Book Plunge: The Science Delusion

What do I think of Curtis White’s book published by Melville House? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

White is really tired of the arrogance of the scientists today. He loves the science, but his big problem is that many times scientists think that they’re doing science when really, they’re not. They will make statements such as Hawking’s that philosophy is dead, then make philosophical statements and not even realize it. Often this is done without a look at all at the great philosophical stances. (Consider how Krauss redefines nothing from the definition understood for some 2,500 years by theologians and philosophers and then blames them for changing the terms.)

One of his favorite examples is when he talks about how scientists say science is beautiful and amazing. White doesn’t argue against this, but what does it even mean? Are these scientific statements? Certainly not. These are statements of a personal opinion that can’t be objectively measured.

I have personally seen this. When I lived in Charlotte, Richard Dawkins came to nearby Queens university and gave a talk on his book The Greatest Show On Earth. His last chapter was all about the beauty of the universe and science. Now I am not denying the beauty of the universe or of science, but I got in line for the Q & A. When I got up, I asked Dawkins about that chapter and asked if he had any metaphysical or scientific basis for beauty.

I suspect most of the audience consisted of atheists at the time who had been throwing softballs and this time, he was flummoxed. He gave an answer that went on various tangents for about three or four minutes and then finally ended with “We don’t really know.” So here we have Dawkins telling an audience about this beauty and he hasn’t really even thought about how this beauty is known.

White also notices that scientists and others regularly use other words without telling about them. It’s just assumed “Well everyone knows what that means.” Consider how Hitchens writes about the life of reason. Sounds good. I mean, we all believe in reason don’t we? Don’t we see atheists having the Reason Rally and the Christmas signs that say “This season, celebrate reason.”? Indeed we do, and yet they never seem to define this word. What exactly is meant by reason? Your guess is as good as mine because it is never stated.

In all of this, White doesn’t want scientists to stop doing science, but he doesn’t want us to lose sight of the humanities. Art and philosophy and other topics are not dead. Scientists have too long put themselves up as the pinnacle of knowledge and others should be silent because “Hey! We’re scientists!” Maybe other fields can pick up some of the scraps, but science is where the real knowledge is.

White’s book is a really good critique of this system of thought and of the scientism of our age. It is a call to not abandon philosophy and art and other fields and to not give pat answers to big questions. Those questions need to be asked even if science is not the answer to them. Perhaps there are some questions that science just can’t answer.

Oh. One more thing. Curtis White is an atheist.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Deeper Waters Podcast 8/15/2015: Andy Bannister

What’s coming up on the next episode of the Deeper Waters Podcast? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

The new atheists have had their share of responses to them and many times, it’s more of the same, but this Saturday I’m discussing a guest who gave a quite different response. It’s a different one in that the work is hysterical. It’s not because it’s a bad book, but because it’s filled with humor in looking at this topic. This is one book that you actually look forward to having footnotes show up. The footnotes are the best part. The book is The Atheist Who Didn’t Exist and its author is Andy Bannister, who will be my guest. Who is Andy Bannister then?

AndyBannister

And according to his bio:

Dr. Andy Bannister is the Director and Lead Apologist for RZIM Canada. He speaks and teaches regularly throughout Canada, the USA, Europe and the wider world. From churches to universities, business forums to TV and radio, Andy regularly addresses audience of both Christians and those of all faiths and none on issues relating to faith, culture, politics and society.

With a background in youth ministry before studying theology and philosophy (focussing especially on Islam), Andy was previously based in Oxford, from where he worked with churches and organisations across the denominational spectrum.

Andy holds a PhD in Islamic studies, a topic on which he has taught extensively, especially since 9/11 and the huge interest that was sparked in the subject by the events of that day. He has spoken and taught at universities across Canada, the USA, the UK and further afield on both Islam and philosophy and is an Adjunct Research Fellow at the Centre for the Study of Islam and Other Faiths at Melbourne School of Theology.

Andy is the author of An Oral-Formulaic Study of the Qur’an, a groundbreaking and innovative study that reveals many of the ways the Qur’an was first composed. His latest book, The Atheist Who Didn’t Exist (or: The Terrible Consequences of Really Bad Arguments) is a humorous engagement with the New Atheism.

When not travelling, speaking, or writing, Andy is a keen hiker, mountain climber and photographer. He lives in Toronto and is married to Astrid and they have two children, Caitriona and Christopher.

This Saturday, we’ll be talking about this book and looking at some of the popular arguments that especially get shared on the internet. We’ll be looking at what these bad arguments are and why they not only don’t work, but we’ll also see why it is that they have such disastrous consequences if they are followed through. I’ll also be interested in discussing why so much humor in a book on such a serious topic.

This is a great book to read and even if you disagree with Bannister, I’m sure you’ll have fun going through the book and if you pick it up an atheist and put it down still an atheist, hopefully you’ll be an atheist who is better informed on what are some arguments to not use. I hope you’ll be joining us for this next episode of the Deeper Waters Podcast to discuss this great book.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Book Plunge: Why Science Does Not Disprove God

What do I think of Amir Aczel’s book published by William Morrow? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

The New Atheists have by and large appeared to agree that if they’re going to disprove Christianity, they’re going to go the route of science. It’s a quite strange route really, but it’s the route taken because today most people do think scientifically, or at least think that they do. Unfortunately, a lot of people who make science their forte and ignore all the other areas tend to have that show in their argumentation. Richard Dawkins is no philosopher, but that doesn’t mean he has no grounds to take on the Thomistic arguments obviously. Victor Stenger isn’t a historian, but that won’t stop him from talking about the historical Jesus as if he was an authority. In our day and age, the scientists have become the new priesthood. This is not to disparage science, but it is to say that when scientists speak outside of their field on areas they have not studied, we have no reason to take them as authorities.

Aczel will not take them as authorities either and has written a work demonstrating the fallacies in their thinking. When reading the work, it is unclear also what side Aczel falls on. He does not write like a Christian. In many ways, he does not even write like a theist. Still, his main contention is that the new atheists are doing a disservice to the arguments. He knows the material well and has spoken to many of the best scientific minds out there on the topic. Due to his different positions in the area of religion, it will be difficult for opponents of his to play the bias card.

The downside is that the work is largely a defensive work in that sense and thus does not really touch on the positive arguments for the existence of God. Of course, it does have some areas in science that certainly can seem to point to a deity, but at this point the idea of “God-of-the-Gaps” is trotted out. (Strangely enough, the critics of theism never consider they are going with a “naturalism-of-the-gaps.”) Of course, Aczel could say that these are positive evidences such as the fine-tuning of the universe, and in that case he would indeed be right. The question is not “What is the best explanation of what we don’t know?” but rather “What is the best explanation of what we do know?”

Absent are the great philosophical arguments for the existence of God, which I think are ultimately the way to go. Science can give evidence, but it is not the final authority, despite what many will think and some will think I am attacking science simply by saying that. I instead prefer to think I am giving science its proper field, which is the study of material objects and the material world. The ramifications that one draws from that study are indeed philosophical and the sad reality is that many scientists do turn out to be poor philosophers, but that has never really stopped them from trying!

Ultimately, people who are advocating that science has disproven God are in fact doing science a disservice and limiting people in the field by saying that if you are going to be a serious scientist, you cannot be religious. A lot of great minds who are religious also could be dissuaded from entering the field and who knows what benefits they could bring? From a Christian standpoint, we have too often made it be science vs. religion and when that happens, people will go with whatever they think makes the most important contributions to their lives. Some scientists would be shocked to hear religious people think religion makes the most contribution, but indeed most do. Most think of the morals that they ascribe to their religion and the sense of meaning they find and the wonder of the universe. The scientific view of atheism frankly doesn’t offer an appeal to them and sadly they think “If it’s science or the Bible, so much the worse for science.”

