If God Demands Worship, Is He a Cosmic Bully?

If God sends people to hell for not worshiping him, then, some might say, he is no better than a cosmic bully. When he doesn’t get the respect that he deserves from you, then you suffer the severe consequences.

I think this is a good question when asked genuinely, because if we were to apply this sort of thinking to another person it would seem pretty obvious that this is a character flaw. But I have a couple of thoughts that I hope will help to explain why I think that it is God’s right to require worship. However, before I attempt to answer this question, we must do our best to be aware that especially as Americans (which I know some of you reading this post are not), we tend to struggle with this. We hold firm to our autonomy and equality, and this concept of God demanding worship brushes up against that. It is worth keeping this in mind, because not everyone wrestles with this in the same way that we might. Now this isn’t really an answer to the question, but it is healthy to remember this.

Now getting on to answer the question, I think that we must talk about anthropological teleology. By anthropological teleology, I simply mean the purpose, goal, or aim of human beings. Anthropology is the study of humanity, and teleology has to do with purpose or goals. When God creates a human being, he creates them for a purpose. And God being perfectly good, creates them for a good purpose. But God isn’t like the gods of the Mesopotamians or the Egyptians—he isn’t interested in creating slaves, but he is interested in creating worshipers. There is a difference. From my understanding, the key to Christian worship is the love of God. So you were designed to worship God by loving him. If your idea of worship is limited to singing songs, then your idea of worship is quite small. Worship is a way of life that bleeds into all areas of living. Worship has to do with proper affections, motivations, and purposes. But here is a crucial point: you cannot worship God without loving him, and, I would argue, you cannot love him without enjoying him. So the take away is this: when you worship God, the purpose and goal of your life is being fulfilled. The result is that you are granted happiness. So worship of God looks astonishingly like being happy in him. More could be said, but I simply want to make the point that God has designed worship to bring you happiness. (A couple of years ago, a video of Victoria Osteen [wife of Joel Osteen] circulated around the internet where she claimed that God wants your happiness through service. This made many people quite upset, but I think she was more right than wrong on this issue, even if she could have [and probably should have] said more. I replied here)

When we worship, we are fulfilling our purpose, and this should bring us joy in who God is. But also, if we worship anything else (and everyone worships something), we believe and live out a lie that isn’t beneficial for us or anyone else. Imagine that you fall in love with someone. They say all the right things, do all the right things, and everything about them seems perfect. But now imagine that everything that they do has been calculated and engineered by someone else who has simply told the person that you think you love how to act, what to say, and what to do in order to make you fall in love with them. If you knew this information, I imagine that you would quickly fall out of love with this person, because they aren’t who you thought they were. This is how it is when we worship things other than God. We fall in love with them, but only because we don’t realize that they cannot bring us ultimate happiness. If fact, the whole thing was a lie, and once we understand this (and we all eventually do), then we fall out of love with them because they can’t deliver what they promised, and we run towards other things. When we refuse to worship God, and instead worship what he has created, we fall in love with the wrong object, and sooner or later we discover this. Now, I understand that my analogy breaks down fairly quickly, but it serves to establish my point which is this: worshipping anything other than God will lead to our disappointment, because it isn’t as great as we think it is. We all worship something, and if we worship anything other than God, we set ourselves up for disappointment, and we fall for a lie that something else could bring us long lasting and true happiness.

Finally, we must understand that God does deserve our worship, and when we worship other things, not only have we missed out on happiness and believed a lie, but we’ve also robbed God of his due. Now I say “robbed” simply to say that we do owe God our affections. I want to be clear that God does not need our worship—as if he would lack something if we refused to give it to him. But we must remember that God is the only one worthy of our worship, and so to refuse to give it to him is to refuse to give him the respect and honor that he deserves.

Regarding the notion of whether or not it us just for God to send people to hell, I have dealt with some of those questions here. Let it suffice to say, that hell is essentially the separation from life, goodness, hope, love, peace, joy, and comfort. These things are all in God. If you are separated from God forever, then you are separated from these things. You can’t have God and not have God at the same time. He doesn’t coerce you, but he allows you to choose.

We need a balanced theology of worship. On the one hand, we understand that true worship is designed to bring us happiness, while on the other hand, it is something that God deserves. He doesn’t force us to worship him, but invites us to participate in his greatness. You could refuse to look out and behold the beauty of a sunset—but all the worse for you. We must learn to see that God is not simply looking to take, but to give. And in worship, we give him trust and adoration and he gives us himself.

