Here are my responses to questions 13-17 of Thomas Swan’s 40 Questions to Ask a Christian. For answers to questions 1-12, scroll down or click here.
13. If organized religion requires a civilization in which to spread, how could this civilization exist without first having a moral code to make us civil?
There never was a time (or place) when human beings lived together without a moral code. It’s never a question of whether a civilization has a moral code or not, but which moral code it will have. As mentioned in answer to question 12, the image of God in man guarantees an inescapable knowledge of the basics of good and evil. Individuals and societies alike either conform or fail to conform to this innate moral knowledge.
The question an atheist has to answer is this: If God doesn’t exist, how can there be any such thing as morality? Don’t misunderstand me. I am not saying that an atheist cannot act morally. I am saying that in a world where God does not exist, there can be no such category as morality. There can be personal preferences and wishes and likes and dislikes of certain human behavior. But nothing can ever really be said to be right or wrong. These are meaningless concepts, mere words. In an atheist world there is no ought. There is only is. An atheist cannot say for instance that the holocaust was wrong. He can say he doesn’t like the idea of killing Jews. He can say that he would prefer that it not be a matter of state policy. He can say that he would not personally participate in it. But what he cannot say is, “It is wrong.” Ditto for any other human evil: torture, murder, rape, extortion, abuse of children, etc. There are no cosmic guarantees of value in an atheistic world, unless it is the survival of the fittest. (That’s a subject for another post.)
14. An all-knowing God can read your mind, so why does he require you to demonstrate your faith by worshiping him?
Why must you stand in a court of law when the judge enters the room? Why are you required to address him as “Your Honor” instead of “Bob”? Why is it considered proper protocol to address a member of Congress, an academic, a medical doctor, an officer of the law, etc., by his appropriate title? Why do you expect your children to obey you and speak respectfully to you? It’s because you know that it is right for inferiors to show all due respect to superiors. If this is true with regard to our relationships with each other as human beings (who are ontological equals), how much more so in our relationship to God, our Creator, Lawgiver, and Judge?
15. If God is all-knowing, why do holy books describe him as surprised or angered by the actions of humans? He should have known what was going to happen.
God is justified in his anger toward evil men, even as you (I trust) feel angry toward them. As far as God being surprised, surely you must know that this is a figure of speech known as an anthropomorphism.
16. An all-knowing God knows who will ultimately reject him. Why does God create people who he knows will end up in hell?
To demonstrate the glory of his justice by punishing those who choose evil over good and refuse his call to repentance and spurn his repeated offers of mercy.
17. If God is all knowing, then why did he make humans in the knowledge that he’d eventually have to send Jesus to his death?
He did not “have” to send Jesus to his death. He is under no obligation to save sinners. This is the whole point of grace. He could have washed his hands of the human race immediately after the fall. Instead, he is pleased to save sinners because of his great mercy. He is willing to forgive all who forsake their rebellion against him and pledge their fidelity to Jesus of Nazareth who died and rose again for their salvation.