How to Respond to the Argument 'Christianity is for the Weak'?


(SeanO) #1

When I was in high school my librarian, upon discovering my friend and I discussing Christianity, said that religion was for those who were unable to take care of themselves - ‘cripples’ as she said. Later in life when a dear friend came to Christ, their parents told them the same thing - what did we not provide for you that you have to go to God? Perhaps more famously, in one of his books that I am reading, Samuel Butler stated the argument as follows:

“There are two classes of people in this world, those who sin, and those who are sinned against; if a man must belong to either, he had better belong to the first than to the second.” -The Way of All Flesh

How would you respond to the skeptic who raises this objection that Christianity, or religion in general, is only for the weak and that meekness puts you at a disadvantage? How would you respond specifically to Samuel Butler’s dichotomy of sinners and sinned against that is likely rooted in evolutionary ideology?

Look forward to hearing your responses.


(Tim Behan) #2

I’m looking forward to hearing peoples thought on this also… I think it’s long been a prevalent thought that religion is used as a crutch. Although I would like to ask what is easy about holding to any religious belief in any western culture at the moment, or indeed, in many times and places throughout history where those who hold to beliefs are ridiculed, persecuted and/or put to death for it. What is easy about that?

I think my first question, in reality, would be “How? How is it weakness?”… with the obvious response being that we’re hanging our hope on a belief that is false. I would want to know how they know that it is false. This leads things back onto ideas of truth and knowledge which is a better ground than just name-calling.

The belief can only be a crutch if it is false. If it is true then it’s a proper response to reality. So I think the onus is on them at that point. They wouldn’t take a response that, to them, lacked evidence, so why should we?

I’d have to think on it more if there’s a different way I’d approach it and I’m looking forward to see if everyone else has better ideas (which I’m certain you do :slight_smile: )


(SeanO) #3

@tsbehan Good points! It is not easy to believe in a culture that mocks belief. Your point about truth reminds me of the famous C. S. Lewis quote: ‘I believe in Christianity as I believe that the sun has risen: not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else.’ Christianity is not a crutch, but rather a coherent lens through which we view the world.

I also think Butler’s quote is a false dichotomy - he claims there are only those who use power wrongly and those who suffer under this abuse. But in the Bible we see that we are called to be strong in the Lord like David and Joshua - to be God’s hands and feet bringing justice to a broken world. Martin Luther King Jr. would be an example of someone who fits into this third category - fighting for justice without himself becoming an oppressor.

Looking forward to other responses as well.


(Anthony Costello ) #4

@SeanO

Sean,

First, I don’t really see this as an argument against the truth of Christianity, more than just a disapproval of its teachings, and ultimately of Jesus’ sacrifice on the Cross. For all intent and purpose, you could grant the skeptics’ point, but simply point out yourself that that has no bearing on whether or not Christianity is true. Moreover, this charge of Christianity being weak or for the weak is probably one, if not the, oldest claim against Christianity, since the cross was, especially in Greco-Roman culture, truly a scandal.

Second, a prima facie justification for demonstrating that Christianity is not literally just for the weak would be to simply point to certain particular Christians, who themselves are anything but what the world would normally associate with physical or mental weakness. For example, when I got saved at the age of 34 I had just qualified for Army Special Forces (i.e. Green Berets), eventually spending about 17 months in what is called the “Q-course”. Ultimately, I withdrew and returned to my normal, “big army” job as a paratrooper and intelligence analyst for the 82 ABN Division. Now, this is just to set up some context. My first church at Fort Bragg was filled with military personnel. Because we were at Bragg most of the congregants were Paratroopers with the 82nd, but we also had several soldiers who were Green Berets or other Special Operators (Rangers, etc). My first two Bible teachers and mentors in the faith were both CAG (Combat Applications Group) operators (aka Delta Force) and were about as physically and mentally tough as any human being possibly could be. They were also devout Christians, deep lovers of Jesus and Scripture, and amazing family men. So right there one would have examples of Christians who for all intent an purposes were not weak in the traditional sense that the world would identify a weak person.

