Wednesday, September 22, 2010

God Helps Us to Live the Way God Asks Us to Live

Dome of the Rock, Temple Mount, Jerusalem
 Atheist Peter Singer of Princeton and Christian theist John Hare of Yale dialogue on: "Moral Mammals: Does Atheism or Theism Provide the Best Foundation for Human Worth and Morality?" (In Dallas Willard, ed., A Place for Truth, 169-194) Give props to them both for an intellectual, calm, non-psychologizing non-ad-hominem-circumstantial (yay!!!) discussion.

I like Hare's answer when asked "How do you understand the role of Jesus Christ and his life and teachings for an understanding of morality? In thirty seconds, please."

Hare responds: "Jesus is a model for me of how human life should be, of giving his life for others and reaching out to the weakest. But if it's just a model, and this is Kierkegaard's point, it produces despair, because I don't seem to be able to live that way by my own resources. So it's important to me that with the model comes the power to live that way. God actually helps us to live the way God asks us to live." (191-192)

Very well said - as good as one could do in 30 seconds! In Hare's statement we have the following Christian truths:
  • Real Jesus-following (as distinguished, e.g., from Islam) is not about following rules, or viewing the Bible as a rulebook.
  • On one's own one cannot live like Christ.
  • As we abide in Christ we receive resources from God to live such a life.
  • See John chapters 14-16.
Re. Singer, I like his atheism in the sense that, on atheism, Singer makes sense. He carries himself well in dialogues like this. However, since nobody's perfect, consider Singer here as he comments on the story of the withered fig tree.

"Then there's the incident of the fig tree. Jesus saw a fig tree and asked for some fig and was told there were no figs. One of the Gospel accounts says, "Because the time of figs was not." It wasn't a useless, barren fig tree; it just wasn't the season for figs. But Jesus cursed it, and the next day the disciples come past it and say "Look, it died." That seems a very petulant act, I have to say." (Ib., 193)

Not at all, of course. Singer's surface-reading of the story leads him to casually and mistakenly dismiss it as "a petulant act" by Jesus. To understand this begin with N.T. Wright. (Here, e.g., 421 ff.)