Thursday, September 15, 2005

An Atheist's Perspective of Christian Charity

From across the pond, atheist Roy Hattersley speculates as to why Christians, especially those associated with the Salvation Army, are so willing to come to the aid of others in a disaster such as the one caused by Hurricane Katrina. He writes in The Guardian of London: . . .

The Salvation Army has been given a special status as provider-in-chief of American disaster relief. But its work is being augmented by all sorts of other groups. Almost all of them have a religious origin and character.

Notable by their absence are teams from rationalist societies, free thinkers' clubs and atheists' associations - the sort of people who not only scoff at religion's intellectual absurdity but also regard it as a positive force for evil. . . .

Civilised people do not believe that drug addiction and male prostitution offend against divine ordinance. But those who do are the men and women most willing to change the fetid bandages, replace the sodden sleeping bags and - probably most difficult of all - argue, without a trace of impatience, that the time has come for some serious medical treatment. Good works, John Wesley insisted, are no guarantee of a place in heaven. But they are most likely to be performed by people who believe that heaven exists.

The correlation is so clear that it is impossible to doubt that faith and charity go hand in hand. The close relationship may have something to do with the belief that we are all God's children, or it may be the result of a primitive conviction that, although helping others is no guarantee of salvation, it is prudent to be recorded in a book of gold, like James Leigh Hunt's Abu Ben Adam, as "one who loves his fellow men". Whatever the reason, believers answer the call. . . .

It ought to be possible to live a Christian life without being a Christian or, better still, to take Christianity à  la carte. The Bible is so full of contradictions that we can accept or reject its moral advice according to taste. Yet men and women who, like me, cannot accept the mysteries and the miracles do not go out with the Salvation Army at night.

The only possible conclusion is that faith comes with a packet of moral imperatives that, while they do not condition the attitude of all believers, influence enough of them to make them morally superior to atheists like me. The truth may make us free. But it has not made us as admirable as the average captain in the Salvation Army.

Hat tip to the Christianity Today Weblog.


At Thursday, September 15, 2005 9:39:00 AM, Blogger Roch101 said...

Doesn't this theory contradict the beliefs of this blog's authors that faith, not works, are the key to salvation? If this were accurate we would expect athiests, agnostics and protestants alike to be sitting on the sidelines, which, of course, they are not.

At Thursday, September 15, 2005 12:15:00 PM, Blogger Mickey McLean said...

Good to have you back around, Roch. We are saved by faith alone, but that faith should bear fruit by producing good works. Otherwise, atheists like Roy Hattersley would never wonder what sets Christians apart.

Here's a link to an article from the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals titled "What Is the Relationship between Faith and Works?" that explains it better than I can. I hope you find it helpful.

At Friday, September 16, 2005 11:46:00 PM, Blogger Mickey McLean said...

Tim at Vallo Fides offers an excellent commentary on Hattersley's article in his post "Why Do You Do The Things You Do?"

At Wednesday, September 21, 2005 5:08:00 PM, Anonymous BGH said...

I find it terribly fascinating that some folks don't understand the difference between trying to work your way into Heaven and the simple faith that is required to go there. God knows our hearts and the reasons we do what we do. For those of Faith works come as a by-product of our saving relationship we have with Jesus. We mix our spiritual gifts with our passions and it is powerful.

I'm sorry for and need to pray more for persons like this author and all that don't seem to get it. We love Jesus because He first loved us, because of who He is, not what we have done, because of what He has done, not who we are. God's grace and mercy are freely given. To think we can earn it by our human works is an affront to our Saviour - He died for us and our identiy is in the empty tomb.

At Sunday, November 04, 2007 3:51:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

One of the things that I'd like to point out is that every human being is given a title based on their belief/unbelief in God.
Here we have Athiests running around saying 'There is no god, I'm an Athiest' yet by calling themselves Athiests, they define themselves by who and what they are by the very God they don't believe in thus contradicting themselves!

We are all given a title depending on our belief. If you believe in the Qur'an and follow Sha'ria and believe in Muhammed's teaching, you are titled a Muslim.
If you believe in the Law of Moses and the Torah etc etc you are Jewish. And if you believe in Law of Moses etc etc and believe that Jesus Christ was the promised Messiah (like I) then you are a Christian.

Furthermore if you deny God exists at all, you title yourself an Athiest. "Athiests". The very word is based upon what the person feels toward God! So, God is within each mind regardless if we believe it or not. It shapes who we are and who we see ourselves to be.


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