If you haven’t clicked over to the Zondervan blog to read Chuck Colson’s extended reply to Kazim, by all means do so. It’s really quite something, a rhetorical mishmash chock full of logical fallacies, false premises, and poor argument structure. One of Christianity’s bestselling apologists mounts some of the most amateurish defenses of the faith I’ve ever seen. Quite often — no doubt used to writing almost exclusively for a Christian readership who unquestioningly accepts all he says — he just asserts things without backing them up, or, if he does, with feeble sound bites that may seem like obvious conclusions to him, but won’t to anyone who thinks about them for longer than a picosecond.
I’ve been replying to a lot of points in the comments over there, but for this one specific passage, I’m posting my reply here, with only slight copy editing so it reads like a blog post and not a comment. I hope Zondervan has the integrity to leave my comments and those of other atheists up, and doesn’t do the Uncommon Descent insta-delete thing. Whatever they choose, I’m posting this one bit here, as I think it’s an important one. Because in this passage, Colson makes an embarrassing mistake in arguing for his God that, unfortunately, doesn’t paint God in a very flattering light. Indeed, he unwittingly makes his God into a rather pathetic and weak figure.
You’re making the assumption that for God to be God, or for you to believe in Him, He must reveal Himself by giving us evidence which by reason would establish His existence. But why should the God who created everything that is explain Himself? What would compel such a God to do that?
Gosh, what about that crazy little thing called love? Over and over Christians try to tell us that God is love, that he loves us and wants a personal relationship with us, etc. etc. And yet when God is asked, entirely reasonably, to reveal his existence to us unambiguously, suddenly we’re the jerks! This is kind of hard to swallow in light of the fact this God purportedly sentences anyone who doesn’t believe in or worship him to his satisfaction to eternal torture in Hell!
Ironically, just a few paragraphs earlier, Mr. Colson asks rhetorically…
Is not the capacity for love, though you cannot see it, something which can be objectively (though not scientifically) measured?
Yes, it is (though Colson’s confused on his terms — the ways in which the emotions of love manifest in observable behavior are something science can study). And I would suggest that one measure of the capacity for love is that one does not deceive the object of one’s love, that one does not hide that which should not and does not need to be hidden, that one treats the object of one’s love with generosity, kindness and above all, respect.
It is not an act of respect — let alone love — to condemn someone to a horrible punishment simply for doubting your existence when you have categorically refused to reveal your existence. That you are a universe-creating deity is irrelevant to the issue. If your argument is that God, being God, doesn’t owe anybody anything, because HE’S GOD, SO SHUT UP, then why should human beings with reasoning capacity respond to that kind of arrogant disrespect with love and respect ourselves? To do so would only be a dishonest love borne out of fear. Mr. Colson is arguing for God as nothing more than a tyrant, an authoritarian thug and despot. Is this really the message he hopes will persuade atheists?
So in reply to Mr. Colson’s question, “But why should the God who created everything that is explain Himself?” my response is simple: If God really loved us, he would.
Yet Mr. Colson goes on with more arguments in favor of God’s authoritarianism and privilege, as if these were praiseworthy qualities.
A God great enough to create the heavens and earth, and all of life in it, is a God who has no obligation to explain why He created us. In fact, He has a good reason not to. I believe it was Aquinas who argued that if God could be known to us by reason, we would take Him for granted; He would be no different than the tree that one could see from one’s office.
Well, I would argue that God does have such an obligation, especially if the penalty for not being a member of his fan club is eternity in the lake of fire. If God did not want to have any obligations to us, then he should have left us as mindless as amoebas, and not given us the capacity to think and reason, which naturally tends to instill in us feelings of self-worth.
But I cannot imagine who would consider this silly point of Aquinas’s to be a “good reason” for God’s not revealing himself. It is hardly the case that any person alive holds all of the things they know to exist on some sort of even plateau of worth. Any parent knows that their own children exist; unless they are really horrible parents, that fact certainly does not mean they are as indifferent to their children as they are to a tree.
And doesn’t it seem curiously insecure of God to worry about being “taken for granted,” when, just a moment ago, Colson was arguing for God’s being so magnificent and so glorious and so divinely important and powerful and magisterial in his universe-creating awesomeness that the very idea of revealing himself to us puny humans was simply too far beneath his notice to be anything but absurd? Haven’t I seen this before? Oz the Great and Terrible, was it? Bluster, bluster, bluster…but pay no attention to the man behind the curtain!
I’d suggest in future, Colson should consider amending his apologetics so that he doesn’t make the rather devastating mistake of following up a bout of “God’s too big and awesome and important to reveal himself to mere mortals,” with, “But really…he’s scared you’ll ignore him!”
PS: If you’re inclined to leave comments of your own at the Zondervan blog, do remember these basics, please, about which I shouldn’t have to ask. Be civil and polite. Keep your language clean. And restrict yourself simply to refuting the points you think need refuting, in detail, without telling Colson you think he must be “some kind of fucking idiot for believing all that crap!” (Civility! From me! Russell must be beaming with pride!)