and, according to their theory, must have come about by random variations seeking a better chance for survival. In that case, one variation in mankind's beliefs is just as valid as any other. How can they call religion "evil" without contradicting the whole atheistic premise? They can't. How can they call an observed fact irrational without contradicting the premises of the Theory of Evolution? They can't. So, they just call us "insane."
My response to that is, Pffffttttt. Who cares? Calling me names doesn't affect me one bit. For all their supposed reliance on reason and evidence, when it comes right down to it, the atheist arguments against Christianity are nothing more than ad hominem attack. That's a very strange approach for a bunch of humanists don't you think?
So ponder this...
No man driven by a desire for survival and happiness should be able to even conceive of abandoning self-driven desires for the benefit of another human, much less an unseen God. But if we assert that there is an ontologically superior being urging us in that direction, then we have a simple answer to man's innate moral sense. The observed fact that a man will act selflessly for the benefit of another is evidence of an unseen force motivating that man contrary to his instinct for survival. To claim that self-denial is a result of an instinct to survive would be absurd. That motivation to self-denial must come from somewhere outside of man. Isn't that the evidence the atheists keep claiming does not exist? I say it is. Further evidence is shown by the ongoing change in those who rely solely on God's guidance. If I am not self-willing my improvement, yet I change, there must be some external force working on me.
Not only is self-denial evidence of God intervening in His creation, it indicates the nature of God. He motivates us to act for the good of another over self. In Christianity we call that love. Isn't that what atheists like Carrier call good? So God is good after all - but only to those who completely submit to His will.
The rest are on their own.