[Turing 2012] Christian Answer #1

This is the first entry in the Christian round of the 2012 Ideological Turing Test for Religion. In this round, the honest answers of Christians are mixed in with atheists’ best efforts to talk like Christians. It’s your job to see if you can spot the difference. The voting link appears at the end of the entry, and you can look at all entries in this round here.

 

When (if ever) have you deferred to your philosophical or theological system over your intuitions?

I defer to my theological system on lots of things. If I wasn’t a Christian, I don’t think I would have concluded on my own that premarital sex is wrong, or that homosexuality is wrong, or that loving your enemy is the right thing to do. I think there are good arguments for all of these, but in the absence of the moral framework presented in the Bible, I don’t think I would have arrived at these conclusions.

Obviously we can’t just cede all of our authority to make moral decisions to our belief system- that’s how we end up with suicide bombers. But Christianity has proven itself to be a truth-telling thing in my life. Whenever I have disagreed with the Biblical approach, I always find (after research, prayer, and lots of struggling) that the Bible ends up being right. So when the Bible tells me to do something, I give it the benefit of the doubt. I wouldn’t defer to any holy book that advocated violence or oppression. But I trust God, and I trust His Word, and the whole point is that Christianity is not a relationship that leads to violence or oppression, but to freedom, and joy, and peace.

I know without a doubt that I am horribly flawed. So if I know that God has my best interest at heart, and I know that he knows more than me, how could I not trust him?

 

Are there people whose opinions on morality you trust more than your own? How do you recognize them? How is trusting them different than trusting someone’s opinion on physics?

There are people who, objectively speaking, get moral questions right more often than I do. Mostly this is through proper hermeneutics- people who know the Bible REALLY well, and who live it out consistently in their daily life. I think you can clearly see the evidence of someone walking with Christ, and I tend to trust those people.

I wouldn’t say there’s a specific person who I would ALWAYS trust more than my own intuitions. But the Bible is pretty clear about spiritual leadership- those older and wiser and more experienced should lead those younger and less mature to a better understanding of God. Allowing someone to lead you is something that takes discipline and skill, and it requires a great deal of trust.

If we assume that we always know best, then we don’t leave room for God to work in our lives. Rejecting God’s teaching because we think we know best is pretty much the definition of pride, and pride is the most damaging sin there is.

 

Can you name any works of art (interpreted pretty broadly: books, music, plays, poetry, mathematical proofs, etc) which really capture the way you see life/fill you with a sense of awe and wonder? You can give a short explanation or just list a few pieces.

I hate to be so trite, but I really can’t think of any answer here other than the Bible. When I read the story of Job, or of Peter’s denial, or of Daniel’s faithfulness, I am confronted with the best and worst parts of my own nature. There’s this amazing parallel between everything the Bible teaches and everything I see in my life, and it matches so unbelievably perfectly that I can’t help but conclude this is not an ordinary book. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been struggling with something, and BAM- I read a passage of scripture and it becomes so clear what I need to do. I feel such an intimate connection with God in those moments that “awe” and “wonder” are the only appropriate responses.

Also, I’m not sure if this counts as art, but worship always leaves me with this same sense of awe and wonder. Mostly it’s through songs, though I’ve been to a few churches that have alternative forms of worship (painting, dancing, etc.). Part of the worship is definitely the music, but more than anything it’s internalizing the words to the songs. I realize in those moments how small I am, and how big God is, and how amazing it is that he cares for me.

 

Click here to judge this entry, and, once you’ve voted, feel free to speculate and trade theories in the comments or look at other entries in this round.

About Leah Libresco

Leah Anthony Libresco graduated from Yale in 2011. She works as an Editorial Assistant at The American Conservative by day, and by night writes for Patheos about theology, philosophy, and math at www.patheos.com/blogs/unequallyyoked. She was received into the Catholic Church in November 2012."

  • math_geek

    The words “homosexuality is wrong” almost certainly indicate an Athiest. Most mainstream Christians are trained very carefully not to say that, certainly anyone that has reads Leah’s blog has been trained not to say it that way.