Now I am not of this standpoint as I think it’s not either/or but both/and and the problem is a fundamentalism on both sides that thinks because you know something in one field, you know all fields. Having a Ph.D. in evolutionary biology does not qualify you to speak on Aristotelian philosophy or the study of the New Testament. Believing that your Scripture is the Word of God and that you have an infallible and inerrant message does not mean that you are therefore in the right on everything that you speak about. Both sides are making the same kind of mistake. Consider what one Christian authority said on this:

Usually, even a non-Christian knows something about the earth, the heavens, and the other elements of this world, about the motion and orbit of the stars and even their size and relative positions, about the predictable eclipses of the sun and moon, the cycles of the years and the seasons, about the kinds of animals, shrubs, stones, and so forth, and this knowledge he holds to as being certain from reason and experience. Now, it is a disgraceful and dangerous thing for an infidel to hear a Christian, presumably giving the meaning of Holy Scripture, talking nonsense on these topics; and we should take all means to prevent such an embarrassing situation, in which people show up vast ignorance in a Christian and laugh it to scorn. The shame is not so much that an ignorant individual is derided, but that people outside the household of faith think our sacred writers held such opinions, and, to the great loss of those for whose salvation we toil, the writers of our Scripture are criticized and rejected as unlearned men. If they find a Christian mistaken in a field in which they themselves know well and hear him maintaining his foolish opinions about our books, how are they going to believe those books in matters concerning the resurrection of the dead, the hope of eternal life, and the kingdom of heaven, when they think their pages are full of falsehoods on facts which they themselves have learnt from experience and the light of reason? Reckless and incompetent expounders of Holy Scripture bring untold trouble and sorrow on their wiser brethren when they are caught in one of their mischievous false opinions and are taken to task by those who are not bound by the authority of our sacred books. For then, to defend their utterly foolish and obviously untrue statements, they will try to call upon Holy Scripture for proof and even recite from memory many passages which they think support their position, although “they understand neither what they say nor the things about which they make assertion.”

Who said that? Augustine did, about sixteen centuries ago. It still stands today.

Aczel’s book will be a good read for those interested in this debate, though at times if you’re not familiar, the terminology can get difficult to follow, but it does for the most part tend to be readable. If you’re interested in this kind of debate, this is a book you should seriously consider.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Book Plunge: The Atheist Who Didn’t Exist

What do I think of Andy Bannister’s book by Monarch Books? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

As I have studied apologetics more and more, sometimes reading apologetics books now gets boring. It’s a lot of the same-old, same-old. You’ve heard it all several times before and there’s nothing new so what’s the big deal. Honestly, getting Bannister’s book, I was expecting I’d get a good primer on some apologetics issues and put it down thinking that I had had a decent enough read and that’d be it. I don’t mean that in a snide way at all. Many of these books are fine for beginners after all and I read them wanting to learn how well this would help someone who was starting out in the field.

I could not have been more wrong.

As I started going through Andy’s book, from the very beginning I saw that it was different. Now the content is still a good basic start for most people. You’re not going to get into the intensely heady stuff here. You will discuss the issues, but it is just a start. What makes this book so radically different and in turn one of the best that I’ve read on this kind of topic in a long time is the presentation. Bannister is quite the comedian. His humor shines throughout the book and this is one book where I had great joy whenever I saw there was a footnote. Normally, you tend to just pass those over. Do not do that with this book! You will find some of the best humor.

That makes the content all the more memorable. Bannister deals with a lot of the soundbite arguments that we deal with in our culture such as “You are an atheist with regards to many gods. I just go one god further.” He deals with scientism and what faith is and can we be good without God and can we really know anything about the historical Jesus? If you spend time engaging with people who follow the New Atheists on the internet, then you need to get your hands on this book. With humor and accuracy, Bannister deals with the nonsense, which tells us that in light of all the work he invested in this that first off, Bannister is highly skilled as an apologist and second, that Bannister has way too much free time on his hands to be thinking so much about this stuff.

I really cannot say much more because it would I think keep you from enjoying all the surprises in this book. There were many times my wife had to ask me as I read “What’s so funny?” Some parts I even read to her. If there was one thing I would change, it was the chapter on the question of goodness. I don’t think Bannister really answered the question of what it means to be good. He said we need a God to ground it in, and I agree, but that does not tell me what good is. Even if we say the good is God’s nature, that still does not tell me what the good is, yet we all know that people know the good and the evil without knowing who God is.

Still, do yourself a favor. Get this book and then sit down and prepare for a fun and worthwhile time. You’ll laugh and you’ll enjoy yourself so much you could lose track of how much good apologetics is sinking in.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Andy Bannister’s book can be purchased here.

Richard Dawkins: A Gift From God.

Are all human lives valuable for what they are? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.

Richard Dawkins is well-known today as a leading contemporary spokesman for atheism. If you asked most people today to name a famous living atheist, Dawkins would likely be on top of the list. In fact, according to this site, he’s the #1 leading atheist in the world. Perhaps in some ways we could describe Richard Dawkins as the Pope of atheism.

PopeDawkins

This is actually more fitting than most realize. The idea is that in the so-called Dark Ages, you went to the priests who were the bearers of all knowledge. The correct view on that is that the religious leaders likely were some of the most knowledgeable people around. The false view is that it’s because the only knowledge they had was knowledge of the Bible. No. Active learning was going on in many areas. Not all would have a specific interest in “natural philosophy” as science was called, but all would know something about it.

Today, science has become the new priesthood with a scientism that says science is the only way you know anything and that all knowledge must be scientific and if you can’t establish something scientifically, it can’t be true. Never mind that this criteria has never once met its own standards. It is an undercurrent in our society. Whenever an opinion comes on an issue, if it is said that “a scientist says” that is automatically the most valid opinion, never mind that it could be something the scientist has never really studied. His opinion matters because he is a scientist.

None of this is to knock science. No one should want to. Science is our friend. Scientism is our enemy. The putting of science in the supreme place as the supreme guide to knowledge is also our enemy. It is no desire to belittle scientific knowledge, or any knowledge for that matter. It is a desire instead to deal with the practical worship of science.

Many of us know about Dawkins’s recent outrage that has been sparked due to twitter remarks. It would be bad enough if that was the only embarrassing story of the week, but it is not. Consider this story from just last Saturday. In it, Dawkins is compared to an evangelist who develops a following if you donate to his circle. Reality is Dawkins is even more expensive than the evangelists that he would criticize. Let’s look at some highlights. A lengthy quote will suffice.

the Richard Dawkins website offers followers the chance to join the ‘Reason Circle’, which, like Dante’s Hell, is arranged in concentric circles. For $85 a month, you get discounts on his merchandise, and the chance to meet ‘Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science personalities’. Obviously that’s not enough to meet the man himself. For that you pay $210 a month — or $5,000 a year — for the chance to attend an event where he will speak.

When you compare this to the going rate for other charismatic preachers, it does seem on the high side. The Pentecostal evangelist Morris Cerullo, for example, charges only $30 a month to become a member of ‘God’s Victorious Army’, which is bringing ‘healing and deliverance to the world’. And from Cerullo you get free DVDs, not just discounts.

But the $85 a month just touches the hem of rationality. After the neophyte passes through the successively more expensive ‘Darwin Circle’ and then the ‘Evolution Circle’, he attains the innermost circle, where for $100,000 a year or more he gets to have a private breakfast or lunch with Richard Dawkins, and a reserved table at an invitation-only circle event with ‘Richard’ as well as ‘all the benefits listed above’, so he still gets a discount on his Richard Dawkins T-shirt saying ‘Religion — together we can find a cure.’

The website suggests that donations of up to $500,000 a year will be accepted for the privilege of eating with him once a year: at this level of contribution you become a member of something called ‘The Magic of Reality Circle’. I don’t think any irony is intended.

I can suspect that this will be met with zealous opposition where this is shared by internet atheists and their followers, which will really demonstrate the case. Those who are followers of Dawkins really study the issues just as little as he does, if not less, which might be surprising seeing as it’s hard to imagine studying religious issues less than Dawkins. Thankfully, there are some atheists who are thoughtful and seek to understand the issues that realize Dawkins is an embarrassment to their cause and want him to just go away. The more atheists keep upholding Dawkins however and referring to works like “The God Delusion” as if it was a philosophical masterpiece, the more Christians who know what they’re talking about will see no reason to take them seriously. In fact, if I meet anyone who considers “The God Delusion” to be recommended reading to show why Christianity or theism should not be taken seriously, I know that this is a person uninformed on the issues. Actually, that applies to anyone who recommends any of the new atheists.

