Skip to comments.The Best Argument Against Christianity (No, it's not the problem of evil)
Posted on 07/15/2012 5:53:46 AM PDT by SeekAndFind
A short while back, I had lunch with a Christian friend of mine I hadn’t seen in a while. Roger owns the largest Microsoft consulting company in our area of the country, is a good businessman, and a solid believer.
We got to talking about work and he surprised me by saying “I really don’t like doing business with other Christians.” When I asked him why, he told me that once the other business finds out he’s a Christian, they take what he called “extensions of grace”. He explained that it could take the form of not paying on time, not delivering work when promised, or asking for fee or labor reductions without cause.
Rather troubling to hear, wouldn’t you say?
When atheists and skeptics try to refute Christianity, most times their primary argument will be one of ‘theodicy’; that is, how can an all-good and all-powerful God exist in world that is unmistakably filled with evil. However, the truth is, the Bible never denies the existence of evil and says that God actually uses it to accomplish His divine purpose. The writer of Proverbs says: “The Lord has made everything for its own purpose, even the wicked for the day of evil" (Proverbs 16:4).
Many Christian theologians and philosophers have put forward very sound defeaters for the problem of theodicy and answer well the arguments put forward by unbelievers like David Hume and J. S. Mill in this area. In my opinion, the problem of evil and God is not the number one arrow in the skeptic’s quiver.
If I were asked to present the best case possible against Christianity, my argument would have nothing to do with the existence of evil per se, but would rather zero in on one very sad observation that I’ve made over a number of years:
The best argument against Christianity is sometimes the life lived out by a professing Christian.
David Kinnaman, president of the Barna Group (a research organization focusing on religious trends and information), asserts that the primary issue that today’s culture has with Christianity is that it no longer resembles its Founder.
In his book Unchristian, Kinnaman studied the Mosaic (born between 1984 and 2002) and Busters (born between 1965 and 1983) generations of the United States, which currently comprise approximately 77% of America’s population. With respect to Christianity, Kinnaman notes a growing tide of hostility and resentment, a statistic which is trending downward from a positive study that was done by his Barna group only one decade before.
He discovered that of the non-believers surveyed that were aware of the term “evangelical” (as it relates to Christianity), nearly half had a bad impression, 47% had a neutral impression, and only 3% had a good impression.
Why such a dismal rating?
There were two things that Kinnaman’s study uncovered, and neither had anything to do with the theological teachings or doctrinal standards of the Church. First, unbelievers responded negatively to what they termed the Christian “swagger” – how Christians’ lives don’t match up to Christ’s, and the bark and bite that unbelievers say they see in Christians’ demeanor and actions.
Second, respondents said that the charity and compassion of Jesus’ teaching in the Gospels have been dismissed by Christians in favor of combative and judgmental actions against what they believe to be threats against their moral positions. In other words, as Christians, we have become famous for what we oppose and stand against rather than for what we are in favor of and champion.
Now, let’s pause a moment for a quick reality check. In regard to being judgmental, while ‘Church Lady’ personas certainly do exist in Christendom that damage the faith’s image, it should be noted that history has shown that the world and humanity’s fallen nature will never take kindly to Biblical pronouncements against the sin it cherishes and wants to practice. The one Scripture verse every unbeliever can quote is “Judge not less ye be judged” (Matt. 7:1), but they fail to understand (1) the statement itself is a judgment, and (2) Jesus commanded His followers to judge with a righteous judgment, but first make sure their own house is in order before they go about instructing others.
That said, we also need to swallow our medicine when it’s prescribed. The third most cited characteristic of Christianity in Unchristian is the one that supports my position that Christians are the faith’s biggest anti-apologetic. A full eighty-five percent (85%) of Kinnaman’s surveyed group said that Christians are best known for a hypocritical lifestyle.
How depressing is that? Kinnaman’s finding echoes Gandhi’s famous statement, “I like your Christ, but I don’t like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ.”
Some More Examples
Such a thing makes me think back to some friends who had a house built a few years ago by a homebuilder that went to our large mega-church. In fact, the guy played guitar in the worship band. I can still picture him in my mind singing playing worship songs in front of the entire congregation, his eyes closed, singing away.
The fact was, he was ripping people off by building faulty homes, one of which my friends had contracted him to build. The job was so bad that the local housing authority wouldn’t allow them to live in it.
