Can a person be good without God?

A common theme among Christian writers is that God is the ultimate source of morality, often called “the moral argument”. Probably the pithiest expression of this idea is from Dostoyevsky’s The Brothers Karamazov, in which one of the characters argues that “if God does not exist, … everything is permitted.” Many readers quickly see where this is going and consider the reverse; if morality is not just a matter of personal taste, then God must exist. Of course this is only a superficial treatment; a more thorough presentation of the moral argument, along with responses to some common objections, is found in the first chapters of C.S. Lewis’s Mere Christianity. It’s available in a YouTube version here which I recommend highly.

However one puts it, claiming that morality comes from God is a good way to pick a fight. There is a widespread belief Continue reading “Can a person be good without God?”

How do we determine historical reliability?

In my previous post, I started to explore the question of “historical reliability” but got sidetracked into a variety of related issues.  To recap, there’s a spectrum of thought about whether historical accounts in the Bible are completely reliable or totally useless, or something in-between.

My own faith in Jesus Christ is built on the Gospels having met, in my judgment, enough of the criteria for historical reliability to make me believe that the main events (the Crucifixion, the Resurrection, the basic outline of His teachings, the idea that He worked miracles) actually happened.  I don’t claim perfection for these documents, but as the phrase goes, if even half of what they said about this guy is true, Continue reading “How do we determine historical reliability?”

Is Christianity easy or hard?

Today is Saturday and this morning my intention had been to sleep late after a long week.  As is sometimes the case, I found myself partially awake (I was going to say half-awake, but upon reflection it felt closer to three-fourths awake) far earlier than I wanted to be and resolved that if I just stayed put I would eventually fall back asleep.  This is indeed what happened, but some thoughts came to me during that partially awake period that remained with me when I woke up for good a few hours later.  I don’t remember the path of my thoughts, but I was thinking about life, and God, and what I should be doing, and whether I should write about it, and my mind was drawn towards this saying Continue reading “Is Christianity easy or hard?”

Should Christians be vegetarians?

Before considering whether Christians should be vegetarians, let’s look a closely related question. Was Jesus Christ a vegetarian?  The answer to one question does not automatically provide the correct answer to the other – for example, one could ask whether Jesus worked as a carpenter, celebrated Jewish holidays, and claimed to be the Son of God (He did, but that doesn’t mean Christians should do the same) – but in thinking through moral questions it’s certainly a good place to start.

According to the Gospels, Jesus Continue reading “Should Christians be vegetarians?”

Is God short of cash?

And I can’t tell the difference between ABC News, Hill Street Blues
And a preacher on the old time gospel hour
Stealing money from the sick and the old
Well the God I believe in isn’t short of cash, mister!

– Bono (of U2), “Bullet the Blue Sky”, on the Rattle and Hum album

I really don’t like hearing churches ask for money. I’ve always thought that if I ever start a church someday (and this is an idea that has refused to leave me alone, despite my suspicions that I don’t have the right skills for such a thing), I would try Continue reading “Is God short of cash?”

Does religion do more harm than good?

I can appreciate the reasons why some find it difficult to believe what I believe, or even to believe in God at all. Throughout this blog, I’ve engaged the big questions around this issue, but in this post I am concerned with a secondary topic. Whether my religion, or anyone’s religion, does more harm than good is a different question from whether it is true or false, but it is important in its own right. Continue reading “Does religion do more harm than good?”

Why don’t Christians just keep their beliefs to themselves?

As you might guess by poking around this blog, I enjoy sharing my Christian faith.  I realize, however, that most non-Christians feel that they have heard enough about Christianity already, and are not eager to hear more.  Because of this, it is important for me (and other Christians) to be tactful and sensitive about the topic.  Rather than talking about God as often as I would like, I need to treat people with respect by taking note of their wishes, and being judicious in terms of when it is appropriate to bring up the subject.  When the topic does arise, I should avoid the temptation to monopolize the conversation, and should make sure that I reflect well on the Gospel by sharing it, as Peter said, with gentleness and respect.

Having said all that, Continue reading “Why don’t Christians just keep their beliefs to themselves?”

Is divorce acceptable under any circumstances?

Many of the social issues in our media and politics today – abortion and gay marriage for example -are topics on which Jesus never spoke directly, at least not in any case that was recorded in the Gospels. Christians can consult other books of scripture, tradition, reason, and experience in order to try to draw the correct conclusions on these issues.  However, without direct teaching from Jesus, there is always going to be sincere disagreement.

One social issue on which Jesus did speak directly, however, Continue reading “Is divorce acceptable under any circumstances?”

Does the Bible support slavery?

To begin with, it’s worth summarizing my understanding of the Bible.  In my view, it is not a single unified book, and not the inerrant Word of God.  Instead, I consider the Bible to be primary source material which, together with conscience, can help us to understand and relate to God to the extent we are capable.  I consider Jesus Christ to be Himself the Word of God (as alluded to in John 1), and the various books of the Bible are  Continue reading “Does the Bible support slavery?”

Are there contradictions in the Gospels?

Yes, there are contradictions in the Gospels.  It is common for atheists to compile a list of contradictions and other difficulties, and for a Christian to respond.  See here and here for a good example of the back-and-forth.  Some Christians will try to defend each and every alleged contradiction as not being a contradiction at all, since they have committed themselves to the proposition that scripture is free from error (I have not).  I think that a fair-minded reading of any of these debates will result in Continue reading “Are there contradictions in the Gospels?”