Would Proving Christianity False Be a Good or Bad Thing?

I was asked the question “If Christianity were to be conclusively and definitely proven false, would that be a good thing or a bad thing?” This was my response.

My short answer to your question is that it would be an objectively good thing for us to know Christianity was false 1) if it were actually false, and 2) a personal, omnibenevolent, Creator God exists (i.e., if the details of Christianity were wrong, but it’s still the case that a perfectly moral God created us). The explanation for my second condition can be made clear by focusing in on the question of atheism vs. Christianity rather than Christianity vs. another theistic option.

In terms of atheism vs. Christianity, the answer to your question depends on the sense in which you mean “a good thing or a bad thing.” Do you mean “good” objectively or subjectively? I think it’s an objectively good thing to know the truth, so I think a definitive proof relating to the existence of God would be objectively good. This is because I think knowing truth is intrinsically good. But I think knowing truth is objectively good only because I also think God exists. Knowing the truth is only an intrinsic good if God exists. If God does not exist, and we’re all random material products of the universe, then there is no intrinsic “goodness” to knowing the truth about reality. In fact, whatever is “helpful” to society (or to me personally) is my own subjective “good,” regardless of whether or not it’s true. Ultimately, it doesn’t matter what we believe. There’s no moral value attached to seeking truth because there’s no objective moral value to anything at all.

So if atheism is true, there’s no ultimate sense in which proving Christianity to be false would be “good.” And there’s really no subjective sense in which it would be “good,” either (if by “good” you mean helpful to you or to society), since the belief in meaning, purpose, human value, natural rights, moral obligations, etc. built by Christianity has been highly advantageous for the world (see here, for example).

To clarify further, I think it will be helpful to break down your question into four parts since, in fact, the question you’re asking could actually be four different questions depending on the assumptions behind the question. Here are the four possible questions that come from your question:

1. If atheism is true and Christianity is proved false, is that good?

  • In this case, there’s no objective good or bad and no intrinsic value to knowing truth (in fact, we don’t even have a way to know whether or not our faculties have evolved to truly know truth—we only know they help us survive), and in terms of subjective “good,” the damage that would be done to society because of, for example, the loss of the illusion of morality and obligation would not be “good,” either
  • Objectively good: No
  • Subjectively good: No


2. If atheism is true and Christianity is inaccurately “proved” true, is that good?

  • This would only be “good” in a subjective sense because the illusion of objective morality and obligation would remain, as would the comforts of religious community; but objectively, there is no real “good,” and it doesn’t matter what we believe. Whatever “works” for us is our subjective “good.”
  • Objectively good: No
  • Subjectively good: Yes


3. If Christianity is true and it’s proved true, is that good?

  • Since a God who cares about truth exists, knowing truth is intrinsically good, and there is true goodness in knowing that the true God exists. Subjectively, if the true God exists, then knowing Him would also be experienced as a good for us and for our society.
  • Objectively good: Yes
  • Subjectively good: Yes


4. If Christianity is true and it’s inaccurately “proved” false, is that good?

  • This is the worst of all possible results, because now there is intrinsic value in knowing truth, but we don’t know the truth, and in addition to this, there are negative effects on ourselves and our society because we’re not living according to the truth of meaning, purpose, value, etc.
  • Objectively good: No
  • Subjectively good: No

So looking at the breakdown above, the only situation in which knowing the truth is both objectively and subjectively good is if Christianity is true. So the answer to your question in terms of atheism vs. Christianity is that it would be neither good nor bad objectively to know that atheism was true (if it were true) since there’s no objective value to knowing truth in a materialistic universe. There is only subjective good and bad in atheism, and even in that case, there would be harm to society if everyone thought atheism was true, so it would not be “good” in that sense, either. I might still personally prefer to know what’s true in a materialistic universe, but that would only be my private preference. It wouldn’t truly be “good” in any objective sense. Thus, the second condition in my short answer: God must still exist in order for one to say it would be a good thing for Christianity to be proven false.

Which brings us back to your original question. Let’s look at the objective/subjective breakdown in terms of Christianity vs. another theistic option (wherein God’s omnibenevolent character grounds objective goodness—I’m excluding the illogical idea of an immoral God):

5. If God exists as the ultimate standard of perfect morality, but Christianity is false and is proved false, is that good?

  • In this case, objective goodness exists, and knowing the truth is still objectively good, so knowing that Christianity was false (if it were false) would be good in the sense that knowing truth is good. But subjectively, I would not prefer a worldview in which the gospel was not true or where God was not triune. There are too many implications for our salvation and even for God’s character (e.g., God would not be just if He forgave us without satisfying His perfect justice, and one can’t love unless there’s another person to love, so a unitarian God would need to create someone else in order to begin to love). It seems to me that a triune God, in which one of the Persons takes on human nature and humbles Himself to the point of death for the sake of those who don’t deserve it “because of His great love with which He loved us” (Eph. 2:4–9), is objectively better than a unitarian God who does not save people in that way. I firmly believe the Christian God is objectively more beautiful than any other possible option, such that if God is the greatest possible being, then God must be the Christian God. But if Christianity were false, then that would turn out to be only my mistaken, subjective preference.
  • Objectively good: Yes
  • Subjectively good: No
blog post |
Amy K. Hall

Give

Give

Give