Monday, September 17, 2007

Dawkins Talk at the Library

If you're in the vicinity of the Northwest suburbs of Chicago and you're looking for something to do this Thursday evening (Sept. 20), our church's youth pastor, Tim Hunter, and I will be presenting a critique of Richard Dawkins' book The God Delusion at Indian Trails Public Library in Wheeling, IL between 7:00 and 8:30 pm. The event is free but registration is required. You can register online or by calling the library at (847) 459-4100.

Many thanks to Steve Bishop whose compilation of Dawkins-related links has proven to be a valuable resource.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

"This is my Qu'ran!": The Muslim Joel Osteen

Gene Edward Veith:
Islam now has a televangelist, Amr Khaled, with millions of fans. He preaches an upbeat, anti-terrorism version of Islam, speaking not only on TV but in huge halls, projecting his messsage on gigantic screens, giving humor-laced sermons, and Qu'ranic tips for successful living. The Egyptian preacher is currently on a speaking tour of the United States. He is being called the Muslim Joel Osteen.

In other words, Amr Khaled has adopted the tactics of the church growth movement and American evangelicalism in order to spread Islam!

In fact, what this article describes sounds just like what goes on in many ostensibly Christian churches! While we should appreciate his non-murderous approach to his religion, as we posted a few days ago, this kinder, gentler Islam just might catch on in our culture. And churches, many of which have watered down their Christianity into a treacly soft drink, may be ill-equipped to do anything about it.

The Knife Cuts Both Ways: Thoughts on Atheism

Reading through Richard Dawkins' The God Delusion today, I couldn't help but chuckle at the following:

Many religions, for example, teach the objectively implausible but subjectively appealing doctrine that our personalities survive our bodily death. The idea of immortality itself survives and spreads because it caters to wishful thinking. And wishful thinking counts, because human psychology has a near-universal tendency to let belief be coloured by desire...
I suppose that tendency to allow desire to color belief would be completely universal if there were no atheists. Of course, Dawkins insists that he's not espousing a belief system. He simply disbelieves in the existence of a supernatural, personal deity. Macht recently exposed the problem with that kind of thinking in response to Dawkins' likening of the assertions "God exists" and "There is an invisible unicorn in the room":
As I've said many times, a theist's religious beliefs are not merely a belief in god. It is much more a way of life, a set of values, a set of practices, and a view of the world. I've also pointed out that this applies to atheists as well and this is why we find different kinds of atheists. By comparing belief in a god to a belief in an invisible unicorn in an attempt to show that he merely disbelieves, he is saying that he believes that belief in god is totally cut off from the way of life, the set of values and practices and the view of the world of its believers. I'm suggesting that this view is very naive - people's religious beliefs are more like a web and their belief in god is nothing like the proposition "There is an invisible unicorn in the room."
Commending Macht's analysis, Jeremy Pierce adds:

What atheists are rejecting when they reject theism is not mere theism. They reject a whole set of beliefs and values, a way of life, a kind of community, a view on the meaning and purpose of life, and so on. They reject the fundamental conception of how most people in the world today and throughout history have seen the significance of their lives and how they live. That does seem to me to be disanalogous with merely not believing in an invisible unicorn that someone else tells you is in the room.
T. M. Moore, in a post appropriately titled On Dis(guising)belief makes a similar point:

Those who claim to be atheists, unbelievers, or disbelievers give the impression that, because they don't believe in the God of the Bible, they don't "believe" at all. They're guided by "logical coherence" and "views" that "make sense," apart from anything so nebulous, credulous, and irrational as faith. But, in a real sense, there's no such thing as an unbeliever or a disbeliever -- or even an atheist, for that matter. All non-Christians believe in something, and all people hold to some ultimate "views" and beliefs which serve for them in the same role the God of the Bible does for Christians. They may only believe in the reliability of unaided reason, or hard science, or mere intuition, or whatever, but believe they do, and they should not be allowed to disguise the fact or nature of their personal faith by referring to it as unbelief or disbelief. Rather, it is another belief, another faith, an alternative worldview that is as much dependent on ultimately unprovable presuppositions as is faith in Jesus Christ. The debate, therefore, is not between belief and unbelief, but between different systems of belief, and the onus falls on each to demonstrate, across a wide range of questions, which is the most logically coherent, which makes the best sense, and which is, in fact, absurd.
I move that we coin a new (though admittedly more awkward) descriptive term for at least some atheists - "aworldviewists" - since they apparently "disbelieve" in the existence of their own conceptual framework.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Goldsworthy on a Heretical Hermeneutic

Quietism is a term with a history, but I will use it loosely to describe the tendency to overspiritualize and dehumanize Christian existence, including the way we use the Bible. We have seen it in the 'let go and let God' holiness piety. Overall, it is an inclination to downplay the function of our humanity in life, as if our relationship to God is almost entirely passive. It leads to strange aberrations, for example in the matter of guidance. Just as the historic heresy of Docetism either denied or ignored the humanity of Jesus, so quietism tends to leave our true humanity out of the reckoning. The quietist's docetic Christian is one who 'doesn't make any decisions because the Holy Spirit makes them for us'. Such a person is also likely to construct a docetic hermeneutic of Scripture. The human characteristics of the biblical documents are ignored. Historical and biblical-theological contexts are regarded as irrelevant. If a text 'speaks to me' in whatever way, the careful exegesis of it is dismissed as cerebral intellectualism. The gospel is neatly eclipsed by what exists beneath a veneer of spiritual commitment. Such quietists would be offended if it were suggested that they denied the humanity of Christ. But the gospel can only be the gospel if it is the message of the Word-made-flesh. We can effectively deny this vital truth simply by ignoring its implications in the way we use the Bible and in the manner of our lives.

- Graeme Goldsworthy, Gospel-Centered Hermeneutics: Foundations and Principles of Evangelical Biblical Interpretation, pp. 168-169

Saturday, September 01, 2007

Recommended Reading for Cultivating a Christian Mind

Byron Borger at Hearts & Minds BookNotes lists his top picks for books on the Christian mind. I join him in wishing that "every church library and Christian leader's bookshelf included a few of these." Of course, I'd add Harry Blamires' The Christian Mind. (HT: Steve Bishop)