Posts Tagged ‘Richard Dawkins’

I posted yesterday about Christopher Hitchens’ thoughts on Christians that he’s debated and one reader responded with a different, secularist perspective (which we welcome here!).  I was going to respond to them in the comments section, but I found my response becoming a bit too long and figured I would put it up in a separate post since it had some serious thoughts on what makes Christianity unique.  This is by no means exhaustive, but only a surface-level introduction to ‘why Christianity’ rather than Islam, or Buddhism, etc.

Here we go….

1.  The existence of God cannot and does not need to be demonstrated.  It is evident and is no more subject to “proof” than “disproof.” This is not similar to anything else, no matter how hard we try to draw correlations to spaghetti monsters (cf. Bertrand Russell), etc.  Such elusive arguments actually fail to consider the definition of what they’re arguing about.  I’m not interested in arguing for the existence of “deity” in and of itself.  I’m an atheist in many respects:  I don’t believe in “Allah” or the god of Judaism or the gods of Mormonism, et al.  I believe in the one God revealed in Jesus Christ.  He has been seen and we have eye-witness testimony to this event and his deity. 

Rational proofs for/against the existence of some otiose deity dangling before our eyes are rather vain projections of our own minds onto a blank canvas (thank you Cornelius Van Til).  They are thus fruitless.  I can understand why a “secularist” would want to go down this road, but we share different presuppositions and thus have no neutral ground from which to argue.  Someone might retort and say, “Reason is the only neutral ground, why not simply agree to the dictates of logic and reason and then go from there?”  Ok, fine, but whose reason?  Reason is not an abstract, independent reality floating outside of actual people, outside of time and space.  Reason is built upon the foundations of beliefs that people assume without argumentation (“presuppositions).  Thus, reason is anything but neutral.  I might just as well say that your perspective assumes the non-existence of something you call “god,” for which there is no evidence.  I hope I’m being concrete enough with what I’m saying. 

Furthermore, we cannot speak of the “non-existence” of the God revealed in Jesus Christ because existence is part of his very definition.  To say otherwise would be to separate the signifier from signified.  Most people haven’t made the proper correlation between the two such that they posit the non-existence of something they claim is the Christian God, when in fact they have something wholly different in their sights.  This is what makes Richard Dawkins such an amateur in this respect and why no philosopher or theologian has yet to take him seriously.  Yhwh is self-existing (‘a se‘ in Latin), thus requiring no cause for himself, etc.

2.  SO, if we start from the fact of Jesus Christ, then we actually have something to work with.  We know about him through Scripture, which then leads to all sorts of questions as to how that’s interpreted, etc.  I don’t have time to get too far into this (I’m not going to convince anyone anyway), but the gospel – the good news of salvation in Jesus Christ alone from our sinful separation from God – is the basis for racial and sexual equality, for nonviolence, for the inherent value of human life.  Other religions might profess to hold to similar beliefs, but they are actually radically different. 

If you cannot see this, it is because you are not a follower of Christ.  So you can’t see the ways in which the value of human life is bound up with the fact that God has shared our time and space with us by assuming flesh, and in that same act, redeemed us.  You don’t understand what it means to be made in the image of Yhwh, rather than to made in the image of “god.”  You can’t see the intricacies of the many ways that the gospel breaks down social divisions and makes everyone equal beggars at the foot of the cross.  You don’t understand how race is a sinful human taxonomy that finds little basis in our ontology.  According to Scripture, you are either “in Christ” or “in Adam;” redeemed or not.  You don’t see how Grace removes privilege.  Neither can you see how the creating activity of a TRIUNE God (as opposed to any other “god”) ontologically grounds proper relations between the sexes and proper sexual relations.  You cannot grasp the depth with which Christ’s death on the cross puts an end to coercive force and violence.

My point is this:  I cannot show you all these things because you would not believe them, but Christian answers are just as hostile to other religions’ answers as your own brand of secularism is.  They are not the same, not even close.  Why do we all find an inherent need for racial equality, sexual equality, nonviolence, etc?  It cannot point to a condition prior to God’s creating activity.  If you posit that, then you have to explain how it is human life can have any inherent (read: not culturally or socially assigned) value in a secular system. 

Instead, the answer is that all of these things – these values and longings – are built into the fabric of who we were created to image.  Christians say that image is Christ.  When you begin to understand the colossal implications of that view, then you begin to understand how Christianity is not one religion amongst many.  Instead, it stands opposed to all forms of human religion.  It stands opposed to all human ideologies.  When it stands properly, it stands alone in this world as the consequence of a summons to discipleship; to humbly, obediently, and faithfully follow Christ, our creator and the only true image of God.

