What's Absurd about Christianity?
Michael Martin, Ph.D., has written an essay entitled "Is Christianity Absurd?" wherein he asserts that Christianity is absurd for five reasons, and coincidentally provides credence to the observation of Peter Kreeft, Ph.D., that there is one and only one requirement for believing "any of the one hundred most absurd ideas possible for any human being to conceive -- you must have a Ph.D."
Dr. Martin makes the following claim in his essay:
Is Christianity absurd in the dictionary sense of being ridiculously incongruous and unreasonable? It seems to me that the answer is "yes." Given standard criticisms of Christianity and certain plausible interpretations of it, Christianity is filled with ridiculous incongruities and unreasonable beliefs and practices. I will consider here five aspects of Christianity where absurdity seems to arise: The Path of Salvation, Heaven, Christian Ethics, The Atonement, and God. The incongruity of which I speak involves a conflict between the importance or centrality of these notions to Christianity and their problematic status. In other words, it is incongruous that these notions should be so problematic and yet be so important to Christian thought.
With all due respect to the Professor, I suggest that many of his incongruities -- as is often the case of those who find Christianity absurd -- amount to little more than making a "mountain out of a molehill." His underlying worldview is unreasonably critical of these doctrines of Christian theology, and he therefore is blinded to the underlying Christian teaching. Since a blog is not a place for a long, in-depth analysis of each of the issues, I will merely say in response to Dr. Martin's essay that he approaches the Gospels woodenly, and does not appear to have a clue as to how to reconcile verses that, on first blush, appear to say different things. His is the type of approach I expect to read on the "Secular Web" where skeptics who have an axe to grind against Christianity think that they have somehow defeated Christianity's claims by pointing out that Jesus cannot be fully man and fully God because "fully" means "exclusively." Give me a break.
I will agree with Dr. Martin that when someone says that Christianity is absurd it means that it is incongruous (the definition of the adjective use of "absurd"). But even with this definition, Christianity, while not without difficulties due to our own lack of ability to think clearly, is certainly no less incongruous than any other worldview -- and in fact, it makes a great deal more sense than any other. When using the correspondence test for truth, Christianity appears to make at least as much sense as any other religion (or non-religion). After all, it makes sense out of the creation of the universe from nothing, biogenesis, the difference between man and animals, our great acts of compassion and our great acts of atrocities (often in a single person), our intuitive sense of right and wrong, our feelings of guilt, our desire to reach out to God coupled with our inability to reach out to God, etc. etc. Now, it may be that a person can have questions or problems with the Christian explanations for each of these issues, but the Christian solutions are not garbage. They hang together and they provide reasonable explanations for a whole host of issues.
Greg Koukl, President of the outstanding Stand to Reason, remarks in his teaching "Any Old God Won't Do" that Christians do have to struggle with the Problem of Evil, but that atheism has a bigger problem -- it has to explain the existence of "good" before it can explain the existence of evil and it has no explanation for the existence of "good." In other words, it has two problems to solve instead of just one. So, in this area, which is more absurd -- the religion that has to struggle to explain evil in light of a good God, or a anti-religion that has no explanation for either good or evil?
No, Christianity is not absurd. As in the case of beauty, to the skeptic, absurdity is in the eye of the beholder. To skeptics, Christianity is absurd not because of some overriding critical flaw that is self-contradictory or self-referentially incongruous, but because the skeptics do not want to use their often gifted minds to see beyond their wooden understandings of the Bible to work through problems that may lead them to the conclusion that there is a God out there who exists who makes demands on them.