My brother is a great hearted and very intelligent person who seems to be searching for answers about God. We are having a great conversation about Christianity. He recently said, "Sure. To clarify, I'm not criticizing any of the particulars. I just can't seem to get a satisfactory answer to the cultural bias hypothetical. I can't shake the notion that people are a product of where they are as much as anything else -- hence everybody's certainty that their path is the 'correct' one." Douglas, how would you answer that? Any scriptures come to mind? -- C.G.

Your brother has been confused by the genetic fallacy, which (roughly stated) holds that knowing the source of someone's beliefs discounts those beliefs. In my own case:

  • I live in Georgia.
  • People in Georgia are Bible believers.
  • That's why I'm a Bible believer -- whether or not it makes sense to believe in the Bible.
  • Thus you can safely dismiss my beliefs.

Further, there's no need to examine them objectively -- just as it's certain I have never reflected critically on them. It's only the fair-minded atheist or agnostic who can be trusted. What happens when you turn this thinking around and apply it to the critical non-believer?

Let's say Joe is an atheist. Is there any reason to believe he's right? No, because his thoughts about God are conditioned by his social environment. Given his experiences and the unbelief of secular society, Joe's lack of belief is predictable (if not certain).

Obviously this won't do! That's because there's more to truth than where one is born (a Saudi will be a Muslim, an Indian a Hindu, a Californian a health nut...) Because truth exists independently of our thoughts about truth. In terms of access to the truth, the Canadian is probably more lucky than the Yemeni. (Although, come to think of it, Yemenis are coming to Christ even as I write this reply!)

It may appear that things aren't fair. Well, they aren't equal, which is obvious. But the only reason the Saudis and Indians and Americans need Christ is that they have sinned. No one has a right to hear the gospel. (That right is forfeit once we begin to take up arms against our creator -- and all the human race is in rebellion against Him.) If the concept needs more elucidating, think of an epidemic. The ones who get the life-saving injection in time will live. These tend to be those who are closest to the clinics and hospitals with a supply of the drug. It is unfortunate that some victims are far away from the doctors and nurses they desperately need. But it isn't unfair. When we begin to see the situation as God sees it -- when we realize that our real problem is sin -- the objection evaporates. Then it's not God or the Bible that is unfair, but those persons who are aware of the "cure" but are doing nothing to inform others.

As for scripture, take Paul's approach to Athens (Acts 17) into account. He doesn't seek to persuade by scripture (since that would have had no authority for the Philosophers), but rather takes elements of their own thinking and thinkers to make his case. And so should you.