Over the course of this ten-article series, this column has examined a list of questions leveled by skeptic R. E. Puckett in his Yahoo Voices segment entitled "Top 50 Questions Christians Can't Answer." Once a believer himself, Puckett became convinced that Christianity does not hold up under the light of intellectual scrutiny, and that when the curtain is pulled back, the basis of Christianity is a naive optimism that blinds the believer to the harsh realities of the rational world.
When examined, Puckett's questions reveal a number of preconceptions about Christian beliefs that do not match up with what the majority of Evangelicals hold. Possibly most damaging among them, Puckett seems to believe that Christians must confess every sin they commit individually as they commit them, or risk being damned. The majority of Protestant Christians believe that, in fact, the repentant Christian falls under God's grace, and that even when they sin, they are covered by the protection and forgiveness that Christ's sacrifice affords them.
It is with this in mind that a second assumption that Puckett holds is addressed: Puckett seems to believe that, if Christianity were true, Christians should be saintly humans, unaffected by temptation or error. In fact, Christians are as capable of error as anyone. However, a true Christian will recognize and repent of their missteps rather than justifying or defending them.
In fact, Puckett's persistent attacks on the actions and character of Christians is evidence that Puckett himself holds a conviction that humans are prone to bad behavior. If Puckett can recognize that bad behavior exists and should justly be condemned, he has already taken the first step toward a Christian understanding of the world.
In this series of questions, Puckett attacks a wide variety of what he believes are Christian views. It is important to note that even if Christians can answer none of these questions; if they can show with evidence that Jesus actually rose from the dead, the second step of the Christian worldview has been taken.
Puckett himself shows that humans need to be redeemed from their ill behavior, and evidence shows that just such a redeemer exists.
Ultimately, the proof of Christ's resurrection is the single point upon which Christianity stands or falls. Mountains of evidence to support this fact have been presented over a 2000-year span; and these facts require an answer of all who want to disenchant believers. Puckett, and anyone else who seeks to dismantle Christian beliefs need only show that Christ was not raised, and they have accomplished their purpose. No other question need be asked.
Within this list Puckett has criticized drunken irresponsibility, tyranny, deception, divorce, murder, discrimination, condemnation of the innocent, intentional ignorance, and incest. Clearly Puckett has set up a standard from which it is possible to condemn these things, however Puckett makes no defense for his standard of right and wrong. If Christianity is "wrong," it is incumbent upon the critic to show what is "right," and by what standard right and wrong are determined.
Without further commentary, here are the final five question in the Puckett list:
46 - Why does God allow things to happen among his followers that he has already deemed to be sinful, i.e. incest example above, "thou shall not kill" and so forth, and it is alright as long as it is done in his name?
(continued) Remember, more deaths have occurred in history in God's name.
As the second portion of this question has already been addressed in the answer to Question 36, this answer will focus on the first.
A Christian is not perfect simply because they are a Christian:
8 If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.
Christians who choose to practice that which the scripture considers sinful are condemned rather than commended:
6 If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth.
Those Christians who do sinful things are often disciplined by God:
“My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord,
nor be weary when reproved by him.
6 For the Lord disciplines the one he loves,
and chastises every son whom he receives.”
7 It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons. For what son is there whom his father does not discipline? 8 If you are left without discipline, in which all have participated, then you are illegitimate children and not sons.
Christians, likewise, are told to disassociate with and attempt to correct fellow Christians who practice sin:
14 If anyone does not obey what we say in this letter, take note of that person, and have nothing to do with him, that he may be ashamed. 15 Do not regard him as an enemy, but warn him as a brother.
The writer has correctly identified that many people do despicable things in the name of the Christian God, but it is certain that those actions would be abhorrent to the majority of Christians, and that they would seek by all means to disassociate themselves from people who do such things. It is ridiculous to say that because a person invokes the name of God that their actions are certainly condoned by that same God.
“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’”
This shows that these people are ultimately held accountable for their actions. They are not simply ignored or swept under the rug.
In summary, people who practice evil in God’s name are often directly disciplined by God; other Christians are instructed to disassociate with them; and they will ultimately be judged for their actions.
47 - How did Adam live to 930, Seth 912 and Methuselah 969 years old when anthropological evidence shows that we have progressively increased our longevity throughout history?
(continued) If they did live that long back then, this concept would be reversed and our longevity should have been decreasing throughout history, right? That would mean that people 500 years ago should have lived to at least 200 years old. Why do we not find evidence of this throughout written historical birth and death records as well as archaeological and anthropological evidence?
There are a total of three possibilities: The first is that these accounts are entirely fictional. If so, this may cast doubt upon the overall accuracy of scripture, or at least the book of Genesis (already highly contested), but does not defeat Christianity. The second is that the measurements of age in these chapters has been misunderstood in the modern age, and served some other function in the ancient Hebrew texts. The third is that these people descended from the genetically supreme first man and woman, and that their longevity was a result of their genetic supremacy. As the human race has diversified and the gene pool has thinned, the human life-span has significantly deteriorated. The increase in human longevity in recent years is due almost entirely to advances in medical science, not to an improvement in human genetic structure.
