This discussion has grown out of the Does God Exist? prison ministry. For
over 40 years now, we have offered correspondence courses free of
charge to inmates all over the United States. Some 15,000 students have
taken these courses, and many of them have taken our more advanced
course. In these courses we have a lesson dealing with how we make
moral choices. One of the things I have found interesting about this
particular lesson is that inmates do very poorly on that lesson. People
in prison have struggled with how to make moral decisions and have a
poor understanding about how they should do it. I would suggest that
this may be a real factor in their choice of lifestyle, and may be at
least part of the reason why they are in prison.
The notion that there are moral absolutes, and that the Bible has a
useful and functional basis by which we make decisions is ridiculed by
the media and held in contempt by a variety of public figures in
today’s world. In fact, this onslaught against Christianity seems to be
escalating on many fronts. In the past, such abuse has come from
atheist and skeptic magazines and spokespersons. Now ridicule of
Christians is becoming common in other media. Comedians and comic
strips are now running routines and columns that do nothing but make
fun of those who express belief in God. In Funny Times there is now a column
with a four-color comic called “Super-God.”
features a superman-like figure wearing
a cape and looking like an old Caucasian male. The strip makes fun of
any notion of God or of justice or morality.
Making fun of people who believe in God is not new, and attacks on
Christians who demonstrate a high level of hypocrisy may even have some
positive results. Making fun of positions on moral issues is a
different matter. In recent months the Christian view on abortion,
euthanasia, sex, civil disobedience, drug use, and benevolence have
been targets of ridicule and abuse in the media. The interesting thing
about this is that these areas are strong apologetics for the Christian
system of life and moral choices. We would like to demonstrate that
concept in this article by looking at some of these areas of concern
and considering the logical results of the choices people make. We are
simply talking about evidence and common sense thinking in this
As the parent of a child with multiple handicaps, I heard the opposing
views of atheists and Christians and had to make a decision about my
child—and then live with that decision. My atheist friends and family
made it clear that my child was not fit, and in a world of “survival of
the fittest” what I should have done was to abort the baby, or at least
“send him away” to an institution, and go
with my life. My parents even attempted to force
this latter solution, believing that this child would do nothing but
deplete my financial and emotional resources.
There is no question that having a child with multiple birth defects
can exhaust the family resources, and consume all free time. Some
marriages cannot survive such a situation, especially if the home is
not religiously united. People who believe that abortion or
institutionalization of children with multiple handicaps is the only
solution may have the best interest of the care givers at heart, but
this view is based on a lack of understanding of what these children
As dedicated Christians, my wife and I believed that all
humans have incredible value, because they are created in the image of
God. The fact that our child’s soul was locked into a body that had
cerebral palsy, muscular dystrophy, with blindness and mental
retardation did not mean that he was without value. To maintain that
position created great conflict with my parents, caused some friends to
shun us, and consumed a large amount of our time and energy. This
conflict united us as husband and wife, and strengthened our marriage.
It caused us to value our “normal” children more. Our son Tim grew up
to be a gentle, loving, kind adult who has brought great joy not only
to us as his parents, but to others as well. We have developed
incredibly rewarding friendships with other parents of disabled
Abortion and institutionalization are not good answers to this issue.
The biblical system brings good things out of even the worst of
situations, and huge love and meaningful friendships are associated
with kids who start out with major struggles in life. When specialized
help is needed, Christians are usually the ones involved in giving it.
Care outside what the family can give can be a road to independence for
the child. Our son is now an independent adult and is proud of the fact
that he has a level of independence.
Some years ago a man named Randy Becton wrote a book titled We’re All
Terminal. Randy had cancer and was a very young man with a
title of Randy’s book raises an interesting question about the
definition of terminal illness. Many diseases like cancer, leukemia,
and heart disease can take many years before the patient dies. The
question of how to deal with the end of life is heavily debated in
today’s world. If you believe that this life is all you have, then you
will do anything to avoid death unless the pain becomes severe. In
today’s world with the medical knowledge that we have, there is no need
for people to have unending pain, so the question of quality of life
also becomes an even greater issue.
From an atheistic perspective, euthanasia is an individual right. The
idea is that when a person decides life is not worth living, euthanasia
should be an option. Immediately we are faced with the question, “What if a patient is simply depressed or
mentally incompetent, does the family decide if euthanasia is the
answer, or should that decision be made by the doctor?” Countries like
Holland where euthanasia is legal have had significant problems with
these choices, and horror stories of abuse and bad decisions continue
to appear in the media.
The Christian system teaches that man is created in the image of God,
and that the body is the temple of God (see 1 Corinthians 3:16-17).
perspective, death is not the ultimate tragedy.
Euthanasia is never an answer from a Christian view. What does need to
be done is to make the last days of life as good as possible. No
decision about terminating life can be made based upon the emotions of
the moment. Nor can the death decision be made by a disinterested
doctor or a relative with ulterior motives. Abuse can happen very
easily in any decision about euthanasia. If fear of death is minimized,
as we have already discussed, and if family and friends rally to the
terminal individual, the last days can be the best.
When I was an atheist, my experiences with death were extremely
limited. My parents worked hard to avoid death discussions or
experiences. It was not until I was a junior in high school that I saw
a dead person or attended a funeral or wake. My girlfriend’s mother
took me and her daughter to a visitation of a classmate’s father. When
my mother found out about it, there was an ugly confrontation, because
my mother did not want me exposed to “that kind of thing.” Death was
the ultimate tragedy—the end of existence to be avoided at all costs.
The only redeeming part of death was to put someone “out of their
misery” and provide financial relief for those left behind.
