Atheism and the goodness of God 8

In chapter 2 of God is Good, God is Great, J P Moreland reflects on ‘The Image of God and the Failure of Scientific Naturalism’

Scientific naturalism by definition seeks to explain all that there is in purely naturalistic terms. Yet severe problems face a purely scientific naturalism in accounting for ‘recalcitrant’ features of the ways we humans actually are.

His argument is that a Christian framework explains well essential features of humanity – such as conciousness, free will, rationality, a sense of unified self, intrinsic equal value and rights. These stubborn features accord with the Christian claim that mankind is made in the image of God. So,

1)      If Christianity is true, certain features should characterise human beings

2)      Those features do in fact characterise human beings

3)      Thus these features provide a degree of confirmation for Christianity – these features come from God and he made us to have them

The most important of  these feature is – that we are MADE IN THE IMAGE OF GOD  (Genesis 1:27).

Christians say that each person has intrinsic value – and have rights and dignity as a result. A Christian view of man has a natural place for:

i)                    Intrinsic value of each person

ii)                   The reality of objective moral obligations of how we treat each other

iii)                  High, equal value and rights for every human

None of these can be sustained by a scientific naturalism. Naturalism cannot account for any intrinsic value in human beings.

Christian morality is rich and deep and is founded on the character of God and of his action in the world. Even some atheist thinkers acknowledge that there is no real basis for human rights apart from Judeo-Christian morality and the image of God. Michael Ruse says that ‘morality is a biological adaptation’ (p 44). It is illusory. It is just an aid to survival and reproduction. This at least is honest.

The doctrine of the image of God underpins the belief that all humans are of equal worth. They may not be of equal merit (talents, skills, intelligence, abilities, character etc) but all have equal rights quite apart from merit.

Atheism has no satisfactory answer to the question WHY treat all as equal if we are not of equal merit? Why not re-visit  eugenics and ‘breed out’ the less desirable? Why not let the ‘better’ gene pool survive and flourish? Why spend resources and money helping those with little merit survive?

Naturalism must say that there is nothing special about homo sapiens as a species – we are just one of many. If this is the case, morality cannot be derived from biology. Morals do not ‘just’ pop into existence out of nothing.

Moreland refers to atheist James Rachels who says;

“The doctrine of human dignity says that humans merit a level of moral concern wholly different from that accorded to mere animals; for this to be true, there would have to be some big, morally significant difference between them … But that is precisely what evolutionary theory calls into question … This being so, a Darwinian may conclude that a successful defence of human dignity is most unlikely.”  (p 47)

Now that’s calling a spade a spade.


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