A Question I Was Asked:

Don't You Have to "Cherry Pick" From the Bible In Order To Produce a "Biblical Standard of Morality"?

The Question:

At the end of your August 2010 article entitled "The BBC's Support for Atheists and Atheism Must Be Challenged," hosted on www.ukapologetics.net, you posed the following question:

"If you were accused of a serious crime which you did not commit, would you prefer to be in the hands of a God-believing judge who believed that we will all be judged someday in the superior court of heaven? Or, would you prefer to be in the hands of a committed atheistic Darwinist, one who has no firm foundation for a sense of morality and who believed that everything on this earth is an accident with the 'survival of the fittest' all that really matters?"

The trouble with the Bible is that it's not really a reliable foundation for a sense of morality, is it? When Christians claim to derive morality from that work what they're really doing is cherry picking the bits they like in order to approximately comply with the standards of morality that most decent people nowadays follow, which have evolved from many centuries of enlightened secular thinking. If people were to start just randomly picking bits from the Bible without reference to these modern secular standards and using them as a moral standard by which to live their lives they could well find themselves engaged in acts of genocide, child murder, rape, or slavery, all things that are promoted in the Bible. Furthermore they might be tempted to cherry pick verses, such as for example, anti gay pronouncements from the Bible, which echo their own hatred of this, or other groups, in order to justify such feelings, all the while hypocritically ignoring equally important pronouncements against activities such as planting more than one crop in a particular field, eating shellfish, wearing clothes of more than one type of cloth, or loaning money and charging interest on it. When was the last time you heard a militant Christian condemning a bank clerk or personal banker, of the sort you can find in any high street bank, for his or her chosen occupation?

As for your reference to the notion that everything is an "accident" on this Earth, the theory of evolution has never claimed to explain how life started on this Earth, it is merely the most parsimonious and therefore least worst, unfalsified explanation for biodiversity, which fits in with the masses of geological, biological and physics data known to science. Of course believing in a creator doesn't explain how everything got here either, it just leaves us with the even more unanswerable question of who created the creator? As for the claim you seem to be making about evolution being random, although evolution makes use of random mutation, actually it's guided by natural selection, so is selective, as opposed to random.

On balance therefore, and in answer to your original question, I would prefer to be in the hands of the committed atheistic Darwinist judge, who would be far more likely to treat everybody in front of him in an objective manner, in the way that a well run democratic and secular society does. Such a judge wouldn't be tempted to cherry pick verses out of bronze age adventure story in order to surreptitiously justify discrimination of members of certain groups, such as an atheist like myself, just because he'd got it into his head that his "God in Heaven who will hold him accountable for getting my judgement wrong" would expect him to discriminate in this way.

UK Apologetics Reply:

Okay, I accept your position as being a very popular one today. From my point of view, I would say that you prefer to walk in a moral and spiritual vacuum; but that is entirely your choice. But the idea that biblical morality can only be established by "cherry-picking" from the Bible is, with great respect, plainly a nonsense. While you may not agree with certain moral pronouncements within Scripture, the biblical moral approach is completely consistent; it is simply that there is an Eternal God out there whose moral and behavioural standards are not a bit like those of rebellious, modern, liberal-minded westerners! You mention not wearing clothes of more than one cloth, but such things were purely for the Israelites who needed a consistent standard as a wilderness people. Such things are not part of the Bible's overall moral teaching and standards, as even an atheist like you should know. The Bible's moral standards can be observed by looking at the principles within the Ten Commandments and the Sermon on the Mount. But - there again - you will probably not understand that, because you are obviously not a serious student of the Bible.

It reminds me of Richard Dawkins who has made all these rather daft statements about Christians and about Christianity but the only thing that his statements tend to prove is that he has never studied scripture, theology, or for that matter, philosophy. Nor, indeed, history, when he claims that followers of God have caused more wars and unrest than any other group. The lesson of history is that it is God-deniers who have done that. Communist China, the Soviets, the imperialist Japanese, the Nazis, the followers of Genghis, of Atilla the Hun, one could just go on and on... ..Let us just very quickly look at the record of Communist China alone:
8,427,000 victims during 'The Totalization Period.'
7,474,000 victims during Collectivization and "The Great Leap Forward."
10,729,000 victims during The Great Famine and Retrenchment Period.
7,731,000 victims during The "Cultural Revolution."

Don't critique a thing until you properly understand it!

I drive a Citroen, I love it, but I do not completely understand how it works, however, I do not then make critical public statements on the finer points of Citroen engine design etc., because I insufficiently understand the matter, therefore I am not qualified to be critical in the technically 'deeper' areas. I think we should all get back to the old ideal that only those who are thoroughly conversant with their subject have the right to condemn. On the other hand, I can condemn modern, godless society because I have been there, I have seen its lamentable fruits. In fact, we are all surrounded by it. I don't step over into Richard Dawkins' area of expertise and critique him on those grounds - but when he steps over into matters of Theology and Philosophy I will happily critique him. His approach is steeped in philosophical naturalism, but in the areas of religion, theology and philosophy he is out of this depth. His book, 'The God Delusion' made this very, very clear - as even some of his fellow atheists agreed.

You talk about, "the standards of morality that most decent people nowadays follow..." you then say that these standards of morality, and I quote, "...have evolved from many centuries of enlightened secular thinking."

Wrong! It is well accepted (albeit very reluctantly by libertarians and 'humanists') that our standards of morality come from a Judeo-Christian base. Humanists have struggled for years to "prove" that decent standards of morality are purely human but they have failed. Even Dawkins will retreat on this question. However, I do believe that God has given men and women a conscience and a sense of 'natural moral law' - to the degree that they choose to follow it, of course. Yet strong moral teaching has a Judeo-Christian base. To say that good standards of morality "have evolved from many centuries of enlightened secular thinking" is to state that the areas of the spirit and of religion have never contributed anything. If this were true, atheists should be expected to be world leaders in high moral standards. Pardon me, but was it Genghis Khan, Engels, Marx, Darwin or Hitler who wrote 'the sermon on the mount'? The undeniable record of human history is that it is Theists who have contributed most to human civilisation. The drive to build schools and hospitals and to instill moral standards of behaviour into children came from Theists, mostly Christian Theists, and from those schooled in this God-accepting worldview. You may not like this fact, but you cannot deny it.

You further state,

"...As for the claim you seem to be making about evolution being random, although evolution makes use of random mutation, actually it's guided by natural selection, so is selective, as opposed to random."

That, of course, is a highly unscientific statement! You are apparently saying that macro-evolution (that is, that we all evolved from the most primitive life forms, gradually building up over countless millions of years, until we became biologically-sophisticated men and women of the homo sapiens type), was a product of micro-evolution (natural selection, variations in kinds etc), but micro-evolution itself refuses to allow one species to change into another, it only allows variation within kinds. If a cross-kind occurs, it will be barren - no more offspring. This is the big, big problem which evolutionists are currently having to face. They are 'taking refuge' in mutations, even though it is known that mutations are something like 96% deleterious; mutations represent a loss of genetic information, they do not add anything. Evolutionists would largely agree with that statement of mine but they might say, 'in the past, mutations must have been beneficial.' Of course, they are unable to produce any evidence of this and the fossil record persistently refuses to back them up. Therefore, I have no doubt that, as a Christian Theist, I stand on sure and secure ground.
Robin A Brace. January 4th, 2012.

Secularism; The Most Evil Philosophy Known to Human Government
The BBC's Support for Atheists and Atheism Must Be Challenged