Every metaphysical system with any cogency and appeal has some points of strength, and all have weaknesses. The question is which have more strengths and fewer weaknesses than others. (Millard Erickson in Christian Theology, 3rd Edition)
I was raised in an agnostic home before becoming Christian for a decade. I then abandoned the faith for 8 years while exploring other perspectives, only to return to Christianity 20 years ago. A catalyst in my return was realizing all worldviews have difficulties comprehensively answering complex philosophical questions; none provides absolute explanatory satisfaction. The primary question is which view offers the most cogent overall framework despite unresolved peripheral issues.
Committed ideologues of any worldview, be it religious, agnostic or otherwise, must acknowledge that their chosen ideology contains inadequacies. Intellectual integrity obliges serious wrestling with and admission of these limitations, even when providing our best tentative defenses. These ideologues frequently critique rival worldviews’ while failing to address weaknesses within their own. Regarding metaphysics and morality, some degree of mystery seems inescapable. Wisdom is accepting no single perspective achieves absolute theoretical fulfillment, yet still being willing to compare and rank them, recommending some or one over others.
So here is my analysis of the ACTUAL serious challenges to the Christian faith. As I said, what seems indisputably true and valuable to me in Christianity is enough for me to commit to it, declare it as true, and suspend my judgment on unanswered questions – so despite these weaknesses, I am still a believer. YMMV.
1. The Bible’s mixed stance on slavery
It’s at least unclear. There are some standard defenses, but even with these, it is true that Christianity does not explicitly refute slavery. However, the main defense is that there are different types of servitude, but they are rarely distinguished. There are differences between slavery via kidnapping (prohibited in both old and new testament), slavery from wartime conquest, legal debt servitude, and the indentured servitude of the non-landed throughout history.
“He who kidnaps a man, whether he sells him or he is found in his possession, shall surely be put to death.” (Exodus 21;16)
The law is for people who are sexually immoral, or who practice homosexuality, or are slave traders (literally “kidnappers”), liars, promise breakers, or who do anything else that contradicts the wholesome teaching (1 Timothy 1:10)
2. Eternal Conscious Torment in Hell
The disproportionate and perhaps unethical doctrine of eternal conscious torment is a stumbling block, often mentioned by notable atheists as the most egregious of doctrines and a primary reason for rejecting Christianity. As a subscriber to Conditional Immortality (a.k.a. “annihilationism”), I think this problem is easily addressed. 1
3. The conquest of Canaan seems like genocide
I think it can be answered by how God delivers justice through conquering or being conquered. This does not mean that every conquest has God’s blessing but some may. God even used unrighteous nations to judge Israel when THEY were sinful.
The fact remains that even if the original autographs were inerrant, manuscript preservation and translation is not. Personally, I am fine with the illumination of the Holy Spirit overcoming or sealing these gaps. See my overly academic taxonomy for and explanation of inerrancy in A Useful Taxonomy for Inerrancy. 2
5. Conflict with science, especially the age of the universe and the origin of life
The so-called conflict thesis proposes that faith and science are logically and historically in opposition to one another. However, this is also called the conflict myth, and for good reasons. Read more about that at The Mythical conflict between science and Religion. 3
Additionally, I think evolution is a terrible model and does not fit the data or predict very well, yet many people do believe it. I also think that proposed long ages for the earth and universe conflict with scripture, and I think a young earth and young universe interpretation of scripture is the most accurate. 4 So you could say that I hold a Young Earth Creationism position, one often considered the most literal and in conflict with science.
The way I solve this dilemma is that just like scientists were entirely mistaken about the static and eternal universe, they are still totally confused about how to estimate the age of the universe and the earth. Their assumptions of uniformitarianism are nonsensical. 5
6. The hiddenness of God
I don’t think you can prove the resurrection nor can you demonstrate unequivocal miracles, answers to prayer, or the existence of God with empiricism. For more see The Hiddenness of God (stanford.edu). 6
7. The problem of evil (POE)
The POE is the greatest challenge to just about any worldview, and Christianity is no exception. I appreciate the Vindications of God's goodness and justice in the face of the existence of evil. More of free will and soul making, and I think they are adequate, but I can see what others may find them inadequate, especially to addressthe evidential problem of evil. Sure it’s logically possible that God has morally sufficient reasons for allowing evil, but the evil that is allowed is often so heinous it’s hard to see how that could be a probable approach.
- A New Testament Defense of Conditional Immortality (wholereason) ↩
- A Useful Taxonomy for Inerrancy (wholereason) ↩
- The Mythical conflict between science and Religion. (catholiceducation.org) ↩
- The New Testament Teaches a Young Universe (wholereason) ↩
- 10 Reasons Why I Doubt Evolution (wholereason) ↩
- The Hiddenness of God (stanford.edu) ↩