Dear Dr. Stratton,
I hang out in atheist debate groups. These are among the top reasons why many Christians have “deconstructed” and are Christians no longer.
1. The Theory of Evolution
2. Santa Claus
3. Prejudice against homosexuality
I don’t think the church gives good answers on any of them. 1 and 3 were listed among the reasons why Rhett and Link “deconstructed.” I honestly don’t know why we perpetuate the Santa myth.
How would you address these “Top 3” reasons for atheism?
Dr. Stratton’s Response
Those are three of the dumbest reasons to reject Christianity I have ever heard! A good reason to reject Christianity would be if there were evidence against the existence of God or historical evidence demonstrating that Jesus was killed, buried, and stayed dead. However, since we have good reason — based upon evidence — to believe God exists and that the resurrection of Jesus was a historical event, we have great reason to think that Christianity is true.
First, with the evidence of God’s existence and the historical resurrection in mind, these three objections are silly (to put it nicely). After all, if an omnipotent and omniscient God exists, He would have the power to create via evolution. That does not make “mere Christianity” (as CS Lewis described) false. Indeed, there are many “theistic evolutionists” who affirm that God raised Jesus from the dead. Augustine himself (1500 years before Darwin) seemed quite open to a hermeneutic of Genesis which would be compatible with evolution. This simply is not a problem.
Second, if God exists and created humanity with free will, then humans have the ability to make up stories and deceive their kids (albeit with good intentions) about Santa Claus. This does not do anything to disprove Christianity.
Third, if God created humanity with free will (so that love can be attained), then humans can use the same ability to love in a backwards manner and be hateful and prejudiced against other humans. Indeed, this failure to love (sin) is completely compatible with the Christian world view.
So, these three reasons to become a non-believer or not follow Christ are horrible reasons (as I often point out: not all reasons are good reasons). With that said, I would like to spill a little more ink on each of these three points.
As I noted in Mere Molinism, if anyone should claim to have become an atheist because of believing in evolution, a response could be crafted as follows:
“Evolution really is not a reason not to believe in God. If God is omnipotent and omniscient (logically prior to his creative decree), then creating the world and man via evolution is no problem for God. Could it not be that what appears to be “random” or by “chance” to humans is actually precisely the perfect plan of God’s intelligently designed and finely-tuned initial conditions of the big bang?” (Mere Molinism p. 274)
A response like this takes the “problem of evolution” off the table so that the apologist/evangelist can then discuss the evidence for the existence of God and the historical data demonstrating the resurrection of Jesus Christ. This approach to reasoning is not to suggest that theistic evolution actually is true. But, one can point out that if God is omnipotent and possesses full knowledge of what could and will happen and knows what would happen in all other scenarios He could create (middle knowledge), then creating via evolutionary means is simply no problem at all for a maximally great being. The God who knew what a “finely-tuned” universe would require, could have brought it about in any number of ways. This includes the following possibility:
- God exists and possesses both natural and middle knowledge.
- Fine-tuned initial conditions of the Big Bang (God chooses and actualizes this world and all that will happen in it).
- The universe unfolds as planned over time.
- Our solar system and earth eventually come into existence as planned.
- Life evolves over time exactly the way God knew it would via his intelligent design of the finely-tuned initial conditions of the Big Bang.
- Hominids evolve as planned (not by accident).
- God “breathes his image” (soul) into the hominid making the first human in another act of special creation (or God literally creates a physically identical human from the dirt).
- God does the same thing with a female hominid and then “breathes his image” into her making the first female human (or God literally creates Eve from the rib of Adam).
- God separates Adam and Eve from the other “soul-less” hominids (who are physically identical, but not spiritually), and places them in the Garden of Eden with the Tree of Life (as long as they eat of this tree, they will never experience a physical death).
- After the fall, Adam and Eve are expelled from the paradise of the Garden of Eden and the Tree of Life (now they will eventually die).
- After Adam and Eve’s son, Cain, kills their other son, Abel, Cain is expelled from the world’s only “human tribe.” Cain is scared of the other soul-less hominids who may kill him (Gen. 4:13-14).
- Cain finds a physically identical but soul-less hominid female as a wife (Gen. 4:17). The human soul is always passed on to offspring (avoids “bottle-necking” problems).
- The human soul is a trait preferred via natural selection as it allows for rationality (see the Freethinking Argument against Naturalism).
- Soon, all hominids have souls created in the “image of God.” Therefore, now all hominids are human (all humans are hominids, but not all hominids have been human).
- This is exactly the way God planned and designed life to unfold. It all started with the fine-tuned initial condition of the Big Bang.
It is vital to grasp that I am not suggesting that this model is actually true. I am simply offering a model that is possibly true (a model that is not logically incoherent and one that also “jives” with a possibly correct interpretation of Scripture). This model shows that evolution and biblical Christianity are not necessarily mutually exclusive views, and they can both be true simultaneously.
