Christianity no longer appears as an appealing ideology to be affiliated with in our day. Dr. Tawa Anderson, associate professor of philosophy, led the most recent philosophy forum on November 11 focused on the beauty and goodness often overshadowed in the Christian faith by the negative light as a result of the fall of man.
The common misconception of Christianity among the secular culture presents our faith as a dogmatic institution with a gratuitously evil God. Due to the unfortunate stain culture has projected onto Christianity, the idea of being a Christian has been mangled by our culture as well as the destructive representatives claiming the title.
Anderson said, “As a fan of Socrates, Aristotle and Jesus, I want to pursue and embrace truth. Fundamentally, I think that people should embrace the Christian faith because it is true – that is, the claims of Christianity line up with the way things really are. But today it is quite common to question whether Christianity is good…that is, whether or not it is true, some question whether we should want Christianity to be true.”
Many individuals in our secular age may see the compelling evidence for Christianity; however, most do not want to believe in the warped image of God as He is painted as a moral monster.
Anderson said, “In this Forum lecture, I endeavor to show the beauty and goodness of the Christian faith. I will not be arguing that Christianity is true; rather, I hope to persuade listeners that they should want Christianity to be true. The implications and rewards of Christianity are of such majesty and value that, regardless of what we actually believe about the truth of the faith, we should all want it to be true. My hope is that being awakened to the winsomeness of faith in Christ will prompt hearers to consider and examine the truth-claims of Christianity.”
Western civilization has been built on Christian values. Anderson provided several reasons arguing in favor of the goodness and beauty of Christianity. Christianity provides objective moral values and duties, an objective knowable external world, objective and transcendent value to human life, objective and transcendent purpose and meaning, external and temporal forgiveness, life after death and the ability to know and to be known by God.
Pascal’s wager presents the ultimate risk of belief in Christianity versus the belief in other ideologies. For those believing in God, if God is real, then the risk of dedication to God will result in an infinite gain in eternity. However, if God is not real, then there would be infinite loss in the current life. The consequences of being wrong about Christianity are contingent on what is true about reality, specifically the afterlife.
For instance, if Atheism is correct, then the consequence would be a life of pursuing virtues and godlikeness at the cost of our temporary pleasures. In the end, for Atheists we would cease to exist once our material bodies die.
In the case of Hinduism, we presumably die and reincarnate relinquishing the timely punishment and risk of believing in God for this lifetime. By weighing the risk and reciprocal reward for belief, it is most logical due to compelling evidence to place trust in the Christian God.
For Atheists, there is an infinite gain temporarily in this life and infinite loss in eternity. For Hindus, belief in God can result in infinite loss in the physical world and a presumed second chance in the next life to reach Moksha or release.
Pascal’s wager weighs the risk of belief inferring the greatest reward is found in belief in Christianity. In response to Pascal, the doxastic voluntarism objection questions the logic behind the presumed wishful thinking of the wager. The objection argues that we do not get to choose what we believe. Humans simply believe what the evidence leads and compels us to believe. We cannot just believe whatever we want for the sake of believing in what would be beneficial for us.
Pascal responds by urging people to participate in practices in order to reassure and ground their beliefs. For instance, some habits can be going to church, reading the Word, praying and so on. Participating in the experience of beauty, living a virtuous life and seeking truth can present grounding properties to reaffirm belief. Ultimately, this should further lead us to hope Christianity is true and continue to seek goodness and beauty.
God provides us with a basis of aesthetic belief, truth and goodness which provides an eternal and meaningful existence. Simply for these reasons, individuals should be compelled to hope Christianity is the answer to our existential dread.
Anderson said, “There is this beautiful vision of life. And when I do look at the life of Christian saints that really do exemplify the Christian faith, I’m like ‘that’s the kind of life that I would like to have, a life that is filled with meaning and purpose and beauty and love…that is the kind of thing I want’. That is what should drive us to find out whether or not it is true. And then if only we will spend the time pursuing it to find out if it is true, then we can see people come to the cross…so I think that is the reason to try to awaken the desire for it to be true is that might get people on the road towards pursuing and finding out whether it is true. If they don’t think it is winsome, if they don’t think it’s beautiful, if they don’t think it’s good, then why should they care whether it is true or not? What motivation is there to pursue an answer?”.
Following the presentation, Anderson facilitated a welcoming environment for questions and dialogue. One question posed by a student challenged the argument regarding how we should account for the evils on behalf of Christians.
Anderson responded, “The fall affects all of us. At best, the way we end up is as redeemed sinners, but we remain sinners, which means even the redeemed sinners will do wrong. Sometimes that wrong will be done in the name of their religion. Paul Copan puts it in terms that we should not judge a religion based on its worst practitioners. We should base a religion on the founder, the founding texts, and the things it teaches”.
We should look to Christ as the Good, True, and Beautiful, not to those who are living a life diametrically opposed to Christian values who claim the name as a utility.
Anderson states, “The best thing for the flourishing of humanity was the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus Christ. This launches into existence a transformative religious tradition which leads to human flourishing.”
For the reasons mentioned above, it appears the most socially beneficial and soul satisfying position to take with greatest reward eternally is Christianity. The emphasis on Beauty can inspire the soul. The attention on Goodness can encourage social and inner peace. The attention on Truth can ground our anxieties. With a holistic understanding of Christianity, it is hard to ignore the beneficial effects of the core values personally and socially.
Regarding the downfalls in nominal Christianity, “One of the problems is cultural Christianity where we take the name of Christian, but the life does not match the profession. That is problematic. We are called to be permeated by Christ not just to take his name but to be permeated by Christ and live a life that reflects that. So that is one of the challenges for you all is as you go through university and launch into the world at large to be truly transformed by Christ…that He change your way of understanding your place in the world, what it is you are called to do, change the way you relate to other people.
Anderson points out, “If we push further into the statistics, frequency of religious practice, both corporately and privately, the statistics start looking very different.” Anderson continues, “Obviously, these are not perfect means of adjudicating someone’s heart.” However, we cannot disregard statistics showing the rates of divorce decreasing drastically along with improvements to society increasing due to the pursuit of Christian values.
Anderson says, “I think this is one of the things we should wish to do. We should want Christianity to be true. We should see that it is good, that it is beautiful and that should drive us even more to want to find out whether or not it is true. Right? So that we want to investigate it”.