Many of you might not have noticed that story about Dawkins because frankly, he’s done something even more embarrassing than that. In fact, this is something I would even say is downright wicked. What Dawkins has done is sparked a controversy based on what he said in his twitter feed. You see, Dawkins heard from someone that they don’t know what they would do if they were pregnant with a child with Down’s Syndrome. It was described as an ethical dilemma.

Before we focus on what Dawkins had to say in response, isn’t it a shame we live in a world where even knowing your baby will have Down’s Syndrome leaves you with a dilemma of if you should kill it or not? You see, the reality is that as soon as that child is conceived and they have Down’s Syndrome, you are already the parent of a child with Down’s. The question you have to ask is if you’re going to be the parent of a dead one or a living one. Not only that, are you going to be the parent of a living child that you and your spouse brought into the world together, or are you going to be the parent of a dead child that died at your own hands.

In fact, I know and have known a number of people with Down’s Syndrome children. Are the children hard to care for? Yes. Can it be frustrating? Yes. Does it cost a lot of money? Yes.

You know, like all children do.

Of course, Down’s children come with extra hurdles, but you know what? They also come with extra joys. They tend to be far more honest and genuine in their love and the parents who take the time to love them see them as the gift that they are and how much they should be appreciated. One friend of ours in fact when she found out the child she was carrying had Down’s was told “There are other options” to which she immediately responded that there were not. That was her baby and she was going to love her baby and Down’s was not going to be an obstacle.

Well done.

So right at the start, we have a problem. We are being told that we really need to consider if people with Down’s Syndrome have lives that are really worth living. Exactly how far will this go? Are we not participating in a eugenics program at this point where we decide only those with desirable traits will live?

Well hopefully Pope Richard was able to give some advice to point out to this person that lives are valuable by the nature of what they are and that yes, things could be difficult, but you know, with the wonders of science we can do so much to ease the burdens that really are there and maybe even find a cure for Down’s someday! Surely this was said!

Or maybe not.

What was said?

“Abort it and try again. It would be immoral to bring it into the world if you have the choice.”

Dawkins is in an even worse position than the questioner. He sees no ethical dilemma. It is said so easily. Abort it and try again. In fact, it would be immoral. Why?  Well Dawkins later said in his response to the outrage that:

“If your morality is based, as mine is, on a desire to increase the sum of happiness and reduce suffering, the decision to deliberately give birth to a Down’s baby, when you have the choice to abort it early in the pregnancy, might actually be immoral from the point of view of the child’s own welfare.”

Now none of us would object to increasing happiness and reducing suffering, but what we ask is if the ends justify the means. Is it ever justifiable to do an evil act because you think there is a good result? That is in fact something that I wish to keep pressing when it comes to the abortion debate. The question we need to ask is “Is the act of willfully terminating your own pregnancy wrong?”

You see, in reality, we can agree with many of the reasons that someone would want an abortion. We can agree they should be financially stable. We can agree many are not ready to raise a child yet. We can agree that many need emotional security. We can agree that it is fine for a woman to have a career. No one is saying any of these things are evil in and of themselves.

What we are saying is that none of those justifies the murder of an innocent child.

Dawkins has decided in advance that these children cannot be happy and that they can only be suffering and they cannot bring happiness to their parents but only bring suffering.

Interestingly, this same person who wondered about a child with Down’s also admitted to being on the autism spectrum (like my wife and I) and asked about that. Dawkins’s response?

People on that spectrum have a great deal to contribute, Maybe even an enhanced ability in some respects. DS not enhanced.

Well thank you Dawkins for saying I have a great deal to contribute. Apparently, the reason you think I’m valuable to the human race is that I can contribute something worthwhile. In other words, I am valuable for what I do. Too bad those babies with Down’s Syndrome don’t have enough value in being, you know, human beings.

The response to all of this was as expected and even included this satirical piece. (Warning: It does have language, but it was the greatest laugh I had all day yesterday.) The sad part is too many internet atheists were defending Dawkins as if his point was obvious. Sure. Why not abort a baby with Down’s Syndrome?

Now Dawkins did apparently issue an apology, though it was quite a backhanded one. It would be like a man saying to his wife “I’m sorry I had an affair, but you have just been so frigid lately, and this woman was just so hot, and I have these needs that I have to have met, and it was meant to be a private thing between her and I and you were never meant to find out.” We could go on and on with it. 

Dawkins has no apologies for the comment. In fact, his clarifying comment said he would still recommend abortion for the same reason. What he is sorry for is that it started a twitter war. In the above analogy, it would be like the husband issuing an apology not because he cheated on his wife, but rather because he got caught doing so. From this point on Dawkins, went to make statements about the people who were complaining about what he had to say.

It never occurs to Dawkins that what he said was utterly reprehensible. Dawkins has before said

It is absolutely safe to say that if you meet somebody who claims not to believe in evolution, that person is ignorant, stupid or insane (or wicked, but I’d rather not consider that).

Let it be said in response that if you meet someone who seeks to justify the murder of an innocent child in the womb, wicked should in fact be one of the first things in your mind. It looks like in the world of Dawkins, denying evolution would be a worse crime against humanity than aborting a baby with Down’s Syndrome.

It will be a wonder to see what happens if Dawkins or those like him were truly ever in charge. He has already made a statement about what children he thinks bring suffering into the world. Perhaps he’d also team up with his friend Peter Boghossian. This is the same Peter Boghossian who has a chapter in his Manual for Creating Atheists (A book that I reviewed here and keep in mind that Tim McGrew massacred Boghossian’s chickens here) that lists containment protocols.

That’s right. What can we do to “contain” people of faith? This included such steps as treating faith (A term Boghossian does not know the meaning of) as a public health crisis and to remove the religious exemption for delusion from the DSM, which is the diagnostic rule book for psychological disorders.

Dawkins might say he would not want to impose his beliefs on others, but would his followers have that same belief? Boghossian seems fine with treating those of us who are Christians or believers in any deity as if we have a disease. 

The sad part is technically, Dawkins is not contradicting his atheism in any way. For a Christian, to think it okay to abort a baby with Down’s Syndrome would be a contradiction of their view of life, but for Dawkins, it does not have to be. Of course, there are many individual atheists who are pro-life and thank God for them, but the only requirement for being an atheist is “Don’t believe in God.” You can not believe in God and be a psychopath or be a philanthropist and both of them are consistent with the statement “God does not exist.” You cannot be living a life of sin in Christianity and have that be consistent with “I am a follower of Christ.”

Well Professor Dawkins, the sad reality is that you don’t see children with Down’s Syndrome as a gift to the world, which indeed they are as many parents with Down’s Syndrome children would tell you, but we can certainly say that you, Professor Dawkins, are a gift to the church. You are a great example of what will happen the more and more we move away from God and let people like you have the most say in what goes on in our culture.

Let’s just hope most people have enough moral sense to know not to like it.

In Christ,

Nick Peters

Clarification On Discussing Evolution

Is Evolution an important question to discuss? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.

My post on the Ham/Nye debate has been getting a lot of attention and it’s been getting a lot of questions, which is understandable! A number of people have wondered about my position and asked if I really think the question of evolution is unimportant.

Yes and no.

Suppose you want to know if Christianity is true. All you need answered is one question. Did God raise Jesus from the dead? If that is true, then Christianity is true and Jesus is the King of this world. If that is not true, then Christianity is not true and you can move on.

How do you establish the resurrection question? You do a historiographical study of the evidence that we have such as found in the NT and in the surrounding culture of the time and other writings outside of the NT. You find the explanation that best explains the data.

