The Events at VT as Evidence Against Christianity?
This is a response to recent post on an anti-Christian apologetics website. It’s an attempt to use the horrible events of Virginia Tech as evidence against the Christian worldview. Dawson Bethrick writes:
Many Christians have expressed outrage over the senseless and bloody massacre that took place at the beginning of this week on the campus of Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University. But if they are truly faithful to the worldview they preach, why would they feel any outrage at all?
This is really amazing. In this blog an attempt is made to turn a common apologetic argument against Christianity. Normally, Christian defenders of the faith are the ones asking atheists, “How, the basis of your worldview, is murder wrong?” Here Dawson Bethrick (the author) is asking Christians, “On the basis of your worldview, why consider what happened at VT an outrage?” So, the tables seem to have been turned.
The problem here is that his arguments fail, and fail badly, at a number of points. And the errors we run into here hark back to points I’ve made in earlier posts. First, Bethrick seems ignorant of the Bible, especially how the it all hangs together. Of course, this sadly could be said of many Christians. This leads to many references to Bible verses, but always with little consideration for the context in which they appear. For instance, Bethrick writes:
On the Christian worldview, life is eternal. For the 32 victims and the gunman who “died” on Monday, their lives did not really end. They just passed on to the next stage. Biological demise is simply a doorway to a supernatural eternity thereafter. Rather than great loss, “to die is gain,” wrote St. Paul (Phil. 1:21). It seems believers should be rejoicing, if they truly believed, for the god of the bible is glorified by such things.
The lesson of Abraham (cf. Genesis chapter 22) is clear: Be willing to kill.
The lesson of Jesus (cf. the four gospels) is also clear: Be willing to die.
Cho Seung Hui and his victims find their models in the bible, which Christians claim is divinely inspired and fit for us to follow.
Without trying to be argumentative, this is an outrageous twisting of what the Bible actually teaches! Yes, the Bible does teach that once created, the souls of man are eternal. God sustains them forever. But, when the Bible uses terms like “eternal life” is speaking more of the quality of life. Eternal life is life forever in God’s blessed presence. So, while those who are judged in eternity will never cease to exist, biblically speaking, they do not have “eternal life.” (cf. John 12:12,17:3, Rom. 5:21). But, this is a minor point compared to the critical errors made by Bethrick.
Life is sacred because man is created in the image of God. To attack the image is to slander the One whose image we represent. To slander God’s vice-regent is to slander the Great King of the universe. The distinct worth of human life is intimately tied to our position as God’s image bearers. In Gen. 9:6 it says, “Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed, for God made man in his own image.” Notice that the reason for capital punishment of murderers is that man is created as God’s image (and we’ll leave the issue of whether this command is still in play today on the backburner for the moment).
Also, when Paul says that to die is gain, he is referring to Christians. For a Christian to die is to enter into rest with God until the resurrection. For the nonbeliever, judgment for cosmic treason awaits them. Never does the Bible speak of death as something good whether or not the person is a believer in Jesus, as Bethrick’s comments seem to suggest.
And what of Cho Seung Hui and his actions? What about them? “God controls whatsoever comes to pass,” says Van Til (The Defense of the Faith, p. 160). It’s all an inevitable part of God’s plan.Were Cho Seung Hui’s actions evil? The question is irrelevant, given what Christianity teaches. Why? Because “God has a morally sufficient reason for the evil which exists,” writes Bahnsen (Always Ready, p. 172).
Does the Bible teach that God controls all things, including the sinful actions of humans? Absolutely (Eph. 1:11). After all, in Acts 4 we’re told that the most heinous action ever taken, the murder of the innocent Son of God, Jesus Christ was planned and brought about by the hand of God (what theologian John Murray used to call the arch crime of human history). So, Yes, the Bible does teach that God, in some mysterious way, does bring about these things. Ultimately, God’s the One telling the story. But this in no way means that the characters in it (you and I, and Cho Seung Hui) do not commit morally significant actions. And with moral significance comes responsibility. It’s almost as if Bethrick is forgetting the important Christian category of sin.
The gunman’s proper attitude, given what the doctrine of predestination teaches, could only be expressed by one uncompromising statement: “Yes, Lord.” He is only carrying out the ruling consciousness’ will.And his victims? On the Christian worldview, the ideal attitude proper for the believer is one of selflessness. The believer is to “deny himself” (Mt. 16:24), to “resist not evil” and “turn the cheek” (Mt. 5:39), and to present his body as “a living sacrifice,” which is said to be a “reasonable service” (Rom. 12:1). And we cannot call Cho’s victims “innocent,” for – as one believer puts it – “no human being is completely innocent.” …
There is nothing, either in the Bible or in Christian theology, that says that people who do things that directly contradict things that God forbids can appeal to the fact that God has ordained it. Absolutely nothing. In fact, in Isaiah 10 we find the opposite dynamic at work. In this chapter the nation of Israel has violated the covenant with God, and He must now punish them according to the stipulations made in the book of Exodus. The model of discipline that God uses is the nation of Assyria. In fact, in the chapter they are called God’s “rod of anger.” Assyria will defeat Israel in battle as God’s punishment. Now, here’s the interesting bit. Later, in the same chapter, God states that He will now punish Assyria for attacking Israel. Why, because the nation of Assyria, while in one way is being used of God for His purposes, does not acknowledge God, and attacks Israel for its own glory. So, we find a two-level “responsibility” at work, and Assyria is punished because it is a sinful, rebellious nation.
Likewise, Cho Seung Hui’s attack can properly be acknowledged as wrong, sinful, and horrible. Why? Because he explicitly violated the commandment of God forbidding the murder of innocents. The apostle Paul, who himself had an extremely high view of God’s control over all things, frequently condemns certain types of practices, despite knowing that God brought the event about.
It appears as if Bethrick is erecting an argument based on cut-and-paste quotes. He references to “turn the other cheek,” “deny yourself,” etc. are all taking radically out of context. This ties into another point mentioned in the “Pointers” series. Bethrick is launching his critique against Christianity based on what he thinks is appropriate for Christians to think and feel, rather than what is actually taught in the Bible.
Christianity does not teach fatalism, and that’s exactly what Bethrick’s words would lead his readers to believe. Such an attack against the faith cannot be seriously considered. And when I say this I do not mean that Bethrick’s comments are not worth listening to. As a creature created in God’s image, Bethrick’s thoughts are valuable. What I do mean is that this type of argumentation betrays a ignorance of scripture and a lack of care in taking people’s words in context. If I grabbed various quotes from Bethrick’s blog and pasted them together to make him out to say the very opposite of what he actually believes, he wouldn’t appreciate it.