Intellectual and Moral Cowardice

I purchased a copy of Richard Dawkins’ The God Delusion* the other day. I teach an apologetics class at my church and wanted to actually read what one of the so-called “Four Horseman of New Atheism” had to say on the matter. My wife was horrified when I opened the package and held the tome aloft—she accused me of enriching a godless heretic who seems content to remain on a path leading inevitably to the fires of hell. I supposed she had a point, so I retreated to pragmaticism—how can I know what the man says unless I buy the book? My wife reluctantly agreed but was still suspicious, and ordered me to banish the text to a distant bookshelf, far from the reaches of our children.

Reading the first few chapters, I stumbled across a disturbing passage written by a well-meaning but ill-informed Christian to Albert Einstein. The missive was a response to a paper Einstein wrote in 1940 about why he did not believe in God. Dawkins evidenced contempt and scorn for this little letter, and I must agree he is justified in doing so. Here it is:

We respect your learning, Dr Einstein; but there is one thing you do not seem to have learned: that God is a spirit and cannot be found through the telescope or microscope, no more than human thought or emotion can be found by analyzing the brain. As everyone knows, religion is based on Faith, not knowledge. Every thinking person, perhaps, is assailed at times with religious doubt. My own faith has wavered many a time. But I never told anyone of my spiritual aberrations for two reasons: (1) I feared that I might, by mere suggestion, disturb and damage the life and hopes of some fellow being; (2) because I agree with the writer who said, “There is a mean streak in anyone who will destroy another’s faith.”…I hope, Dr Einstein, that you were misquoted and that you will yet say something more pleasing to the vast number of the American people who delight to do you honor. (38)

This is a sad, pitiful little letter. Dawkins observed, “every sentence drips with intellectual and moral cowardice” (38). What struck me was the astounding biblical illiteracy displayed by the writer. We often look back on the pre-1960s era as a better, more noble time—a time when Christian values flourished and God was worshipped in spirit and in truth. People knew their Bibles, preachers stood for the truth, and everything was simply grand! That illusion is shattered by this letter, which could have been penned by the average Christian today. Dawkins hit the nail right on the head—it literally oozes with intellectual and moral cowardice.

God is a spirit and cannot be found through the telescope or microscope, no more than human thought or emotion can be found by analyzing the brain.

What about the glories of God in general revelation? Has the writer never read Psalm 8, where David extolls the glory of God and marvels that He condescended to even notice man and care for him? Or has he ever contemplated David’s statement from Psalm 19:1: “the heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork.”? Has the author never considered that all common blessings which God bestows on the just and unjust alike, this common grace, testifies to the glory of God? Christians can look round about them and see evidence for God everywhere; indeed, God’s common grace common to all testifies to both His existence and character (Acts 14:14-17).

Paul observed that his readers presumed “on the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance,” (Rom. 2:4). This statement is even more powerful because it directly follows his masterful exposition of man’s true state before God—all men are in willful rebellion and utterly without excuse (Rom. 1:18-32).

This principle is not confined to the New Testament; God’s humbling of King Nebuchadnezzar (Dan. 4) over his refusal to give glory to God for Babylon`s successes is the most definitive example of common grace I’ve read in Scripture. Likewise, in Hosea, God equates Israel with an adultress who leaves her husband for the promise of trinkets and luxury in the arms of another lover. “And she did not know that it was I who gave her the grain, the wine, and the oil, and who lavished on her silver and gold, which they used for Baal” (Hos 2:8).

The longsuffering and grace of God is truly impossible to fathom—and we haven’t even reached the gospel yet! We’re just looking out at the world and making some random observations from Scripture on God’s goodness toward mankind in general!

“But wait,” the chorus cries, “you’re in ministry. It’s your job to know things like this!”

Wrong. Dead wrong. The man who penned this unfortunate letter typifies the average Christian from nearly 80 years ago. He is a window into the state of biblical literacy during the halcyon days of Roosevelt, Churchill and The Maltese Falcon. I fear, however, that the average Christian in these days of Obama, Cameron and No Strings Attached lags far behind even this poor example.

