The technological landscape is an ever-changing one. One of the more obvious areas in which this is true is in the world of Facebook. Those who are subscribers are all-too-familiar with the frequent alterations to the way the social media site works. Sometimes the changes are useful; sometimes less so.
One of the recent and obvious changes to my own experience has been the appearance of popular (“trending”) news articles and editorials on my wall, particularly from South African online news giant, News24. Whenever I log on, I am presented with the headlines of some new News24 material.
I am not sure how generic this phenomenon is, or whether it is specifically tailored to each user based on the information provided in their profile, but in my experience, at least, the vast majority of these articles and editorials have been in some way religious. An editorial that appeared earlier today was titled “Christianity makes you immoral,” and was written by a user calling himself EddyDeepfield.
Eddy is evidently a man with strong opinions who appears to have had some background in a Christian tradition. While he argues for the “immorality” of Christianity quite vociferously, I found myself wondering at several points in my reading exactly where he gets his information from.
Eddy begins fairly enough by arguing that immorality “is to conduct your life in violation of moral laws and principles. It is the quality of not being in accord with standards of right or good conduct.” Based on this definition, he believes that Christianity makes a person immoral.
“New research,” he informs us, “confirms that religions do have an effect on social behaviour.” It is almost as if this is a revelation to Eddy. Evidently no one prior to this “new research” understood that religious beliefs actually contain a moral code governing the conduct of human affairs. Certainly the Bible recognises the practical outworking of religion. “Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world” (James 1:27).
Eddy goes on to equate biblical Christianity with antinomianism, since “the strong belief in a forgiving God and a ‘get out of hell card’ (Christianity) rather than a punishing God, (Islam) leads to a greater tendency for moral laxity.”
One of the early Christian philosophers who recognised this tendency was the “ancient but wise” philosopher Pelagius. He quotes Pelagius as saying, “The Christian version of salvation promoted by Augustine, leads to ‘moral laxity’ as believers are ‘saved’ regardless of their actions as these have no consequences in relation to their salvation.” I’m not sure that Pelagius actually said that; the quote seems to be lifted instead from the Debunking Christianity website. Regardless, the underlying claim seems to be that Augustinianism promotes antinomianism.
The logic is that Augustine’s doctrine of eternal security—that genuine believers cannot lose their salvation—opens the door for believers to live as immorally as they please without fear of retribution. Eternal security “allows one to commit dastardly deeds and then repent ask for forgiveness and go to heaven to be with Jesus in his mansion in the sky.” And so, even if the most hardened criminals “repent, give their life’s [sic] to the Lord, and become ‘born again relationship with Jesus Christians’ [sic] they are instantly pardoned by the blood of Jesus, just as if, they did not commit their criminal acts.” If you wonder whether this is really true, “you [sic] better belief [sic] it because that is what both main branches of Christianity teach and preach.”1 Eddy believes that this is “crazy” but acknowledges that it is quite a “sales pitch” and concludes that it is “no wonder mega Churches are flush with funds, luxury cars, mansions, jets etc. It’s financed by all the indulgences that unsaved sinners and saved sinners have to pay in the form of tithes and offerings. If they did not humble themselves, bow the knee to Jesus and pay up they would be robbing God and rejecting Christ and would not get into heaven.”
This doctrine of forgiveness, says Eddy, has terrible consequences. Because Christians “are not waiting in horror and fear for a ‘hole in the ground’ (hell)” but are waiting, instead, “in hope and expectancy for a ‘hole in the sky’ (heaven),” they feel no constraint to live morally. In fact, it is those whose religious convictions put them in fear of hell who exemplify morality, while forgiveness leads naturally to all manner of debauched behaviour. “When it comes to predicting criminal behaviour, the specific religious beliefs one holds is the determining factor. Criminal activity is lower in societies where people’s religious beliefs contain a strong punitive component than in places where religious beliefs are more benevolent.”
The doctrines of forgiveness and eternal security evidently imply “that people are born sinners and Satan rules the world.” This simply leads to an increasingly criminal society, as “is quite evident in predominantly Christian South Africa.” Religion, he says, “causes many of the negative aspects of our society and I would far rather have reason, critical thinking and scientific knowledge affect our ideas and choices instead of superstition, fear, and the unproven supernatural.” Religion—specifically, Christianity—is “unproven” because “no one has come back from hell or heaven to tell us that they and the devil, Jesus and God are real.” If someone had done so, I suppose, it might conceivably give Eddy reason to think twice.