Do you need Inerrancy to do this? No. Inerrancy is an important topic, but if there was an error in Scripture, it would not mean Jesus did not rise. The Bible is not an all-or-nothing game and it would be ridiculous to treat it as if it was.

So let’s make a hypothetical situation here. Let’s suppose for the sake of argument, and I do not believe this at all, that the first two chapters of Genesis are in error. Does that mean the whole NT is untrustworthy? No. It does not. It just means we need to change our doctrines of inspiration and Inerrancy. Note I am taking a scenario that is unfavorable towards us intentionally and using it to show that the central truth can still stand.

So in that case, I again repeat, if you want to know if Christianity is true, you don’t need to answer the question of evolution. If evolution is wrong, I would rather someone come to Christ with a belief in evolution, than to avoid Christ while having a true belief that evolution is wrong. I am more interested in getting people to Christ and removing as many hurdles from them as I can. I don’t want them to think they have to overcome a hurdle with evolution. Just show them what alone is essential.

So then, is the question of evolution important? Yes. But this is in a scientific sense.

The Bible is a book of history. I do not believe it is a book of science nor is it intended to be. This is not to fault the Bible or science. It is simply to admit the Bible is interested in teaching us God’s activity in the history of the universe and is not interested in telling us how the planets in our solar system move. It is also not interested in telling us how to do math, how to paint a masterpiece, or how to get in shape, even though there is nothing wrong with any of these and many are important.

Of course, I say this realizing the Bible contains other aspects such as moral teaching and Wisdom, but these are not to be separated from its history. The history is central to the text and the moral teachings are an outworking of that history.

As I said, the view I take on the matter is that of John Walton. You can hear my interview with him here. In this view, the creation account as it were is not a scientific account but is a functional account. You can have literal 24-hour days where God gives the orders on how everything is to behave and still have billions of years of Earth history prior.

What does this say then about how God created? Nothing. Not one thing. God could use fiat creation in Genesis 1 and 2 and Walton’s view is safe. God could also use evolutionary processes and Walton’s view is safe. Now where do you go to determine which view is accurate? You go to the sciences.

Evolution is a scientific question and if it is to fall, and I care not if it succeeds or falls, then it will fall scientifically. Right now, it is the leading naturalistic theory. There is no denying that. That does not mean it is true, but it means it is a serious contender.

So why do I not speak on if evolution is true or not? Simple. I am not a scientist. I do not possess the knowledge in the field. If I was up against a scientist and had to discuss it as science, I would not stand a chance whatsoever. I could not critique evolution from a scientific perspective. I could not defend it from a scientific perspective.

And I’m fine with that.

Too often in the apologetics field, someone can think they have to master everything and have an answer for everything. You don’t. It’s okay to say you don’t know some matters. Many of us have seen the atheists who think they are such experts on history and philosophy and really, they are just embarrassing themselves. Unfortunately, too many Christians when they speak without knowledge on scientific matters are also embarrassing themselves and this only presents a barrier to those atheists who are skilled in the sciences that will keep them from entering the Kingdom. It will give them the impression that Christians just believe what they are told without thinking about it. (Like we do when we see atheists quote “The God Delusion” as an authority.)

Now if you want to critique evolution, then have at it! Go for it! Just make sure that it is a scientific critique and not a Bible critique. The last thing we need is to have this be the case of science vs. the Bible. As soon as we put that to the world, guess which one they will go with.

Also, we must be clear on evolution. I am fine with anything that can be established scientifically as I believe fully that God wrote two books, Scripture and nature, and all truth is God’s truth. If something can be shown through science, then we should accept it.

So could it possibly be shown through science that mankind evolved through a long process of time? Sure. The process could be possibly shown scientifically. Could it be demonstrated that there is no God behind the process whatsoever? No. That is then philosophy and not science. In the same way, I do not think we could use science to PROVE that there is a deity. I think we could establish probabilities either way, but hard proof relies on metaphysics.

This is one reason I hesitate with Intelligent Design. If one takes Intelligent Design to mean do you believe there is a designer behind the universe, where every Christian would be an IDer, but it depends on what kind of universe. What I see most in the ID field is concern about the mechanism which makes God more of an engineer.

The mistake we often make is thinking that if evolution is shown to be true, God is out of a job. Atheists and Christians BOTH make this mistake. This is a concept that I do not think does justice to the Biblical concept of God. For instance, in Colossians 1, we are told that God by His power sustains the universe. The same is said in Hebrews 1.

It is not the case that the universe can just exist on its own. What is holding it in existence? What is sustaining it. Evolution does not answer the question of existence, the most important question to answer.

What this means for me is I can go to someone like Richard Dawkins and say “I will grant you anything about evolution you can show scientifically. Now what is your argument against theism?” If he wants to establish an eternal universe, fine. We’ll do it! If he wants to establish an eternal multiverse, well he can knock himself out! We’ll do it! None of those answer the question of existence itself as you need to explain not just the existence of the universe, how it came about, but the existing of the universe, how it is today.

If someone wants to go out and argue against evolution, I say let them. Just make sure the case is scientific. If evolution will fall, it will fall because it is bad science and the God who gave us Scripture is the one who gave us science as well. Bad science can be shown scientifically. Maybe it cannot be shown right now. Maybe it can be. I don’t know. I just know that I won’t comment on it because it is not my field and the truth of Christianity does not depend on it.

I am an active defender of the new creation beginning in Christ. I am anxiously awaiting its full fruition. My salvation does not lie in Genesis. My salvation lies in Easter Sunday.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Reason Rally: Do You Know The Bible?

Does having read the Bible mean you know the Bible? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.

One step I’ve taken for dialogue with people of other faiths like Muslims or Mormons is to have read their religious works. Thus, I have read the Koran and I have read the BOM, the Doctrine and Covenants, the Pearl of Great Price, and the Book of Abraham. However, that does not mean that I will claim to know these books well, certainly not as well as the adherents of those who treat those books as divine revelation.

In other areas, one can read the plays of Shakespeare, such as Romeo and Juliet, and have a basic understanding of what is going on, but to get a substantial understanding, one really needs to study the culture of Shakespeare and the style of writing he used and the meaning of the words back then.

Richard Dawkins recently made a big deal about how many Christians don’t know their Bibles because they did not know the name of the first gospel in the NT. I agree that that is problematic, but let us suppose someone does know the name of the first gospel in the NT? So what? That does not prove that they know the gospel. That proves they can memorize.

N.T. Wright has issued a challenge in a lecture to encourage people to memorize the book of Ephesians verse by verse. Let us suppose that someone did do that. It does not matter if they are an atheist or a Christian. At the end of the process, even if they can quote the whole book verbatim, does that mean that they know the book?

Again, not really. They can know the words of the book, but that is not the same as knowing the content and what those words all mean. Scholars can spend their lives studying just one book of the Bible and still have much about that book that they do not know.

This, of course, does not mean that a simple message cannot be grasped by reading the book. One can read the book and understand that there is no longer a divide between Jew and Gentile and that our lives ought to be lived knowing that Christ has torn apart this wall of division.

To grasp the simple message is not the same as to grasp the deep message. I could tell you about the Brothers Karamazov since I have read the book, but that does not mean that I could tell you as much as a professor of Russian Literature could tell you about the book.

What many atheists have done is what I’ve done with the BOM and other works. They have read the works and assumed that because they’ve read them, that they thus have an understanding of them. In a sense, you do have an understanding of them, but it is not really a substantial understanding of them. Indeed, many Christians, far too many, lack a substantial understanding of their Bibles.

To really understand the Bible, one needs to study many areas. Just what are these and why do they matter?

First, studying the languages would be very helpful. We do have numerous references on Greek and Hebrew that can help the layman who has not learned them yet (And I freely confess I need to still find a good teacher of these languages for myself), but the most helpful way is to be able to read them yourself.

With knowing the languages, you have to know not only the word, but what the word meant to the author. For instance, we are often told that for the NT, faith meant to believe in something without evidence. The Greek word for faith is “pistis.” Is that what it means? What someone can do, and many have done this for us as well, is to do a word study of the word not just in the New Testament, but in other works. Did Aristotle use it? Did Seneca? Did Plato? Did the Jews at Qumran? Did the Septuagint? How else can we find this word being used?

