Richard Dawkins’s interview of Alister McGrath

I listened to a recording done earlier today of Richard Dawkins interviewing Alister McGrath after “The God Delusion” came out. I thought it was an excellent interview with Dawkins asking McGrath questions about evil and violence in religion and why one should believe in God and other such matters.

What got me was the end though.

McGrath said he wanted to ask a question. McGrath told Dawkins that he’d seen that he seemed more angry in his last book than in other books. As a comment to this blog said, it was after 9/11 especially when the publisher said that there is a market for a book on why some people think faith is a delusion.

This was the question I was wanting to ask. I’m so pleased McGrath asked it. Dawkins gave two replies. The first was that he didn’t think that people could do things like the 9/11 bombings if it wasn’t for faith. The second was that he didn’t like the idea of people believing things without evidence.

Mr. Dawkins. I agree on both counts.

And I’m a Christian.

When you complain about faith having people do things that they wouldn’t do without. I agree. In the case of Muslims, this means flying planes into buildings. In the case of Christians though, this can often mean devoting your life to the cause of the poor, being a missionary overseas, selling your possessions and giving to charity, loving your neighbor as yourself, and loving God with a clean and pure heart.

Without my faith, I would not be the man I am today. My faith is integral to who I am and it has made me the man I am today. I am against faith that results in the bombing of buildings. I am against Christian faith when it’s misused to justify things that Christ would never have justified.

When you speak about people believing things without evidence, I agree. Now I believe there are some first principles that are properly basic. These are things you can’t really argue for. You either know them or you don’t. However, there are many things that require evidence. I think the belief that Jesus rose from the dead is one.

Mr. Dawkins. I have a huge complaint with the church today. They don’t think enough. I wish more Christians would come to me and say that they’re doubting. I wish they’d come and ask the hard questions. I’d know that they were thinking about the issues then. I’m tired of Christians that haven’t thought about their faith and all they have is their personal testimony.

I’m sick of shallow Christianity. I’m sick of the Christianity that only takes the Bible and then doesn’t even use anything else. The Bible was written in a context. If you want to understand it, learn what the original words it was written in meant, learn the social context, learn the philosophical undertones, learn what a good theology is, learn church history, etc.

Mr. Dawkins though. In all honesty, those are secondary issues really. I think they’re important, but they’re secondary.

Let’s suppose you wanted me to fly to Oxford. How would I go about finding out how to get there? Would it be best to find out how to get to Atlanta first and just assume the flight would go from there? Not at all. The best way would be to find out how to get to Oxford first and then see if I need to go to Atlanta.

What’s the best way to find out if Christianity is true? It’s not by looking at evolution. Evolution could be the instrumental cause God used. That doesn’t explain the final cause. To say there is a method does not mean that there was no mind behind the method. It is a secondary issue.

It’s not about pointing out hypocrites. There are hypocrites of all belief systems. We’re all inconsistent in some ways and if you want me to be an image of Christianity that’s perfect, I will let you down. There are also unintelligent people in each belief system that don’t ask questions and don’t really think.

And I’d say I know which side you are on in that last part. If I had just read “The God Delusion”, I would have thought I was dealing with a pseudo-intellectual. My notes in the book show that many times. I could not believe the things I was reading were to be put forward as intelligent arguments.

Yet I’m with McGrath. I see something different in “The Blind Watchmaker.” I see that the case is laid own strongly and in a rational manner. Again, I’m not convinced, but my interest is in your work right now and evolution is a secondary matter. I’m interested in why you are an atheist.

If you want to see if Christianity is true, the best place to start is the empty tomb. If the empty tomb is true and Jesus did rise from the dead, then there’s an explanation for everything else. If it is not true, then we don’t really need to deal with the secondary issues as the primary one no longer exists.

My honest thought now is that I pray for Mr. Dawkins every night. Just last night before going to bed I saw the intro to the Devil’s Chaplain, which I plan to read soon, and I saw that it was to his daughter Juliet on her eighteenth birthday. I’ll admit that I was deeply touched by that.

I saw someone who I think honestly thinks they’re doing good by expunging Christianity from the world and wants the best for his daughter who I do not doubt he has a deep love for. This is someone that maybe in another time and place, we would have interacted. Maybe there is someone else like you who has these objections. Maybe there’s someone like me who thinks he has some answers and maybe he will get to speak to you. I hope so. I would love to see a conversion sometime.

And this is something I think we should all keep in mind in apologetics. When I debate someone, I don’t want to just know the subject. I want to know the person I’m debating also. I want to know what makes them tick and what is really keeping them from coming to Christ.

We need to keep that in mind for our side. I talked to our Seminary President about the need to instill confidence some tonight and I thought of something I’d say. “Sir. We are not just teaching apologetics. We are teaching persons apologetics.” We must always keep that first part going. These are persons.

So what am I doing? I’m praying for Richard Dawkins every night. I urge my readers to do the same. Find other great atheists out there. Learn how to answer them, but at the same time, pray for them.