[This post is a work in progress as part of the CAA Catechism.]
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Summary in 400 words or less:
This question needs to be approached in the context that the skeptic poses it. As a Christian, it is tempting to go right to Romans 3:10 and respond that there is no one who is good. However, taking this approach misses the intent of the question. The skeptic is most likely not looking for a debate on the reality of human sin nature, but he or she is probably arguing that it is possible to live a moral life without any type of belief in God. Atheists can care for the poor or be kind to their neighbors just as well as Christians can, even though they don’t have a belief in the divine.
A skeptic who believes in objective morality believes that being kind to his or her neighbors is a good thing. Jesus taught the same in Luke 10:27, and the Golden Rule is found in various forms in every major culture in history. However, what basis is the skeptic using to justify that being kind to his or her neighbors, or any other rule, is true to reality?
The issue in question is not whether the skeptic can be good without God (they can). The issue is whether they can believe there is a true good if there is nothing in reality that is truly good. In the Christian worldview, morality is rooted in the nature of who God is: Golden Rule love. Even if the entire world were completely selfish, Christianity would still teach that selfishness is wrong because it is contrary to the Golden Rule love that describes God’s nature.
For an atheistic worldview, it does not seem that there is any foundation beyond evolved or nurtured human preferences. If that is the only option, then the atheist is left with the question of why one set of preferences is better than another. That is the real question. It is not that you cannot do good things without God, it is that a worldview without God is not able to explain how those things are not a matter of mere preference, but are “truly” good.
Scripture for YouVersion: Romans 3:10, Luke 10:27
Three questions (one fill-in-the-blank, one multiple choice, and one discussion question):
1. It is important that a person’s worldview is able to explain _______ it’s good to act in certain ways. (Answer: “why”)
2. Is it possible to do good works without a belief in God?
c) It depends on the circumstance
(Answer: ‘a’ or ‘c’)
3. To what extent do atheists steal the Christian worldview when they determine what they want to say are morally good actions?
References for further reading:
Collaborators: Zak Schmoll, Samuel Ronicker, Maryann Spikes
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