George is nothing if not entertaining. He thinks he has me on the horns of a real dilemma, namely, that either I accept it’s ok to apply capital punishment to a child who curses his parent (Lev. 20:9), or if I don’t, I accept that my Christian worldview is inconsistent and self-defeating.
I’m a shakin’ in my boots.
While atheists may find it odd that capital punishment is applied to a much lesser number of sins in the New Testament after the coming and work of Jesus Christ as compared to the Old Testament, they should actually find it odd, given the Christian worldview, that capital punishment is not applied to any and every sin, whether in the New or Old Testaments. God warned Adam concerning the tree of the knowledge of good and evil that from it “you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die” (Gen. 2:17). God says in Ezekiel 18:20, “The soul who sins shall die.” The point is this: death is the penalty for every sin. Most people take the fact that they’re alive for granted, but it should actually be amazing that after Adam and Eve ate the fruit, they did not die that day. God had every right to destroy the world but did not. Instead He enacted His plan of salvation. He allowed mankind to continue the project of culture and civilization, although He put mankind and creation under the curse (see Gen. 3), and mankind became depraved as a result of his original sin. Mankind was still allowed to live a short life on this earth, relatively speaking. And why? To give people the opportunity to repent of their sins and call upon God for salvation; to allow for the people He would save and redeem to be born; to ensure that His Son would one day be born and accomplish the work of salvation that was set out for him to do.
And why is capital punishment applied to far fewer situations (such as a child cursing his parent) in the New Testament as compared to the Old Testament? It has to do with the “day of salvation” or “year of the Lord’s favour” prophesied by Isaiah and reiterated by Jesus Christ in Luke 4:16-21. This time (figurative day or year) is a further and expanded time and opportunity God provided and still provides for people to repent of their sins and seek salvation because of Jesus Christ. It’s an act of grace and mercy. It is one of the most crucial reasons as to why capital punishment is applied to far fewer situations in the New Testament and beyond. A good example of this occurs in John 8:1-11, where a woman caught in the act of adultery (and thus liable to capital punishment) was brought to Jesus by the Pharisees and scribes. They asked Jesus concerning the very same thing that George is asking me about a child cursing his parents: “In the Law, Moses commanded us to stone such a woman. Now what do you say?” (Interestingly, the following verse says, “They were using the question as a trap, in order to have a basis for accusing him”). Jesus said, “If any one of you is without sin, let him be the first to throw a stone at her.” Notice that Jesus did not say that the law of Moses was invalid. Rather, he shed light on the motivation behind what the Pharisees (and George) were trying to do, and to show them what their standing before God really is, namely, that everyone deserves death for their sin.
Now, I have been patient and forbearing in giving a response to George about the Christian worldview and the teaching of the Bible. It’s time for me to turn my sights on him.
George, as an atheist, cannot account for how God or myself might be wrong. For him, morality is subjective, that is, it’s a matter of personal opinion. Of course, if that’s true then there really is no such thing as right and wrong – it’s just one person’s opinion vs. another. And if morality is not objective, as it is in the Christian worldview, then rationality is not even possible since no one is obligated to reason according to the truth or communicative truthfully. There’s no obligation to do that unless it’s your personal opinion – but even then we know that people can be wrong. But how do you know if someone’s wrong if no one is obligated to be right?
Should a person have a worldview that’s coherent and consistent, as George says I should (and I agree)? If morality is subjective then no one’s under obligation to do that. But in the Christian worldview, people are obligated to be coherent and consistent. That’s why I argue that George’s argument against me proves Christianity, since he is presupposing that I must be consistent and coherent, which is a Christian position. But it’s a position that atheists cannot account for since, in their worldview, no one has any objective moral obligations. George has to presuppose the truth of Christianity in order to attack it, and thus he unwittingly proves Christianity.
And what of the laws of logic? George may want to charge me with being irrational or illogical. But according to what standard or standards does he make that judgement? According to the laws of logic? Do people have an objective moral obligation to abide by the laws of logic? Or is that just a matter of personal opinion? If you’re an atheist, how do you account for the laws of logic? Are they immaterial or material? If they’re immaterial, how do you make sense of that if you’re an empiricist or materialist? Are the laws of logic abstract? Are they just electro-chemical processes that happen in the brain? Do any two people have the exact same brain? Are they just a matter of convention? If so, why am I morally obligated to follow the convention? If they’re a matter of convention, then why can’t anyone adopt whatever convention they feel like? And if they’re not a matter of convention, then how does the atheist prove this? If rationality is measured against the laws of logic, then shouldn’t they be objective, immutable and universal? But if the laws of logic can change, whether over time or from one place to another, then why should anyone reason according to the laws of logic? How does the atheist prove that the laws of logic were the same many years ago as they are today? How does he know they’ll be the same in the future? And if he doesn’t know whether the laws of logic are constant, then why even bother reasoning according to them?
These questions about the laws of logic are not a side show. If George wishes to employ the laws of logic against me or the Christian position, then he better have a pretty good answer concerning them, or else he should stop using them. But in the atheist worldview, are you really morally obligated to do that, one way or the other? What is rationality if it's not based on universal and invariant laws?