Whether sitting in class, browsing campus bulletin boards, or just scrolling social media, I’ve noticed one particular objection to Christianity rings especially loud in today’s secular classrooms and culture. You’ve almost certainly heard it too—and so have Christian students I’ve spoken with all around the world.
“People who call themselves Christians have done wrong things throughout history—and they’ve even used the Bible to justify their actions.”
First, it’s important to recognize that tragically, some people who called themselves Christians have committed great wrongs and have even tried quoting the Bible to rationalize those wrongdoings. As Christ-followers, we do not downplay these wrongs. But we do need to know how to give an answer with gentleness and respect (1 Peter 3:15) to those who use this objection, implying that the Bible isn’t worth believing because people who’ve called themselves Christians have done wrong things. Here are three points to help with overcoming this objection:
Remember, a simple way to spot faulty arguments is to ask, “Is this message true or false, because . . . ?” In this case, we can ask, “Is the Bible false because people who claim to believe it have done wrong things?” Stated this way, it’s easier to see the answer is no. Truth is truth regardless of who believes it, or what they’ve done, or how they twist the truth to justify what they’ve done.
Claiming a message is false based only on the kind of people who espouse it is a type of faulty logic called a genetic fallacy. So, the fact that some people try using the Bible to excuse wrongdoings doesn’t itself tell us whether the Bible is true, or even supports those wrongdoings. To find that out, we have to examine the Bible itself, consider the whole message it teaches, and look at what happens when a biblical worldview is consistently lived out. After all, a worldview must be judged based on its consistent application—not its misapplication.
For Christians, looking at our worldview’s consistent application means looking at Jesus. When we examine the big picture of what Scripture teaches and how Jesus lived out those teachings, we see that Jesus’ words do not justify wrongdoing. By definition, Jesus sets the standard for what Christianity is supposed to look like. And he defined and modeled God’s moral standards for humans better than anyone, saying “Do to others what you would have others do to you,”1 and “Love your neighbor as yourself.”2
Ultimately, if people who call themselves Christians have done things that oppose what Jesus commanded or what the big picture of Scripture teaches, you can be pretty sure the ideas behind those actions did not come from the Bible. Instead, people were putting their ideas into the Bible, because a holistic biblical worldview does not justify human wrongdoings. On the other hand, an atheistic, evolutionary worldview can consistently justify many wrongdoings, even though many atheists are moral people themselves. After all, if humans and their morals are nothing but evolutionary happenstance, why shouldn’t we wrong others to advance our genes’ evolutionary success? This type of reasoning has played—and still plays—a role in some of history’s worst atrocities, as multiple researchers have documented.3 So, while Jesus’ claims cannot consistently be used to justify wrongdoings, Darwin’s claims can.
Finally, before we can even talk about whether Christians’ deeds are right or wrong, we need a foundation for defining what right and wrong are. We need a moral Lawgiver, God. Without a holy God who defines moral standards and reveals right and wrong through his word, we have no real, consistent foundation from which to criticize anything as “wrong.” What’s “wrong” for one person might well be “right” for another if moral reasoning is rooted in accidental human brain chemistry rather than the absolute character of God.
In the end, apparently “moral objections” to Christianity provide an example of how by bringing an argument back to the question of what truth is—and where truth comes from—you can not only filter out faulty logic but also point people to Jesus. Ultimately, only Jesus, who has done no wrong, can pay the price to redeem us from the wrongdoings we’ve all done,4 for he is the only Way. Only he can set the moral standards for determining what “wrongdoings” are, because he is the only Truth. And only he can heal the unforgotten wounds from wrongdoings past, because he is the only Life (John 14:6).
For more on how to think critically about any faith-challenging message, stay tuned for future blog articles and my new video series, CT (Critial Thinking) Scan, available now on the AiG Canada YouTube channel and the AiG Canada Facebook page.