  • http://last-conformer.net Gilbert

    Yep, very likely atheist.

    For one, the whole thing is centred around atheist concerns that aren’t that central to Christians.

    Homosexuality and premarital sex get credit before enemy-loving. That may be the practice of some Christians, but short of Westboro Baptists it isn’t a Christian self-image. Plus, like math_geek says, an even moderately educated Christian would have talked of homosexual behaviour rather than homosexuality per se. And then there’s the head-nod to the atheist stereotype that we pretend to also have secular arguments but really are only rationalizing religious teaching.

    Then we have the suicide bomber thing which Christians wouldn’t sweepingly attribute to “belief system”s in general.

    Plus the thing about other “holy book”s (not exactly a Christian expression or category in the first place) advocating violence and oppression while being oblivious about the more raunchy parts of the bible. That’s a valid criticism of some Christians but certainly not a Christian self-image.

    And second, the type of Christian isn’t consistently executed. The author is trying for a fairly dumb and somewhat bibliolatrous evangelical. Fine if somewhat boring, but then they would have needed to stick to that type.

    That type of Christian, for example, isn’t much of a fan of Chesterton’s Orthodoxy. In this case the “truth telling thing” thing is probably sourced from Leah rather than directly from Chesterton, but that kind of Christian isn’t much of a fan of Leah either.

    Then the bible-talk isn’t framed by any mention of Christ or a personal relationship or whatnot.

    Further, that kind of Protestant may practically treat some other people like their pastor as their pope, but the official line would be that those people can always prove their case from the bible.

    And, finally, someone that bibliolatrous would be doing some proof-texting.

    • http://prodigalnomore.wordpress.com/ The Ubiquitous

      Better said than I could have. Well done, Mr. Gilbert!

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  • http://prodigalnomore.wordpress.com/ The Ubiquitous

    Emphases added:

    Part of the worship is definitely the music, but more than anything it’s internalizing the words to the songs. I realize in those moments how small I am, and how big God is, and how amazing it is that he cares for me.

    As implausible as this sounds, what the author intends to get at is in fact possible, at least among prayer. Feeling awe and wonder in the sight of God after internalizing a prayer does happen — but a good prayer it will hint at our incapacity and worthlessness in relation to God, which is another crucial element. This feeling of awe and wonder does come sometimes — but not always — but if it does, it comes in the wake of prayer, in the moments of silence. Hitting us, we realize three things:

    Yes, it’s true; I meant every word; even this is possible only because You made it so.

    • http://prodigalnomore.wordpress.com/ The Ubiquitous

      Caveat: Our author specifically mentioned songs, but I’m stuck in a kind of Catholic privilege; something like full-body chant immersion prevents me from comprehending song-style worship. Now, while I don’t speak the worship language called Song Worship, it sure looks like pidgin.

  • Aaron

    Totally atheist. Probably just about died writing the words “I wouldn’t defer to any holy book that advocated violence or oppression.”.

  • Ted Seeber

    I actually voted “Very Likely Christian” on this one- but a *very* different theology than Catholicism. Somebody above mentioned Westboro Baptist (which isn’t strictly Christian, Fred Phelps even says so) and I’d say that’s close to the truth. This person is either a Bible Worshiper or an Atheist Raised by Bible Worshipers (which I find is the most common form of outspoken atheist as well). Bible Worshipers are a fairly recent phenomenon in Christianity; they’re limited to post 1800s American Christianity when printing got cheap (especially after printing Bibles got *cheaper* by dropping all those nasty Catholic books out of them). I hope that parenthetical reference leaves in the sarcasm tags, I mean to be nasty on this issue. I find 90% of what atheists hate about “Christianity” today, comes from this branch of theology- and rightly so.

    • Anonymous

      I’m interested to subscribe to your newsletter, particularly the historical issue that discusses the role of sola scriptura during the Reformation.

  • John Horstman

    The second sentence was all it took to convince me this is fake. Also, the degree of self-reflexivity around religious belief it at odds with the hypocritical or at least self-unaware statements about what’s in the Bible.

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