The stage for the question before us is set in the second of these two Twitter surveys that I recently posted:
If Christians are not, on average, more honest than non-Christians, then that fact would constitute at least some degree of evidence against the truth of Christianity.
— Tentative Apologist (@RandalRauser) April 24, 2019
The second survey is our focus here. But rather than limit our scope to honesty, we will expand it to a general consideration of virtue. With that in mind, here’s the claim:
If Christians are not, on average, more virtuous than non-Christians, then that fact would constitute at least some degree of evidence against the truth of Christianity.
Why should we think this is true? The reasoning is loaded into the first premise of the following argument while the skeptical challenge comes in the second premise:
1. If Christians are being sanctified by the Spirit then Christians, on average, should evince more holiness than non-Christians.
2. Christians do not, on average, evince more holiness than non-Christians.
3. Therefore, Christians are not being sanctified by the Spirit
Granted, the conclusion does not entail that Christianity is false, but it comes perilously close. After all, if it follows that Christians on average are not being sanctified by the Spirit, what does that say about the credibility of the witness of the Christian church to the Spirit and all other major Christian doctrines?
Perhaps we are getting ahead of ourselves. After all, a Christian could concede this argument but point out that there is nothing troublesome in it until the skeptic provides good evidence for the second premise. And this is true, of course. While the skeptic can readily proffer their personal anecdotes of Christians who failed to be holier than non-Christians (by their estimation), that doesn’t as yet support the conclusion that Christians on average, do not evince more holiness than non-Christians. So what is the evidence that Christians are, on average, not more virtuous than non-Christians? Since the skeptic is presenting the argument, the onus is on them to provide that evidence.
Let’s assume, for the sake of argument, that the skeptic does provide that evidence. Would the conclusion follow? The problem, at that point, would be this: are we measuring the holiness of genuine Christians or merely professing Christians? This might seem to the skeptic like a tortured bit of adhocery, but to the Christian, it is merely a sobering fact of ecclesial life:
“They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’
“He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.'” (Mt 25:44-45)
In other words, there is a difference between professing Christians and true Christians, no-true-Scotsman fallacy be damned!
What do you think? If premise 2 were established such that professing Christians were, on average, not holier than professing non-Christians, would that constitute at least some degree of prima facie evidence against Christianity?
In a subsequent post, I’ll say more about the problems with the skeptic’s argument, but that’s enough, for now.