William Lane Craig has also employed a similar tactic when debating atheists. In his famous debate with Christopher Hitchens, Craig explained how physicists John Barrow and Frank Tipler show that there are ten steps in the course of human evolution which must occur. Each step is so improbable that before it could occur the sun would have ceased to be a main sequence star, and would have incinerated the Earth. Craig notes that these physicists go on to calculate the probability of the evolution of the human genome by chance and arrive at an astronomical figure: “4 to the negative 180th power to the 110,000th power and 4 to the negative 360th power to the 110,000th power.”
Such a number is unfathomable, but this equation demonstrates that Darwinian evolution is mathematically impossible if naturalism is also true. Craig concludes:
“If evolution did occur on this planet, it was literally a miracle and therefore evidence of the existence of God! . . . [For the atheist] evolution is the only game in town. No matter how fantastic the odds, no matter how improbable, no matter what the fossil record reveals, or what the evidence that a person can empirically investigate via the scientific method can show, evolution has to be true for atheists because it is their only option. Unlike the atheist, Christians are free to follow the scientific evidence wherever it leads.”
Bottom line: if one believes evolution is true, it is no reason at all to reject the existence of God or the historical resurrection of Jesus. Indeed, one can still affirm evolution and a literal/historical Adam and Eve. Dawn Simon exemplifies this as a PhD evolutionary biologist. She not only affirms and teaches evolutionary biology at the University of Nebraska at Kearney, she is a relatively new Christian. Why is this evolutionary biologist a Christian? Because she examined the evidence for the existence of God and the historical resurrection of Jesus.
Read her story here: “Evidence in the Flesh for Apologetics.”
I must admit, I do not think it is a good idea to tell “white lies” to our kids about Santa Claus. I know many readers will disagree with me, but consider the following.
I am thankful that my parents did not seek to “trick me” or tell me “noble lies” about Santa or the Easter Bunny. At a young age I remember my parents explaining to my sister and me that Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny were just make-believe. However, they said that we can still have fun together as a family and pretend that these fictional characters come to our house with presents (even though we know that “Mom is the Easter Bunny”). In this same conversation my parents explained to Jessica and me, that we celebrate Christmas because Jesus is God and He entered into the world to save us from our sins. Then, at Easter, we celebrate the historical fact that although Jesus was killed on the Cross, God raised Jesus from the dead and this miracle conquered sin and death. So, we celebrate God’s gifts to mankind by giving each other gifts on these holy days (holidays).
They made sure to tell us that many children actually believed that Santa and the Easter Bunny were real, so don’t wreck it for them. We felt like we had “top secret information” and were inside the “circle of trust.” Not only did this help us to know reality, we also trusted our parents.
When other children eventually come to the knowledge that their parents have lied to them about Santa and the Easter Bunny, then why not doubt what their parents have told them about God? Indeed, I know a guy who was twelve-years-old when he discovered that his parents had been perpetuating the lie that the Easter Bunny was real. He caught his mom red-handed stuffing the plastic Easter eggs! He was devastated. He then said, “The next thing you’re gonna tell me is that Santa Claus isn’t real either!”
Then his world came crashing down!
For reason to celebrate “the season,” watch Jesus, Santa Claus for Adults?
To address this “reason” to reject Christ, let me share a segment of an article I wrote in 2015 entitled, “A Biblical Argument for Gay Rights”:
Jesus said “If you love me you keep my commands.” The law of Christ in the New Testament is clear that we ought not engage in many specific sins; homosexual acts are clearly one of the many sins we ought to avoid. Here is a deductive syllogism which makes this clear:
1- God raised Jesus from the dead (Acts 2:24; Romans 4:24; Galatians 1:1; 1 Peter 1:21).
2- The resurrection is God’s stamp of approval on the teachings of Jesus.
3- Jesus taught that we ought to follow His teachings (John 14:15, 23).
4- Jesus taught the heterosexual model of marriage (Mark 10:6-8).
5- The resurrected and omniscient Jesus chose Paul to continue His teachings (Acts 9).
6- Paul was clear that those who practice homosexuality (among other sins) will not inherit the Kingdom of God (Romans 1:24-27; 1 Corinthians 6:9; 1 Timothy 1:10).
7- Therefore, the Law of Christ (teachings of Jesus) is clear that homosexual acts are against God’s will and morally wrong (sin).
8- Therefore, the Church and all followers of Christ are rationally justified in holding the position that we ought not recognize gay marriage as it is against the will of God.
Many times, after those committed to the LGBTQ agenda realize that their commitments are antithetical to the Law of Christ and Christianity, they switch gears and change their worldview to that of atheism. After all, if God does not exist, then objective moral values and duties do not exist either. If objective moral values and duties do not exist, then there is nothing objectively wrong with homosexual behavior. This seems to be a huge victory for the gay rights movement because if atheism is true there are no logical grounds to condemn their actions as objectively wrong because all we would be left with is our subjective opinions.
However, now there is a huge problem for those in the “gay rights” movement if they are really concerned about their “rights.” Why is that? Because if God does not exist, not only are objective moral values and duties annihilated, but so are objective human rights. If God goes out the window, objective morality and human rights follow along with Him.
