Anfractuosity: The Case against Christianity as Wish Fulfillment

By Steven L. Jones

A common criticism levied against religion generally and Christianity specifically is that it is simply wish fulfillment, a human invention to help us manage our anxiety in the face of a chaotic world and eventual death.  Wanting something to be true doesn’t make it true.  And Christianity is just whistling in the dark to keep our hopes alive.

Some answer such arguments by saying that just because we desire it to be true, doesn’t mean we are inventing it.  Starving people didn’t invent the idea of food.  Human longing could be an indicator of truth as opposed to falsehood.

Others counter that advocates of wish fulfillment desire Christianity to be untrue and therefore, using the same criteria, their position can equally be falsified as wish fulfillment.

To my mind, the most satisfying answer to this objection, an answer that honestly deals with the objection rather than obfuscate or accuse, comes from C.S. Lewis’s work The Problem of Pain.

In the 1st chapter, Lewis argues for the truth of Christianity in four steps:

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  1. The awareness of a spiritual dimension to life, which he calls the “numinous.”
  2. The awareness of a moral law.
  3. The connection of the moral law with the “numinous,” a step which Lewis describes as awareness of “the Something which is at once the awful haunter of nature and the giver of the moral law.”
  4. The incarnation of Jesus Christ, which is the fullest expression and greatest fulfillment of this third step.

After arguing why his reasons to believe are good, he admits that his evidence is inductive and therefore leads not to proof but assurance.  He then comments on the effect if one rejects these assurances…

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