Our old friend Anthony Horvath has figured out that if he does not link to this blog, it won’t generate a pingback that might tip me off that he’s talking about me again. That’s not too surprising, since he’s once again distorting the facts in order to contrive some kind of pretext for accusing me.
Now compare that with an exchange I had recently with an atheist who, because I granted him superhero status and the title “Hyperbole Boy” has concluded that there is no better example of a Christian being unloving, for, after all (and he cites passages), Jesus was so nice. This sort of disproportionate response to what I said is exactly why I gave him the name “Hyperbole Boy.”
This post makes it back on the front page of his blog, which might prove confusing for some of his readers, since there’s no obvious link from the front page to the post where he called me “Hyperbole Boy.” Nor is there any link to the article where I listed some appropriate Bible verses–not surprisingly, since in that post I never came anywhere near claiming that there was “no better example [than Mr. Horvath] of a Christian being unloving.” (Speaking of “Hyperbole Boy”!) I merely highlighted the contrast between the supernaturally-enabled loving and inspired response recommended by the New Testament, and the rather lame attempt at name-calling which was the sole substance of Mr. Horvath’s reply. Nor did I mention anything at all about Jesus being nice. Mr. Horvath just put that there to provide a segue into the argument that Jesus could be just as abusive at times, and even more so.
But perhaps my atheistic friend is unaware of instances where Jesus went well beyond such playful jabs. For example, he calls the Pharisees Sons of Satan and Whitewashed Tombs. In Matt 23 he calls them snakes and a brood of vipers. And of course, we all remember his ‘cleansing’ of the temple- probably twice.
There you have it folks. Jesus’ own example is justification for Christians to employ both verbal and (unprovoked) physical violence as a means of dealing with unbelievers, or even believers of whom they do not approve. Though in Jesus’ case, the abusive response was not his only response. He at least attempted to provide a substantial rebuttal to what he considered to be false teachings.
My atheistic friend acts as though if I had played it completely straight he would have considered Christianity more credible. Is it his view that Jesus was a panzy? Do people find Christianity attractive because its founder was a wuss?
It’s quite revealing that Mr. Horvath equates giving a respectful and substantive response with being a wuss and a pansy. And he seems to have completely missed the point that the most significant flaw in his response is not that it contained “playful jabs,” but that it made no attempt to contain anything else, as has been typical of all his responses thus far. I do not fault him for this lack, however. It’s Christianity’s fault for failing to provide him with any substantive material that could be used in rebuttal.
At the same time, we often hear complaints about conduct in the Bible where people are wiped out and killed wholesale. We aren’t usually given the reasons, but we are told that it is just. This is considered a perfect example of how religion is evil.
More precisely, it’s an example of how Christian morality is just as much a matter of relativism as anything Christians accuse atheists of. The genocide of the Amalekites, for example, is supposedly ok morally, on the grounds that it happened to be God’s will at the time. This despite the fact that when we look at the real world, we observe that God Himself does not actually show up. Men simply attribute their actions to God, or to God’s will, and thereby link their actions (right or wrong) with God’s authority. The Christian morality of a particular behavior is not determined by anything intrinsic in the behavior itself, or in the consequences of such behavior, but is determined by how persuasively the person can argue that the given behavior was consistent with God’s will at the time. In practice this works out to be arbitrary, self-justifying, and a perfect example of moral relativism in action.
Atheists are going to have to make up their minds. Do they want a Jesus meek and mild? Or do they want a Jesus that administers justice?
Let’s start with a Jesus who actually exists outside the stories, superstitions, and subjective feelings of men, shall we? We’re not dealing with a Jesus who shows up in real life and behaves either meekly or aggressively. We’re dealing with a Jesus who universally and consistently does not show up in real life, and with men who, in his absence, tell stories about him that are inconsistent with themselves and with real-world truth. None of us were around when the original Jesus originally walked this earth, so our only way of judging the truth of the Gospel is to see how consistent it is with the truth we do have access to, and with itself.
The truth is that there is a balance. The problem is how do we discover that balance. The argument is over what world view best explains the fact that there is a balance at all. I see no reason at all to expect atheism to explain why such moral realities exist. I expect them only to take them for granted and use them when it suits them to judge God, Jesus, and yes, of course, Christians.
As I’ve explained before, there is a perfectly secular reason for morality, and it lies in the nature of the consequences produced by the behavior in question. Mr. Horvath gives us a good example of Christian moral relativism in action: he has had ample opportunity to observe that there is a secular basis for morality, and in fact Christians themselves appeal to the same, secular system for assessing the morality of things like drug abuse and stem cell research. Yet he continues to try and create the dishonest impression that atheists have no way to explain the existence of “moral realities.” For the Christian, such deceits are not wrong, because they are necessary in order to defend the Gospel. The morality of the deception is defined relative to its apologetic utility.