Tom Gilson

The First Semi-Serious Atheist Assault on Too Good to be False?

Paintball shooter

Bob Seidensticker really ought to read Too Good to be False. He’s a snarky atheist blogger, whose attitude earned him banning from this blog a long time ago. Still, though, if he’d read the book, he’d at least find out how prominently I mentioned him in it.

It’s in the introduction, positioned such that it might almost look as if I’d written the whole thing just to answer one paragraph he’d placed in a blog post some time ago. (Sorry, Mr. Seidensticker, but no; I wrote the introduction last, and that quote of yours showed up on my radar long after I had the rest of the book outlined and drafted.)

Still he’s one of the first semi-serious atheists to take a pot-shot from a distance. He’s not exactly approaching close-in yet, mind you; he’s only responding to a comment I made about a prior conversation on the book. He picked up my post on Jesus and slavery yesterday and tried to mount an answer. And I guess he succeeded, in a way. There’s only one problem, and it’s huge. His answer works only if his assumptions work. It’s as circular as can be, in other words.

I won’t waste time following him on tangents like God’s supposed violence in the Old Testament. His view of God’s violence is based on his missing the essential differences between God and man with respect to life, death, justice, eternity, and judgment. I dealt with that at great length a long time ago, and I don’t need to start it all over again now.

It takes a special kind of wooden fundamentalism to notice that yet think Jesus failed to say anything about slavery.

Otherwise, all I can say is that he’s tone-deaf to issues of the human heart. Jesus came to found a revolution of love. He showed humans’ essential equality. He condemned the enslaving spirit at its very root, which is greed and self-centeredness. He taught that we must do unto others as we would have them do to us.

This cuts the legs out from any possible motive for slavery. It takes a special kind of wooden fundamentalism to notice that yet think Jesus failed to say anything about slavery. Where Seidensticker misses it most egregiously, though, is in his question about Jesus’ mission on earth, to reconcile us with God. “What does this have to do with slavery?” he asks.

What I said in that original article was that Jesus knew which mission was primary, and nothing was as important as our reconciliation with God. Seidensticker doesn’t recognize that as important. And he’s right, up to a point: If secularism is true, it isn’t. But that’s no better than saying, if his assumptions are right, then his conclusions are right, but it’s totally circular. He could have stated it so much more economically:

  1. Assume it’s false that Jesus was the Son of God whose primary mission on earth was to die for our sins and reconcile us to God.
    If so, then,
  2. It’s false that Jesus was the Son of God whose primary mission on earth was to die for our sins and reconcile us to God.

See how it is to manage an argument to reach the conclusion you like?

Not to worry, though: I wrote a book for that.

If on the other hand my assumptions are right, then Seidensticker’s attempt here fails: He doesn’t succeed in showing that Jesus was a moral failure regarding slavery.

Of course I acknowledge that this on its own doesn’t make a positive case that Jesus was a great moral leader. That, too, would be a circular argument. Not to worry, though: I wrote a book for that.

Oh, and one more thing: The book isn’t about Christians’ goodness. We’ve got our issues, and we always have. It’s about Jesus himself. Seidensticker threw in several lines about Christianity’s failures through the years. I could contest them, but as I said in the very blog post he claims to be answering here, I intend to keep the focus on Jesus Christ. If he’s worth following — as he indeed is — then he’s worth following. That’s Christianity’s key claim, and for purposes of discussion on this book, I’m sticking with it.

Image Credit(s): Unsplash/Bermix Studio.

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"Engaging… exhilarating.… This might be the most surprising and refreshing book you’ll read this year!" — Lee Strobel

"Too Good To Be False is almost too good to be true!" — Josh McDowell

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