Now, it could be that the skeptic makes a more nuanced claim about weakness. For example, they could say that my friends were weak, not in that they lacked physical or mental prowess, but in the fact that they seemed to rely on God and Jesus in order to find the mental and emotional strength to carry out there difficult vocation. He might argue that an atheist could also be a Special Forces operator, do the same kind of things that my friends did, and be just as proficient in them, yet without relying on God for mental and emotional strength. But here I think the skeptic fails to understand how God operates in the world and how we experience God’s operation in the world. Certainly an atheist could be just as physically and mentally strong as my Christian special forces friends. Certainly there are atheists who actually are in Special Forces positions like this, so counterexamples could be easily produced. However, I don’t think that the Christian SF soldier thinks or believes that God actually miracles them to be physically and mentally strong; i.e. it is not as if they don’t need to train and prepare and work hard to be a SF soldier. God is not the efficient cause (or the proximate cause) in their actual regiment of becoming a soldier. They have to do exactly the same things as the atheist SF soldier, and the experiences of doing those things is essentially the same since God operates through natural or secondary causes.

My point is to say that the atheist SF soldier and the Christian SF soldier are psychologically about the same when it comes to mental toughness and mental acumen with regards to the rigor of their jobs. Physically they train in the same way, and for the most part there is no discernible difference between their experience of the physical and mental rigors involved in their occupation since both are working through God’s secondary causation (i.e. it is not as if the Christian SF soldier can laze around on the couch all day and eat Twinkies because God will miracle him up the obstacle course, or miraculously make all of his bullets hit their target). Thus, I think simply pointing out that there are such Christians is prima facie evidence against the claim that Christianity is for the “weak.”

That said, I think there is at least one discernible difference that may obtain between the atheist SF soldier and the Christian SF soldier. The Christian SF soldier may be in the position to have a greater capacity for the virtue of gratitude, since the Christian will see his own powers as derivate from God. He does not experience God as miraculously accomplishing his difficult tasks for him, but he does see his own capacities and capabilities as unique endowments from God, and thus he can praise God for these gifts, whereas the atheist could not.

Finally, from a biblical perspective, one could also just show the skeptic Rev. 19:11 and demonstrate that while it is the Christians role to suffer in this world as Christ suffered for it, that that will not always be the case. I know some people take Rev 19 to be just symbolic, and I would say “okay” to them, but it is symbolic for something and that namely for Jesus eliminating evil and specially Satan and evil people with dramatic and swift violence. Thus, while the Christian may be called to weakness or mildness in this life, it will not always be the case. There will be a time for the righteous to reign and rule; but that time only comes once love is perfected through our life in Christ. You could ask you friend if he really would want that unloving and self-centered people to be in positions of power? Sounds like Ayn Rand or something if he were to say yes.

God bless,
Tony


(Omar Rushlive Lozada Arellano) #5

Hi @SeanO. This is something that personally I can’t take seriously, unless of course I see that the person truly believes this and is sincere in getting to know the answer. This reminds me of any assertions which for me deserves to be only given a counter-assertion for people to see how ridiculous the claim is.

Some examples are when Dawkins said that religion is a fairy tale for people who are afraid of the dark (not sure if my memory is correct), then Lennox retorted that atheism is a fairy tale for people afraid of the light. Another is when people say that religion is a crutch which stems from people’s wish fulfilment, or gives comfort since they can’t face the reality of life, we could retort simply that atheism is a crutch stemming from an unbeliever’s wish fulfilment, so that they can have comfort while doing their sins, because they can’t face the reality of judgement.

Those who oppose Christianity because it’s for the weak are really weak, since they would like to be a slave of sin instead of being free, and their pride puts them at a disadvantage, because they will be judged by God. It’s heartbreaking to see people thinking that they provided for themselves, without seeing that every good they have is from the grace of God.


