bookmark_borderEvaluation of the Christian Answer to Worldview Question #2 – Part 2: Does Sin Exist?

WHERE WE ARE
There are four basic questions that can be used to analyze a worldview. In this post, I will begin to evaluate the Christian answer to worldview question #2.
 
CHRISTIAN ANSWERS TO THE FIRST TWO WORLDVIEW QUESTIONS 
The following is a short version of what I take to be the Christian answers to the first two worldview questions:

Q1. What are the most important problems of human life? (Symptoms of Disease)
Alienation or separation from God, conflict and disharmony between people, mental and physical suffering, disease, death, and in the next life: divine eternal punishment.

Q2. What is the root-cause problem of what are (allegedly) the most important problems of human life? (Diagnosis of the Disease)
Sin (disobedience to God) is the root cause problem of separation from God, conflict and disharmony between people, mental and physical suffering, disease, death, and ultimately results in eternal divine punishment.

 
FURTHER ANALYSIS OF THE CHRISTIAN ANSWER TO WORLDVIEW QUESTION #2
The Christian answer to worldview question #2 can be analyzed into four categories: spiritual, physical, mental, and social (click on the image below for a clearer view of the chart):  
 
WHAT DOES THE WORD “SIN” MEAN?
In Part 1 of this series of posts, I clarified the meaning of the word “sin” as being purposeful or intentional disobedience to the will of God.  Here is a formal definition of “sin”:

Person  P commits a sin S by doing action A IF AND ONLY IF:

(a) person P’s doing action A violates a law or command L,
(b)  L is a law or command of God to persons (or to some sub-set of persons of which P is a member),
(c) P KNOWS that (a) is the case when P does A,
AND
(d) P KNOWS that (b) is the case when P does A.  

Conditions (c) and (d) are needed to restrict the concept of “sin” to purposeful or intentional violations of the will of God.  One must be aware that God has issued a particular command or law in order for one’s violation of that command or law to be an intentional violation of the will of God.
In Part 1 of this series I also pointed out that the Bible indicates that there are two different ways a person can sin, or two different ways a person can be aware of the laws or commands of God.  First, one can know that a command or law comes from God, because the command or law was revealed by God through one of his prophets.  For example, according to the Bible, God revealed the Ten Commandments through the prophet Moses.
Second, one can know of a command or law of God because of one’s conscience, because God has “hardwired” some of his commands or laws into the minds of human beings, as a bit of innate knowledge, knowledge that we don’t have to learn from a parent or teacher or prophet or priest.
 
HAS ANY HUMAN BEING EVER SINNED?
If there is no such thing as SIN, then the occurrence of sins by human beings CANNOT be used as an explanation for anything.  If sin does not exist, then sin cannot be said to be the CAUSE of any human problem.
In my view, there is no such thing as SIN.  No human being has ever committed a SIN.  This is because there is no God.  If there is no God, then it follows that there are no laws or commands that come from God.  Any laws or commands that exist must come from humans or from other intelligent beings who are not God.  If there are no laws or commands that come from God, then it is NOT POSSIBLE for any person to ever violate a law or command of God, and thus the first two necessary conditions for the occurrence of a sin cannot be met by the actions of any person.  Therefore, if there is no God, then there never has been and never will be any human actions that violate a law or command of God.  Thus, if there is no God, then there never has been or ever will be any human actions that are SINs.
Of course, Christians, Jews, and Muslims are convinced that God does exist, so this argument won’t persuade them to believe that SIN does not exist, unless one can persuade such a believer that God does not exist, which is difficult to do.
There are, however, other reasons for believing that SIN does not exist.  Another necessary condition for the existence of SIN is human KNOWLEDGE that a particular law or command comes from God:

Person  P commits a sin S by doing action A IF AND ONLY IF:

(a) person P’s doing action A violates a law or command L,
(b)  L is a law or command of God to persons (or to some sub-set of persons of which P is a member),
(c) P KNOWS that (a) is the case when P does A,
AND
(d) P KNOWS that (b) is the case when P does A.  

