Sunday, 19 December 2010

Is It Good?

Pastor Terry Stauffer links to This Post... at the The Gospel Coalition regarding the recent debate between former British Prime Minister Tony Blair and renowned atheist Christopher Hitchens. The subject of the debate was whether religion was a force for good in the world.

Which rather misses the point entirely. Whether 'religion' is or is not good for the world is a completely subjective mattter, depending upon one's definition of, "good." Often, in a circular way, one's very definition of, "good" is formed by one's religion (or lack of it) itself.

So Mr Hitchens says, in his opening remarks,
Is it good for the world to worship a deity that takes sides in wars and human affairs? To appeal to our fear and to our guilt, is it good for the world? . . . To terrify children with the image of hell and eternal punishment, not just of themselves, but their parents and those they love?

To which the author of the post insightfully notes,
Behind each of these questions lies Hitchens’ conviction that none of these claims corresponds to truth or reality. From his perspective, there is no deity who takes sides in human affairs or holds people accountable after death for the decisions made in life.

It seems unlikely that he would ask similar questions about hard realities he believes to be true. Is it good for the world to listen to journalists who takes sides in wars and human affairs (as Hitchens has done time and again)? To appeal to our fear and guilt by informing us that unless we prioritize care of the earth, we will be guilty of its destruction—is it good for the world? To terrify children with the images of nuclear war and the risk it poses not only to themselves, but also to their parents and those they love? If good means nice or safe, then none of these topics is good for the world. If good means true or real, then we must address them. (emphasis mine, JK)

I emboldened the section in the quote above because that is exactly what is happening. A recent news story out of Quebec tells of the prohibition of any religious content in government subsidized day cares. But our children are being brainwashed with all sorts of terrifying propaganda regarding global warming, or, "climate change" as it must be called when things sometimes seem to be cooler (like this year in much of the world) rather than following the prescribed pattern. Is that good? I suppose, "good" is decided by who holds the power.

As a sidebar, do I care about the banning of religious instruction from schools? Well, not particularly. The Christian faith began without official sanction by government and it grew very nicely, thank you very much. Perhaps we'll just have to do it again, without a government sponsored platform and even without (my ANiC brothers and sisters?) buildings, at least for a time.

But back to my original point. The question is not necessarily whether religion is good, but should be about whether it is true. In this sense, as I have mentioned before, with thanks to G.K. Chesterton, Christianity is not a religion at all, in the sense that we might refer to all other world, "religions" as such.

Christianity is not a religion as such, but a record, a statement, of facts. Historical facts at that. It is a fact that God created the heavens and the earth, and everything in them, including human beings. It is a fact that mankind then turned away in rebelllion from Him. It is a fact that mankind, ever since, has been trying to reach back to Him, to control Him, to ignore Him, to do without Him, or to reinvent Him in his own image. And it is a fact that none of these attempts are possible. It is a fact that God came to earth in the person of His Son, Jesus of Nazareth to pay the price necessary for the forgiveness of sins, the shedding of blood, in this case His own. And it is a fact that through this sacrifice, we can, through faith in Him, come into a relationship with Him by which we may be with Him forever. That is, enjoy eternal life.

And whether that is good depends on whether or not you believe it. But I would say to Christopher Hitchens what Nicholas Cage said in the movie, "City of Angels,"
Some things are true whether you believe them or not.

And so, all the best to you and yours this Christmas season.

Take Care

h/t New Lumps

3 comments:

David said...

Exactly right: if Christianity is true, how can we not believe it? If it isn't, whether it is good for the world or not, we might as well ignore it and eat, drink and be merry, for tomorrow, we die.

Warren said...

John, I'll be my usual contrarian self.

"Whether 'religion' is or is not good for the world is a completely subjective mattter, depending upon one's definition of, "good." Often, in a circular way, one's very definition of, "good" is formed by one's religion (or lack of it) itself."

In The Abolition of Man, CS Lewis makes a very persuasive case for a "natural law" (he refers to it as the Tao) that transcends and is, in large part, common to all religions. That it isn't nearly as subjective as you suggest.

I would also suggest that a large number of western evangelical Christians believe that religion - specifically the Islamic religion - is the most destructive force at work in the world today; and fear it greatly. In that regard, they would seem to be in Hitchen's camp.

John K said...

Hi Warren,
Contrarian? Au contraire What I really meant that whether one thinks religion is good often depends on one's religion or lack of it. An atheist obviously isn't going to think so. It's all about personal presuppositions.

Regarding Lewis, I agree. I am familiar with the same argument from the early chapters of Mere Christianity