(SeanO) #6

@anthony.costello That is a very interesting point about the SF soldiers who are Christian. I think it is helpful to point to even secular examples - like MacGyver - who would be considered strong and yet try to show compassion / not kill their enemies. It points to a deep knowledge we have that there is a strength in doing what is right even at a cost to oneself and that there is something admirable in self-sacrifice. Soldiers are a case and point - we honor those who lay down their lives to save our earthly domain. Why not honor those who lay down their lives for the sake of our soul and the proclamation of the Gospel?


(SeanO) #7

@omnarchy Lennox’s retort to Dawkins is indeed very clever. I think one struggle in addressing the skeptic is that they simply do not believe in sin and judgment, so there is really nothing to fear. They have been deceived by the evil one. So somehow we have to reach them with examples that they can understand even when they lack spiritual insight - we have to try to build a logical bridge over which the Spirit can help them cross.

Can you think of any examples of how we could build a bridge for them to understand the power of self-sacrifice?


(Biju Varghese) #8

Christ is for all …the weak and the strong, the ones that have and others that do not…but as much that is the truth, the practical reality is that the strong and rich make the choice of putting their trust/need on their possesions and hence Mathew 19:24 comes true. This false sense of security that caused the rejection of Christ is laid bare at death but it’s too late for the hardened heart to turn around though its still possible in the grace of God. Given this position it’s not that Christianity is for the weak but for the one who would choose Christ and the weak generally need him more …at least till the veil of false security is lifted.

The second element driving this choice is sin. As a tender heart yearns for Chist his saviour …accepting Christ and growing in that relationship is more important than enjoying the pleasures of sin for a season. Sin attracts but destroys and the false sense of security only promotes a reckless rejection of any accountability through acceptance of Christ. John 3:19 , John 8:12 puts it this out clearly. This again results in the weak and humble having a higher probability of choosing Christ than the strong.

In essence it’s the likely hood of which category chooses to put their trust in Christ and not that Christianity is only for the weak


(Jimmy Sellers) #9

@SeanO,
I have heard that argument many times not in the words of your quote, but in the context of being weak. For me to better address that type of question I usually ask to define what is meant by weak, weak mind, weak will or weak back? The fact that society values educations and health living is to me an acknowledgement that no human is an island unto themselves. If I need other skills and or encouragement to survive in a survival of the fittest world what is the difference between religious encouragement or self-help books? For me it looks like a straw man argument, the assumption being that fit human beings don’t need “help”.


(SeanO) #10

Good point @Jimmy_Sellers. Each person who makes this argument may mean something slightly different. They may even simply mean that Christianity is not ‘cool’, which is a different angle altogether. I think sometimes people feel that God is not going to help so you have to help yourself, so why do you need God? Of course this is a complete misunderstanding of who God is - the King of glory and source of Light - and who we are - blind, naked and poor slaves to sin in need of salvation. Praise God that Jesus did not leave us in our pride, but came down and offered His life that we may walk out of darkness and into His light.


(SeanO) #11

@biju777 Indeed - as it says at the end of I Corinthians 1 -

Brothers and sisters, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. God chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him. It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God—that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption. Therefore, as it is written: “Let the one who boasts boast in the Lord.”


(Omar Rushlive Lozada Arellano) #12

Hi @SeanO. Au contraire, I believe that skeptics do believe in their heart of hearts in sin and judgment. They just suppress the truth in unrighteousness. When they say that they don’t believe in God because of all evil in the world, they do believe in evil, and they say that it should be punished. Their knee-jerk reaction towards evil, and also for something done against them, shows what they truly believe.

Regarding examples of a bridge about self-sacrifice is I guess when you talk to them about people they love. Ask them if they could take a bullet for them, then ask them why. I guess that’s a powerful illustration, since they’re thinking about someone close to home.