I agree with the writer who said, “There is a mean streak in anyone who will destroy another’s faith.”

The watchword of Christian apologetics is 1 Peter 3:15b, “always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect.” This command is prefaced by a vital precondition that too many Christians hew off, perhaps considering it irrelevant (which itself is a rather damning testimony to serious Christianity). The preface is “but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy” (1 Pet. 3:15a).

The letter writer, along with the seeming majority of contemporary Christian apologists, misses the point that there is one, single objective truth—God is real. In our quest for tolerance, too many well-meaning Christians embrace de facto religious pluralism out of a fear not to “offend anybody.” If Christ is truly sanctified in our hearts as Lord, the practical outworking of this sanctification is a willingness to stand in the gap and proclaim, “Jesus is the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Him.” That a man, 80 years ago, would display an unwillingness to “offend” someone by proclaiming God is real and all pretenders are false is sad. Things have not improved since then.

Dawkins is quite right to sneer contemptuously at this silly, sad dispatch from days gone by. It is intellectually and morally cowardly. However, how many Christians today would write a similar letter? How many believers are too unenlightened about their faith to fashion a response to a “God doesn’t exist” challenge? How many Christians are too timid or wary to take a stand for the Truth, however small and seemingly “insignificant” it may be?

The feeble recourse of referring all “deeper” questions to our Pastors seems noble, but is ultimately pitiful and betrays a startlingly dangerous spiritual apathy. Knowing our faith is the responsibility of every believer. “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them,” (Eph 2:10). We were each individually redeemed for a purpose—a specific purpose. Part of our reasonable service is to sanctify Christ in our hearts so that we may be able to give an answer for the hope that is within us, wherever we may be in the world and whenever the opportunity arises. It is not simply the Pastor’s job to be Biblically literate—it is every Christian’s job.

God chose to allow sinful men and women like you and me to participate in His unfolding plan to redeem His creation; how seriously do we take this privilege?

Notes

* Richard Dawkins, The God Delusion. New York, NY: Mariner, 2008.

[node:bio/tylerr body]

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mitrellim's picture

Thanks for the post.

Gerry Carlson's picture

By googling the quote referenced it was possible to access that actual chapter of the book online. Dawkins identifies the author of the quote as a president of a historical society in New Jersey. This was the typical drivel of theologically liberal "Christians" of that day. Dawkins was probably smart enough to figure out that the "Christianity" of that letter writer was paltry in contrast to someone like J. Gresham Machen, author of Christianity and Liberalism, who was contemporary to Einstein. But like many skeptics he chose the words of a psuedo-Christian articulation as his straw man to mock. That is intellectual cowardice too.  

Gerry Carlson

TylerR's picture

Editor

I didn't think of Googling the excerpt! I would say, however, that where this liberal Christian was 80 years ago is precisely where many mainstream Christians are at today. This is a shame.

I'm getting to where Dawkins is attacking God in particular now. It should be pretty interesting. I did, however, appreciate Dawkins' distinction between authentic religion and what he terms "Einsteinian" religion. Many people, even unbelievers, invoke God or Scripture in a sort of poetic, metaphorical sense. This gives the impression they are religious people. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Dawkins makes this distinction clear, and states he is not attacking those folks, but real religious people. It was a good point, and I was glad he made this clear. Looking forward to the rest of what he says.

Tyler is a pastor in Olympia, WA and an Investigations Manager with a Washington State agency. He's the author of the book What's It Mean to Be a Baptist?

Wayne Wilson's picture

There's a nice little book, a collection of letters responding to Dawkins called The Dawkins Letters by David Robertson.  He makes some good counter arguments there.

TylerR's picture

Editor

I've heard David Robertson speak on the Unbelievable radio program many times. He is Pastor of Robert Murray McCheyne's old church in Dundee, Scotland.

