Wednesday, 24 October 2012

Is Christianity too good to be true, wishful thinking?

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It is a fair question - because Christianity promises so much more than any other religion or ideology that the only reason not to believe it is if it is not true.

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But it is not open to you to reject Christianity on the basis that it is incredible, impossible - the testimony of history closes that option.

(And modern economics, science and technology makes no difference whatsoever to the argument.)

Christianity has been believed by greater men than you or I or any alive today; men of greater wisdom, intelligence, experience, goodness, truthfulness.

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It is not open to reject Christianity because it seems immoral, evil, harsh, judgemental, intolerant, repressive or for any other moral criticism.

Anyone who thinks this is simply ignorant of Christianity (as well as being ignorant of the alternatives).

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A rational person would want Christianity to be true. The only question is whether it is true.

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There is substantial evidence of the truth of Christianity, but only if you actively look for it, and the evidence is not overwhelming and can be denied.

Nobody is compelled to be Christian by the evidence alone.

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It is interesting that in the past 200 years (as well as before) nobody has come up with a better offer than Christianity.

Perhaps no better offer can be conceived?

Perhaps wishful thinking cannot imagine anything better?

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There certainly are better offers than Christianity for making a utopia in this world, there are offers for extending this kind of life indefinitely - but in Christian terms of eternity and perfection, these are infinitely inferior to the Gospel message; and leave untouched the ineradicable existential horror of this world and this life.

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If Christianity does not strike you as too good to be true, then you haven't understood it properly.

Christianity certainly is too good to be true in human terms; and yet it is rational and coherent, neither ridiculous nor absurd.

Whether or not it is true is all that matters; which alternative is something that each man can only discover for himself - and intentionally so.

(That just is how things are set-up, for reasons you will understand if you become a Christian, but not until then.) 

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15 comments:

dearieme said...

"Christianity has been believed by greater men than you or I or any alive today; men of greater wisdom, intelligence, experience, goodness, truthfulness." I dare say, but that's true of many religions and of none.

bgc said...

@d - absolutely.

My point was that Christianity is not ridiculous nor absurd (nor irrational nor incoherent) as so many modern people seem to assume; and neither are some of the other many religions and none (actually, although not necessarily ridiculous and absurd, most religions and ideologies are indeed irrational and incoherent).

Thus it *must* be accepted that Christianity *could* be true.

The question is whether it is indeed true.

dearieme said...

"My point was that Christianity is not ridiculous nor absurd (nor irrational nor incoherent)": that's a non sequitur. Great men are perfectly capable of believing something that's ridiculous, absurd, irrational or incoherent. Aren't they?

bgc said...

@d - well, not as a general rule. At least, we should be slow to assume it. I have many times in the past dismissed selective beliefs of great men that I disagreed with as obviously wrong, and have then myself - later - been proven wrong: so they were correct all along. Nowadays I am much more wary of this.

ajb said...

"the evidence is not overwhelming and can be denied"

As a whole, I think this is true. For aspects of Christianity, however, I've come to think that the evidence *is* overwhelming and is denied, because people aren't familiar with the evidence (and don't particularly want to be, as they view Christianity on whole as not that good - as taking away things they value - so why look for evidence for parts of it?).

FHL said...

ooI am surprised by the amount of arguments based on the principle of "This is hard and difficult to take... hence why it is true."

I call it the "I-took-the-red-pill-pride-in-accepting-truth-which-is-confirmed-through-subsequent-despair" syndrome.

The man who suspects his wife is cheating on him is a brave and insightful man, while the man who has faith in his wife is naive and a fool. But if you stop to argue about this, you miss the point: is his wife cheating on him or not? Who is wrong and who is right?

Some men are brave in their self-reflection and some men are naive and foolish in their relations with their spouse. But still- by claiming that all men who trust their wives are naive and foolish do you not turn all marriages into a case for infidelity? Or at least those with husbands who believe their wives are faithful? Where trust exists, so does infidelity- is this what you wish to say?

Who came up with this absurd idea? That accepting evil as necessary was a brave act, and thus (since all “truth” in modern times comes back to promoting our own egos) it must be true?

"Teenagers should abstain from sex until marriage" says the naive and sheltered housewife, who "no doubt fooled around herself when she was their age." But then the teenagers meet someone else who says: "I know what you're up too, I understand what what reality is like..." =the starting point of all "brave men, who truly face reality."

How bogus! I never saw that “romance” movie "Closer," but everything I heard about it was along the lines of: “Oh, it's so great! It's so realistic! No one ends up with what they want, and they're all unhappy at the end! Just like real life!”

Enough of this bull****!

One of the best things I heard from one of our bishops: "Christianity is simple, but not naive." I think that means that Christians understand the current state of affairs concerning the world, but refuse to participate, for reasons which are simple. And their refusal to accept evil is not for naught.

