A Christian Response to Richard Dawkins' Atheism (Part 2)

Read Part 1.

Is meaningful engagement with Richard Dawkins about the existence of God possible?

Forming a Christian response

A thoughtful Christian response begins with the realization that Dawkins’ claims are being made from within a worldview, or frame of reference, that is quite different from a Christian worldview. A Christian’s frame of reference includes, not the possibility of God, but the actuality of God. The life of a Christian has been redefined by their relationship with Jesus Christ, the Son of God. Thus, a Christian is a person who is learning to think within a worldview that has been defined by God in the person of Jesus Christ.

This radical difference between the believer’s and the skeptic’s belief system creates a challenge for communication. A “gap” exists between their worldviews, creating a situation that resembles other forms of cross-cultural communication. Because of this “gap,” the believer and unbeliever do not actually communicate as directly as they might assume.

For example, with Dawkins all the important questions of life are, by nature, scientific questions with scientific answers. But for a Christian, the important questions of life are theological, with theological answers. Dawkins’ primary referent is science; the Christian’s primary referent is God. So as long as they stay within their own worlds of thought, neither one is going to communicate very effectively with the other.

1. Listen carefully for his worldview

The first step in responding to Dawkins is to listen carefully to his argument from within the context of his own worldview. This must be done to understand where he is “coming from,” so to speak. Dawkins’ rant against God makes sense to him. His denunciation of religious believers springs from a set of ideas and values that he holds. Until we grasp the shape of his worldview, communication remains ineffective.

Listening carefully begins the same process of learning that we expect other cross-cultural workers to engage in for their line of work (ambassadors, missionaries, etc.). Listening to what others say, don’t say, and what they mean by that is a difficult task. Communication across world cultures (e.g. American vs. Japanese) is a complicated process. Is it any surprise that communication across “belief cultures” is also complicated?

Meaningful engagement with Dawkins’ claims must begin with a willingness to listen carefully to him. We must first discover how Dawkins approaches life—what he trusts, what he loves, and what he deems highly valuable. In the absence of real-time communication, these questions must be answered from Dawkins’ written statements.

2. Take his worldview seriously, exposing its inadequacy

It appears that Dawkins trusts in modern science to determine what is “probably” true. Note his confidence “in science’s future ability to explain everything else.” Note also that he portrays the existence of God as “a scientific hypothesis.” Dawkins wants to grant science an ability to explain “everything else,” including whether God exists or not.

But if Dawkins’ worldview entrusts science with the responsibility of answering such questions, his worldview does not account for the world in which he lives. Science simply does not have a mechanism to answer a question like, “Does God exist?” But Dawkins claims it does.

Truth be told, Dawkins knows the answer to a lot of questions that science cannot explain. For example, science does not have a means for determining what is beautiful. But we presume Dawkins makes choices on the basis of beauty. Does he consider his partner beautiful? If so, on what scientific basis does he make that evaluation?

Science also cannot say what “ought” or “should” be done in any moral sense. But Dawkins feels a responsibility to stamp out religious belief. In this case he feels an “ought.” Does Dawkins think I should stop believing in God? If so, on what scientific basis can he say I “should” stop believing in God?

Science also has no way to address metaphysical questions like, “What is the meaning of life?” Does Dawkins think that life is meaningful? If so, on what scientific basis is life meaningful? Science cannot even tell Dawkins whether he ought to trust in science or not. His science-centered worldview is simply inadequate when it comes to dealing with the serious questions of life.

Dawkins’ worldview sets him off in an entirely wrong direction while claiming to look for God. It is like a man claiming to look for the sun, while simultaneously putting his head in a box. The way Dawkins demands we think about God (as “a scientific hypothesis”) actually suppresses the possibility of knowing God.

3. Introduce the true God on His own terms

As a Christian, I do not accept Dawkins’ basis for reasoning in order to argue with him. As long as he thinks within that frame of reference, he has excluded the possibility of finding God. But God has been found by others. Or, more accurately, God has found others.

The work of God in “finding people” is accomplished through the revelation of His Word and the working of His Spirit. Dawkins may deny me the opportunity to communicate the Gospel to him, but the Gospel is the only real hope I can offer him. Dawkins’ refusal to believe in God is a moral problem, not an intellectual one. It is a form of rebellion against the God who made him. Dawkins needs a significant change in the way he approaches God, something the Bible calls “repentance.”

A mature Christian response to atheism ultimately transitions from apologia to invitation. A faithful Christian will use means, however creative, to introduce skeptics to the reality of God through the revelation of His Word. We are not called to argue with atheists about the theoretical existence of a “God.” But we are called to invite them to know the one true God who has revealed Himself as “the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Eph. 1:3). By inviting atheists to “find” God on His own terms (i.e. biblical revelation), the Christian offers them a hope that will not fail in the crucial moments of life and death.

Luke Bolton Bio

L. Bolton currently oversees the educational ministries at All Nations Baptist Church, (Minneapolis, MN) and is completing his MDiv at Central Baptist Theological Seminary, (Plymouth, MN). He and his wife, Lisa, have two young boys. They have served together in cross-cultural ministry and education for about seven years.

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