(Thoughts? Comments? Feel free to contact me at zacklocklear@outlook.com)

Why Theology Matters for Living Life

Parenting is difficult. My wife and I have a son who is only 9 months old, and already, from what little experience I have, I feel like I can say with confidence: parenting is difficult. Eventually, our son will be able to talk. And I’m sure he will express his curiosity about the world by repeatedly asking the grating “why?” question about everything, as children do. He will ask “why?” about mundane, and seemingly unimportant things, and he will ask “why?” about profound things—with depths of which neither he nor I fully understand. Humans are by nature curious and philosophical beings, even when they do not realize the depth or significance of the questions they raise. Here is how I imagine it: eventually, my wife and I will tire of answering our sons endless list of questions. What will happen is that his questions will be answered by “it just is that way,” or “because I said so.” For children, these answers are often sufficient. We do not need to provide any further explanation. If a child wonders why she cannot stick a fork into an electrical outlet, we do not need to explain how electricity functions. All we need to do at the time is to tell the child not to stick the fork in the outlet because it is dangerous and harmful to the child.

As children grow into adults, there becomes the need to explain things in greater detail. It gets to the point where the answer “because I said so” is no longer a sufficient answer. Sometimes, young people need to know why—not simply what to do or what not to do. A true explanation can lead to a greater understanding and appreciation for why regulations and safeguards are put in place to begin with. Why should I love people that are cruel to me? Why should I not sleep around? Why should I treat others fairly? Sure, the Bible says I should or should not do these things. But is God just trying to get me to jump through hoops? Or is there are deeper reason why, and can we learn it from studying the Scriptures?

My fear is that we, as Christians, are content to simply to give “because the Bible says so” answers to both other Christians and those who do not share our faith. There is a certain sense in which we can only understand so much, and when God does something or commands something, we simply do it without question. But that isn’t necessarily what I’m talking about. My fear is that we do not attempt to understand our faith—perhaps out of laziness—and therefore we understand our faith very little. We read something in a book, hear something on TV, see a quote on Facebook, and we accept it without any reflection. Our theology becomes a collection of things we’ve gathered here and there, and if we’re honest, we’ve never really taken it very seriously.

But we desperately need theology. Speaking practically, knowing theology matters is because it influences the way in which we live our lives (or so it should). Having taught Sunday school and small groups for several years now (and having been involved in these things for as long as I remember), I have found that we often teach each other ethics (what you should do, or how you should live), without much of a theological basis. The truth of the matter is that you cannot have a firm ethical system without theological roots. In other words, once you take God out of the equation, you lose any hope you have of a stable foundation. Your ethical system becomes relative to your own opinion. You need roots. Without theology you lack roots. Many of the ethical principles that I was taught in the church were rootless. It was simply “Do not do this because the Bible says so.” And I believe that this attributed much to my rejection of Christianity as a high school and college student, and paved the way for my agnosticism. It was rootless. It was simply “don’t do this,” without any explanation of why it matters, or why God might not want us to do these things.

Here is what I think happens. So much of our Christian teaching is just pureed vegetables. It’s great for children. We tell them that God loves them and that Jesus came down from heaven for them and that they should love one another and tell one another about Jesus and share their toys. This is good. But I get the feeling that sometimes this is as far as we go in our understanding as adults. We’re content with pureed vegetables. Probably because that is all we’ve ever known.

But I think that if we are going to make disciples (as is the point of the Great Commission in Matt. 28), then we need to move beyond pureed vegetables. We need to be serious students of the Bible—not simply to know more information, but because the information matters, and we need to be able to understand the roots and the foundation of this information. It should change the way we view God, ourselves, and each other. It should change the way that we live and think. It should change the way we handle worry and stress and whatever difficulties life throws our way. Notice of course that I say that it “should.” It is one thing to know something, and another thing to apply that knowledge. Let me admit that this is one of—if not my biggest—struggles. But the point remains that you cannot effectively make the correct changes in your thinking and in your life if you do not have the correct knowledge. Furthermore, you will not even know how to defend your faith when it is under attack (as it will be, if not already), if you do not even understand the faith that you have. We want to be able to understand our faith because it changes the way that we do life. Instead of having someone puree our faith and spoon feed it to us, we need to know how to grow our own vegetables, and we need to know how to teach others to grow their own vegetables. This is a communal effort, but it is an effort nonetheless.

Here are a couple of questions to ask yourself:

Am I making an attempt to understand God and the Scriptures?

Do I care about understanding my faith?

