Monday, January 09, 2006

Richard Dawkins and the Root of All Evil

Richard Dawkins wrote and appears in a two-part series called "The Root of All Evil?" to be aired on the UK's Channel 4. In the second episode, "The Virus of Faith," Dawkins equates the religious education of children with child abuse claiming that "Innocent children are being saddled with demonstrable falsehoods. It's time to question the abuse of childhood innocence with superstitious ideas of hellfire and damnation. Isn't it weird the way we automatically label a tiny child with its parents' religion?"

Dawkins doesn't hold back his feelings towards the God of the Bible either: "The God of the Old Testament has got to be the most unpleasant character in all fiction: jealous, and proud of it, petty, vindictive, unjust, unforgiving, racist," he says. Dawkins then criticizes Abraham, compares Moses to Hitler and Saddam Hussein, and calls the New Testament "St Paul's nasty, sado-masochistic doctrine of atonement for original sin." (source: WorldNetDaily).

Dawkins is opposed to claims of religious knowledge because they don't conform to the rigorous standards of science. He'd like us to believe that he is being completely rational and objective while those who don't share his materialistic, atheistic outlook are simply being emotional and unreasonable. However, from quotes like those above as well as from the series title it's obvious that Dawkins' aversion to Christianity is motivated largely by moral considerations. He appeals to the emotional force of analogies to child abuse and finds the God revealed in the Old and New Testaments detestable. But this raises some major problems for Dr. Dawkins. His moral pronouncements are not themselves the fruit of science for values such as justice are not capable of being empirically studied. Dawkins speaks as though certain states of affairs, actions, and motives are wrong despite the fact that he denies the existence of any objective and absolute standard of goodness. Given his view of things, I have no doubt that he finds the God of the Old Testament unpleasant but that's about as far as he can go while remaining true to his atheism.


Drexen Magz said...

How do you think Christians should respond to this kind of reasoning?

To generalize, if we (Christians) respond as we often do, we come off as no more logical and thoughtful than a child throwing a temper tantrum.

We tend to throw out lots of Bible verses. However, the Bible teaches us that, to those without the Spirit, God's word is foolishness. Unfortunately, many Christians have a very limited "toolbox"...sort of like saying if all I have is a hammer, then everything is a nail.

So, how do you think comments like those of Richard Dawkins should be engaged and countered?

KP said...

Thanks for the good question, drexenmagz. Hopefully my post gives a glimpse of how I think Christians should engage such comments.

I think we have to become much better at what Francis Schaeffer called "taking the roof off." Schaeffer noted that the more consistent an unbeliever is to his non-biblical presuppositions, the more alienated he will be from life as it actually is. However, as part of their suppression of the truth, unregenerate people seek to shield themselves from the full force of the implications of their godless systems of thought. Christians must learn how to identify these implications and push unbelievers to the logical consequences of their professed beliefs, thereby exposing them to the tension that exists between the way they say things are and their actual experience. Describing this approach Schaeffer wrote in The God Who is There:

At the point of tension the person is not in a place of consistency in his system, and the roof is built as a protection agasint the blows of the real world, both internal and external. It is like the great shelters built upon some mountain passes to protect vehicles from the avalances of rock and stone which periodically tumble down the mountain. The avalanche, in the case of the non-Christian, is the real and the abnormal, fallen world which surrounds him. The Christian, lovingly, must remove the shelter and allow the truth of the external world and of what man is, to beat upon him. When the roof is off, each man must stand naked and wounded before the truth of what is.

....It is unpleasant to be submerged by an avalanche, but we must allow the person to undergo this experience so that he may realize his system has no answer to the crucial questions of life. He must come to know that his roof is a false protection from the storm of what is; and then we can talk to him of the storm of the judgment of God.

Instead of throwing isolated verses at people, we need to present the full biblical story (or worldview) and show how it provides answers and how the unbeliever, despite his protests, cannot help but live and speak as though the biblical portrait of life is true. But, as Schaeffer acknowledges, this is not easy:

The hardest thing of all is that when we have exposed modern man to his tension, he still may not be willing for the true solution. Consequently, we may seem to leave him in a worse state than he was in before. But this is the same as the evangelism of the past. Whenever the evangelist preached the reality of Hell, men who did not believe were more miserable after hearing his preaching than if they had never heard him. We are in the same position. We confront men with reality; we remove their protection and their escapes; we allow the avalanches to fall. If they do not become Christians, then indeed they are in a worse state than before we spoke to them.

cdejesus said...

I think we need to be careful on how we decide to approach people with these philosophies. We are believers called to be set apart (Holy), unlike the world. Often enough I have heard many Christians try to humanize an evangelisical approach.
Rom. 1:16 says:

*For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek.*

The Gospel is the remedy given to man, it is the power God gave to man. Our logic on a good technique is not suffice, on a bigger note God will not endorse or assist in figuring out a strategy because it does not honor His Word or His Son. This is why Paul said:

*1Cr 9:16 For though I preach the gospel, I have nothing to glory of: for necessity is laid upon me; yea, woe is unto me, if I preach not the gospel!*