If God and soul do not exist, then humanity is merely “dust in the wind” and matter in motion in a causally determined universe. It logically follows, then, that we lose all grounds to affirm objective human value, and also the ability to choose otherwise. If we cannot make genuine choices, this would also include choices with moral properties. Therefore, objective morality and value both go down the drain in an atheistic worldview. However, if God exists and created us in His image, then all humanity is not only created in God’s image, but we also posses intrinsic worth and value. If this is the case, we can logically affirm that all mankind is genuinely created equal and we ought to be treated equally.
Moreover, if there is nothing objectively wrong with homosexual acts, there is also nothing objectively wrong with persecuting homosexuals and being intolerant of the LGBTQ community in general. We must keep our logical grounds of objective morality or nothing is objectively good, bad, right, wrong, fair, or evil. If atheism is true, the acts of Mother Teresa and Ted Bundy are morally equivalent and neutral in an objective sense. If there is nothing really wrong with anything, then there is nothing really (objectively) wrong with the beating, torture, and murder of Matthew Shepard because he was gay.
If we sincerely care about equal human rights, we must not abandon the objective grounding of these rights. Only if God exists do objective moral values, duties, and rights make any sense.
I would sincerely like to help my gay friends and neighbors and provide them with an argument that is not only logically consistent but also affirms their objective human rights. The LGBTQ community ought to argue for Biblical Christianity! At first glance they might think this is crazy because many feel that conservative Christianity is the enemy of the LGBTQ community. However, we must remember that given Christian theism, we have grounds for the intrinsic value of all humans created in the image of God, and we have logical grounds for objective moral values and duties. Again, these are glaringly absent on atheism.
At this point, to be logically consistent, the practicing homosexual should admit that God exists, the Bible is God’s Word, and that homosexual actions are objectively sinful. However, after making this point, they should state that they freely choose to ignore these objective moral values and duties, and that they freely choose to sin. By the way, they should point out that anyone (heterosexual or otherwise), who is committed to a sexual lifestyle apart from the biblical model of marriage is just as objectively sinful as they are (that would be the vast majority of American college students)! My gay neighbor should point out that anyone committed to viewing internet porn is just as objectively wrong as they are. In fact, anyone who is committed to a lifestyle of any sin, from “little white lies” to rape and murder, are all morally reprehensible and objectively wrong. Anyone who does not hate his or her sin, and committed to fighting against it, is figuratively spitting in the face of Christ.
With that in mind, the mark of a true Christian is one who hates their sin, not one who parades and flaunts it. Taking part in “gay-pride parades,” is probably a sign that one is committed to sin as opposed to hating it. As a loving warning, this is a dangerous place to be. I am not the ultimate Judge, but if a true Christian hates their sin, why would they parade it?
At this point, the gay rights advocate should make this move and state: Since objective moral values and duties exist, it is objectively wrong to hate and persecute the LGBTQ community (two wrongs don’t make a right). Just as we do not typically persecute the heterosexual college students who engage in sexual activity before marriage, we ought not to oppress or torment the practicing homosexual. After all, we are all created in God’s image. Jesus taught to love everyone from our neighbors (Mark 12:31) to our enemies (Matt 5:44) and that includes those in the LGBTQ community.
Christians should disagree with the homosexual lifestyle, but it does not follow that we should be jerks about it. If the truth is not offered in love, then you are just making loud and obnoxious noise (1 Corinthians 13:1). Speak the truth in love.
There are good reasons to believe or disbelieve certain propositions. These good reasons are found in the form of evidence and logical argumentation. Evidence for the existence of God and the historical resurrection is proper justification for the affirmation that “mere Christianity” is true. However, a belief in evolution does absolutely nothing to negate the evidence supporting the statement “God raised Jesus from the dead.” Moreover, emotional revulsions against one’s parents lying to them about fictional characters or the fact that God created humanity on purpose and for the purpose of heterosexual marriage are not intellectual reasons to reject the evidence of the truth of Christianity.
Stay reasonable (Isaiah 1:18),
Dr. Tim Stratton
 Also see William Lane Craig’s In Quest of the Historical Adam. In this book Craig discusses the likelihood that the first eleven chapters of Genesis are written in the genre of mytho-history. This means that this section of Scripture is true and historical, but “clothed” or “painted” in the wording of myth (which does not mean “fiction.” For a great discussion on this matter, watch Mike Licona interview Craig on this matter (click here).
 I have crafted a variation of this argument for skeptics who do not think the Bible is the authoritative Word of God:
1. God raised Jesus from the dead (We can demonstrate this via the historical method).
2. Therefore, Christianity is true.
3. Given multiple and early attestation in the Gospels, we can be certain that Jesus spoke of moral purity and against sexual immorality.
4. Sexual immorality (porneia) referred to all sorts of sexual misconduct, such as adultery, incest, having sex with one’s stepmother, same-sex relationships, sex with prostitutes.
5. Therefore, same-sex marriage is sinful and cannot be approved or facilitated by the Christian Church.