I figured it was about time for some heavy duty thoughts, considering how many pictures of Eden have been up lately. So tonight I’m going to try and dish out some coherent points on willingness to believe, an extremely important aspect of Christianity that I’ve had on my mind for a while.
I want to start with a reference to a Richard Dawkins TED talk on “militant atheism”- I watched this a while ago on a quiet night shift, after being impressed with how poor Dawkins’ Giraffe’s Recurrent Laryngeal Nerve example was for animal “design” being random and unintelligent (i.e. lacking design). I gave a brief rebuttal to this idea in a previous blog post (in the comments section), so I won’t go into detail here. It suffices to say that a short Wikipedia article contains more than enough information to form a decent rebuttal.
In the TED talk linked above, Dawkins discusses how religion and evolution are fundamentally corrosive to one another, which may very well be true. If you’re interested, watch the whole talk, or if you’d like to see just the part I’m about to refer to, go to the 9:45 mark and watch for ~2 minutes. Prior to this point, he discusses a quote from Douglas Adams, in which Adams challenged the notion that some things in life are up for debate (e.g. which political party to vote for, scientific theories) whereas others, namely religious dogma, are seemingly not.
Dawkins goes on to share a parody in which he compares how people come to scientific conclusions versus religious truths; essentially, he makes a mockery of the fact that religious people can accept something based on the fact that it’s been “revealed” to someone, whereas good scientists would never accept a conclusion based on such evidence (e.g. “it was privately revealed to Professor so-and-so that an asteroid killed the dinosaurs”). If that summary wasn’t clear, go watch that part of the video (start at 9:45).
This brings me to my real point: not primarily that science and religion need to be considered “differently” – although this is true to an extent – but that Dawkins and Adams are absolutely right, in a way. From their point of view, it is ridiculous to accept that any truth could be accepted solely on the grounds that it was revealed to someone, who then shared it with the rest of the world. This is because in their worldview, God does not exist. In a Godless context, his sarcasm and satire are quite clever, and his point are possibly irrefutable.
But what if there is a God? What if he actually does speak to individuals, and not necessarily just guys like the Pope, but to regular ones like Abraham, David, and Elijah too (people who, in retrospect, we often call Biblical “heroes”). The problem that Dawkins, Adams, and all atheists face in considering this possibility is mainly that they are simply not willing to do so. Josh McDowell, in his information-packed book “Evidence that Demands a Verdict“, makes this point right in his introduction: if a person is not willing to accept something, even in light of the most convincing evidence, then there is no point in presenting the evidence.
Some of you may have heard the proverbial story of an atheist who goes on and on about how, if he was a Christian and really believed that hell was real, he’d get on his hands and knees, weeping and pleading with those around him to repent, forsaking all other responsibilities in order to save his loved ones from eternal damnation. However, you and I both know that if someone has already determined not to believe in God or hell, all that begging and pleading would serve only to ruin any chance at ongoing friendship. Everyone would assume you were having a nervous breakdown, and they certainly wouldn’t find the situation appealing. I hope this helps illustrate the importance of the fact that willingness to believe is a crucial first step.
I believe unwillingness is the point at which Christians find most of their friends and neighbours in modern society – probably not truly convinced that there is no God, but not willing or interested enough to investigate the claims of the Bible. There is evidence out there (not just revealed dogma), and a “true” Christian doesn’t just accept dogma anyway, but investigates the claims of the Bible, tests them in his or her own life, and eventually accepts them as a their own, but always partly on faith. In a worldview where God is real, it’s absolutely okay to have faith, while also examining, criticizing, and engaging critical thinking skills (including thinking critically about the “religious” aspects of your life).
The writer of Corinthians, one of the books of the Bible, points out himself that the message of the cross is “foolishness” to those who don’t believe it, and that it’s actually counter to man’s wisdom and intelligence (just as we see in Dawkins parody). The interesting thing is that, as Christians, we are able to understand that it can be ridiculous to accept that dinosaurs were wiped out based on the fact that “it was revealed to Professor so-and-so” yet at the same time we can accept that there are aspects of existence and reality that God has chosen to reveal through specific people and events in history. The one (logical reasoning, scientific and philosophical experiments) does not preclude the other (revelation, teaching from God).
Sometimes I wonder which attitude is more open-minded, actually – the one that sees logical deduction as the only source of truth, or the one that understands the roles of both logic and revelation and where each can be applied. That’s it for tonight, comments are welcome as always.