They took this guy to our church elders who didn’t resolve the situation, so they finally had to take him to the real estate commission that forced the homebuilder to make the house at least livable so my friends could sell it. But, that happened after they lost a ton of money in the process.
And the ‘Christian’ homebuilder? He ended up fleeing the state as others began to come after him. I wonder if he’s playing in another worship band somewhere?
I very much wish such a thing was as rare as hot day at the North Pole, but sadly, it seems it’s not uncommon. While listening to one of R. C. Sproul’s podcasts the other day, I was surprised to hear him say that he has lost count of those who have obtained materials and resources from his ministry, promised to pay for them, but never did. The thought of believers ordering educational materials about God while stiffing God in the process boggles the mind.
I could provide more examples, some of which are personal where I was on the receiving end of such behavior, but there’s really no need. We, as the body of Christ, are showcasing to non-Christians an eye-popping, large-as-life disconnect between what God’s Word says we should look like and what we do look like.
Noted Christian apologist and author Ravi Zacharias says the one question that has haunted him the most throughout his ministry was asked by a Hindu acquaintance: “If this conversion you speak about is truly supernatural, then why is it not more evident in the lives of so many Christians that I know?” In other words, a God who is said to transform should produce people with transformed lives.
This apparently very visible missing element in the Church today has been pointed out by famous atheists such as Frederick Nietzsche who once remarked, “I might believe in the Redeemer if his followers looked more redeemed”, and Karl Marx who turned away from religion when he saw his Jewish father abandon their faith in favor of joining the Lutheran church simply to help his business grow.
“Be Imitators of me”
So how do we defeat what I believe to be the best argument against Christianity?
First, I’m convinced that the modern day Church is pregnant with unbelievers. What’s the problem with that, you ask? There’s nothing wrong at all with unbelievers coming to church, but there’s a very real problem when they stay unbelievers. In our seeker friendly churches, unbelievers aren’t being confronted with their fallenness, need for repentance, and requirement to show fruit as proof of their conversion.
Until they truly encounter God, and pastors/teachers become less like motivational speakers and more like real prophets of God, the Church will continue to be a place where unbelievers come and leave with no transformation having taken place, with the end result being lives lived out that stand in stark contrast to Biblical principles.
Second, true believers need to take seriously the spiritual warfare with which they are engaged. Instead of letting the flesh, the world, and Satan win round after round to the extent that their life appears no different than an unbeliever, Christians need to get aggressive with their spiritual opponents and start living like overcomers instead of being overcome. The writer of Hebrews urges us: “Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us [great saints who serve as godly examples], let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us" (Heb. 12:1).
Third, we all need to re-read Romans 2 and ask ourselves if we’re guilty of preaching things we don’t live out, with the end result being “the name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you” (Rom. 2:24).
Lastly, Christians need to feed the new creature in Christ that is inside them so that new desires spring forth and fruit is born that produces good works that are in keeping with Jesus’ statement of, “Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven" (Matt. 5:16).
I truly believe that when these things are carried out, statistics like those found by Kinnaman will be a thing of the past, and my friend Roger will be happy to do business with other believers again.
The truth is, unbelievers can argue all they want against our answers to their questions, but they simply can’t argue against a real Christian life.
Paul succinctly states both a challenge to and a goal of all Christians when he says, "Be imitators of me, just as I also am of Christ" (1 Cor 11:1). It might cause you to wince a bit, but ask yourself: could you make such a statement to others and feel good about the claim that when a person is mimicking you, they are imitating Jesus?
My prayer is that we can all answer ‘yes’ soon, because the fact is that an authentic Christian life is the only thing that defeats the best argument against Christianity.
David Kinnaman, Unchristian, 2007, pg. 25.
Kinnaman, pg. 26.
Kinnaman, pg. 28.
Ravi Zacharias, Beyond Opinion, 2007, back cover.
In 50+yrs of being in the business world, I’ve never heard of extensions of grace, from anyone, anywhere, anytime, anyplace. Does Roger drink too much?
>>The best argument against Christianity is sometimes the life lived out by a professing Christian.
We never see this hand-wringing over any other religion. Everyone expects Christians to be perfect in every way, but they give the rest of the world a pass. If we aren’t perfect, it somehow becomes “proof” that Christianity is a lie and a scam. Here’s the bottom line: Christians are humans too!
When all the world’s Jews and all the world’s Hindus and all the world’s Buddhists become perfect in the practice of their religions and all of the requirements of those religions, then we can start expecting perfection from Christians. After all, those three religions have been practicing for a lot longer than the followers of Christ.