Tyler is a pastor in Olympia, WA and an Investigations Manager with a Washington State agency. He's the author of the book What's It Mean to Be a Baptist?

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

I actually thought that cowardly quote got off to a pretty good start... 

We respect your learning, Dr Einstein; but there is one thing you do not seem to have learned: that God is a spirit and cannot be found through the telescope or microscope, no more than human thought or emotion can be found by analyzing the brain. As everyone knows, religion is based on Faith...

Sounded good this far because he seemed to be rejecting the modern worship of empirical data and anti-supernaturalism (often called "science"). He even seems to hint at our dependence on revelation for knowing these things. But then he says "based on faith, not knowledge." Crash and burn. Faith (in God) is knowledge. (It's the beginning of it... Prov. 1.7)

I don't remember where the idea originates in history that religious knowledge is a different kind of knowledge from all other knowledge. But the letter writer seems to have bought that philosophy. And there is some truth in that, in a manner of speaking. The problem comes when we start to think that we can accept mutually exclusive claims as "true" as long as one is "religious" and the other "scientific"--because there is no need to reconcile one to the other. Somebody more up on epistemology can say this better or correct it, I'm sure.

I'm not sure what Dawkins means by cowardice in this case. Don't have the book. Probably he meant to say that all efforts to raise some knowledge above the judgment of science and pure reason is cowardly... and he couldn't have been more wrong. Weak as it is, the letter is closer to the truth than Dawkins is on that point. Much closer.

(On the other hand, maybe RD is mainly calling the guy on how he was dealing with his doubt?)

TylerR's picture

Editor

Dawkins didn't elaborate too much in the book, but he appears to be disgusted that the letter writer doesn't have the courage of his convictions. He is a Christian who is unwilling to stand for what he believes. He essentially claims that faith is nothing more than "blind faith," and that he would hesitate to disturb the spiritual equilibrium of others. If Christianity is real to you, it would seem that these things wouldn't be true. That is sad and pitiful.

Dawkins, whatever else we may say about him (and there is certainly a lot to say) does have the courage of his convictions. Christians must recover theirs. It starts with being willing to gently but firmly stand up for truth in everyday, normal encounters with people as the opportunity arises.

Tyler is a pastor in Olympia, WA and an Investigations Manager with a Washington State agency. He's the author of the book What's It Mean to Be a Baptist?

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

Yes, I can see RD doing that. He seems to have a little bit of respect for folks who are least willing to put up a good fight.

Easton's picture

"He is a Christian who is unwilling to stand for what he believes." ~ TylerR, referring to the letter writer in Dawkin's book.

This is a constant theme among atheists.  They, like most Christian fundamentalists, absolutely despise religious moderation, or what many of us would label Christian Liberalism.

Sam Harris, atheist, author and a far better writer than Dawkins (my opinion, having read both), comments on "religious moderation" in his book The End of Faith:

"From the perspective of those seeking to live by the letter of the texts, the religious moderate is nothing more than a failed fundamentalist. He is, in all likelihood, going to wind up in hell with the rest of the unbelievers. The problem that religious moderation poses for all of us is that it does not permit anything very critical to be said about religious literalism. We cannot say that fundamentalists are crazy, because they are merely practicing their freedom of belief; we cannot even say that they are mistaken in religious terms, because their knowledge of scripture is generally unrivaled. All we can say, as religious moderates, is that we don’t like the personal and social costs that a full embrace of scripture imposes on us." (p. 20)

Harris continues basing his comments on the assumption that our written texts are inspired/God-breathed:

"The texts themselves are unequivocal: they are perfect in all their parts. By their light, religious moderation appears to be nothing more than an unwillingness to fully submit to God’s law. By failing to live by the letter of the texts, while tolerating the irrationality of those who do, religious moderates betray faith and reason equally." (p. 21)

Interesting to read an atheist echo what I've heard from many a pulpit.