Do I want to know more?

Does my theology have a foundation and a root system, or am I living off of pureed vegetables? Am I okay with this? How can I change this?

Is my life aligning with my theology?

(Thoughts? Comments? Feel free to contact me at zacklocklear@outlook.com)

If God Knows the Future, Does Prayer Change Anything?

I remember being young and going over to a friend’s house for dinner, with my brother. Before we ate, my brother was going to pray over the meal when one of the kids said, “Why are you praying over your food? God already knows what you would ask for, so you don’t need to pray.” We were a little shocked by this statement, but it was an intriguing thought. My family always prayed over our food and for our needs. And certainly God knows the future. So are we really just wasting our breath over things that God has already provided for?

Here is another thought. If the future is set—for instance, if God knows that I’m going to get in an accident tomorrow, and he cannot be mistaken about this—then why should I pray for protection when driving? In fact, if the future is set, why pray about anything at all? Certainly my prayers would not change anything. Whatever will happen in the future, God knows, and whatever God knows, will happen in the future. Therefore, why even bother praying?

I think these are good points. But I also believe that there is a mistake in this kind of thinking.

First, let us acknowledge a couple of theological points:

  • Jesus tells us to ask (Matt.7:7-11).
  • God knows your needs (Matt. 6:8).
  • God knows the future (Psa. 139:4).

Now some would say that prayer does not change God’s mind. God cannot be changed, nor would we want him to be changed in anyway. He alone possesses infinite wisdom and knowledge, and any change that could be brought upon God would only decrease his imperfections. So God knows what is best, and our prayers do not change God, they simply change us.

Yet again, I think that there is truth here. Prayer does change us. We know to pray for God’s will in all things (Matt. 6:9), and naturally we should want our will to match his own. But it does seem that we are allowed to make requests (Matt. 7:7-11), not merely pray for God’s will or pray that our will would be changed (though we should do these things). It seems to be that when Jesus tells us to ask, that  our prayers possesses the power to make changes. That is to say, if we pray (X), then there is a result (Y). On the other hand, if we do not pray (not-X), then there will not be a result (not-Y). But how does this work if God knows the future? Again, if God knows the future, then the future is locked in place. It cannot be changed.

But perhaps there is way in which our prayers do influence the future—a future which God already knows, down to every detail. Imagine that you receive a phone call from the hospital that your sister has been in an accident. The hospital will not tell you how she is doing, and you jump in your car to rush to the emergency room. In this circumstance you pray to God that she is okay. Now whether she is okay or not, some might say that your prayer changes nothing. After all, the event has already happened. Nothing you do can change the past. But, what if your prayer can change what has already happened?

Now let me propose a way to think about this that  can be a little tricky, but I would encourage you to ponder it with me.

Let us imagine that before God creates the world, he knows everything that you will do. He knows, in this circumstance, that you will pray that your sister is okay. Taking this into account, he knows what will happen if you pray for your sister, or if you did not pray for your sister. But again let us say that you pray for her. Before God creates the world in which he exhaustively knows every event that happens therein, he knows that you will pray for your sister, and so acts on the basis of this knowledge to save your sister from serious injury. This means that even though you prayed after you heard that your sister was in the emergency room, God knew before he created the world that you would pray for her after her accident and so worked before and during her accident to prevent her from suffering any serious injury. Thus, your prayer did serve as the means for change in a world in which the future is exhaustively known by God.

This can be quite complex. But perhaps God knows that we will ask for something (even after it has happened, like the accident) and has planned before the creation of the world to take into account and act on behalf of that prayer. This way, both our prayers and God’s omniscience (his complete knowledge) do not necessarily lead us into fatalism (the notion that nothing that we do can change what will happen).

There are many different ways that we can think about the providence of God. Depending on how you choose to think about these issues will certainly influence the way that you pray. It is wise, I think, to carefully consider how prayer works in a world in which God already knows the future. I also think however we choose to think about these issues, that we come to a place where we trust God completely with our future, but we also earnestly pray for things going on in the world—believing that our prayers make a difference.

It is easy to undermine the power of prayer. It is also easy to get into the kind of thinking that because God knows the future, that the future is simply a matter of fate, and our prayers do little else but change our disposition. But it seems to me that God is asking us to pray because he wants to work as a result of our prayers. Now how exactly he chooses to work is a matter of his own will, but he takes into account our petitions to him, and always works according to his good and perfect nature.