If we come with our own definitions of what the word means, we are not only misrepresenting the author and making them say what they never meant to say, but we are in fact missing the true message that the author of the work in question wishes to convey.

Second, you need a study of history. In reading the gospels, we read about Pharisees and Sadducees. They do not show up anywhere in the Old Testament. Who were these groups? Did they just come out of nowhere? What was going on in Israel at the time? What was the relation to Rome? Did the Jews coming out of exile have anything to say about what was going on?

Jesus claimed to be the Messiah. What did this mean? Were there other Messianic claimants? How did the idea of the Messiah fit into the history of the Jews? When Jesus made the claim to them, what would they think about him in relation to the presence of Rome at the time?

When Paul is writing his epistles, what is going on? When he says “Jesus is Lord” is he just having an old-fashioned revival service where we just shout “Praise the Lord!” or is he in fact making a direct challenge where he is saying “Jesus is Lord and Caesar is not!”?

Third, you need to know about the landscape at the time. Paul wrote to Philippi, a Roman colony at the time. Does it make a difference when he writes and tells them that their citizenship is in Heaven, especially in light of the fact that all of them would have been citizens of Rome?

Fourth, you need to know about the surrounding culture? What was the big deal about honor in the world of Jesus and the New Testament? When the Old Testament talks about slavery, how did that work in the culture back then? Does it matter that there was not a grocery store just down the street for every one?

What about the Old Testament Law with this? Why would God give a darn about tattoos? Are we supposed to put up railings around our roof? If we say we believe in “Do not murder” but do not believe in “Do not wear mixed fabrics” are we just being arbitrary?

Fifth, you need to study hermeneutics. What is the way the text is to be interpreted? When Jesus tells us that we are to hate our father and mother, is this to be taken literally or not? When the proverbs are read, are these ironclad or just generalities? When Jesus tells about the calamities of Matthew 24, are these to be read literally or not? How are we to understand what the text means?

Sixth, with that text, you need to understand textual criticism. How did we get the Bible that we have today? What role did oral tradition play in it? How was the Old Testament passed down to us? How is it that the New Testament has been passed down to us? Can we really trust that the text was copied accurately?

Seventh, you need to understand post-NT history. What was going on at Nicea? Who were the Early Church Fathers? Has the Reformation shaped our understanding of the culture? Are we reading the Trinity into the Bible or out of the Bible? (For the record, we read it out)

Eighth, you need to study theology. What is the doctrine of God in Christian thinking? Does the Trinity really teach that God is one person and three persons, or is it something really quite different? What does it mean when we say God is omnipotent? If we say God is impassible, what does it mean and does it really make a difference?

Ninth, you must be well-read in what real scholars are saying. Of course, Christians can feel free to read devotional literature. We should be discerning in what we read. There is no doubt good application to much of what the Bible says, but we want to make sure that application is faithful to the text. Devotional material needs to be rooted in scholarly understanding.

When we read a text that is puzzling, we not only wrestle with it ourselves, but we also see what other great minds said about it. Perhaps a Calvinist could be helped by reading what an Arminian like Wesley said about a text. Perhaps a Preterist could be helped by reading what a Dispensationalist like Darby said about the text. We need to be open to reading other thinkers who came before us and interacted with the text. We Christians should not be so arrogant, as I believe Spurgeon said, to believe that we are the only ones the Holy Spirit has ever shared truth with.

The man of the book will be a man of many books. The Bible has a message that is simple in some ways. However, it is also a complex book and one does not fully understand it just by reading on one’s own or getting even a basic understanding in the text through Sunday School or other such means.

Please note also that at this point, I am not even telling anyone to agree with the Bible. You can understand the Bible and still think it is wrong. I would disagree, but it can improve our discussion if we find out that those we dialogue with have really understood the text.

With the Reason Rally coming up, what I expect is simply argument from outrage with new atheists taking passages they do not understand and arguing about them. As it stands, I already in a place I dialogue at have seen arguments concerning Elisha and the two bears, a woefully misunderstood story. Note that saying there is something in the Bible you do not like is not the same as saying it is false. I do not like being told I am a sinner and that my way is not always the best way, but it is there in the Bible and I learn to accept it.

Hopefully, a number of atheists will be willing to do their homework and go get some books by evangelical scholars on studying the text. Atheists have long wanted Christians to study evolution before criticizing it. I agree. I would not be qualified to criticize evolution even if I had read the entirety of the Origin of Species. That would be just a start. I’d need to hunker down and really study the subject matter in much the same way.

Will atheists do the same? I’m skeptical, but we can hope.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Reason Rally: The Problems With New Atheism

Why is the New Atheism not a threat? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.

The Reason Rally is largely a work of the new atheist movement. This has largely taken off after 9/11 with atheists seeking to have an even more prominent role in society. Mind you I have no problem with that. Atheists have as much right as anyone else to seek to change the laws to be in accordance with what they think is best and they have every right to state their views publicly, meet publicly, etc.

The problem is not that they are doing this. In reality, I do not see the new atheists as a problem. Rather, I see them as a blessing in much the same way The Da Vinci Code was. The Da Vinci Code started a conversation and Christians who were interested would better inform themselves about the truths of what it is they believe. I believe the New Atheists have done the same thing. They’ve made the dialogue public.

However, the blessing is not only have they made the dialogue public, but they have not presented a very strong case and one that a series at any church that was led by someone skilled in apologetics could train someone to answer. Due to their being seen as authorities, they are taken far more seriously and leading many atheists to think this is the cream of the crop.

If it is, then the crop has gone very bad. Dawkins, the leading speaker of the new atheism is not qualified in philosophy or theology or biblical studies to speak on any of these matters, but does so anyway. The atheist thinking “The God Delusion” presents sound arguments, walks away thinking, as an example, that the Thomistic arguments are easily dealt with.

That is, until he meets a Thomist who knows those arguments.

At that point, the atheist sadly usually does not see the flaws in the arguments, but instead still holds to them because, well Pope Dawkins has spoken and the case is closed. The reality is Dawkins could go to anyone out there who studies Thomism and be told that his positions are straw men and the arguments he has do not work.

Furthermore, with the high interest in science, we can expect to see more of scientism from the new atheist side. No Christian should be anti-science, but we should all be anti-scientism. We need to realize that there are other forms of finding truth out there and for most of us, the most important truths we know are not scientific in nature.

The benefit for us is this verificationism is easily dealt with. As I have stated earlier, for an atheist like this, science for them is essentially what Scripture is for the Christian. Instead of having Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, we have Dawkins, Harris, Dennett, and quite likely we can expect Meyers to be next in line.

With Dawkins being a leading speaker at this rally, we can expect more of the same. What this will do is just lead to further reinforcement. Just as much as Christians can cloister themselves away from the world at times in isolation to reinforce one another in beliefs that they hold without evidence, atheists can do the same. This is not to say all Christians believe without evidence. I certainly don’t and several others don’t. This is to say that there are several who do. There are several atheists of the Dawkins type who also hold their anti-religious beliefs without evidence.

Thus, not only do I think the Reason Rally is not really a threat, but it will also be a boon to Christians. If atheists want to keep availing themselves of material by the new atheists, we can expect that their side will ultimately suffer. Let us not make the same mistake however of growing lax in our efforts and make sure the sources we have and the ones we choose to have represent us are the best that they can be.

What atheists need to do is in fact distance themselves from meetings like the Reason Rally and to avoid the new atheists. They are better off going to older atheists of the past. Not only that, they need to make sure that they avail themselves of evangelical scholarship so they can be sure they know what their opponents are really arguing.

If atheists want to still go to this rally, please do go ahead. The more I see there, the more hope I will have for the spread of Christianity.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Reason Rally and Dawkins’s Boeing Crash

Does the Boeing 747 argument come down for a smooth landing or totally crash? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.