In order for a person to KNOW that (b) is the case, that person must KNOW that God exists. Even if we assume that God exists, this leaves open the question of whether any human being KNOWS that God exists.  There are very good reasons for doubting that any human being KNOWS that God exists.
Most contemporary philosophers, for example, do NOT believe that the existence of God has ever been proven.  Many contemporary philosophers believe that some arguments provide evidence that supports the existence of God, but that this evidence is not sufficient to establish that anyone KNOWS that God exists.  One can believe in the existence of God while also admitting that this belief does NOT constitute KNOWING that God exists.  Since it is doubtful that anyone KNOWS that God exists, it is also doubtful that any human action has ever met the necessary condition (d) for the occurrence of a SIN.
In order for a person to KNOW that (b) is the case, that person must also KNOW that a particular law or command came from God.  It is not sufficient to KNOW that God exists or even to KNOW that God has at some time issued some sort of laws or commands.  One must KNOW that some particular law or particular command (having clear and specific content that is KNOWN to the person in question) came from God.
This is even more difficult to KNOW, and it is highly dubious that any human being has ever had such KNOWLEDGE.  To the extent that it is dubious that any humans have KNOWN that some law or command came from God, it is dubious that any actions by any humans have ever satisfied necessary condition (d) for the occurrence of a SIN.  If it is dubious that any humans have KNOWN that some law or command came from God, then it is dubious that any human actions have ever constituted a SIN.
One of the main ways of humans becoming aware of a law or command of God, according to the Bible, is for God to reveal a law or command through a prophet.  For example, the Bible teaches that God revealed the Ten Commandments to humans through the prophet Moses.  But how do we KNOW that Moses is a true prophet, and that God in fact communicated to humans through Moses?
One key reason given for believing that Moses was a true prophet is that Moses allegedly performed some amazing miracles.  But most scholars who study the Old Testament have serious doubts about whether Moses actually existed.  So, obviously, most scholars who study the Old Testament also doubt that Moses performed the various miracles that are found in Old Testament stories about Moses.  This way of establishing the divine authority of Moses as a true prophet will not work.
One could try to establish the divine authority of Moses as a true prophet of God, by appealing to the sayings and teachings of Jesus.  The existence of Jesus can reasonably be questioned, but most NT scholars believe that Jesus existed.  However, there are a couple of problems with this approach to establishing the divine authority of Moses.
First, most NT scholars do not view the Gospel accounts of the life and teachings of Jesus as being historically reliable.  Although most NT scholars believe Jesus existed, they are often very skeptical about specific historical claims about what Jesus said or did.  Thus, intelligent and educated readers of the NT cannot simply assume that because a Gospel claims that “Jesus said X” that the historical Jesus did in fact say X.  NT scholars generally believe that we can only infer probabilities about what Jesus said or did.  We cannot KNOW that “Jesus said X” and we cannot KNOW that “Jesus did Y”.  So, using the teachings of Jesus to confirm the divine authority of Moses cannot produce KNOWLEDGE that Moses was a true prophet.
Furthermore, even if we could somehow KNOW that “Jesus said X” and that this implies that Jesus believed that Moses was a true prophet of God, it doesn’t follow logically that Moses was in fact a true prophet of God.  Jesus could be mistaken.  Why should we accept what Jesus said about Moses as being the absolute truth?
Christians believe that Jesus is the divine Son of God, that Jesus is God incarnate.  But we are trying to evaluate the truth of the Christian worldview here, so it would beg the question to simply assume that this basic theological belief of Christianity was true.  In order to establish that Moses is a true prophet on the basis of the teachings of Jesus, one must FIRST prove that Jesus is the divine Son of God, or God incarnate.   This is NOT an easy thing for Christians to do.
How can we KNOW that Jesus is the divine Son of God or God incarnate?  One key reason given in support of this claim is that Jesus performed miracles and that Jesus claimed to be the divine Son of God.  But many NT scholars doubt both of these claims.  Although NT scholars generally believe that Jesus existed, they are often skeptical about miracle stories in the Gospels, and they are often skeptical about claims in the Gospels that “Jesus said X”, especially when Jesus saying X implies that Jesus claimed to be the divine Son of God or God incarnate.
Many, perhaps most, NT scholars believe that these theological views about Jesus evolved AFTER Jesus died on the cross, and AFTER the belief that Jesus rose from the dead became widespread among the followers of Jesus.  So, the two main assumptions supporting the view that Jesus is the divine Son of God are assumptions that many or most NT scholar doubt or do not accept.  This sort of dubious argument cannot produce KNOWLEDGE that Jesus was the divine Son of God.
There is a further problem with these lines of argument used to support the claim that Moses was a true prophet of God.  In order to identify an event as being a “miracle” one must first KNOW some of the plans and purposes of God.  We cannot see, touch, hear, smell, or taste God’s presence or activity.  God is, by definition, a bodiless person, so God does not interact with the world using a physical body.  Thus our normal ways of KNOWING that a particular person caused an event do NOT apply to God.
The only aspect of our normal ways of KNOWING that a particular person caused an event  that seems to apply to God is that of MOTIVATION.  Part of how a detective identifies a murder suspect is by figuring out who had a MOTIVE to kill the victim.  This method seems like one that can be applied to God, but only if we KNOW some of God’s plans and purposes. But we don’t even KNOW that God exists, so KNOWING God’s plans and purposes is pretty much out of the question.
Again, a Christian will be tempted to point to the Bible or “divine revelation” for information about the plans and purposes of God.  But the Bible in general, just like Moses and Jesus in particular, cannot simply be assumed to be absolutely true.  Why should we accept what the Bible has to say about God?  Why should we accept what Moses has to say about God in the first five books of the Bible?  Why should we accept what Jesus has to say about God in the Gospels?
The key reason generally given by Christians is to point to miracles as evidence of the divine inspiration of the Bible.  But this means, for example, pointing to the alleged miracles of Moses to prove that Moses was a true prophet of God.  And this means, for example, pointing to the alleged miracles of Jesus to prove that Jesus was the divine Son of God.  We have already seen that such a line of reasoning cannot produce KNOWLEDGE about the alleged divine authority of Moses or Jesus.
Furthermore, none of the alleged miracles of Moses or Jesus can be proven to be miracles UNLESS someone FIRST proves some claims about the purposes and plans of God.  But the source of information that Christians point us to, to find out about the plans and purposes of God is the Bible, the teachings of Moses, and the teachings of Jesus.  So, they are now REASONING in a CIRCLE.
One cannot determine that a miracle has occurred unless and until one proves some specific claims about the plans and purposes of God, but this requires that one establish some person or some book as having divine authority, but in order to establish that some person or some book has divine authority, one must first prove that a miracle has occurred.  Thus, it is not possible to prove that a miracle has in fact occurred.  Therefore, no person or book can be proven to have divine authority.
 
