I recently read an editorial by Jerry Davich, a Tribune writer, focusing on a new book by Kurt Anderson, Fantasyland: How America Went Haywire A 500-Year History. The book chronicles the history of the American psyche on belief. It sounds fascinating. Davich says it resonated with what he believes about “Americans’ beliefs”, but what Davich says doesn’t resonate with me.
Davich quotes Anderson’s observation that “this post-factual, ‘fake news ‘ moment we’re all living through … is not something new, but rather the ultimate expression of our national character”. We are free to believe absolutely anything in this country, and so we do, “proudly so, ” says Davich!
I can see how the “wishful dreamers, magical thinkers and true believers” Anderson describes in his book could “be embedded in our DNA”. The United States of America was founded by dreamers and believers. And such wild thoughts of fancy as carried pioneers to our shores were likely fertile soil for the “hucksters and their suckers” who became a part of the American experience.
While these things do strike a chord and make some sense, the conclusions that Davich reaches about belief, itself, strike a discordant note with me. They throw the proverbial baby out with the bathwater. While mixing metaphors may be bad literary taste, I think the shoe fits.
The New Atheists today scoff at people of faith. Richard Dawkins has even urged his followers to mock people of faith. The same people bristle at the suggestion that they, themselves, have faith.
Dawkins is sweeping in his statements, defining faith for the masses and allowing no prisoners. But his definition of faith is loaded with his assumptions about what faith is, ignoring the evidence – even the evidence right in front of him. This the conclusion I reach as I consider his first debate with John Lennox.
I would even go so far as to say that Dawkins is guilty of the very same charge he levels against Christians and other people of faith. Let me explain.
Richard Dawkins, the famous atheist and author, debated John Lennox, the Oxford mathematician and philosopher of science, in 2010. This was the first of the Dawkins Lennox debates. Both men were both well-spoken and well-suited for the task.
Aside from the usual issues and points that are made in these sorts of debates about faith and science, some nuances emerge that I thought were interesting to consider. I highlight one particular interchange in particular.
Dawkins asserted, like an axiom, that faith is belief with no evidence (implying that faith is the antithesis of reason). Not surprisingly, Lennox disagreed. With a such a fundamental disagreement on the definition of faith, it seems to me, the focus should have been on the definition of “faith” – but it wasn’t.
Dawkins claimed that faith would not be faith if it was rational and evidence-based. In other words, Dawkins defined faith, in its very essence, as the absence of reason and evidence.
Lennox, on the other hand, described faith as the willingness to repose belief, trust and commitment in something for which there is evidence, but no “proof” (as in mathematical proof). In other words, Lennox describes faith as confidence in reason and evidence.
The way Dawkins defines faith it is the opposite of reason, while Lennox harmonizes them so that one (faith) emerges from the other (reason). Who is right? Continue reading →
“Taste and see that the Lord is good.” (Psalm 34:8)
The Gospels and the epistles that make up the canonized New Testament are written as historical documents. They purport to record historical events, and the things that Jesus says are recorded in the context of a chronology of events. That means the claims of the New Testament are falsifiable. Continue reading →
I have said it before, and I will probably say it again (and again): people believe what they want to believe. I am reminded of that truism after reading the intriguing article by Robin Schumacher, Stephen Hawking’s Three Arguments Against God, published in The Christian Post. Truism? Because I say so! In effect that is exactly what Stephen Hawking’s arguments amount to. Continue reading →
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