48 - God has killed more people than Adolf Hitler, Benito Mussolini, Sadam Hussein, Milosevic, Osama Bin Laden and Jim Jones combined. Why would you not follow them instead of God? Based on this standard, these monsters are compassionate compared to God.
Well, of course, if God does not exist, he has killed nobody; only people have killed in his name. And people could kill in God’s name whether or not he exists. Only a very naïve person assumes that everybody who says they are doing something because God told them to must be sent by God.
Arguably, God kills everybody, or, at the very least, allows them to die. Of course God - unlike Adolf Hitler, Benito Mussolini, Sadam Hussein, Milosevic, Osama Bin Laden, and Jim Jones – has promised resurrection and eternal life; and backed this promise up through the resurrection of Jesus showing that he has the power to do so. Since the average Christian is in no danger of being viscously slaughtered by God, but will certainly die by some means, there is far more risk in not following God.
49 - Why is it that when a Christian is faced with questions that have huge negative implications towards the logic of their faith, they conveniently say that it is in God's plan?
(continued) Is the scope of their own understanding of the religion and God they have offered their souls to so limited that their only answer is 'God's plan'? Judging by the above mentioned failures, God's plan does not seem to be a very good one.
To say that all Christians everywhere throughout time embrace ignorant assumptions rather than to deeply explore and question reality as it relates to their own beliefs seems to be a statement that ignores the mountains of Christian philosophy, debate, and commentary. In fact, modern Western society owes a tremendous debt to Christian thinkers, politicians, and theologians. An astounding number of monolithic intellects have existed and continue to exist that are deeply devoted Christians. To dismiss all of these without even considering the things they wrote and said about their belief is not simply foolish, but intentionally ignorant.
Milton and Dante wrote epic poetry of fall and redemption which remain timeless classics. Augustine of Hippo and Thomas Aquinas formed dense and complex philosophies, the brilliance of which formed the foundation of Western thought. The scientific leaps of William of Ockham, Isaac Newton, and Blaise Pascal practically created the scientific method, laying the foundations of modern science. Pascal especially was a genius who made equally impressive contributions to mathematics, philosophy, and theology as well as being a talented poet. Speaking of poetry, Christian novelist Leo Tolstoy remains one of the most celebrated writer of classic literature.
In modern times, one considers such thinkers as Paul Copan, professor of philosophy at Palm Beach Atlantic University currently holding the Pledger Family Endowed Chair of Philosophy and Ethics as well as president of the Evangelical Philosophical Society; John Lennox, mathematician and philosopher of science; William Lane Craig a philosopher, theologian, and apologist - winning countless debates on the subject of Christianity - whose contributions to the philosophy of science have revolutionized the modern concept of how time and space interact. One might also consider such names as J.P. Moreland, Alvin Plantinga, and Ravi Zacharias; all considered brilliant men in Christian and non-Christian circles, alike.
If one studies the argumentation of all of these thinkers, and is still able to soundly conclude that all Christians stupidly dismiss all criticisms as "God's plan," then this objection might stand.
These thinkers have offered far more considered and deep responses. This does not, of course, prove them correct (at least not without examination) but it does show that Christians are not all mindless followers of a system that is obviously false, and anyone who deems them so is guilty of the same mindless neglect that they accuse Christians of embracing.
Before one attacks Christianity, it is simply a matter of responsibility to examine the answers that have already been given.
It is one thing to toss around questions that question the Christian worldview; but it is quite another to interact with the responses. Someone who asks Christians to take a closer look at their beliefs would be hypocritical not to do the same.
50 - Why would God give us the capability of logic and reason and expect us not to use it when it comes to belief in him and his word?
The one who states his case first seems right,
until the other comes and examines him.
Hopefully, this series of answers has shown that it is possible to use logic and reason in order to defend Christian faith. Rigorous debate on any important topic, whether it be political, philosophical, scientific, moral, or religious, is essential to human progress. For one person to state a case without anyone questioning, examining, or confirming their arguments would allow humanity to be led around by the nose such that progress would be impossible.
For this reason, Christians – who are often intimidated by attacks against their beliefs – can and should interact with these same arguments. If the arguments are sound and undefeatable, Christians must reconsider the beliefs that they hold. If, on the other hand, there are reasonable answers to these questions, the attacker would be hypocritical not to acknowledge these answers and interact with them.
It is easy to tear down a positive belief system and to criticize truth claims. But this is only half of the job. Any person can easily find problems with the government, but this is not greatly helpful if they cannot suggest a superior system of government.
Christianity offers an explanation on the origin, purpose, and destiny of human beings. It offers a sense of hope in the face of death and tragedy, and it creates a system in which human beings have reasons for behaving morally. To yank the rug out from under these believers without giving them some alternative hope, purpose, and morality is ultimately an act of futility. If they believe in error, but the alternative is nihilism, perhaps it is better to let them err. If, on the other hand, there is some system of belief and purpose which is actually true, then it would be far better to teach Christians that which is true rather than to criticize them for being false.