BSR 28: There Is No Such Thing as Sin (28 of 28)

BSR 28: There Is No Such Thing as Sin (28 of 28) August 28, 2020

This is the last Bite-Size Reply to the 28 “Quick Shot” arguments from Jim Wallace’s Cold Case Christianity blog (this series starts here).  If you have any general reactions to this series of posts, to atheists responding to lists of Christian arguments, to the state of Christian apologetics in general, or any other meta comment, please (as always) share them in the comments.

At the end, I have some final thoughts on this exercise plus links to the entire list of 28 posts. This epilogue includes the outline of possible future post series, and I’d appreciate your feedback on that idea.

Summary of reply: Don’t claim sin exists without first showing that the supernatural exists; the burden of proof is the Christian’s, not the atheist’s; and science provides answers where Christianity could never even find the right questions.

Challenge to the Christian: “I don’t need an imaginary God to forgive me of my ‘sins.’ There is no such thing as sin.”

Christian response #1: Sin is analogous to missing a target, and getting rid of sin means getting rid of bull’s-eyes. Do you really want to do that, to declare that there is no such thing as a bull’s-eye in laws or moral codes?

BSR: Whoa—slow down, big fella. No one is trying to discard the idea of right and wrong. Sin is a concept only in the domain of religion. It’s “an offense against religious or moral law” or a “transgression of the law of God” (Merriam-Webster dictionary). If there’s no supernatural and no gods, then there is no sin.

The ball is in your court to show that the supernatural exists. Then we can worry about staying on the right side of the god(s).

Don’t tell me about sin without first showing that the supernatural exists. Sin is a transgression against gods, so without gods, there can be no sin. [Click to tweet]

Christian response #2: Sin is analogous to crime, just with the violation of a different kind of law. To say there is no sin is the equivalent of saying there is no God. Justify your charge that there is no God.

BSR: Nice try, but nope—the burden of proof is yours, and it would be rude of me to take that from you. You’re the one making the remarkable claim—you are saying that there is a God so therefore sin exists. It’s not my job to show God doesn’t exist; it’s yours to show he does.

Yes, sin is analogous to crime, but we know that people and society exist, as do violations against people and society. Legal systems worldwide are similar because we know crimes (against people) exist. Murder and theft, for example, are understood worldwide, but sins vary by religious culture.

Murder and theft are understood worldwide, but sins vary by religious culture. Morality is largely universal because it’s grounded in human psychology, but religion is just a cultural trait. [Click to tweet]

Christian response #3: Nature gives us lots of reasons to believe in God: “a fine-tuned universe that came into existence from nothing, the naturally inexplicable origin of life, and the improbable existence of information in DNA.” With good reason to believe God exists, there is good reason to believe sin exists.

BSR: Coupla problems here. First, you’re simply regurgitating scientific questions that science uncovered. These are important questions, but not only does science find the questions, it tends to find the answers as well. Your worldview couldn’t even come up with the questions, and you claim you had an all-knowing god to help!

Problem two is that none of these questions have caused the scientists who best understand them to switch to Christianity. There are Christian scientists, of course, but intellectual arguments never convert well-informed atheists into Christians.

And finally, claiming that the supernatural explains these puzzles is a deist argument. It supports Islam and Bahai just as well as Christianity.

Let’s briefly turn to these tired deist arguments.

  • Fine-tuned universe: We don’t even fully understand life on the one planet in the universe we know has life. Once we understand the conditions for all kinds of life, we can evaluate how fine tuned the universe is. Until then, the main thing we can say now with some confidence is that the universe is abysmally hostile to life as we know it. (Oh, and the Multiverse.)
  • Came into existence from nothing: Nope, that’s not what science says.
  • Naturally inexplicable origin of life: You can prove that abiogenesis is impossible naturally?! Publish that paper and collect the adulation of all biologists. Until then, don’t say stupid stuff.
  • Improbable existence of information in DNA: Genetics is amazingly complicated, and yet we still have a natural explanation for it.
Not only does science find the questions, it tends to find the answers as well. The Christian’s worldview couldn’t even come up with the questions, and they claim to have had an omniscient god to help! [Click to tweet]

(The Quick Shot I’m replying to is here.)

Epilogue

The goal of Jim Wallace’s original list was to take 28 popular atheist arguments and give Christians quick responses that they could look up on the fly, while in the middle of an argument, and use immediately. I see how debating someone on the opposite side of a hot topic, especially in public, can be difficult. I don’t mind his attempt to put training wheels on Christian arguments to help out. I structured my responses to deliberately mimic his minimalistic approach, and perhaps they can be used in the same way.

Nevertheless, there’s no alternative to knowing the issues well. Giving as a rebuttal an argument that you’re reading from your phone, live, for the first time, isn’t the best use. Better would be to admit that you have no answer, thank your antagonist for the new information, and promise to get back to them when you do have a response.

These Bite-Size Replies probably won’t provide you with an effective response in a real-time debate (unless it’s simply to refresh your memory of an argument you already understand). Instead, use them as training before you engage with someone and as study afterwards to improve weaknesses in your argument.

As I went through these Christian responses over the last five months, I noticed that some were arguments that I might make (Christianity supports slavery and genocide) and some that I wouldn’t (“Christian Hypocrisy Proves Christianity False” or “All God Expects of Us Is Sincerity”). Nevertheless, for completeness, I replied to them all. Many seemed clumsily worded so I steel-manned (which is the opposite of straw-manning) those arguments as well as I could to have something to respond to.

The original Christian posts were all replies to atheist arguments, not arguments for Christianity, so this isn’t a survey of the entire field of Christian apologetics. Still, I couldn’t help thinking that if this is the best Christianity has to offer, it’s in sad shape. None of these posts were difficult to respond to. The biggest challenge was making my argument terse and clear, not in finding a response to the Christian position. Feel free to add your own thoughts about the quality of the Christian arguments.

My challenge for Christian apologists

Let me return the favor. Christian apologists, I have a list of 27 arguments (and growing) that I’m now calling silver-bullet arguments. (Early in the list, I called them “Reasons we don’t live in a world with a god.” Same idea with a different name—sorry for the confusion.) The list begins here. In my mind, every one of these arguments single-handedly defeats Christianity. If you disagree, I invite your response. Write Quick Shots against these.

What about atheist Quick Shots?

Jim Wallace’s original list was Christian responses to atheist arguments. With this list of Bite-Size Replies, I’ve responded, but what I haven’t done is create the atheist equivalent.

In other posts at this blog, I’ve responded to most of the Christian arguments, but some of those are 3000 words long or longer. Is there any value in short posts (again, fairly close to what Jim Wallace did) responding to the most popular dozen or so Christian arguments or claims? Let me know what you think.

For further reading:

Praying is like a rocking chair:
It’ll give you something to do,
but it won’t get you anywhere.
— Gypsy Rose Lee

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Image from Eli Christman, (license: CC BY 2.0)

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Complete list of Bite-Size Replies with links


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