With the Reason Rally coming up and Richard Dawkins speaking, we can be sure new atheists will be wanting to promote Dawkins’s main argument against theism. He refers to this as the ultimate Boeing 747 argument. From my perspective, it is in fact the ultimate crash landing.

Dawkins asks us to realize that we Christians believe that God is omnipresent, omnipotent, and omniscient. In all of this, we must serve a God that is complex. Now if we believe that complex things on Earth require a designer, then God must be infinitely more complex and God Himself must need a designer, so who designed the designer?

Really, the question of “Who made God?” is one I might expect a child in Sunday School to ask. I don’t expect an Oxford writer with a PH.D. to ask this kind of question and think that it is the ultimate stumper. I even remember one atheist telling me that David Hume refuted all of Aquinas by asking this question. The reality is, Aquinas would react to the question the way I do. It would be with laughter.

How much is wrong with this argument? To begin with, let’s suppose that it is true that complex things need designers. Then we can point out that the complexity we see in life does require a designer. If complex things do not require a designer, then we can just as easily say God does not either.

Supposing also we get to a creator of the universe, if we are asked how He came to be and we answer “We don’t know, but we have enough evidence that He is there,” then the position STILL needs to be dealt with. Because it is not known how God would come to be, it does not mean that He is not there. There could still be a creator outside the universe.

A lot of readers are thinking “Geez Nick. Aren’t you assuming the big question? Aren’t you assuming that God came to be?” Not at all! I am granting that possibility for the sake of argument, but that is the biggest flaw. Dawkins has not shown that God “came to be” or is in the category of “Things made.”

For Dawkins who believes in a materialist universe, it is not surprising that he thinks of God in terms of matter. This is an assumption he does not give evidence for. Christians do not hold God to be material and if he wishes to argue against our belief system, he needs to treat it as it is. He cannot just make God material.

In fact, I instead hold to the idea that God is simple. By saying God is simple, I do not mean that He is easy to understand. This is a misunderstanding that can regularly happen. Am I saying that because God is simple that He is easy to fathom? Not for a second. Simplicity refers to His nature. It does not refer to our understanding of His nature.

Let us follow the route of Aquinas and consider what we see here on Earth. We have beings that are a combination of matter and form. My wife and I both possess human natures, but the natures we have are differentiated by the matter that we have. We do not possess the same matter and are different persons thus.

If we walk down the street, we could see poodles, pugs, terriers, pit bulls, dalmations, great danes, etc. All of these could be quite different, but in all of them we could recognize something that is called dog. This is the form of dog and there are variations of that form and differentiations expressed through matter.

On the other hand, my wife and I could think about a future child of ours. We can imagine him or her and even give a name. At this point, this child is not real. The child is only real insofar as there is something being imagined. He is real the way we could say Clark Kent is real.

Now let us suppose we had the idea and then the idea became a reality. What would have been added? It would have been existence. There is a distinction then between matter and form and existence.

After we humans, in Christian thought, there are angels next and angels are not material. Still, angels have forms, or we could say essences, and then they have existence. This is also why Aquinas says that each angel is its own essence since they cannot be differentiated by matter.

Now the atheists might want to say “Angels aren’t real!” You’re free to think that, but in the Christian view angels are real and it will not work against the argument to say “You can’t say that because angels aren’t real.” You need to understand the system and then show the flaw in the system itself instead of just asserting it.

So now we come up to God. How is God different? For God, there is no distinction between existence and essence. God’s own essence is what it means to be. He is not limited by anything else. If he were, He would be just another creature in need of a creator as well. If you know what it means to truly exist without limitations, just look at God. Think of anything that exists and remove any limitations and as the limitations are removed, you are getting to God.

To ask then “Who made God?” is to ask a question like “Who created existence?” In that case, either an existent being did it, in which case He could not have created existence itself for he already exists, or existence was created by non-existence, which is just absurd.

While new atheists might jump up and down with this question as if they have found the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, the reality is that this kind of objection just makes them look further like a joke.

Let’s hope this question will finally be put to rest.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

A Review of the Magic of Reality

Hello everyone and welcome back to Deeper Waters where we are diving into the ocean of truth. We’ve been going lately through the doctrine of Inerrancy, but tonight, we’re going to take a break to review a book that came out earlier this month called “The Magic of Reality” by Richard Dawkins.

Previously, I have reviewed “The God Delusion” and found it incredibly lacking. The reason some found it convincing was that they were unfamiliar with the arguments and thought that Dawkins knew them well. He doesn’t. Of course, one can look at my review to see my reply to his “arguments.” The Magic of Reality does not have anything new in argumentation.

Nevertheless, I consider it the most dangerous book that he’s written.

Remember that earlier Richard Dawkins has said we shouldn’t “indoctrinate” our children?

Apparently, the new atheists get a free pass.

“The Magic of Reality” is a book that could easily be a textbook and is recommended for young people who are Dawkins’s main targets. Dawkins is in this book a brilliant writer. One can easily imagine hearing his voice as one reads it as Dawkins is a good speaker and a good writer generally. For instance, while I did not believe The Blind Watchmaker, I did think Dawkins made an argument that was much more persuasive than The God Delusion. (Okay. That might not be saying much.) I think there were basic flaws in the arguments, but it was a well-written and well thought-out argument.

For this book, there is not the ranting going of The God Delusion, but I could not help but be reminded of The Green Book as talked about in C.S. Lewis’s book “The Abolition of Man.” In that case, a book on another subject was also being used to teach children philosophy and a child could go to do his lesson not learning much about grammar, but learning much about philosophy and already is a casualty in a war he had no idea was going on.

My concern with this book is that The God Delusion was written for adults to persuade them to be atheists. This one is written for children before they start grappling with the big issues to teach them to be atheists in their thinking in advance. This is preparation for an atheistic worldview.

There’s no doubt that much of the science in this book is very good and very fascinating. I found several parts simply remarkable and I would not deny learning much about science from reading this book. Unfortunately, I also learned much about Dawkins and also with the realization that while he goes to great lengths to make sure that he’s speaking accurately about science and can admit when he’s out of his expertise in a scientific area, he does not grant the same courtesy to religion. Dawkins is not an expert in theology, textual criticism, historical evidence, or philosophy of religion, but yet he speaks about them anyway.

It is my stance as a Christian that I will not comment on the scientific aspects of this work except as a layman. I do not claim to be an authority on science and I do not believe that Christians who are not trained in the science should comment on the sciences. Instead, we are to leave that to the scientists. We can evaluate arguments to an extent, but to do it effectively, we need to be reading in the relevant areas.

Dawkins would probably agree that Christians who do not know about science should not argue over it and should not used arguments along the lines of “If we came from monkeys why are there still monkeys?” However, Dawkins would not do the same with religion not realizing that the arguments he gives have been addressed by those more qualified than he and of course, Dawkins does not give any impression that they have been addressed.

Let’s start with the review itself. On page 13, Dawkins states that in defining reality, “we are only going to call something ‘real’ if we can detect it directly with one of our five senses.”

I would not seriously doubt that if something is detectable with the five senses, it is real. That is sufficient for its reality, but is it necessary. Dawkins does not give a reason why. He states that knowledge begins with what we sense, and I agree with that, but he does not go beyond that. His starting point and the end point are the same, although his starting point can be enhanced through tools and technology.

Does this mean however that things that cannot be detected with our senses cannot be real? What about universals such as human nature or triangularity? What about moral truths and mathematical truths? What about love and jealousy and joy? Now on the last group, Dawkins says that these are real, but that these are dependent on our brains for their existence. He does not explain this. In what way are these things real, especially given his earlier definition of real? If jealousy and joy cannot be detected by the five senses, then it would seem that Dawkins needs to change his definition.

How do these things depend on the brain? We don’t know. Dawkins doesn’t tell us. Is this an epiphenomenon? Is it entirely material? Dawkins leaves it unclear. Is there a reality of such a thing as mind that interacts with the brain or is it all brain? The student does not know, but the problem is also that he doesn’t know to ask either. These questions are not being discussed and the student has not learned science here as much as philosophy. Dawkins also says jealousy and joy could exist on other planets but only if they contain brains. No argument is given for this. It is merely an assertion, which is odd considering Dawkins’s insistence on evidence for beliefs. Apparently, the rule is that all beliefs have to have evidence, except for beliefs of the new atheists.