(Thoughts? Comments? Feel free to contact me at zacklocklear@outlook.com)

Personal Update

I want to apologize for the lack of updates on this blog. Blogs are a dime a dozen and blogs that are abandoned after a couple of posts are even more common, so I appreciate those who have emailed me and continued to share my posts!

It has been quite a busy year for my family. My wife and I had our first child (Isaac) 8 months ago and that has been a wonderful and sanctifying experience—as those with babies and young children already know. I have also had my hands full with seminary coursework, and the Lord has been very gracious towards me by providing me with wonderful professors and giving me the energy to persevere through it. I am in the process of considering doctoral programs in theology or philosophy, so for those who have applied and in are PhD programs, your advice is much appreciated.

On a slightly different note, I have needed time away from posting to reevaluate the purpose of my writing. I was worried after I published “Christians, Be Careful What You Say On Facebook” that I would fall into a rhythm of negativity—criticizing Christians for saying things that drive me nuts. I do think that we Christians need those who will call us out when we are acting contrary to the teachings of Jesus, but I never wanted to get into the business of publishing rants, regardless of how much attention that sort of writing tends to draw. There is enough of that on the internet, and I find most of it unhelpful at best. What I always wanted to do was teach. And after a while I felt that I was no longer teaching, but simply pointing fingers and people that made me angry. I felt burdened in my own soul with the idea that I was adding to the distortion, when what I wanted to do was to add to the clarity.

That being said, my plan is to resume posting, and I look forward to future interactions with my readers. Please feel free to email with questions or prayer requests; I would love to hear from you. I hope you all have had a wonderful Christmas, and I pray that you will have a blessed New Year!


(Thoughts? Comments? Feel free to contact me at zacklocklear@outlook.com)

Don’t Blame Mark Driscoll for Donald Trump

Politics is not the interest of this blog. Frankly, no one needs another I-can’t-believe-evangelicals-are-voting-for-Trump post. I don’t want to do that. The only reason why Trump secures a spot in the title of this article is because of recent comparisons attempting to explain the similarities between Driscoll and Trump, and how Driscoll could be seen as a type of influence that clears the trees for a foundation for Trump within the evangelical world. In other words, I’m mentioning Trump because of his current comparison to Driscoll. I’m interested (not supportive) in Driscoll not Trump. But this article really isn’t even about Driscoll or Trump. Without critiquing the article in the link above, I simply want to say that whatever is going on within the evangelical world is something that really shouldn’t catch us too off guard. Though I’m not in agreement with Driscoll, I think it’s unfair to point our fingers at him. Let me give you a couple of reasons why.

1) It is a mistake to preach connections between a political party and Christianity. The reason should be apparent by now. When this happens, you get all sorts of people who cannot tell the difference between conservative values and Christianity. You may think that one entails the other, but that is beside the point. This categorical confusion simply paves the way for those who are more conservative than they are Christian to represent Christianity within their specific context. The results are disastrous—as many evangelicals are learning. But why are we shocked by this? Christianity has a history of being taken up by political leaders who committed horrible acts in the name of Christ. And yet it appears that many so-called Christians supported these leaders. There is a lot that could be said here, but let is suffice to say that it isn’t Christ who is influencing this kind of behavior—it is misguided, sinful Christians. Sometimes it is difficult to see how they, themselves, were Christians. But regardless, misguided people will misguide misguided people. This has happened in different ways at different times in History. History does not repeat itself, but it certainly rhymes.

2) When your concern is morality, instead of theology, you have no foundation for interpretation. The usual political agendas that evangelicals have supported or opposed should be rooted in theology. Let me cut my fellow evangelical brothers and sisters some slack here and say that many of them have done a great job equipping their fellow congregations and friends to use theological tools for guiding their ethical values. However, many people, if you ask them why (for example) homosexuality is wrong, they’ll give you some answer that really stems from an inward repulsion to people who identify as homosexuals. To put it bluntly, these people simply don’t like gays or lesbians for one reason or another that has nothing to do with theology. They may even use the Bible as justification—but you can typically tell if a person is really concerned with what is pleasing to God by the way in which they respond to something they disagree with. When there is a hatred of peoples, there is no love of God. Sadly, in the name of conservative values and Christianity, this behavior has found a home within the so-called evangelical world—whether true evangelicals approve of this or not.