So, why not Islam?  Why not Judaism?  Why not Buddhism?  Why not secularism?  Why not any other “peaceful” religion?  Because they cannot explain everything and thus cannot explain anything.  That is a dogmatic claim, I realize.  But it gets back to my point in yesterday’s post about being sincere.  I’m not trying to convince, only clarify….


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Some people call me “Sir Links A Lot.” Actually no one calls me that, because I don’t link a lot–I link a very very very little. Hopefully no one calls anyone “Sir Links A Lot” because that would be really lame. But anyway, for your enjoyment I am going to link a little today and point you to some interesting articles I have read this week and give you some of my thoughts. I used to do this thing called “The Cultural Thermometer”–it was all the rage amongst my 3 faithful readers. Basically I just link to some interesting articles I have read and share some mildly insightful thoughts–enjoy:

1. Richard Dawkins is not a Harry Potter fan! Like me, you probably don’t care what Children’s books Richard Dawkins fancies, but if you follow Dawkin’s much, you won’t be surprised that Dawkin’s took this interview as another opportunity to proclaim that teaching your child about Hell is worse than physically abusing your child. That my friends, is an unsubstantiated claim if I ever heard one. Actually I have read research that reports those who believe in God live happier, more fulfilled lives. Dawkins claims that we should always have evidence for what we believe and yet he often fails to give evidence for the audacious claims he so often makes.

Interestingly enough, Dawkins’ doesn’t like Harry Potter because it is fantastical, but loves Philip Pullman’s work because apparently he deems it to be free from “magic and fairytales.” Well, Dawkins claims to have read Pullman but I am not so sure, I have read all three of the books in Pullman’s His Dark Materials trilogy and found tons of magic and fantasy–there are witches, angels, magical knives and compasses, parallel universes, and talking armored polar bears–all of which Dawkins apparently finds far from fantastical! Ok, so you get my point, Dawkins likes Pullman because Pullman is an atheist. I am not endorsing Harry Potter, but its worth noting that Dawkins has never read any of the Harry Potter books! Dawkins says he is working on a Children’s book of his own that will be a celebration of naturalism and surprise surprise–another attempt to debunk what Dawkins so fondly calls the “Judeo-Christian Myth”–think God Delusion for kids.

2. William P. Young, Author of The Shack speaks out against his critics. Young responds to numerous Christian bloggers who have criticized his book for its pluralistic bent by saying The Shack is simply a “God thing.” He also claims that those who have read it have failed to point out where the book is contrary to the Bible. While I have not read the book, I must disagree because I have heard portions of the book read that scream of pluralism if not full-on universalism both of which are contrary to Scripture (John 14:6; Acts 4:12). How is that not contrary to Scripture? Check out Dr. Mohler’s radio show on the book as well as Tim Challies review for examples. If Young wants to write from a universalistic point of view, he is free to do so, but it is mind boggling to me how in this interview, Young is allowed to get away with calling his book a “God-thing” and never actually responding seriously to any of the many serious objections Christian reviewers have brought against it.

3. A Bob Dylan Documentary Worth Watching? I don’t watch Bob Dylan documentaries because they are a dime a dozen. There are more Bob Dylan documentaries than I can shake a stick at. If I had a dime for every time someone made a Bob Dylan Documentary, I would have a lot of dimes! Ok, you get the idea, there are a lot of Dylan Documentaries out there. Why should you watch this one? Because its called Inside Bob Dylan’s Jesus Years: Busy Being Born … Again! There was a period during the late 1970s when Dylan claimed to have been born again. He then proceeded to write a trilogy of Christian albums and even refused to play some of his more secular songs in concert. Dylan is believed by many to be the greatest living songwriter, I can’t say that I know where he stands spiritually, but he did produce some beautiful music in his “born again” days. I am not really interested in Dylan Documentaries, but I plan to check this one out.

4. What do you get when you throw John Piper, Tony Jones, Doug Pagitt, and Greg Boyd in the same city? . . . Minneapolis, Minnesota! Colin Hansen, Christianity Today editor and author of Young, Restless and Reformed wrote an interesting piece on the diverse and influential churches of Minneapolis Minnesota. It seems that Minneapolis is something of a microcosm of Christianity in America today. There are numerous expressions of it, some of which I am concerned about, others of which I find encouraging. Though I know Hansen has his leanings, he does an excellent job of being fair and balanced in this interesting piece about churches on far different ends of the spectrum, and in the process tells us something about where Christianity is headed in America today.