Harris goes on to argue that, what he calls the "core dogmas" of religion, "i.e. that we know there is a God, and that we know what he wants from us", must be questioned and ultimately disproved.  Until then, religious moderation can act only as a buffer from fundamentalism, but will not lead us anywhere.

TylerR's picture

Editor

I 've planning on grabbing something by Sam Harris - I'll now accelerate that plan! I appreciated what he said. I've heard him debate William Lane Craig, and I've also heard Dawkins debate John Lennox. Harris is a far deeper thinker.

I also heard Christopher Hitchens complement a debate opponent because he "actually believes this stuff!" Hitchens said something like this;

You try it! Ask a Calvinist if he really believes in the theory of double pre-destination, and you end up getting all these Life of Brian evasions. "It's metaphorical, really . . . " No, he really believes this stuff. That's very useful."

Tyler is a pastor in Olympia, WA and an Investigations Manager with a Washington State agency. He's the author of the book What's It Mean to Be a Baptist?

Ray Arnett's picture

I recently finished reading an advance reading copy of 50 Simple Questions for Every Christian   Written by a skeptic, Guy Harrison and published by Prometheus Press, it nonetheless is very thought-provoking and helpful to Christians that truly want to know the mindset of a non-Christian. He is very respectful, but also very clear that for him, the logic does not add up. I read it thinking - yes, there is not a "slam-dunk" logical path - you cannot prove Christianity scientifically. Faith must be involved.

Anyway, reading it also reveals several disturbing things about modern Christianity - for instance, one of his questions is "Have you read the Bible?"  When he asks that of Christians, he then asks what they think of some of the Old Testament passages - people's reactions are usually "That's not in the Bible!" Yet, he then proceeds to show them the passage he is speaking of. In addition, several logical fallacies are revealed in the book - atheists are evil; because Stalin was an atheist!  NONSENSE - Stalin was evil - atheists are people - some relatively good and some relatively bad (theologically, I know we are all depraved).

Recommended highly for a more balanced and "humble" perspective of modern atheism's view of Christianity.

Ray

Ray Arnett

TylerR's picture

Editor

Appreciate the notice about the book. I have heard many atheists and/or unbelievers use the slaughter of some of the Canaanite tribes as justification for God's "unloving" and murderous nature. What is left out is the righteousness of God's judgment on a people who would sacrifice their living children in a fire (Deut 18:9-14). Many Christians also do not realize the land was not given to Israel because they deserved it so much, but because the Canaanites were so wicked (Deut 9:4).

God's sovereign providence is also in evidence as He told Abraham He would protect Israel in Egypt and lead them back to the same land once the iniquity of the Amorites was full (Gen 15:16).

Tyler is a pastor in Olympia, WA and an Investigations Manager with a Washington State agency. He's the author of the book What's It Mean to Be a Baptist?

Caleb S's picture

Aaron Blumer wrote:

I actually thought that cowardly quote got off to a pretty good start... 

We respect your learning, Dr Einstein; but there is one thing you do not seem to have learned: that God is a spirit and cannot be found through the telescope or microscope, no more than human thought or emotion can be found by analyzing the brain. As everyone knows, religion is based on Faith...

Sounded good this far because he seemed to be rejecting the modern worship of empirical data and anti-supernaturalism (often called "science"). He even seems to hint at our dependence on revelation for knowing these things. But then he says "based on faith, not knowledge." Crash and burn. Faith (in God) is knowledge. (It's the beginning of it... Prov. 1.7)

I don't remember where the idea originates in history that religious knowledge is a different kind of knowledge from all other knowledge. But the letter writer seems to have bought that philosophy. And there is some truth in that, in a manner of speaking. The problem comes when we start to think that we can accept mutually exclusive claims as "true" as long as one is "religious" and the other "scientific"--because there is no need to reconcile one to the other. Somebody more up on epistemology can say this better or correct it, I'm sure.