CONCLUSION
For the above reasons, it is doubtful that one can KNOW that some particular law or command came from God, and therefore it is doubtful that a necessary condition of SIN, namely condition (d), has ever been satisfied by any action of any human being.  Therefore, it is doubtful that any human being has ever performed an action that is a SIN.
The reason that I have not concluded that it is clearly the case that no human has ever committed a SIN, is that I have not yet examined the second possible way that a human can allegedly KNOW that a particular law or command is from God (i.e. conscience or innate knowledge of laws or commands of God).

bookmark_borderEvaluation of the Christian Answer to Worldview Question #2 – Part 1: SIN

In this post I will begin work on an evaluation of the Christian answer to worldview question #2, in preparation for creating the next podcast in my series of podcasts called Thinking Critically About: Is Christianity True?
 
THE FOUR BASIC WORLDVIEW QUESTIONS
There are four basic worldview questions, four questions that can be used to analyze the content of a worldview:

Q1. What are the most important problems of human life? (Symptoms of Disease)

Q2. What is the root-cause problem of what are (allegedly) the most important problems of human life? (Diagnosis of the Disease)

Q3. What is the solution to what is (allegedly) the root-cause problem of what are (allegedly) the most important problems of human life? (Cure for the Disease)

Q4. How should we implement what is (allegedly) the solution to what is (allegedly) the root-cause problem of what are (allegedly) the most important problems of human life? (Treatment Plan for the Patients)

 
CHRISTIAN ANSWERS TO THE FIRST TWO WORLDVIEW QUESTIONS 
The following is a short version of what I take to be the Christian answers to the first two worldview questions:

Q1. What are the most important problems of human life? (Symptoms of Disease)
Alienation or separation from God, conflict and disharmony between people, mental and physical suffering, disease, death, and in the next life: divine eternal punishment.