Here is a quote from Nabeel’s book, “No God But One: Allah or Jesus?,” when he is having a dialogue with Sahar. I believe this illustration is powerful in showing how to build a bridge for people to understand the power of self-sacrifice pointing towards the gospel:

“So I affirmed her question, but then asked her one in turn. “Sahar, let’s imagine that you are on your way to a very important ceremony and are dressed in your finest clothes. You are about to arrive just on time, but then you see your daughter drowning in a pool of mud. What would you do? Let her drown and arrive looking dignified, or rescue her but arrive at the ceremony covered in mud?”

Her response was very matter of fact, “Of course, I would jump in the mud and save her.”

Nuancing the question more, I asked her, “Let’s say there were others with you. Would you send someone else to save her, or would you save her yourself?”

Considering this, Sahar responded, “If she is my daughter, how could I send anyone else? They would not care for her like I do. I would go myself, definitely.”

I paused for a short moment before continuing, “If you, being a human, love your daughter so much that you are willing to lay aside your dignity to save her, how much more can we expect God, if he is our perfectly loving Father, to lay aside his majesty to save us?”"


(SeanO) #13

@omnarchy Good example of building a bridge! Giving your life for another person is not weakness. On the contrary, it is a very powerful form of love.

I would be careful saying that skeptics believe in sin and judgment for a few reasons. One is that God can give someone over to a depraved mind, at which point they may have no knowledge whatsoever that they are in darkness. Another is that the gap between general revelation and specific revelation is significant - a person may have a vague awareness of sin and judgment without having a well formulated enough understanding to put it in words or to believe in it. Our hearts are naturally duplicitous - that’s why even the pagans have the shoulder angels/devil and why Paul said “their thoughts sometimes accusing them and at other times even defending them” (Romans 2:15).

Do you see my point? What are your thoughts?


(Sandy) #14

I’d say lovingly in all truth to such a one - “Absolutely! 'Cause when I am weak, then I am made strong. The more I can empty myself, the more He can fill me. God’s power made perfect in my weakness! His Grace flows like a river - finding all the lowly places to fill. You see recognizing and acknowledging weakness is ultimately the greatest place of strength we could find ourselves. Oh! Just look what man has done with God’s perfect creation all in the name of pride. We were never designed to be on our own. But God gives grace to the humble! His favor can only be received by one who’s ready to admit they are not God! So, yes…I boast in my weakness!”

Praying that at this point I’d get to testify and glorify God in my ‘freedom’ - inviting them to share theirs…knowing there is no freedom unless the Son has made you free indeed.

This is an old accusation and this is the approach I’d rather take. Of course the setting dictates the flow…just my two cents…:slight_smile:


(SeanO) #15

@salee Very good point! Yes, it is folly to try to stand in our own strength. We need our Creator.

Is there a story or analogy you would use to try to convey this point to someone who does not understand how humility before God is strong? Some people may have the attitude that they bow to no one or that submission to God would hinder their freedom.


(Omar Rushlive Lozada Arellano) #16

I appreciate you engaging with me @SeanO. This exercise could help us sharpen each other in our faith.

Here are my thoughts about our discussion:

First off, I would want to qualify to show the nuance. I said that they (skeptics) believe in their heart of hearts. I did not say merely believe in sin and judgment.

We can read this further in Romans 1:18-25:

18 The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of people, who suppress the truth by their wickedness, 19 since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. 20 For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.

21 For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22 Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools 23 and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like a mortal human being and birds and animals and reptiles.

24 Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another. 25 They exchanged the truth about God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator—who is forever praised. Amen

Scriptures says through Paul that the Gentile unbelievers knew God, but did not honor him as God nor gave thanks to Him. God made it plain to them what could be known about God. God made man to have a sensus divinitatis. Even if they deny it, this inner sense of God would become evident when their security is disturbed through works of injustice done against them, personal or existential crisis, etc. Unbelievers suppressing the truth willfully will leave themselves without excuse at the judgment day.

Regarding your point though, you said that skeptics were given over to a depraved mind. It seems to me that your point here is to say that they have no idea that they are in darkness. I would say that them being given over were a result of their continued willful suppression of the truth being plainly showed to them.

