How do we explain altruism in other religions and species?

(Christy Hemphill) #1

Continuing the discussion from This website has been really helpful but I would be very thankful for answers to specific questions:

@AndrewF asks

One of the points people have made on this website which is cool to me is how Christianity has inspired such selflessness and compassion which is seemingly outside of nature, but how does that compare to say: other religious people who became radical and disregarded self care, doing what they thought was selfless? Or say a cat who would mother babies even if they’re not her own?

(Phil) #2

That is a really interesting question. Personally, I accept that some part of our behavior is genetic, and of course it is necessary that cats be good mothers as well as humans, so have no problem that God programmed some of those things in. As to other religions and whether they can do good ( or even atheism), I feel that we also are all made in God’s image in that we have the capacity for good, even though we gone astray. There are often truths found in many different religions, and in secular philosophy, though they do not have the whole truth found through Christ Jesus.


That makes sense.

I think some things I’ve seen on here regarding how C.S. Lewis viewed other spiritual findings as echoes of the real truth which is fulfilled in Christianity to be a really cool perspective.

Also for clarification, I think my above statement looks like a random insult to other religions but that was no my intention. I was more so interested in the how the virtue of selflessness can be compared to those who do extreme self harm to further a goal through a different spiritual motivation.


There are moral atheist and Buddhist and there are immoral Christians in the sense of the majority consensuses for what is good or moral.

I don’t like the saying “what would Jesus do?” I don’t think it really matters (at face value). But a more important question to to ask would be “Why did Jesus do it?”. Everything Jesus did, was to glorify the Father, that is terms of the Bible, the only good thing. Somethings can be both beneficial to humans ‘good’, and glorify the Father.

Like in Acts 5 when the church was starting up and everyone was giving money to the church joyfully. It wasn’t a requirement to give these massive quantities, it was from the heart (ultimately so it can be used to glorify the Father). So when Annias and Saphira only gave half, that could have been a good thing, a moral thing, but instead they were stuck dead. They lied about how much they had, so as not to give it all away (even though that wasn’t even required to give any). The only truly moral thing is to glorify the Father. To which He gave us commands to help us do that very thing, and to every ones benefit.

Outside of scripture, there really is no such thing as an absolute morality, it is what everyone deems right in their own eyes. This is the fall of man, man wanted to be God and say what is or isn’t moral, which only God can do.

So I don’t believe there is such thing as moral or good outside of the Bible. It says everything we do is like filthy rags.

But we do things that are beneficial to us or others that is generally referred to as moral or good. There is really no such thing as selflessness in biological terms. It is all about survival. If you do something that seems selfless, it can be to beautify something, or others can benefit from it, prolonging the human race, or you personally feel good about it and it helps you. If you have not God or true morals, then everything is pointless. Some seek wealth, some seek to go down into history as a great person so attain eternity through their legacy.

Does a cat being a mother those that aren’t their own bring comfort or companionship to the cat? Or is is biologically wired to take care of its kind to maintain the life of all cats?

I agree at face value that we can do good. But since all things we do are like filthy rags, we can do no good apart from God. But once we are reconciled back to God, then anything we do should be for His glory, and that is the only good that can be done. If then even doing pushups or eating with friends or helping the elderly across the street or hugging a sad person, or giving to the poor. If those things are done in thanks to what God has done for us and for His glory, then they are good. But nothing can be done for His glory until you know Him. That is what He created us for in His image, to use our gifts to glorify Him, and that is the only good that can truly be done.

This is not to insult atheist or other religions, I am merely saying what I believe the Bible says is what good is. More a Biblical discussion rather than a philosophical one, or through the paradigm that the Bible is the Word of God.

(Phil) #5

I have certainly heard that approach for many years, and have expressed similar thoughts myself. I believe it in a spiritual sense, but also think good is not limited only to born again Christians. How would you interpret the parable of the good Samaritan with that idea in mind?


Or Matthew 5:16 “In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.”

Or many, many other scriptures.


Well, I misspoke…let me retract some of that. Thanks for pointing at out.

After Jesus, no good can be done apart from Him. Prior to Jesus, your faith was credited as righteousness, like Abram.

God even used Rahab, a prostitute. None of us are perfect and we all sin and I do believe there were righteous people outside of the Israelites. God even blessed the Ishmaelites.

This opens a new can or worms about who was saved before Jesus? My beliefs are that faith in God’s goodness and love, which Jesus personified, gave hem salvation and there are probably non Israelites in heaven, the Israelites were just meant to be an example people, a priesthood. So there probably was good people outside of the Jews, and amount the Samaritans. But after Jesus came, if you believed in the goodness of God, you would then believe in Jesus. This is why the Pharisees didn’t recognize Jesus, they never rally loved God, they loved their status and had pride in themselves. But Paul and Nicodemus knew God, and that is why they eventually saw Jesus as the Son of God. But that is another topic.

This Samaritan clearly loved, as he took care of his neighbor, like the heart is God would have wanted. So again, something for God’s glory is good. Not the act itself. Again, I don’t these Jesus’s actions at face value were good, rather done for the glory of God, the Father of good. 1 Cor 13:2

     " I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing.

Meaning if you give to the poor, or love your neighbor not from the love of God or for His glory, it is not good. It is for the betterment of men and to help our human biology or yourself, but if not acknowledging God, is no good."

The only light there is is from God. All we can do is reflect the light of God. John 8:12, John 9:5

The only thing that makes good deeds good, is when it glorifies your Father in heaven.

Like a good deed that glorifies is a like a person headed down the track, and a good deed at face value is just running in circles…Biblically speaking.

But the problem with good deeds outside of the Bible, is that good is a relative word, that mostly means apparently beneficial. Like sacrificing a child to the volcano gods. If it saves many lives and produces good harvest is this not good? Some cultures believe this. If there are perceived benefits from something, it is labeled as good. Hitler might have been doing good in his mind. It’s possibly that he actually thought ridding the world or non-arians would create world peace and benefit humans. We used an atom bomb that killed thousands, to save millions.

It’s kind of silly to say, but, if you could end all natural disasters and diseases to tomorrow, but it required you to do some terrible things ( rape, murder, torture, the worst of the worst “moral” things), to 1 person, would you so it? What about 10, or 1000 etc. “good or moral” is all weighed on the ends, and the means justify the ends. Atheist argue too often that there are some “obvious or born to know wrongs”. But those are only wrong until something of greater value can be had. Like how killing is bad, unless it is to save. Stealing is bad, unless it is to save your life. Giving is good, unless you can’t afford it. Loving is good (like the Samaritan) but what if you were late to work and you were going to be fired and didn’t have time to stop and help and love? If we all trusted in God ( which we won’t till heaven, but it is always worth trying hard everyday) we would all be loving and giving and doing good and glorifying the Father.

But thankfully God is in control of the ends, all we need to worry about is the means. If 1 person could be sacrificed to end world hunger and all diseases, we a Christian do it? May it never be! What about insulting 1 or 2 people and spewing hate to convert 1? May it never be! Unfortunately, to often Christians ( myself included, I’m not perfect, I screw up) worry about the ends and no it is their goal to convert people. There is no command to do this, and it shows our lack of faith on God’s control, or too much pride in ourselves and less reliance on God. We are simply commanded to love our neighbors as the Good Samaritan did, and to relate to and meet the needs of others as Jesus did.

I just hope it is clear that I am not sounding like on a high horse, I am no better than any Christian or atheist or Samaritan or Pharisee. Thanks to Gid’s grace, I am redeemed, but I deserve it no more than anyone. This is more Biblical truths/beliefs than a lecture to people below me.

(Christy Hemphill) #8

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