Dawkins also in this part describes three kinds of magic. The first he calls supernatural magic, and uses as examples fairy tales and miracles, a classic case of poisoning the well. Dawkins says he will address miracles later. For now, these two are tightly connected with no explanation. For those who are curious, the other kinds of magic are stage magic and what he calls poetic magic, the wonder that we feel at the universe.

In describing stage magic, Dawkins tells about people who claim to be able to bend metal, stop clocks, or contact the dead as charlatans. Now it could very well be the case that all of them are. I have not examined them, but for the sake of argument being of a skeptical mindset, I will gladly grant that every case that has been examined thus far has proven to be false in someway. The problem is that it does not follow from this that there are no such works. It is no proof that psychic powers cannot be real or the dead cannot be contacted.

An analogy could be shown from UFO’s. Most people think that at least the majority of all UFO cases are serious mistakes of some sort. They do not believe the others even though they’re not sure how to explain them. This is fine because any worldview has some difficulties explaining some matters and some UFO cases we’d have a hard time knowing what to say. However, if it was the case that all UFO cases were shown to be hoaxes or something of that sort, does that mean that Dawkins would say “Very well! We must concede we have absolute proof that there are no aliens out there!”

Now realize that I am not saying necessarily that one can contact the dead or have psychic powers. I am saying that Dawkins cannot say that because the cases we have have been shown to be hoaxes or inconclusive, that we can conclude that the reality does not exist. It can justify our skepticism, but it cannot prove our skepticism. Unfortunately, the young student reading this does not know this. Naturally, I agree with Dawkins that it is a shame that some people scam others in this way. However, I also think it’s a shame that students are being told what to think this way instead of a lesson on evaluating data and exactly what conclusions can be drawn.

On page 23, Dawkins says the supernatural can never be a true explanation. The reason for this is because the supernatural is beyond natural explanation. It is beyond science and the scientific method that has caused a huge increase in knowledge. To say it is supernatural is to say we don’t understand it and we’d better not even try.

But this just begs the question. Why should it be assumed that everything has a “natural” explanation? It cannot be known by science or the scientific method, but neither can jealousy or joy which Dawkins admits are real. Neither can mathematical or moral truths or universals like triangularity. The argument assumes that all knowledge is scientific or can be discoverable by the scientific method, which itself is a knowledge claim that is not scientific or discoverable by the scientific method.

Furthermore, science has increased our knowledge, but that knowledge is specifically scientific knowledge and what kind of knowledge would it be expected to improve upon? Science progresses differently than philosophy or theology since its subject matter is, well, matter. To do the necessary studies, you have to have better and better technology and to have better technology, you have to have better science, and on and on. Science and technology help build one another. Ptolemy could not have known about a particular planet without a telescope he did not have and the technology needed to be there to build it first as well as the leisure time and ability to build it.

Philosophy and theology however rely more on foundations and the rest of the time is spent working out what those foundations mean. Plato and Aristotle are still arguing against one another. Neither school denies the other school exists, but both schools have different starting metaphysical principles and outworkings from those. For the sciences, the disputes are largely philosophical as well. There is probably little disagreement on data, but much interpretation on what the data means.

For instance, some young-earth creationists point to the low level of moon dust on the moon as evidence of a young-Earth. Old-Earthers do not dispute that, but they do not interpret that data as meaning the Earth is young. They have another explanation. Old-Earthers who are not theistic evolutionists can likely agree on what fossils are left in the fossil record, but have different ideas on how to interpret the data.

Also, the foundations of science are rooted in Christian theism as it was believed that since the universe came from a rational mind, then it could be understood rationally. Scientists who were “filling the gaps” did not see themselves as limiting God but rather in giving more glory to God. I’m of the belief that the idea of “God of the gaps” is a straw man position that has been created by atheists for Christians to defend themselves from when really, the Christian church has historically wished to fill in the gaps. (The retreat of a number of fundamentalists from academia in response to evolutionary theory is a sad example of what we ought not to do.)

We have the same on page 31 again stating that evolution is a real explanation as a counter to a supernatural explanation. The assumption is that if there is an evolutionary explanation, there cannot be a supernatural one. (Although I question the so-called natural/supernatural dichotomy.) This does not follow. My stance on debate is that I am more than happy to grant macroevolution to the atheist. I think this was a great mistake of the Christian church in that we wanted to be reactionary to evolution rather than just saying “Wait and see what the evidence says and then respond.” Evolution could be true and Jesus still rose from the dead. Evolution is at best an instrumental cause rather than an efficient cause. Dawkins has committed an either/or fallacy.

(Interestingly, the paragraph where he derides the supernatural is the one quoted on the back of the book. Left out is the derision of the supernatural. Could it be because many parents would not buy it then?)

At the start of chapter 2, Dawkins says he is aiming to give the best possible answers to questions, which is the answer of science. I’m sure that is the case for some questions, but it does not follow that it is for all. When we want to know if it is wrong to commit adultery, we do not use the sciences to determine. If we want to know what a line of Shakespeare means, science is not the way to answer the question. If we want to know what the square root of 4,096 is, we do not go to science. Dawkins is again poisoning the well giving students the idea that the best answer is always found in science and that in turn, the only questions that matter are scientific questions. (Note that in his debate in Mexico that Dawkins said that questions of a “Why?” sort are often meaningless questions.

Dawkins also presents in chapter 2 a view about the Garden of Eden. He tells of two creation accounts. Naturally, he means Genesis 1 and 2, but he gives no argument that Genesis 1 and 2 should be seen as what he refers to as two versions. The former account is simply a cosmic account. The second account is a more in-depth account at one particular spot of creation with a focus on preparing us for chapter 3 and what follows. He also says that Adam and Eve ate the fruit acquiring knowledge, losing their innocence he supposes. The problem was not knowledge as Adam was to subdue the Earth which would include learning about it, but going apart from God.

Dawkins tells us on page 52 that we all share a common ancestor. We know this because we all have some genes in common. This does not follow however. All cars have something in common, but it does not follow they all have a common ancestor. They do all have a common designer in that all cars are designed by men. All creatures having some genes in common could be because of a common ancestor or because of a common designer or it could be a sign of both. Unfortunately again, the student has the answer given to him before he even knows there is a relevant question.

On page 74 and 75 Dawkins tells us that when we see an animal and when we look in the mirror we need to realize that we are looking at a survival machine for genes. One wonders what the moral implications will be for this if it is embraced. If I am just a survival machine, why should I care about these other machines provided I get my genes taken care of? As has been asked, why not rape and pillage and get those genes passed on? Others might not like it? Who cares?

On page 95 after talking about microscopic organisms, Dawkins tells us that none of this information is included in so-called holy books given by an all-knowing god. In fact, none of them tell how big the universe is, or about gravity or electricity or any modern advances. If these were works of God, wouldn’t we expect to see that in them?

Well, no.

I immediately think of Proverbs 25:2 where it is the glory of God to conceal a matter and the glory of kings to find it out. I think God did not tell us these things because He wanted us to discover them on our own and do our homework. The things He did tell us are things that we could not know on our own or at least not know easily and things that were necessary for our salvation.

Besides, do we expect Paul to be writing an epistle and then say in the middle “And in the 20th century since the first advent of Christ, expect a disease called AIDS that attacks something called the Immune System. One only wonders what Peter would have said to say about Paul’s writings then! This was to be copied down for centuries without anyone having a clue what relevance it had to anything, a large distinction from that of prophecy such as that of the coming Messiah in the Old Testament.

Dawkins would condemn many fundamentalists who think they are to find messages especially for them in the Bible, but he has done the exact same thing in thinking that the Bible should have been written with his time in mind if it came from God. Considering how in the time of the Bible paper was valuable and one would not write more than they had to, it is not a shock. Furthermore, prophecy is not meant to be just God showing off, but God showing who He is for the benefit of His people. Today that has been done in Christ and that message is the one to be given.

