Hey, I was chatting with my girlfriend about our views regarding homosexuality in today’s current culture. I found myself looking into what percentages of other populations of animals engage in homosexual activity (seeing if humanity seemed to correlate or have heightened numbers). I was not very successful in my “google research.” But it did get me thinking, can sin be legitimately explained through a purely materialistic view? Can materialist “justify” or explain away sin through evolutionary biology in a legitimate manner? If so, why should I not be concerned?
Hi, @MPALOOZA89, and welcome to Connect! Thanks for asking a question here. I just wanted to quickly clarify your question…
Can sin be legitimately explained through a purely materialistic view?
Is another way to phrase it: does behaviour (be it ‘good’ or ‘bad’, ‘right’ or ‘evil’) have naturalistic explanations? Are you wondering about what’s going on on the level of material narratives…the ‘scientific’ story behind what is?
Great question. Yes. I think that is what I am asking!
Haha! Sorry, I flip into academic mode sometimes… I guess I was just trying to figure out what you meant by sin being ‘legitimately explained’. I’m studying counselling, and, as you can imagine, it is a field greatly influenced by evolutionary psychology. Would that be an example of what you would consider to be a purely materialistic view, which, I’m assuming, is view that does not take into consideration the spiritual?
As a quick answer to get things kicked off, I think the first thing to understand is that there are different levels of explanation for things. Here’s a Prof. Alister McGrath illustration you may find interesting…
So, yes, I think that there can be explanations on the material level for both ‘sin’ as well as ‘righteousness’. But that will never be the whole story.
Others thoughts? @Interested_in_Science
Dang. I like this concept regarding the boiling tea kettle. My question has been silenced with newer, better questions! Thanks @KMac
This is a great question! I have wondered that myself from time to time.
My personal belief is that sometimes evil behavior can be traced back to a physiological problem. Case in point, schizophrenia and bipolar disorder are caused by certain structural defects in the brain. I am familiar with a few cases where an evil act was carried out by individuals who suffered from either one of these disorders, in particular paranoid schizophrenia. These acts were carried out during psychotic breaks. Now, I’m not saying all people with these problems will do violent sinful acts, but some do.
So, bottom line is I do believe there are physical conditions that can perpetuate sinful behavior. I don’t know how God views these acts. I don’t know where accountability starts and stops. God only knows!
Love the question! Thanks for posting it!
I think if you presume a purely materialistic view, then there is no sin or righteousness. As Dawkins says:
“In a universe of electrons and selfish genes, blind physical forces and genetic replication, some people are going to get hurt, other people are going to get lucky, and you won’t find any rhyme or reason in it, nor any justice. The universe that we observe has precisely the properties we should expect if there is, at bottom, no design, no purpose, no evil, no good, nothing but pitiless indifference.”
I don’t subscribe to this view, nevertheless, if we are just meat all the way down, then sin and righteousness is really a matter of personal preference, and are completely relative. One may choose to love their neighbor, or one may choose to love to eat their neighbor. Both in a materialistic world are neither good or bad.
If good and righteousness are rooted in the God of the Bible, and sin is outside of his nature, then I think we have a grounding point to talk about sin or righteousness as something that is objective.
Hope this makes sense. Let me know if anyone has an alternative point of view.
Cheers and blessings,
Ryan, I appreciate your feedback. Your thoughts were expressed in both a succinct, yet highly effective manner. Ever since I was nearly forced to go on this intellectual journey (of faith), I seem to alway be playing devil’s advocate with myself, and oftentimes, that means viewing reality through a lens of materialism/naturalism. It is not very fun, but I do believe it helps me build my faith framework, and perhaps one day I might be able to debate a materialist/naturalist! Anyhow, thanks again for your comments. -Mitch
You are correct in stating that if one ascribes existence to a “purely materialistic view, then there is no sin or righteousness.”
Being a former atheist myself I used suffering as a point of justification for my beliefs — an undoubtedly common starting point for dismissing God’s existence, and wholly flawed.
When I started thinking through my belief system after being presented with the Gospel, I realized that suffering could not exist if God did not exist. I am not saying God is the perpetrator of evil deeds. I am merely saying that if there is such a thing as evil, then there is such a thing as good; one cannot exist without the other, because if there is no law (right behavior), there is no sin (wrong behavior).
Once my justification for disbelief, the existence of suffering became a logical starting point on my road to becoming a Christian.
As Ravi Zacharias says,
“If there is such a thing as evil, then there is such a thing as good, and if there is such a thing as good, then there must be a moral law, and if a moral law, a lawgiver (God).”
“Sin is ultimately a violation of purpose”-Ravi Zacharias