Q2. What is the root-cause problem of what are (allegedly) the most important problems of human life? (Diagnosis of the Disease)
Sin (disobedience to God) is the root cause problem of separation from God, conflict and disharmony between people, mental and physical suffering, disease, death, and ultimately results in eternal divine punishment.

 
FURTHER ANALYSIS OF THE CHRISTIAN ANSWER TO WORLDVIEW QUESTION #2
The Christian answer to worldview question #2, like the answer to worldview question #1, can be analyzed into four categories: spiritual, physical, mental, and social (click on the image below for a clearer view of the chart):  
WHAT DOES THE WORD “SIN” MEAN?
The DIAGNOSIS of a disease involves the making of CAUSAL claims.  To say that “Donald Trump’s fever and shortness of breath is because of a COVID-19 infection” implies that a particular type of virus is CAUSING those symptoms of fever and shortness of breath.  Similarly, to claim that SIN is the reason for human alienation from God, disease, death, and disharmony between human beings, is to make CAUSAL claims about the relationship between SIN and those various alleged human problems.
A CAUSAL claim should be doubted and set aside unless someone can provide good reasons to believe the CAUSAL claim.  So, the Christian answers to worldview question #2 should be doubted and set aside unless someone can provide good reasons to believe the CAUSAL claims that are asserted or assumed by those Christian answers.
But before we can evaluate such CAUSAL claims or reasons provided in support of them, we must first have a CLEAR understanding of what those causal claims mean.  Since SIN is supposed to be the root cause of all of the most important human problems (according to Christianity), we must first have a CLEAR understanding of what the word “sin” means, before we can evaluate causal claims involving the concept of SIN.
Here is a helpful comment from the Pocket Dictionary of Theological Terms:

The Bible presents sin as both fallen humanity’s state of separation and alienation from God and as a person’s purposeful disobedience to God’s will as evidenced in concrete thought or act.  (p.107)

This comment points out two different aspects of the idea of “sin”.  First there is sin as the state of “separation and alienation from God”.  Second, there is sin as “purposeful disobedience to God’s will”.  These two different aspects or notions of sin must be separated for our investigation, because a basic claim of the Christian worldview is that SIN is the root-cause of the problem of human alienation from God.
In order to take that claim seriously, we obviously cannot take the word “sin” to mean a state of alienation from God, because that would make a basic claim of the Christian worldview into an insignificant tautology:

Being in a state of alienation from God makes a person alienated from God.

This is a worthless and useless claim.  This is clearly NOT a basic claim of the Christian worldview.
So, for purposes of our investigation, we have to separate the two different aspects or senses of the concept of SIN, and use the sense that allows the Christian answers to worldview question #2 to make some sense.
Consider the following Christian answer to the question “What is the root cause of the problem of human alienation from God?”:

Sin causes a person to be alienated from God.

If we just use the second aspect or sense of “sin” from the Pocket Dictionary of Theological Terms, we can make sense of this CAUSAL claim:

Disobedience to the will of God causes a person to be alienated from God.

The definition of “sin” above also specifies that this disobedience must be “purposeful”.  Presumably, the idea there is that accidentally or unintentionally violating God’s will does not count as SIN (or is, at most, a borderline case of sin).
How can one purposefully or intentionally disobey the will of God?  The Bible clearly indicates that this happens when humans knowingly disobey some command or law that God has revealed to those humans.  The very first sins, according to the Bible, occurred when Adam and Eve disobeyed God’s explicit command to not eat the fruit from a particular tree:

15 The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to till it and keep it. 16 And the Lord God commanded the man, “You may freely eat of every tree of the garden; 17 but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall die.”  (Genesis 2:15-17, New Revised Standard Version)

After Adam ate the forbidden fruit, God cursed Adam and all of his descendants:

“Because you have listened to the voice of your wife,
    and have eaten of the tree
about which I commanded you,
    ‘You shall not eat of it,’
cursed is the ground because of you;
    in toil you shall eat of it all the days of your life;
18 thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you;
    and you shall eat the plants of the field.
19 By the sweat of your face
    you shall eat bread
until you return to the ground,
    for out of it you were taken;
you are dust,
    and to dust you shall return.”   (Genesis 3:17-19, New Revised Standard Version)

Adam and Eve purposefully and intentionally violated God’s explicit command to NOT eat the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil.  They committed the first SINS.
Later, according to the Bible, God revealed the Ten Commandments through the prophet Moses, plus many other laws, to the Israelites.  So, when an Israelite violated one of the Ten Commandments, they were, according to the Bible, purposefully and intentionally violating a command of God, and thus committing a SIN.
There were, according to the Bible, thousands of years between Adam’s first SIN, and the revelation of the Ten Commandments by Moses.  So, how could people purposefully and intentionally violate a command of God in the time after Adam and before the arrival of the prophet Moses?
According to Paul, who is the author of most of the New Testament, God placed some of his “laws” into the hearts of humans:

12 All who have sinned apart from the law will also perish apart from the law, and all who have sinned under the law will be judged by the law. 13 For it is not the hearers of the law who are righteous in God’s sight, but the doers of the law who will be justified. 14 When Gentiles, who do not possess the law, do instinctively what the law requires, these, though not having the law, are a law to themselves. 15 They show that what the law requires is written on their hearts, to which their own conscience also bears witness; and their conflicting thoughts will accuse or perhaps excuse them 16 on the day when, according to my gospel, God, through Jesus Christ, will judge the secret thoughts of all.  (Romans 2:12-16, New Revised Standard Version)

According to Paul, “what the law requires” is “written on their (non-Jews) hearts”.  In addition to revelation of the Ten Commandments and other laws through the prophet Moses, God also builds some of his commands or laws into human “hearts” or a person’s “conscience”.  So, there are two different kinds of divine commands or laws:  (1) God’s commands explicitly revealed through prophets (like Moses), and (2) God’s commands that are somehow hardwired into the minds of humans by God.  So, there are two different ways to purposefully and intentionally disobey the will of God.  There are two different ways to SIN, according to the Bible.
TO BE CONTINUED…
 
 
 
 
 

bookmark_borderEvaluation of the Christian Answer to Worldview Question #1

In this post I’m going to give you the Reader’s Digest version of my Podcast #6 (and the PowerPoint that it is based upon).
 
THE FOUR BASIC WORLDVIEW QUESTIONS
There are four basic worldview questions, four questions that can be used to analyze the content of a worldview:

Q1. What are the most important problems of human life? (Symptoms of Disease)

Q2. What is the root-cause problem of what are (allegedly) the most important problems of human life? (Diagnosis of the Disease)

Q3. What is the solution to what is (allegedly) the root-cause problem of what are (allegedly) the most important problems of human life? (Cure for the Disease)

Q4. How should we implement what is (allegedly) the solution to what is (allegedly) the root-cause problem of what are (allegedly) the most important problems of human life? (Treatment Plan for the Patients)

 
CHRISTIAN ANSWERS TO THE BASIC WORLDVIEW QUESTIONS 
The following is a short version of what I take to be the Christian answers to the four basic worldview questions:

Q1. What are the most important problems of human life? (Symptoms of Disease)
Alienation or separation from God, conflict and disharmony between people, mental and physical suffering, disease, death, and in the next life: divine eternal punishment.

Q2. What is the root-cause problem of what are (allegedly) the most important problems of human life? (Diagnosis of the Disease)
Sin (wrongdoing and disobedience to God and the human propensity towards wrongdoing) is the root cause problem of separation from God, conflict and disharmony between people, mental and physical suffering, disease, death, and ultimately results in eternal divine punishment.

Q3. What is the solution to what is (allegedly) the root-cause problem of what are (allegedly) the most important problems of human life? (Cure for the Disease)
Out of love and mercy for human beings, God sent his son Jesus to die on the cross and to rise from the dead in order provide salvation from sin, to atone for our sins, to reconcile us with God, and to provide eternal life to human beings.

