Today, Tom Gilson reviews a couple of books that make the argument that the concept of morality that we have today, which is shared by Christians and non-Christians alike, including atheists, originates from teachings found in the Bible.
If you’ve paid any attention at all to the writings (and speakings) of people like Richard Dawkins and Sam Harris, you’re probably aware of their claims that morality has its source—as does everything—in the natural world. Harris’ latest book specifically argues for a naturalistic/scientific basis for morality. They, and other of the so-called “new atheists” go further and claim that religion—and often Christianity in particular— is actually a source of evil. While many Christians know right off the bat that this is mere foolishness, and believe theologically that morality originates with God, most of us are unequipped to respond intelligently to the atheists’ [often unintelligent] claims. Hopefully these books will help to remedy that.
To grant full humanity: what Mangalwadi called the West’s greatest discovery. It was not to be found in Plato or Aristotle, not even in the Stoics. It came from the One who died for all equally, declaring all equally worthy of life, all equally significant, all fully human. Some complain (for example) that Christianity denigrates the status of women, but the charge is both historically and geo-culturally laughable, for it is only Christianity that has brought a real sensitivity to women into world culture. A great many other claims of Christianity’s faults are in the same category. Not all of them, to be sure: both of these authors acknowledge the human error that has always afflicted the Church. Still, as Hart has pointed out, the conscience by which we name those errors is a uniquely Christian conscience.
As we all know, the mere fact that there is a Judeo-Christian moral standard doesn’t mean that all Jews and Christians can live up to it. In fact, as we know, the gospel reveals that we can’t—that’s the point of the gospel. And, of course, neither can the atheists live up to any standard they set, even the broadly-interpreted “Do no harm.” “Harm” is, of course, open to interpretation. From a Christian perspective, any promotion of atheism or naturalism is doing harm in a spiritual sense.
I don’t know that I will run out and buy either of these books soon; my stack of unread books is already too high (including one really poor excuse for a book that I’m supposed to have reviewed already). But, I tend to have a soft spot when it comes to these kinds of topics… Now that I’ve blogged about them, if I find myself wanting to read more on this topic, I at least know where to find them.