When I became a Christian, I had a major change to make in how I
thought about death. I remember visiting a man in the hospital who was
terminally ill. I asked him if I could pray with him, and he nodded
positively. As I prayed, I asked God to extend his life. He interrupted
my prayer by telling God he was ready to die and that he did not want
his life extended.
To the Christian, death is not an end, but a beginning. The older I get
and the more my body aches and limits what I can do, the more I look
forward to death. I do not look forward to dying, but I do look forward
to a new beginning free of the limitations that this life brings to me.
I live to accomplish the things I think God has given me to do, and I
rejoice that I do not have to fear leaving this earth. The Christian
view of death reduces fear, and makes the future a positive thing. What
a huge difference there is between atheism and Christianity in this
area, and how strongly it will impact how we approach the later stages
The changes that have taken place in our culture as far
as sexual conduct is beyond dispute. The Christian teaching that sex
should be reserved for a committed, monogamous relationship is viewed
as an archaic notion in what some writers have referred to as the
“Post-Christian era.” The idea is that we now live in a time when such
beliefs are not applicable. There can be no debate about whether
technology has given people the possibility of being able to avoid
pregnancy or sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), but the rate of
children born to unwed mothers and the rate of STDs continues to be
astronomical. Atheists say this is just because of ignorance and
because people are still following religious beliefs that limit the use
of contraceptives and things that inhibit STDs.
Without even discussing those highly debatable claims, let us point out
that people who only want to discuss the mechanical aspects of sex and
the physical consequences of sexual activity have a very limited
understanding of sex. Sex does not just involve pleasure, babies, and
diseases. The biblical concept of sex is a union of a man and a woman
into a relationship that involves a complete sharing of everything that
has meaning. Our emotional, mental, spiritual, and psychological needs
are met in such a relationship. We are not rabbits, nor are we
creatures of dominance and control. We do not just reproduce or try to
establish ourselves as individuals in a cold survival-of-the-fittest
world. The most meaningful of our relationships come in committed,
intimate, personal relationships in marriage.
When I was an atheist, I made a lot of arguments about
how I was as moral and as law abiding as any religious person. Whether
that was true or not is not the issue. Atheists will argue that if
people do not obey the law, anarchy and chaos will result, so an
atheist will be law abiding and moral. For many, that is undoubtedly
true. When I was an atheist claiming that I was moral and law abiding,
I really believed that survival of the fittest involved being strong
enough and sly enough to do what I wanted without getting caught.
Modern moral theories like existentialism, situation ethics, and
sociobiology allow individuals to violate laws that they do not believe
are valid or applicable to them.
For the Christian who is following the Bible there is no choice about
whether or not to obey the law. Romans 13 spells out
the responsibility of Christians to civil rule. This passage was
written while Christians were living under a totalitarian, abusive
government and yet Christians were told that civil rulers were
appointed by God to minister to their good. Pure Christianity is not
political, and Christians are expected to live in obedience to the law.
There is a practical difference between Christianity and atheism in
this area of life.
One of the major differences between Christianity and
atheism is in how drugs are to be used. Timothy was told to take some
wine for his stomach’s sake in 1 Timothy 5:23, and that
is consistent with the Christian view of the body. The body is the
temple of God (1
Corinthians 3:16-17) and whatever we do should be for the benefit
of the body. Doing anything that harms the body or does damage to the
body is in violation of the Christian system.
From the atheist viewpoint anything that brings you joy or pleasure is
permissible. The only limitations would be not harming others or
bringing harm to yourself. The fact of the matter is that no one can
ever know the long term results of putting a particular drug into the
human body. Any recreational drug has a very high potential for
bringing harm to the body.
If you really believe in survival of the fittest, why would you do
anything that would promote the existence of those considered “unfit”
and potentially reduce the viability of your life? People who are in
need can be identified as the unfit if your view of existence is
totally mechanical. There are those like Peter Singer, a leading ethics
professor at Harvard, who have portrayed human existence in this way.
Atheists usually maintain that they do altruistic things, but studies
of charitable giving and service organizations show that Christian
church organizations do a massive percentage of the giving worldwide.
The fact still remains that the basic approach to giving is radically
different between atheists and Christians. While atheism would
logically discourage giving that might put the individual at risk,
Christianity urges its followers to serve and give as a fundamental
part of the system. Jesus gave the example of service in John 13:5–17 as He
washed the feet of His disciples, and taught about the spirit of
Christian giving in Mark
12:41–44 in the story of the widow’s mite. It takes a lot of
Christians a whole lifetime to learn that it really is “more blessed to
give than to receive” (Acts
20:35), and some never learn it. Atheism would argue that they
would rather receive.
The Bible’s moral code and philosophical foundation makes good sense.
Even those who criticize it admit it will produce good results; they
just think it is too restrictive and confining. The evidence is that
when the biblical system is not followed, pain, hardship, abuse,
frustration, isolation, and indifference result. Our prisons are full
of people who were never taught discipline, self control, or a sense of
absolute standards of what is right and wrong. The inability of
prisoners to do well on questions about the process of decision making
is a testimony to that fact and a lesson to the rest of us.
In 2 Timothy 3:17 we
learn that we have been given the scriptures for the purpose of
bringing us completeness—the potential for perfection. Verse 16 tells us that
the road to the best of everything in life (the completeness that verse
17 talks about) comes through “teaching, rebuking, correcting and
training in righteousness” (NIV).
important for Christians to
insist that we have a moral code that works, that brings the best of
everything to mankind. It is not our desire to control others or
restrict happiness, but to bring the best of life to every human on the
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Does God Exist?, JanFeb 2010.