When trying to make the case for Christianity, it is not uncommon to run headlong into what can be called the “Santa Factor.” That’s the reaction that many non-believers have to Christian truth claims. As I laid out in my last post, many people today view the Christian faith as roughly equivalent to believing in Santa – it might bring some comfort, and it’s great for tradition and ritual, but it’s not really true. It’s just a myth, based largely on “faith,” which translates roughly to “wishful thinking.”
Needless to say, a conversation with such a person won’t get very far, as he or she filters everything through this lens of skepticism. There’s no sure-fire way to overcome this obstacle – at least not that I have found – but breaking down the objection to see what it really entails is a good first move. And when you do this, you quickly see that the “Santa Factor” is really just a variant of the “straw man” fallacy. By caricaturing Christianity to be a montage of strange concepts – eating “flesh and blood,” “virgin birth” and many other paradoxes – it is easy for the skeptic to conclude he is dealing with make-believe, without ever really considering the merits of the case. So, let’s take a closer look at the analogy. Santa, of course, is the supposed source of the gifts found under Christmas trees every Christmas morning. This explanation works for small children – giving them a wonderful period of anticipation and their parents a lever for a bit of behavior modification as kids struggle to remain on the “nice” list – but a moment’s reflection as a child matures would reveal that no one person could possibly build and deliver an endless stream of worldwide gifts. Not to mention keeping straight who gets what. But backing up a bit, discovering that there is no Santa is not cause for concluding that there are no gifts under the tree, or that they appeared on their own.
No, logic dictates that someone put the gifts there, someone with knowledge of the child, access to the home, and knowledge of the child’s wish list. Finding an adequate explanation for the “presents under our tree” – the universe, a planet fine-tuned to support us, the existence of life, consciousness and intelligence, and of beauty and morality – should be the task of the skeptic. Which worldview has a better explanation for all this? Atheistic naturalism may have made sense in Darwin’s day, when the universe was thought to be infinite in duration and DNA was not even suspected as the reason life displays such ordered variation. But today, astrophysicists tell us that the universe arose from nothing 14 billions years ago – it began to exist, meaning something preceded it to set it in motion. By “nothing,” they don’t mean empty space, waiting for something to appear; they mean the complete absence of anything. Biologists seek to make sense of the tremendous body of information that is encoded in DNA. And information, of course, requires an intelligent source. But this is just a fraction of what needs to be explained: for instance, how can the atheist explain the origin of life? If even the simplest form of cellular life contains millions of lines of DNA code, believing that it magically assembled itself from inert matter is, well, just as difficult to swallow as Santa making it down the chimney.
The list of questions continues: where does human intelligence come from? Since we are interested in truth – the secularist doesn’t want to be mislead with Santa stories – how is truth grounded? Why isn’t it relative, like a person’s taste preferences? Why do we have free will? If the universe determines all outcomes, as the secularist believes, then the free will we all intuitively recognize we possess is simply an illusion. Why do we all recognize that moral laws exist? We may disagree with what they are, but no rational person thinks that he should be able to do whatever he wants whenever he wants. In the end, it really does take more blind – uncritical -faith to accept the secular view.
The Christian worldview, by contrast, holds that an infinite, personal and loving God created this universe, and us, for a purpose, and then revealed Himself to us in history. He did this in a way that provided evidence – largely in the form of personal testimony by witnesses who were so sure of what they saw and experienced that they suffered martyrdom rather than deny it. Contrasting the two worldviews in detail is beyond the scope of this post, but the case is well made on the Cold Case Christianity website. Will this overcome the Santa Factor? It should, if the skeptic really gives it a fair hearing. But that of course depends on the skeptic and how open he is to seeing through his little game of make-believe.