Q4. How should we implement what is (allegedly) the solution to what is (allegedly) the root-cause problem of what are (allegedly) the most important problems of human life? (Treatment Plan for the Patients)
If one repents of one’s sins, and believes in Jesus as the divine savior of humankind who died for our sins and rose from the dead, then one’s sins will be forgiven by God, and the process of salvation from sin will begin, ultimately completing when Jesus raises the dead and gives eternal life in heaven to those who believed in him.

 
FURTHER ANALYSIS OF THE CHRISTIAN ANSWER TO WORLDVIEW QUESTION #1
The Christian answer to worldview question #1 can be analyzed into four categories: spiritual, physical, mental, and social (click on the image below for a clearer view of the chart):
 
EVALUATION OF THE CHRISTIAN ANSWER TO WORLDVIEW QUESTION #1
I have no significant objection to the problems identified by the Christian worldview in the categories of PHYSICAL, MENTAL, and SOCIAL.  Those problems identified by the Christian worldview are real and serious problems, and it seems to me that it is reasonable to consider those problems to constitute many of the most important problems that humans face.  So, the Christian answer to worldview question #1 is at least PARTLY correct.
My problem is with the alleged problems that fall under the category of SPIRITUAL:

  • Alienation or separation from God in this life
  • and in the next life: divine eternal punishment

These are actual problems ONLY IF God exists.  Since I do not believe that God exists, I do not believe that these are actual problems that humans face, and thus there is no need for a SOLUTION to these non-existent problems.
Furthermore, even if we assume, for the sake of argument, that God exists, these alleged problems would still NOT be among the most important problems that humans face.
Alienation or separation from God in this life might be a minor problem, but many atheists and non-religious people are happy and virtuous people, and many Christians and other religious people are unhappy and lacking in virtue.  So, Christianity and religion are NOT the keys to happiness and virtue.  At most, they provide some modest degree of help to some people to obtain happiness and virtue in this life.  Alienation from God is NOT a major problem in this life, even if God exists.
The other spiritual problem, namely the threat of divine eternal punishment in an afterlife, is clearly NOT a problem at all.  God is by definition a perfectly morally good person, but no person who is perfectly morally good would ever inflict eternal punishment on a human being.
Furthermore, a perfectly morally good person would never allow anyone else to inflict eternal punishment on a human being, if that perfectly morally good person had the power to prevent this from occurring.  God is by definition all-powerful, so if God exists, then there is no such thing as Hell, and there never will be such a thing as Hell.  The belief that God exists is logically incompatible with the belief that Someone will inflict eternal punishment and misery upon some human beings.  In other words, the belief that God exists is the strongest possible reason for rejecting the idea of there being a threat of eternal punishment in an afterlife.
Therefore, neither of the SPIRITUAL problems identified by the Christian worldview is among the most important problems that we humans face.  This part of the Christian answer to worldview question #1 is clearly WRONG.
 
CONCLUSION
The Christian answer to worldview question #1 is partly TRUE and partly FALSE.  The problems identified by Christianity that can be categorized as PHYSICAL, MENTAL, or SOCIAL are legitimate and important human problems that need to be solved.
However, the SPIRITUAL problems identified by Christianity are NOT among the most important human problems.  They are non-existent problems, because these are problems only if God exists, but God does not exist.  And even if we assume that God exists, one of the problems (alienation from God in this life) would be only a minor problem, and the other problem (eternal punishment) would NOT exist because it is logically incompatible with the claim that God exists.
Furthermore, each of the PHYSICAL, MENTAL, and SOCIAL problems identified by Christianity as being among the most important problems humans face, is an example of EVIL, and this raises the problem of evil, which represents a powerful objection to the belief that God exists.  Thus, this part of the Christian worldview, by acknowledging the existence of many serious problems/evils experienced by human beings, points to powerful evidence AGAINST the existence of God, and thus against the existence of the SPIRITUAL problems that Christianity identifies as being important human problems.
It should be noted that the problems that Christianity correctly identifies as being among the most important human problems (i.e. Physical problems, Mental problems, and Social problems), are obviously serious problems, so we don’t need a prophet or divine revelation (e.g. the Bible) in order to figure out that those are serious problems that need to be solved.  We don’t need Moses or Jesus to tell us that diseases and wars, for example, are bad problems that humans face.