Unchristian behavior in “the life lived out by a professing Christian” IS evil. Might want to re-think your parenthetical comment in the title.
As a devout Christian and businessman, I ALWAYS adhere to an old rule when dealing with Christian-professing businesses and businessmen..."when they tell you they are Christians, grab onto and hold tight to your wallet."
The problem is not one of Christianity, but one of self-righteousness. While professing Christians may (in many cases) have been given salvation, they are still fully capable of evil and fully capable of ignorance of how evil and selfishness are at work in themselves.
The Lord may one day hold them blameless...but they unfortunately hold themselves blameless right now!
OTOH, the world expects Christians to be perfect because Christ was perfect.
They may deny His divinity, but they still know the Truth in their heart of hearts.
This complaint makes perfect sense when you make yourself and a book you get to interpret the only standard you have to answer to....
Sadly I have come to the same conclusion. I had our house built by a "Christian" contractor 10 years ago who had a good reputation and had built several other houses in our neighborhood. When he found out I was a Christian it seems we hit it off and I felt confident he would do a quality job. We allowed him to do his job and left him alone to do it as much as possible. Unfortunately he saw that as an opportunity to cut corners and our house was not built to the same standards as the others he built for non-Christians. When we tried to get him to come back to correct mistakes he did shoddy work and it was obvious he was too busy. We now have a custom house built poorly with siding falling off. This has spoiled my view of any business that advertises as "Christian".
Thank you. I just restrained myself from posting a couple of stories... (Not gonna change my tagline though.)
Just thank you for your post.
A wonderful article. I enjoyed it.
This is a study done showing non-beleiver’s widespread humanist dark stereotypes of Christians.
None of it matches my experience of Christians. The constant message from humanists to Christians is ‘roll over die.’ They claim Christians make them hate because Christians won’t be converted to humanism.
Found this online:
Abraham lied. Sarah laughed at God's promises. Moses stuttered. David's armor didn't fit. John Mark was rejected by Paul. Timothy had ulcers. Hosea's wife was a prostitute. Amos' only training was in the school of fig-tree pruning. Jacob was a liar. David had an affair. Solomon was too rich. Jesus was too poor. Abraham was too old. David was too young. Peter was afraid of death. Lazarus was dead. John was self-righteous. Naomi was a widow. Paul was a murderer. So was Moses. Jonah ran from God. Miriam was a gossip. Gideon and Thomas both doubted. Jeremiah was depressed and suicidal. Elijah was burned out. John the Baptist was a loudmouth. Martha was a worry-wort. Mary may have been lazy. Samson had long hair. Noah got drunk. Did I mention Moses had a short fuse? So did Peter, Paul and lots of folks.
Our resident Sunday morning optimist! :)
Maybe because the others are false. We don't become Christians in order to be liked; We become Christians in order to abide God's commands, ask for Salvation, and to love one another - and for that we are warned: "And ye shall be hated of all men for my name's sake: but he that endureth to the end shall be saved."
I worked for a large, well-known Christian business. There were two groups that felt entitled to frequent and big discounts. Churches and schools.
Consider that the vast majority of the early planets we discovered around other stars were “hot Jupiters” - Jupiter sized planets well inside the orbit of our Mercury that orbit their stars in days. This caused some people to fret about why the universe is full of hot Jupiters when our planet formation theories suggested they should be rare. The truth is that we were seeing only hot Jupiters because that's all our detection techniques could easily find. In truth now that we can detect other types of planets now we're seeing the universe is NOT dominated by hot jupiters - it was an illusion created by our sampling technique.
There is unfortunately a rare breed of “Christian” that makes a spectacle of their “beliefs,” but in their hearts they are corrupt and dishonest people. They use Christianity to disarm their victims. I've seen it in my personal dealings as well as on TV with a few very visible mega-pastors. The problem is these people are very visible and get lots of press, creating the impression Christianity is overrun by them. It's simply not true. The vast majority of Christians are kind, humble, decent and honest people who would give you the shirt off their back - quietly. These folks are living examples of Christ's teachings but because they do so for the benefit of others, not themselves, they generally stay below the radar. As a result, they are often hard to see even though they greatly outnumber the spectacle Christians.
Bottom line is that those predisposed to find fault in Christianity can easily do so by fixating on the spectacles rather than the humble servants. This says more about the observer than it does about Christianity.
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