Thursday, October 8, 2009

Critiquing the Logic of Christianity

Christianity has logic to it, with a big caveat. For the purpose of this post, we’ll assume that there is a God who judges us for our sins, and a heaven and a hell.

To get into heaven, one has to meet God’s standards, which are really high. Here are the Ten Commandments:

1. You shall not worship any other god but YHWH.
2. You shall not make a graven image.
3. You shall not take the name of YHWH in vain.
4. You shall not break the Sabbath.
5. You shall not dishonor your parents.
6. You shall not murder.
7. You shall not commit adultery
8. You shall not steal.
9. You shall not commit perjury.
10. You shall not covet.

These become even tougher to follow when you read Christ’s teaching in the New Testament. He said “whosoever looks at a woman to lust after her has already committed adultery with her in his heart” (Matt. 5:28). In other words, thinking about sleeping with someone we’re not married to constituted adultery in God’s eyes. That probably includes the huge number of people who look at porn. So very possibly, an overwhelming majority of the world population are adulterers in God’s eyes.

When you apply this same standard to the other commandments, it becomes clear that almost everyone MUST have broken the Ten Commandments at one time or another. If you’re honest, you’ve probably broken one of the commandments listed above in action at some point in your life. And I’d bet everything I own that you’ve thought about breaking one of them at some point. That’s probably true even of someone like Mother Theresa.

To hang out with God in heaven, you need to meet his standards for admission. But in light of the discussion above, there’s very little hope for the overwhelming majority, if not all of us. If God judges you on your works, no matter how good you think you are, if you have ever sinned, you fail to measure up.

I’d make an imperfect analogy to basketball. Let’s say Kobe Bryant happens to turn up to your gym with a bunch of his NBA friends. When he’s picking teams, you have to meet his standards to get picked. In other words, it’s not enough that you’re a good player, or that you practice hard. You have to be one of the best players in the world to play with Kobe. In the same way, to make it into heaven, you have to meet God’s standard, which is perfection.

Enter Jesus. The only way you could go to heaven is to be perfect and never have sinned. Or someone could agree to take the punishment you deserve for your sins instead so you can go. According to Christian teaching, Christ did that by allowing himself to be nailed to a cross, and suffering for hours on end.

Now, there is plenty of room for dispute outside the narrow parameters of this post. Maybe you think there is no such thing as a God, or an afterlife. Or maybe you don’t believe there is such a thing as hell. Or maybe you don’t think Jesus existed, much less that he was the son of God, or that he was crucified.

Another interesting wrinkle comes in the standards. Why does the Christian God make the bar to entry so high? Why not just admit everyone into heaven whose good outweighs his bad even if he isn’t perfect?

But if you make the leap of faith to believe in God and an afterlife, then Christianity is not a leap of logic.

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