Post Author: Bill Pratt
I recently heard another excellent podcast of Unbelievable? where apologist Os Guinness debated “atheist” Mary Warnock. I put “atheist” in quotation marks because of Warnock’s beliefs, which you will see are central to her positions on morality and public policy.
Warnock insisted that she is a Christian because she regularly attends her Anglican church and participates in Christian fellowship and ritual. But, when she was asked if she actually believed in the historical truth of the biblical accounts, she replied that she did not. She believes that the stories are man-made.
The issue of their historical truthfulness, however, did not seem to bother her at all. She repeatedly stated that the biblical stories are some of the greatest imaginative literature ever produced by man, that the morality taught in the Bible is right on target and exactly what the British people should base their laws upon. In fact, she agreed with Guinness several times that the modern democratic west is built on the teachings of Christianity.
Having pointed to the impact of Christianity on the UK, and having agreed that she wishes for that impact to continue, she then went on to say that the historical truthfulness of Christianity has nothing to do with public policy, and should, in fact, be strictly kept out of any public policy discussion. Why? Because the basis for Christian moral beliefs (the historical truthfulness of the events in the Bible) is completely irrelevant to the issue of which moral code is legislated. The UK should largely adopt the moral teachings of Christianity and leave aside the question of Christianity’s truthfulness – just like Warnock does in her personal life.
Guinness, as you would expect, raised several issues with this approach. First, why should the Muslim or Hindu go along with this approach? Why shouldn’t their imaginative literature, their holy writings, be made the basis of British law? Why should the secularist who finds Christian morality to be too restrictive go along with Warnock? Surely the secularist also has his imaginative literature. How can the Christian or anyone else argue over morality without eventually bringing in the basis for their moral beliefs? If Christianity is false, shouldn’t that have some bearing on whether we adhere to its moral teachings?
Warnock seems to be saying something like the following. Christianity has the best set of stories of any worldview, the best set of stories to promote the values that Warnock prefers. Other worldviews have inferior stories that do not promote the kind of values that Warnock prefers. Having the best stories is enough to establish Christian morality as the basis for public policy.
Perhaps I’ve misunderstood Mary Warnock, but this is what I heard during the discussion. It seems to me that the truthfulness of Christianity has everything to do with whether we should adopt its teachings. Eventually, the topic of worldview must come into the public policy discussion. After all, Christians base many of their moral standards on the idea that every human is made in the image and likeness of God. If there is no God, then the Christian foundation for human dignity completely crumbles. Warnock does not seem to see this point.
I don’t understand how we can avoid these worldview discussions in the realm of public policy. Rather than pretending our worldviews don’t matter, let’s follow Guinness’ lead and cultivate a climate of civility where we can learn to how to interact with each other without coming to violence.