Imagine a world with out [sic] religion and very one [sic] was an atheist. What would it be like? It is too soon to tell, may be [sic] in a hundred years from now, we would know. My experience of atheism has been good. I am not a Satan worshipper or a God hater (as they do not exist) or a murderer, rapist, adulterer, etc. and have yet to experience the negatives and horrors of atheism suggested by cowardly and jealous Christians.
They are cowards; because they do not have the guts to dump their crutch and walk by sight, they prefer to walk by faith in the unseen and unknown as if it was a virtue; jealous, because atheists have a much simpler lifestyle, whereas theirs is not.
Atheists are not bigots, they do not hate anyone or anything, they are not racists as we all come from Africa, they do not practise elitism or exclusivity, they do not waste precious time and emotional energy on destructive thought processes praying to the ceiling or vegetating in Church or reading the obsolete, primitive, pre science, pre Darwin, pre Higgs boson Bible.
As I read Eddy’s passionate plea for an atheistic society, I wondered where to start formulating a response. It never ceases to amaze me how people who want to debunk Christianity aren’t actually bothered to read what the Bible, the ultimate source of Christian theology, says.
Does the Bible teach that our sins are completely forgiven because of the sacrificial death and resurrection of Jesus Christ? Yes, if by faith you receive the forgiveness that he has made available. Does that give license to live immorally? Not at all!
There may be individuals who profess to be Christian and who live immoral lives. There has never been a shortage of such people. But those who live this way are simply not Christian. Jesus said that it is not those who merely pay lip service to him who are truly Christian, but those who live in obedience to the prescriptions of Scripture (Matthew 7:21-23). James said that professed faith without corresponding works of obedience is dead (James 2:14-26). Paul said that those who refuse to repent of sin will ultimately be judged with the world (1 Corinthians 11:31-32), which means that they were never saved in the first place.
God saves his people on the basis of Christ’s righteousness and not on the basis of their own good works (Ephesians 2:8-9), but he saves them in order that they might produce good works (Ephesians 2:10; John 15:16).
The biblical teaching is not as much “once saved, always saved” as it is “Christ will never lose a Christian.” He enables those whom he has truly saved to persevere in good works until the day they die or he returns (Philippians 1:6). He gives his children a desire for righteousness and obedience, and those who lack the desire ought not to fool themselves that they are truly Christian.
And so, while there are many professing Christians who assume that they are eternally secure because they have paid lip service to Christ, they really have no biblical grounding for their belief. Hell may act as a strong deterrent for moral living, but, in truth, love for Jesus Christ acts as an even stronger motivation for holiness!
Eddy believes that, perhaps in a hundred years, we will know what it is like to live in a world in which everyone is an atheist. That day will never come, because Jesus Christ will continue to build his church and nothing will stop him (Matthew 16:18). In fact, we look forward to a time when the knowledge of the glory of the Lord will cover this earth as the waters cover the sea (Isaiah 11:9; Habakkuk 2:14).
“Atheists are not bigots,” says Eddy. Neither are Christians. Atheists “do not hate anyone or anything” (except, perhaps, Christians!), and neither do Christians. Atheists “are not racists”; neither are Christians. The plain truth is that Eddy has a much distorted view of what Christianity is. And if you portray something as wholly other than what it actually is, it is a rather simple task to criticise and destroy it.
Eddy believes that “religion causes many of the negative aspects of our society,” but fails to acknowledge that, historically, Christianity has been the driving force behind much social good. (More on this, perhaps, in a future post.) South Africa is far from a “predominantly Christian” society, at least not as far as the Bible defines Christianity, and while religion as a category may well be responsible for a good degree of societal ill, to lay the blame at the feet of biblical Christianity is uninformed and unfair.
Eddy has no reason to affirm Christianity because “no one has come back from hell or heaven to tell us that they and the devil, Jesus and God are real.” When the rich man in hell argued along similar lines, Abraham said, “If they do not hear Moses and the Prophets, neither will they be convinced if someone should rise from the dead” (Luke 16:31). The truth of this statement is born out in the fact that unbelievers have the witness of one who rose from the dead, and yet so many of them refuse to hear.
Is a society where biblical Christianity reigns an immoral one? Quite the contrary! Such a society is one in which people are “glad and sing for joy, for God judge[s] the peoples with equity and guide[s] nations upon earth” (Psalm 67:4). Such a society is one in which people do justice, love mercy and walk humbly with God (Micah 6:8).