There’s a debate you can watch online of the Christian Dinesh D’Souza arguing against the atheistic writer Christopher Hitchens on the existence of God. Now I’ve heard many of these same kinds of debates and every time, I keep seeing the same thing happen. It comes from those who proclaim to be the champions of reason.
I heard a lot of arguments from D’Souza on what Christianity has done for the world and how that can be traced back. When we got to Hitchens though, it was emotion. Now don’t misunderstand me. The arguments have the appearance of reasonable arguments, but they are at their core emotional arguments.
Take the argument about all the immorality done in the name of religion. D’Souza does a great job of dismantling that as well as showing the problems of evil done as a logical outworking of the doctrines of atheism. However, the argument from evil is simply a smokescreen from what I see.
Consider the central claim of Christianity. That is that God raised Jesus from the dead. If that happened, then there is an answer to evil. We may not understand it, but it is there. If God raised Jesus from the dead, then there is no atheism. There is, instead, Christianity.
Why is this usually emotional? It’s stemming from that if we can’t see a good reason for why X is allowed to happen, well there must not be a good reason. If someone is debating with me and I cannot tell them why God allowed X to happen, what does that prove? It proves there is no good reason? No. It proves I don’t know a good reason. Now if your only point in the debate was to prove that I’m not God and don’t know everything, then well done, but I would have been glad to concede that.
I also notice that there is never a moral standard given in these debates. Evil is simply taken as a brute fact that must be explained. It is interesting that the same is never said about the good. Augustine said the question both sides can raise. If there is a God, why evil? If there is no God, why good? I would say if there is no God, the question doesn’t even make sense.
There is also a piece of advice I’ve given to others on this. If they are in ministry someday and a mother comes in whose son has died in a car accident and she says “Why did God allow this to happen?” my warning to them is that they’d better not be a philosopher or an apologist at that moment. They’d better be a counselor, a pastor, and a friend.
Now when the emotional shock has worn off, sure. Go into the problem of evil some. (By the way, we Christians need to have an answer for the problem of evil prior to events happening so that we will not be caught off guard and shaken to our core by them. We are better prepared to handle them if we have a place for them in our worldview.)
However, as I look at the end of the debate, one scene leaps out. At the end, D’Souza is talking about Mother Teresa and how she was hugging a leper one time and someone came to her and said “I wouldn’t do that for all the money in the world.” Mother Teresa replied “Neither would I. I do it for the love of Christ.”
It was then that Hitchens immediately gave a “Blech!” and a “Gag me with a spoon!” I’m not kidding. He literally said that and I found that an incredibly revealing moment. It also brings to mind another point I make on the Problem of Evil. Anyone can complain about the Problem of Evil but we must learn something before we complain against it.
We ARE the Problem of Evil.
We don’t like the evil in the world? What are we doing about it? Are we helping to stop it or contributing to it? What about the evil in our own hearts? Are we secretly fostering that while we cry out that God doesn’t clean up the rest of the world. We Christians should be especially aware of this as Peter tells us that judgment starts with the house of God.
My final position is that if this is the best the new atheists have to offer, I believe the new apologists are more than equipped to handle it.