A vague awareness of sin and judgment could be said as something that they know to be true in their heart of hearts, even if it’s something that they deny. Yes, it’s possible that they would deny belief in sin and judgment, and us saying that they believe so, will result to them feeling that we don’t understand them. But this is a reality we need to put into account regardless of our persuasion on how to approach people who say that they don’t believe in sin and judgment. God said through His word that men have an inner sense of the divine, and this reality can help us share the truth in ways that would satisfy their existential longings, like a soul that’s thirsty for water for a very long period and had finally found the water that would forever quench the thirst.


(SeanO) #17

@omnarchy Thank you for the thorough response. Yes, I was just hoping to probe a little bit deeper into the type of knowledge that unbelievers have about God, though that is a different topic. From my perspective, sin leads to duplicity because, as Romans 1 says, it requires people to deny what they already know - that sin is wrong. Once this duplicity is in place - the unbeliever is now in a position where they have to lie to themselves to justify their behavior and at that point I think knowledge is easily obscured because of this almost bipolar nature within the individual.

Collins dictionary defines ‘heart of hearts’ as “If you believe or know something in your heart of hearts, that is what you really believe or think, even though it may sometimes seem that you do not”. Are you working with the same definition?


(Sandy) #18

Yes, if someone’s really interested, I’d tell of my own ‘story’. How on the outside, I seemed to have it altogether, a picture of strength and independence, and by all natural accounts, I did. Yet, underneath I was terribly insecure in many ways, knowing now, of course, pride was at work in me. I thank God for what I will always term “that blessed place of brokenness”, from whence began my journey in coming to know my Savior and finding real strength. And for where He has brought me and how He has changed me, I would have it no other way! Pride, the root of all our struggles, always precedes the fall and must forever be guarded against. Still, we need help in recognizing it most times.
Then there’s the illustration of the developing young child, who thinks he/she can do anything and needs no parent’s help. How often as the years roll on and we look back to all the heartaches and struggles that could have been avoided, had we just trusted and listened to the one with the greater experience. How much more to yield and trust the One with the eternal perspective…and the One who loves like no other/cares like no other/wants our best like no other!

I endeavor with much prayer and leading of Holy Spirit to reach the hearts of those who indeed feel they must give up much to come to Christ, always hoping I could help prevent even one from the pains that lie ahead. Yet, in being humbled, (pruned and chiseled by trial, to renounce self, AMP) to see our need for God, I can think of no greater blessing this side of heaven!


(SeanO) #19

@salee Thank you for sharing part of your story! It is so true that in Christ we who were once dead have found life and life to the full! We have an inheritance that will never spoil or fade - stored up with Christ - no amount of suffering can compare to that treasure.

I John 2:17 - The world and its desires pass away, but whoever does the will of God lives forever.

1 Peter 1:3-4 - Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4 and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade.

I also agree wholly that being sanctified by God gives us true strength - to do what is right in the face of great evil and have joy in the midst of suffering - to see the world clearly through the eyes of our Creator. Amen!


(Simon Wenham) #20

Thanks everyone,

Sorry to come into the discussion late, but in case it is of any interest to anyone, I wrote an article on this a while back for RZIM: https://rzim.org/a-slice-of-infinity/is-christianity-just-a-crutch/

The other thing that came to mind, from a historian’s perspective, is that Christianity has also been linked with self-assertiveness and notions of self-worth too. There are lots of examples of this and they partly stem from the idea of being made in God’s image, an onus on personal responsibility before God and concerns about sin. So you have notions like the protestant work ethic and muscular Christianity, for example, as well as some of the human rights movements that have appealed to equality before God.

I think I would probably also question the degree to which we can all take care of ourselves, in the sense that we all rely on assistance from time-to-time (and things can easily fall apart for anyone, if you consider accidents or ill-health, etc). Furthermore, whether you consider meekness to be a ‘disadvantage’ depends on what you are trying to achieve!