3) We’ve reduced the gospel to a proposition about Christ’s death and resurrection, without exploring the resulting application for our lives. Don’t get me wrong: Christ’s death on the cross allows those who acknowledge his lordship and his redeeming work the possibility of being in a right relationship with the Triune God. That is essential to the message. The issue that we have is when we simply stop there. To accept the gospel is not to simply accept certain knowledge as truth. That is only the first step. The work of the gospel within the individual changes the way that the individual views other people, love, work, money, sex, security, priorities, raising children, death, hospitality, forgiveness, marriage, and just about every area of life that you might think is mundane. Why? Because of what Christ has done for you. It changes your outlook on everything. This is why when you lose sight of the gospel, you cannot function as a Christian anymore. The entire foundation on which you rest has been destroyed, and all you have are some half-cooked notions about morality, and going to church, and reading your Bible, and being a good person, and voting republican. It is meaningless.

When what it means to be a Christian is reduced to ideas about morality and politics, you cannot be surprised when so-called Christians cannot figure out how to live. The gospel is the foundation for the Christian life. The gospel is the love of God towards humanity demonstrated in the work on the cross through Christ. The implications upon accepting this gospel bleed into all areas of our outward actions and our inward thinking. When evangelicals forget to show the world that this is the foundation for our thinking, instead of conservative values, then we ourselves will forget this foundation. Because to preach the gospel is to remind yourself of the gospel. Sometimes I wonder if we forget that. And sometimes I wonder what in the world everyone else thinks we’re actually preaching. Don’t blame Mark Driscoll for Donald Trump. We have been part of the problem.

(Questions? Thoughts? Comments? Feel free to share in the comment section or contact me at zacklocklear@outlook.com)

Quit Treating Sin Like Voldemort: Reasons People Do Not Take It Seriously

“The problem with people these days is that they don’t take sin seriously!” Does this statement annoy you? This may stir images an older preacher with a southern accent whose political stance is worn on his sleeve, and whose cultural awareness is lagging 20 years behind—the remembrance of which, is not favorable. You may be instantly annoyed by the very word “sin”—if anything because it seems Triassic, and it’s often wielded as a weapon with an agenda that smells more like conservative culture than Christianity. Or maybe you’re a Christian, and the word annoys you, not because of its meaning, but because of its lack of meaning or application in the culture that you live in. Perhaps it annoys you because people use it in a way that’s a bit too… middle earth?

Frankly, I think the grey-haired preacher is right: many people don’t take sin seriously. But that isn’t necessarily because people don’t think sin is serious–it’s because the word doesn’t make a connection with people both inside and outside the church. It’s either white noise, or it sounds like something from a fantasy world. There are a couple reasons why I believe the word has become gradually less potent.

 1) References to sin sound like references to Harry Potter. From my personal observation, many people scoff at the notion of sin because it sounds like a reference to Voldemort. And sometimes I agree. The notion of sin is occasionally treated as that-which-should-not-be-spoken-of out of fear that the sin will manifest itself somehow and begin mercilessly dispatching members of the Bible study. Or sin is treated like a dark cloud or black ooze, against which we must protect our houses with force fields generated by the presence of Christian films, happy thoughts, and Chris Tomlin albums. When Christians speak about sin, we sometimes speak in a language that is so detached from the world outside the Christian bubble, that we’re speaking gibberish to everyone else. Or we speak in a language that is so sci-fi that it can’t be taken seriously.

 2) Sin is a nebulous concept. “Sin is what’s wrong with the world.” “Sin is what separates us from God.” “It is a sin to do X, Y, and Z.” I heard this constantly growing up in the church. When I became functionally agnostic as a teenager and into my early years in college, I too would scoff when I heard these things. So what is sin anyway? How does it separate you from God? Why can’t I do X, Y, and Z? Too often these questions are met with non-answers, or simply treated as brute facts. This will not do. You cannot make such a large claim about this thing called “sin” and then expect to have people understand what in the world you’re talking about. The meaning is lost when the concept is not explained or clarified.

3) Sin is not an external force. I’ve heard numerous Christian speakers enthusiastically tell their audience to “look sin dead in the eye and telling it to go!” I cringe. And after I cringe, I wonder what in the world non-Christians in the building must be thinking. And then after I wonder what in the world non-Christians must be thinking, I wonder what in the world that statement really means, anyway. Yet again, images of Gandalf rebuking Balrog come streaming into my mind, and I’m wondering how this particular approach to the notion of sin is grounded in Scripture at all.