I'm not sure what Dawkins means by cowardice in this case. Don't have the book. Probably he meant to say that all efforts to raise some knowledge above the judgment of science and pure reason is cowardly... and he couldn't have been more wrong. Weak as it is, the letter is closer to the truth than Dawkins is on that point. Much closer.

(On the other hand, maybe RD is mainly calling the guy on how he was dealing with his doubt?)

It is quite common for the atheist to falsely assume a "faith" vs "knowledge" bifurcation.  "Faith" is understood as believing something despite not having any evidence for it, but this is to assume a definition of faith that assumes atheism is true.  In other words, this pejorative description of "faith" begs the question of atheism in its pirating of the term, and sadly many Christians follow along with this false dichotomy.

 

"To believe something" is something that everyone does.

"To believe God's revelation" is to agree that the Scriptural revelation of reality is true.  But here, we have substance.  Granted, the atheist does not hold to Scripture as a source of evidence; but this assumes his own organizing principle as the default.

What is a bit closer to being correct is that atheists often hold to a standard called "evidentialism" where every belief must be justified by evidence, but then the evidence used to justify the belief is also a belief that must also be justified by further evidence.  And this continues onward into infinity.  The problem with the standard is that it leads into EVERY belief being without a foundation, since there exists an infinite series of justifications that one must go through.  Sadly, Christians often do not realize that this standard is being employed.  If the Christian does not realize that the standard is employed, then the atheist will readily find that the Christian does not know all things.  The Christian will offer up a justification, but then the atheist will keep pressing.  The Christian will offer up another justification for his prior point . . . and so on.  This keeps on going until the Christian is at his wits end, and the atheist proclaims victory and that faith is believing without evidence.  However, the atheist is employing a double standard on this point, for if the Christian is to employ the same infinite regress of justifications upon the atheist, then he will also be believing without reason.  Finite creatures cannot handle the standard of evidentialism; hence, evidentialism is itself unreasonable and cannot be used to force the "faith"/"knowledge" bifurcation.

This then lands upon the issue of fundamental beliefs or presuppositions, or as Mitch Stokes and Alvin Plantinga call "basic" beliefs.  These are beliefs that are not based upon anything else; they are that point upon which one starts.  It is interesting to point out that God has many attributes that place Him on an ontological and epistemological level prior to all else.  He is Himself the ultimate being and ultimate "fact" that there is, so to go beyond Him is to assume the unreasonable.  To go beyond an "ultimate" is a contradiction in terms.  It is like asking the nonsense question of "what man is taller than the tallest man at the moment?"

 

Now, the issue of science comes up, but what is often overlooked is that God is a prior ontological and epistemological person to science.  In other words, God is He who gives science meaning and its functionality.  He is the One who is sustaining His creation to exhibit the regularities that we call scientific laws.  Hence, to assume science as a more ultimate starting point so as to verify God is to immediately assume an atheism of the God in question.  It is to ignore God's nature from the outset.  It is to start the investigation already assuming the autonomy of science from God and of the autonomy of the mind and sense perceptions of the various individuals involved.  It is also to assume the autonomy of the created order.  But to say that God "created" and "upholds" His creation having given to man his mental capacity and sense perceptions so as to given them operational ability is to utterly undercut the issue of the deifying of science and the "worship" of man's faculties (as Aaron stated) so prevelant today.

 

The deification of science and creation is EXTREMELY apparent in Dawkins.  This is his standard from which to operate, and by that very stance he begs the question of atheism of the Christian God from the very outset.  To assume the ultimacy of the human faculties and the ultimacy of creation as the very means of investigation is to predetermined that one will NEVER arrive at an ultimate God.  Dawkins' book demonstrates that "given atheism," then belief in God is an illusion, which obviously totally begs the question.

 

If one would like, I've written quite a bit bashing "The God Delusion;" and Dawkins methodological fallacy is one of the many criticisms that he received.  If this would help anyone, that is why I offer it.  This post is just to wet the tastebuds.

Aaron Blumer wrote:

I actually thought that cowardly quote got off to a pretty good start... 

