Apologetics: Walking off a broken leg
by Travis Dickinson
I find that it doesn’t take too much convincing for people to admit that there is something deeply wrong with us. Occasionally, someone might express the belief that people are, on the whole, good. However, with only a little prodding, most will admit that, despite our best intentions, everyone makes mistakes along the way, some of which have terrible consequences. So we have a problem, and we spend a fortune and countless hours in therapy, on self-help tools, and religious efforts as a corrective to this problem. My thesis is that Christianity is not simply the better solution to our human predicament than the alternatives. My thesis is that Christianity is the only solution that even addresses our human predicament.
Most people in the world have a way of thinking about the world that is at least informed by a religious tradition. It is beyond the scope of this article to canvas the many and various proposed solutions on offer across religious traditions. It’s possible, however, to capture a wide range of these claims where the solution has crucially to do with doing something. Here the religious person prescribes certain religious practices, prayers, or prostrations that somehow make one right with a divine reality or in an otherwise enlightened state. But why should performing certain actions solve our moral depravity? To see the problem here, consider the fact that the human predicament we were trying to solve had to do with failing to do the morally right actions in the first place. The relevant question is how does providing a list of further actions even address that problem? If we couldn’t live appropriately before, it seems highly unlikely that we will do better with a new list of things to do.
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Here’s an analogy. Suppose you’ve had a bad fall and suspect that you have broken your leg. You go to your doctor to get things fixed up, and suppose that his response is:
My diagnosis is that it is indeed a traumatic fracture of the femur bone. My prescribed solution is to just go ahead and walk it off.
The problem of course is that you went to the doctor because you had a problem related to walking to start with and being told to walk it off simply doesn’t address the problem. In fact, it is likely to exacerbate the problem. In the moral case, we are unable to live well in our current condition, so being told to do certain things does not seem to even address the problem.
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