Sin is not necessarily an external force. And what I mean by that is: it isn’t like the black ooze I mentioned above. You can’t scare it off with a Bible and a git stick. You may say, “But sin is an external force. Look at what its doing to the world!” Let me explain what I mean.“Sin” is an external manifestation of an internal condition within persons. In other words, sin comes from you, and it comes from me. But it isn’t a being. It’s a way in which we conduct ourselves as the result of a condition. You can’t keep it out of your house using Bible verses or pictures of Jesus. You can’t scare it away by yelling at it, no matter how sincere you are. Many well-intended speakers and worship leaders try to energize the congregation to denounce sin by using statements like the one mentioned above. That’s fine. But let’s not turn sin into an arcane, mystical force. It’s part of the human condition, pre and post-salvation.

Whether you like it or not, American culture in particular is growing increasingly open to religious and non-religious alternatives to Christianity. Is this a bad thing? Well, it depends on how you look at it. It’s not a bad thing, in the sense that people question the beliefs that they grew up with. Seriously, if you grew up in a Christian or non-Christian household, I would hope that you care enough about truth to critically analyze why you believe what you believe. After all, if your beliefs are wrong, then at the very least you’re (presumably) wasting a lot of time and energy, and at worst you’re gambling with eternity. Assuming that eternity hangs in the balance, you don’t want to mindlessly inherit someone else’s convictions. When people begin to question their beliefs, we, as Christians, need to try to have a firm understanding of biblical concepts, and we need to be able to communicate them within a specific context that doesn’t already assume the knowledge that we’re communicating. I’m not saying that we need to scrap the word “sin”. What I am saying is that when the word becomes unhelpful because the meaning is nebulous or lost, we need to know how to go beyond the word itself, and into the concept so that it can be communicated and shown applicable to those who would typically scoff at the word or be puzzled by it.

I write this post as a reminder to myself. But I also write it to you, in the hope that we both would have higher standards of theological reflection.

(Questions? Thoughts? Comments? Feel free to share in the comment section or contact me at zacklocklear@outlook.com)

Can Atheists Be Moral?

The increasing publicity of atheism over the past decade has created a springboard for Christian apologetics, bringing the discussion of competing worldviews out of the den of academia, and into the home of anyone who is remotely interested in the conversation. Specifically within the North American context, the counterbalance brought on by anti-religious worldviews has been beneficial, as it forces those who are religious to no longer take their presuppositions for granted. This is not to say that taking presuppositions for granted is a bad thing (we all do it), but the benefit to being a member within a society that is gradually shifting away from publically favoring one worldview over another, means that if you’re going to hold to a belief, you probably need to know why. As an adult, blindly embracing the faith of your family or society isn’t something that is looked on with favor—and perhaps this is a good thing in many respects.

The rise of Christian apologetics in laity has specifically elevated ethical issues, since, perhaps, ethical issues seem to be more practical, in the sense that, the issues are generally less abstract and more personal. That being said, I have increasingly seen people either claiming, or saying that someone else is claiming, that atheists cannot be moral. From what I can tell, some tend to think that the argument goes something like this:

  • Objective moral values only exist if God exists.
  • Atheists claim that God does not exist.
  • Since atheists claim that God does not exist, they cannot be moral, because objective moral values only exist if God exists.

Taking this a step further, some may think that because atheism cannot establish objective moral values, that atheists themselves must be incapable of doing good[1] actions. I believe these claims are rooted in misinformation or confusion.

Whether or not an action is objectively good has nothing to do with what a person believes. If you believe that whether or not a person can do good is dependent on their worldview, then you, yourself, have slipped into the trap of subjectivity. After all, moral values are not grounded by what a person believes, but they are grounded in the character of God. If what is good is rooted in the character of God, then whoever does this good, is truly doing good, regardless of what they personally believe. That is the point of objectivity–the truth value of the claim is not established on how you feel or what you think to be the case. Therefore, an atheist who loves his neighbor is truly doing good, if love is grounded in the character and will of God (which it is). If you believe that atheists cannot truly love their neighbors, then the burden of proof is on you.

The question is not whether atheists can do good, the question is whether or not atheists can establish what good is. Remember also that we are not talking about whether or not an atheist can do good in terms of righteousness, since after all, according to Christianity, you and I cannot do good in terms of righteousness either, even as Christians. Our righteousness is established through Christ. So remember to not confuse the questions. The question is not whether atheists can do good; the question is whether or not objective moral values exist.

[1] Loosely defined, let ‘good’ in this case simply mean acting in accordance with God’s will for humanity, in terms of treating each other in such a way that aligns with God’s intent on some level.

(Questions? Thoughts? Comments? Feel free to share in the comment section or contact me at zacklocklear@outlook.com)