We respect your learning, Dr Einstein; but there is one thing you do not seem to have learned: that God is a spirit and cannot be found through the telescope or microscope, no more than human thought or emotion can be found by analyzing the brain. As everyone knows, religion is based on Faith...

Sounded good this far because he seemed to be rejecting the modern worship of empirical data and anti-supernaturalism (often called "science"). He even seems to hint at our dependence on revelation for knowing these things. But then he says "based on faith, not knowledge." Crash and burn. Faith (in God) is knowledge. (It's the beginning of it... Prov. 1.7)

I don't remember where the idea originates in history that religious knowledge is a different kind of knowledge from all other knowledge. But the letter writer seems to have bought that philosophy. And there is some truth in that, in a manner of speaking. The problem comes when we start to think that we can accept mutually exclusive claims as "true" as long as one is "religious" and the other "scientific"--because there is no need to reconcile one to the other. Somebody more up on epistemology can say this better or correct it, I'm sure.

I'm not sure what Dawkins means by cowardice in this case. Don't have the book. Probably he meant to say that all efforts to raise some knowledge above the judgment of science and pure reason is cowardly... and he couldn't have been more wrong. Weak as it is, the letter is closer to the truth than Dawkins is on that point. Much closer.

(On the other hand, maybe RD is mainly calling the guy on how he was dealing with his doubt?)

It is quite common for the atheist to falsely assume a "faith" vs "knowledge" bifurcation.  "Faith" is understood as believing something despite not having any evidence for it, but this is to assume a definition of faith that assumes atheism is true.  In other words, this pejorative description of "faith" begs the question of atheism in its pirating of the term, and sadly many Christians follow along with this false dichotomy.

 

"To believe something" is something that everyone does.

"To believe God's revelation" is to agree that the Scriptural revelation of reality is true.  But here, we have substance.  Granted, the atheist does not hold to Scripture as a source of evidence; but this assumes his own organizing principle as the default.

What is a bit closer to being correct is that atheists often hold to a standard called "evidentialism" where every belief must be justified by evidence, but then the evidence used to justify the belief is also a belief that must also be justified by further evidence.  And this continues onward into infinity.  The problem with the standard is that it leads into EVERY belief being without a foundation, since there exists an infinite series of justifications that one must go through.  Sadly, Christians often do not realize that this standard is being employed.  If the Christian does not realize that the standard is employed, then the atheist will readily find that the Christian does not know all things.  The Christian will offer up a justification, but then the atheist will keep pressing.  The Christian will offer up another justification for his prior point . . . and so on.  This keeps on going until the Christian is at his wits end, and the atheist proclaims victory and that faith is believing without evidence.  However, the atheist is employing a double standard on this point, for if the Christian is to employ the same infinite regress of justifications upon the atheist, then he will also be believing without reason.  Finite creatures cannot handle the standard of evidentialism; hence, evidentialism is itself unreasonable and cannot be used to force the "faith"/"knowledge" bifurcation.

This then lands upon the issue of fundamental beliefs or presuppositions, or as Mitch Stokes and Alvin Plantinga call "basic" beliefs.  These are beliefs that are not based upon anything else; they are that point upon which one starts.  It is interesting to point out that God has many attributes that place Him on an ontological and epistemological level prior to all else.  He is Himself the ultimate being and ultimate "fact" that there is, so to go beyond Him is to assume the unreasonable.  To go beyond an "ultimate" is a contradiction in terms.  It is like asking the nonsense question of "what man is taller than the tallest man at the moment?"

 

Now, the issue of science comes up, but what is often overlooked is that God is a prior ontological and epistemological person to science.  In other words, God is He who gives science meaning and its functionality.  He is the One who is sustaining His creation to exhibit the regularities that we call scientific laws.  Hence, to assume science as a more ultimate starting point so as to verify God is to immediately assume an atheism of the God in question.  It is to ignore God's nature from the outset.  It is to start the investigation already assuming the autonomy of science from God and of the autonomy of the mind and sense perceptions of the various individuals involved.  It is also to assume the autonomy of the created order.  But to say that God "created" and "upholds" His creation having given to man his mental capacity and sense perceptions so as to given them operational ability is to utterly undercut the issue of the deifying of science and the "worship" of man's faculties (as Aaron stated) so prevelant today.