5. Two interesting Articles on Marriage: Apparently infidelity rates are rising, particularly among women and another article claims a link between economic recession and divorce rates. How about taking a few minutes today to pray for your marriage and your friend’s marriages–that we might display the glory of Christ in our marriages in the midst of a culture that is increasingly devaluing marriage!

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I had a unique opportunity yesterday to catch a pre-release screening of the new documentary from Ben Stein, Expelled. The film is an exploration of the tight reigns that neo-Darwinism keeps on the academy and the consequences that evolution has had on our society. It’s also very, very funny. For years now, the mere mention that Darwin’s “dangerous idea” might either have some rather gaping holes or be patently false has been sufficient grounds for dismissal for scientists teaching in our schools. This is not news to anyone who has followed the debates even remotely, but the revelation has reached a boiling point for Ben Stein and in Expelled he tries to get to the heart of the matter.

Being a bit weary of big-production documentaries thanks to Michael Moore, I had strong doubts about this film. I expected a rather polemical and skewed view that was going to do little more than restate the obvious and probably do more harm than good. I’m happy to say that I wasn’t entirely right.

No doubt, this film has an agenda – to expose ardent dogmatism in the academy towards the neo-Darwinistic understanding of life, the universe, and everything (as Douglas Adams put it). Then again, it’s not like this is a stretch of a thesis. Open up the newspaper and you’re bound to see an article every week on some state duking it out in the courts over the right to teach alternative theories of origins and life, chiefly Intelligent Design, or Design Theory as it’s known in some circles. Don’t walk in to this film think that it’s just a he-said, she-said affair. If you’re on one side or the other, you’re likely not to change your mind about your theory.

But having said that, this film is not about changing your mind about the actual theory of evolution, per se. It seemed more effective at pointing out the gross disparity between science’s long-standing creed of free inquiry and its embarrassing treatment of dissenters. Stein digs deeper to show that this witch-hunt is not constrained to the field of science alone; the media and our culture are responsible as well for caving in to the dogmatic assertions of the modern evolutionary synthesis and its ever vocal proponents. And you hear plenty from these proponents, chiefly Richard Dawkins himself, the man who revolutionized evolutionary thinking with The Selfish Gene and has become the most “notorious” atheist of the day with his best-selling The God Delusion.

Through interviews with several who have felt “expelled” or are critical of neo-Darwinism, Stein lets the experts do most of the talking. I was most impressed with the on-going dialogue Stein has with David Berlinski, a very intelligent and outspoken critic of evolution who is highly ridiculed for his stance. Berlinski’s thoughts on why evolution has not shut up everybody and essentially has failed to convince the world yet are interesting. Especially when you factor in the public-relations campaign that evolution has going on and the extreme polemics of men like Dawkins and Daniel Dennett towards Christianity of all things. I appreciated that Stein let the members of the intelligent design movement clearly distinguish themselves from any religious claims and demonstrate that such a mis-perception is one perpetrated by critics and the media.

Towards the end of the film, Stein has a deeply personal exploration of the implications and consequences of neo-Darwinism, both potential, actual, and historical. This is where he loads on the pathos and I must admit, it was the one part of the movie that probably had the most lasting effect for me thinking through the origin of the very idea of evolution from a Christian point of view. I won’t elaborate now, but suffice to say I believe you will understand what I’m talking about when you see this film.

I should also mention the final interview of the film is worth the price of admission alone, though not without its faults. Ben Stein interviews the ever-confident Richard Dawkins and it is rather amusing. Though Stein makes Dawkins say some things that he indeed is not saying, Dawkins looks lost when trying to explain the first spark and why it could not have been God. It was not Dawkins’ best moment, but it was a breath of fresh air to see the same man who filmed The Root of All Evil have no adequately prepared screed with which to denigrate Stein and the Judeo-Christian tradition. There are many others who look rather absurd in their defense of evolution in this film (perhaps none so bad as Michael Ruse – who sounded like a politician when trying to explain how evolution got started), and the film offers people a good opportunity to discuss these things with friends and family.

When I wasn’t laughing, I was thinking. The best of both worlds. Say what you will and think what you will, but Expelled hits the mark in my estimation.

UPDATE: There is quite a bit of controversy spilling over about this film already (and it hasn’t even been released yet!). Now, in the interest of being fair and intellectually honest, here is Richard Dawkins’ take on how he was misconstrued in this film.

UPDATE2: Thanks to all who posted in the comments section, I have made a few minor changes in light of the dialog that I believe are more accurate.

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