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Why Bertrand Russell Was Not A Christian

by Rev. Ralph Allan Smith (1996)


If Christianity is true, then it is reasonable for Russell to appeal to logic, for Christianity teaches that a rational God created the world as a rational system and that He also created man with a capacity to understand both God and the world. Christians do not believe that man's understanding can ever be exhaustive. Man can never perfectly understand himself, the world, or God. But man can have true understanding because God has created the world in such a way that the world reveals truth to man, and God has given man special revelation, especially in Holy Scripture, to teach man what he could not learn from the creation and guide man in the correct interpretation of the creation. In short, knowledge is possible if the world is what the Bible defines it to be. Russell rejects the Biblical view, but at the same time, he attempts to graft the fruits of this worldview onto his irrational view.

Again, if Christianity is true, then it is reasonable for Russell to appeal to ethical norms, for Christianity teaches that there are ethical absolutes which transcend time and place. God is a righteous God. Whatever contradicts His will is sinful and evil, in any generation, in any place in heaven or on earth. Russell rejects this view of ethics, but in its place he has nothing to offer that can serve as a standard to criticize Christ or anyone else.

In other words, Russell argues with principles that can only come from the worldview he is trying to refute. Without those principles, operating strictly on the presuppositions of his own worldview, Russell would be reduced to incoherent babble. A man who views the world either as an ultimately deterministic system or as an ultimate chaos cannot appeal to logic. Nor can a man who believes that each man is king in the realm of ethics denounce a fellow despot.

This fundamental contradiction reveals Bertrand Russell to be the quintessential atheist. He claimed to reject Christianity on intellectual grounds, but the facts that his own philosophy cannot meet the conditions he demands of Christianity, that his metaphysics, if taken seriously, would preclude all knowledge, and that his ethical philosophy provides no standards for the judgment he pronounced against Christ suggest that his philosophical arguments were mere rationalizations for his rejection of Christianity rather than reasons.

His lifestyle, of course, is not necessarily typical. Not all atheists are immoral. Not all atheists resort to lying when they face difficult problems. Not all atheists are so blatantly irrational in their everyday life. But Paul Johnson's Intellectuals shows that Rousseau, Marx, and Sartre, to name only a few, fit the pattern seen in Bertrand Russell -- a pattern of lying, immorality, and both philosophical and personal self-contradiction.

What is important about this pattern of perversity, apart from the fact that the heroes of atheism include so few who are worthy of respect as individuals, is that it reveals clearly that atheists are not the kind of thinking machines that they often picture themselves to be. Personal factors play a far larger role in their lives and philosophies than strict philosophical logic. This is not contrary to what one normally expects, but it is contrary to what Western atheists typically believe and profess to the world about themselves.

Russell himself has fallen into the blind cave of eternal night. He is no longer an atheist. Hell and judgment, the fear of which motivated Russell to deny God and to seek to escape from the truth that he knew only too well, are no longer mere religious ideas which he can deny. But the intellectual hypocrisy of Russell's denial of God and the absurdity of his attempted condemnation of Christ remain as a warning for us living, who still have time to turn from the folly of pretended wisdom and embrace the God who offers us everlasting life as a gift of His grace:

"Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.
Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me,
for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.
For My yoke is easy and My burden is light."

[ Table of Contents | Preface | Introduction | Chapter One | Chapter Two | Conclusion ]

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