 

The deification of science and creation is EXTREMELY apparent in Dawkins.  This is his standard from which to operate, and by that very stance he begs the question of atheism of the Christian God from the very outset.  To assume the ultimacy of the human faculties and the ultimacy of creation as the very means of investigation is to predetermined that one will NEVER arrive at an ultimate God.  Dawkins' book demonstrates that "given atheism," then belief in God is an illusion, which obviously totally begs the question.

 

If one would like, I've written quite a bit bashing "The God Delusion;" and Dawkins methodological fallacy is one of the many criticisms that he received.  If this would help anyone, that is why I offer it.  This post is just to wet the tastebuds.  The evidential critique, given above, comes from Mitch Stokes' book "A Shot of Faith to the Head".

Caleb S's picture

TylerR wrote:

I 've planning on grabbing something by Sam Harris - I'll now accelerate that plan! I appreciated what he said. I've heard him debate William Lane Craig, and I've also heard Dawkins debate John Lennox. Harris is a far deeper thinker.

I also heard Christopher Hitchens complement a debate opponent because he "actually believes this stuff!" Hitchens said something like this;

You try it! Ask a Calvinist if he really believes in the theory of double pre-destination, and you end up getting all these Life of Brian evasions. "It's metaphorical, really . . . " No, he really believes this stuff. That's very useful."

Hitchens said that about Doug Wilson in the DVD called "Collision".

TylerR's picture

Editor

This is why I take a presuppositional view with apologetics. This is also why I believe Dawkins was correct to treat the letter writer with contempt - he doesn't have the courage to stand upon his own presuppositions. Having listened to Dawkins engage John Lennox numerous times, it is also obvious Dawkins is not willing to admit his own presuppositions (Rom 1:18-32). 

Each side has a starting point - we must be very clear. The justification or grounds for this starting point is where the battle must be fought. The Christian, with God's revelation, can proclaim to make sense of the world. Our job is to show the unbeliever, of whatever stripe, that their worldview cannot make sense of the world at all. 

 

Tyler is a pastor in Olympia, WA and an Investigations Manager with a Washington State agency. He's the author of the book What's It Mean to Be a Baptist?

TylerR's picture

Editor

I've never seen the DVD, but I've watched the actual debate video many times. He used it in a debate with Dinesh D'Souza. I grabbed Hitchens' entire 10 min opening as an illustration for my apologetics class at church. It is the best example of self-worship and Biblical illiteracy I've ever seen - compacted into 10 mins! The English accent somehow makes it better . . . I have also long wondered about the amber contents of the glass Hitchens was sipping on throughout the whole night. 

I embedded Hitchens' presentation in an apologetics video I did at church here - http://victorybaptist4u.org/?p=513. Skip to the 18:00 mark to see his remarks - and the mysterious amber drink, too . . .

Tyler is a pastor in Olympia, WA and an Investigations Manager with a Washington State agency. He's the author of the book What's It Mean to Be a Baptist?

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

One complication with Harris' analysis-- in the quoted portions, it looks like he may be making the error of equating moderation with sophistication on some points. I mean, it's not clear what his definition of religious moderation is. To some who have not read Scripture with adequate sophistication, we should have multiple wives, stone adultresses and wipe out nations of infidels. So does Harris think all who don't do these things are "moderate"?

If somebody wants to portray the Bible as extreme and/or ridiculous, he's tempted to credit people who misunderstand it as though they were the ones with the best knowledge of it. But if you define moderation as cherry picking principles and practices that are thought to be socially and intellectually acceptable to moderns... his criticism is well founded.

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