Finally, what does that have to do with science? Nothing. Dawkins has made a theological claim in a book about science. If Dawkins was just wanting to write a science textbook, there would be no need to mention such a thing. No. Dawkins writes this with a goal in mind of getting students to be atheists. Now I think that is perfectly fine for him to do. He has all freedom to do that. I also have the freedom to write a response to what he has said. Parents also have the freedom to decide if they want their child to be taught atheism or science. The two are not identical.

On page 123, Dawkins tells of how in the Hebrew account, YHWH created light on the first day, but did not create the sun until the 4th day and says that we are not told where the light came from on the first day. It is not mentioned that young-earthers, old-earthers, and theistic evolutionists who hold to the Inerrancy of Scripture all do have answers to this objection. Some may work and some may not, but they are there. The student does not know this. One could even say “Well it could be Genesis is not Inerrant, but that would not disprove Christian theism.” To be sure, losing Inerrancy would change our approach to Scripture were it to happen, and for the record I am an Inerrantist, but it would not be the end of Christianity. Proving a contradiction in Genesis does not prove that the gospels and epistles are in error in all they say.

At the start of chapter 7, Dawkins starts with telling about flood stories and begins with Gilgamesh and then says the story should be recognizable to children reared in Christian, Jewish, or Muslim countries. It’s the story of Noah’s Ark with one or two minor differences.

For those unaware, let me tell some minor differences

In Gilgamesh, the boat is not seaworthy. In Noah, it is.
In Gilgamesh and in Noah, the length of time and flooding and receding is much different.
In Gilgamesh, the flood takes place because the gods can’t sleep. In Noah, it is for punishment of sin.
In Gilgamesh, it is polytheistic. In Noah, it is monotheistic.
In Gilgamesh, the hero gets immortality in the end. In Noah, the hero gets drunk.

These are just basic differences. A whole list can be found here

On page 208 and 209, Dawkins talks about earthquakes and uses Sodom and Gomorrah along with Jericho as examples. I would have no problem with these being the results of earthquakes. In this case, these would be second-class miracles in that the miracle was not the event itself but that the event happened when it did. Dawkins seems to think that if a natural explanation of something is found, then it can no longer be the action of God, but this does not follow. Dawkins also tells of how a real story could have eventually become the folk legend of Joshua, but his analogy is simply a telephone game. Were the accounts of the events written years afterwards? Dawkins says so, but he does not give a reason why. Unfortunately, the student has got a lesson on oral tradition and historiography, but not on science. He has also learned that lesson from someone who is not an authority.

Finally, one eventually gets to the last chapter on miracles. What does this have to do with science? Who knows. Dawkins acts as if any miracle will destroy science. As he says on page 263, it would never be right to call something we cannot understand or explain a miracle. That would end discussion and further investigation. This does not follow and in fact, let us assume for the sake of argument that Jesus really did rise from the dead and did not do so by naturalistic means. To say “We will keep searching until we find the naturalistic means” is to say “We will search in futility.” Because one wants a naturalistic means does not mean there is one. At the same time, because one wants a supernatural explanation does not mean that there is one. What we need is to be open to miraculous and non-miraculous explanations.

On page 254, Dawkins says miracles would be disturbing to science since that would involve breaking a law of nature. However, while I do not agree with the definition of breaking the laws of nature, does this not entail that there are laws of nature still? If I pick up a box, I have gone against gravity in a sense, but it does not mean I have violated science. God just has more means to do things than I do. The laws of nature can be intact and still allow for miracles. In fact, it is because we believe in laws of nature that we know about miracles.

How so? A miracle is seen as an exception to that which is “natural.” The reason we believe a virgin birth would be a miracle would be because we know that it takes sex naturally to make a baby. The reason we consider the resurrection of Christ to be a miracle is because we know dead people naturally stay dead. Those who believe in miracles do not dispute scientific facts. We know that water does not instantly become wine. We know that it takes sex to make a baby. We know people don’t walk on water naturally. We know dead people stay dead.

The big shock is also that the ancient people knew that too! That is why they recorded these as miracles. That they believed in these miracles is not because they were ignorant of science. Certainly they did not know all we know about science, but even if they could not explain the interaction between the molecules in one’s feet and that in water to explain how someone could not walk on water, they knew that someone could not. They recognized these as miracles because they knew these facts already even if they didn’t know the main details of these facts. They buried their dead because they knew their dead were staying dead. Joseph sought to divorce Mary because he knew what it took to make a baby and he knew he had not done that.

The only way you could have exceptions then is if there is a natural order. If there was no natural order, there could be no miracles because all would be random. It is only because there is a natural order that there are miracles.

Dawkins’s argument against miracles is Hume. There is no mention that pretty much every Christian philosopher and their mother has commented on Hume. There is no mention that Hume said that past experience cannot be used to prove future events. If you release a stone and it falls 1,000 times, that will not prove it will fall the 1,001st time. If that is the case, then it would seem Hume himself has destroyed any basis for trusting the laws of science. Of course, Hume was sure it would fall, but he was making a claim on how that could be known, or rather not known.

The answer to Hume is that he was essentially begging the question. Hume assumes that all has occurred naturally and we know this because miracles have not occurred. How do we know that they have not occurred? Because all has happened naturally. The question of if a miracle has taken place is a historical question. The question of if they can is a philosophical and theological question. Neither is in the domain of science.

On page 262, Dawkins describes the turning of water into wine saying it only occurs in one gospel, which is true enough, but then says all four gospels were written long after the events they describe and not one of them by an eyewitness, so it is safe to conclude that they are not accurate. No mention is made that the history of people like Alexander the Great was written centuries after and not by eyewitnesses. No mention is also made that Dawkins’s own claim is disputed, notably by someone like Richard Bauckham in “Jesus and the Eyewitnesses.” Again, the student has been given a lesson on historiography and not science, and Dawkins is not a historian.

As I finished the book, I pondered that the title is about how we know what’s really true, but Dawkins did not tell us that. Dawkins no where gives an epistemology. He affirms the scientific method, but does not say how we’d know it to be valid, especially for truths that are not scientific. Dawkins does not really define what it means to be true either. One could say there is a close parallel between that and real, but that needs to be explained.

No doubt, as I said, much of the science is good and fascinating to read, but the parts I highlighted here are those that show Dawkins has something different in mind than just teaching science, something he would condemn by Christians. I recommend we need to follow C.S. Lewis’s advice here. Lewis wrote once that what needs to be done is that the main authorities on academic matters need to be Christians. They do not need to be Christians necessarily writing apologetics works, as good as those are, but Christians just wishing to pass on knowledge. A Christian can write a book on how to do history without seeking to show his Christianity at all. He can write on doing medicine without having to quote Scripture. He can write on astronomy without having to talk about the grandeur of God.

In fact, I would prefer he write in those ways so it can be that he is not writing seeking to tell readers what to think but how to think and when it comes out that he is a Christian, well the community realizes Christians can be great thinkers. What if it was the case that all best-selling books on subject matters like this were by Christians? What would it mean if we could re-enter the academy in that regards and be the authorities not on the details of the matter but on how to do the work of the matter. A Christian is the one who knows the most facts about medicine. A Christian is the one who has the most knowledge of how to best use a spectroscope. A Christian is the one who best knows how to do a sum in geometry.

The response to this book then is not to run from the academy. It is to enter it with full force. It is to meet the enemy head-on and engage. Dawkins has done in fact in a sense what we should have been doing. Christians are to be in pursuit of knowledge just because it is knowledge. This is God’s world and we need to know all that there is to know about it. We also need to be educating our children on the value of their minds and encouraging them to read everything they can on what interests them, and read both sides. I want my children to read Dawkins, and I want them to read what disagrees with Dawkins so they can know what to choose and make an informed decision.

If we believe the facts are with us, and they are, we need not be afraid.