I have more to say but I'm very tired now (sorry for any incoherence, I am lacking sleep...). I will say though that I am searching for a particular video of the late Christopher Hitchens. One where he criticizes Christianity on the grounds of being “wishful thinking” and “too good to be true” as well as “evil and terrible, were it true.” He does these things at the same time, yet for some strange reason, no one seems to notice or ever call him out on it.

FHL said...

Oh, just a clarification: I didn't mean to imply that reality was "easy" or "optimistic."

But rather that the modern outlook is one that prides itself on hopelessness. I dubbed myself "FHL" because I believe in Faith, Hope, and Love; but those things carry no weight and, perversely, they may even carry a negative connotation to moderns.

The world is terrible, because it is fallen. But the modern man is ashamed of his own innocence and prides himself on his understanding evil, while the Christian is ashamed of his evil and knowledge of it and seeks understanding of Good.

(in the King James translation, to "know" someone is to have sexual relations with them... does this imply knowledge is intimate and personal? I would think so...)

Andrew said...

How do you account for the time frame of the message? For (hundreds of?) thousands of years there was no Christ or Christian message, nor Jewish God. Perhaps at some future date the message will again be lost. Is there hope for those to be saved - if not, that does not seem so good.

My beliefs are that the truths of Christianity are perhaps an instance of a more perennial message and an eternal truth shared by others. Not to say "all religions are right", but perhaps that truth was available everywhere at all times. Sorry for any ignorance.

bgc said...

@Andrew - all this is dealt-with in exhaustive detail in traditional accounts of Christianity. There are different ways of explaining the same thing - some linear and concrete, others abstract and philosophical. But the explanations are coherent.

Whether they are persuasive probably depends on how far you are towards being a Christian. For them to be persuasive you need to have an understanding of God like the ancient Jews: a personal God, who loves his people. And an understanding that Man is sinful, but was not meant to be so.

So, for a modern person, what was easily understood by an ancient Jew must be built-up.

The relevance of the perennial aspects of Christianity was of great interest to C S Lewis, who (like me) found himself spontaneously drawn to aspects of paganism; but after becoming a Christian did not so must reject these as bring them within the Christian understanding, as parts of the whole.

bgc said...

@FHL - I pull this excellent aphorism from your comment:

"Modern man is ashamed of his own innocence and prides himself on his understanding of evil, while the Christian is ashamed of his evil and knowledge of it and seeks understanding of Good."

bgc said...

@ajb - Yes. People must be interested enough to seek the evidence, which is much stronger then they suspect; although never utterly compelling (and this by design, for reasons explained best by Pascal in his Pensees).

FHL - "Christopher Hitchens... criticizes Christianity on the grounds of being “wishful thinking” and “too good to be true” as well as “evil and terrible, were it true.” He does these things at the same time, yet for some strange reason, no one seems to notice or ever call him out on it."

Exactly! This is indeed the normal modern position, which is why Hitchens was not called in his illogic, nor did he himself notice it.

Or maybe Hitchens beliefs are explicable if it is assumed (and this pretty much *is* assumed by the Left) that Christianity is the wishful thinking of evil or psychologically-maimed people: a combination of kitsch 'fairy tale' and sadomasochistic fantasy.

JP said...

"Modern man is ashamed of his own innocence and prides himself on his understanding of evil" -- but what modern man considers "good" and "evil" are often the exact reverse of reality.

Atheists gobble with indignation if you point out that a lot of what they consider "science" is actually wishful thinking, and too good to be true.

Anonymous said...

@ajb

Could you give me some books about this evidence? I plan to spend this Christmas reading about that, but they are so many books that I don't know how to start.

@FHL

"the modern outlook is one that prides itself on hopelessness."

Truer words have never been said. Your comment explains what I have noticed for some years.

I too got caught in this trap for decades: since it is awful, it must be true. Since it is good, it is false. A complete fallacy.

You see this everywhere in the Western world. People pride themselves in being cynical and mock every hope (and I don't only mean religious hope). Every person who is happy is mocked. People pride themselves in being pessimistic and nihilistic.

When you prefer pride to happiness, something is wrong. I guess this is the definition of hell: to prefer pride to happiness.

Decades ago, songs conveyed messages of happiness and joie-de-vivre. Now it is only despair.

Our civilization is entering in terminal decline.

bgc said...

Anonymous 15.26 - Thanks for these observations, but in future please use a pseudonym to comment here.

Imnobody said...

Sorry, I am the previous anonymous and my nick is imnobody.

I forgot to sign my comment as I usually do. I apologize.

I don't use a Google account because I don't want to be switching between Google accounts back and forth. This is awkward. It wouldn't be that bad if it weren't for the fact that Blogger makes it hard to do this switching.

But I have seen you have a name/URL option so I will use this from no own.