Chapter 2 of Dawkins book is inflammatory and offensive, but in his defense he warned his readers at the tail end of the previous chapter.
“The God of the Old Testament is arguably the most unpleasant character in all fiction: jealous and proud of it; a petty, unjust, unforgiving control-freak; a vindictive, bloodthirsty ethnic cleanser; a misogynistic, homophobic, racist, infanticidal, genocidal, filicidal, pestilential, megalomaniacal, sadomasochistic, capriciously malevolent bully.”
Each of these nasty and untrue adjectives written to make the Christian’s blood boil, could be dealt with individually and falsified. In fact, although I disagree strongly with his apologetic method, I would nonetheless highly recommend Paul Copan’s book, Is God a Moral Monster?
However, the presupposition under all of these accusations is Dawkins’ ability to make such moral indictments given his worldview.
Dawkins’ has a worldview that simply cannot provide the objective moral criteria to hold over God’s head. God is a megalomaniac, so what? God is homophobic, so what? Dawkins’ has to steal the moral objective foundation from the very God he is name-calling like a toddler on the play ground.
Dawkins’ thesis is that God is delusion, but apparently the moral Law God alone can justify is not.
Let us also not forget what we learned last chapter: Dawkins thoughts are the coerced, mandatory thoughts that the uncontrolled, random firings of neurons in his brain are forcing him to think. He thinks little of the Old Testament God because his brain is making him. There is no reason, according to his worldview, to assume he is coming to true or reasonable claims. Chemical reactions do not produce truth or reason. They just do what the laws of nature require, and that is what is going on in Dawkins’ brain.
Not only is the God Dawkins hates necessary to make the objective moral indictments, He is also necessary for the constant thing Dawkins is looking for throughout this chapter: evidence. I will expound on this point later on however in the chapters where Dawkins actually gets in to the evidences for and against God.
A Hindering Disrespect
One of Dawkins greatest down falls in this chapter, and inevitably throughout the remainder of the book, is his unbelievable arrogance.
Dawkins makes clear in this chapter he has absolutely no respect for religious academics. He clearly finds theologians and the study of theology to be worthy of no respect at all.
While his incessant mockery and constant disdain for theology may be mouth watering red-meat for his ilk, it ends up playing a fundamental role in the downfall of his analysis. His intellectual bankruptcy is the fruit of his refusal to take his enemies serious enough. He forces himself into obtaining an expertise in the inexcusable craft straw-men artistry.
“I would prefer to say that if indeed they lie beyond science, they most certainly lie beyond the province of theologians as well (I doubt that philosophers would thank Martin Rees for lumping theologians in with them). I am tempted to go further and wonder in what possible sense theologians can be said to have a province. I am still amused when I recall the remark of a former Warden (head) of my Oxford college. A young theologian had applied for a junior research fellowship, and his doctoral thesis on Christian theology provoked the Warden to say, ‘I have grave doubts as to whether it’s a subject at all.‘ What expertise can theologians bring to deep cosmological questions that scientists cannot?…Perhaps there are some genuinely profound and meaningful questions that are forever beyond the reach of science. Maybe quantum theory is already knocking on the door of the un-fathomable. But if science cannot answer some ultimate question, what makes anybody think that religion can?” (Dawkins, 79).
This is only a taste of his regular disdain for theology and theologians alike. Ignoring the fact that some of the most brilliant and influential men in world history were theologians, this arrogant and anti-academic attitude ruins his approach.
For example, Dawkins has a section in this chapter called, “The Great Prayer Experiment” where a handful of churches in America were studied. Long story short, the things they asked for did not come to be at a higher rate than non-prayerful people who desire things as well. Dawkins draw the conclusion that prayer is ineffectual, which is somewhat of an indictment on the God we are praying to.
But all of the important theological implications and understandings of prayer are completely absent from a study like this. The purpose and results of prayer goes so far beyond “getting what we want.” There are many things that those pea-brained theologians have been discussing about prayer for thousands of years which are not able to quantified in a study like that. But Dawkins quite frankly does not care what meaningful theologians have been saying about prayer.
It also ignores the important distinctions between religious groups that they would want represented, and most important, it ignores the living, personal. omniscient God who works with us in time, and responds to things like pretentious, secular, prayer experiments on His own terms for His own purposes. But again, all of this “theology jargon” is beneath the intellectual giant that is Richard Dawkins.
Similarly, Dawkins demonstrates the classic misunderstanding of Old Covenant and New Covenant relationship that it seems not public Atheist is capable or willing to get right. Dawkins tries to claim that Christians are arbitrarily picking and choosing which parts of the Bible they will believe and practice.
“How many literalists have read enough of the bible to know that the death penalty is prescribed for adultery, for gathering sticks on the sabbath and for cheeking your parents? If we reject Leviticus and Deuteronomy (as all enlightened moderns do), by what criteria do we then decide which of religion’s moral values to accept?” (Dawkins, 80).
The irony here is Dawkins is trying to mock Christians for not knowing what there Bible teaches, while demonstrating he himself knows absolutely nothing close to what the Bible teaches. The New Testament is constantly and consistently teaching about it’s relationship, through Jesus, to the fulfilled Old Covenant (Matthew 5: 17, Ephesians, Hebrews, etc.) On top of that, Christians have been and are continuing to answer this constant claim all the time. But Dawkins is too above us to even give an ear and deal with our answers.
Another example of this would be Dawkins constant comparisons of Christian claims to insane and made-up worldview concepts like “the flying spaghetti monster” and “ferries underneath gardens” and “invisible tea-pots floating around in space.”
To lump in historic Judeo-Christian claims with this wildly insane, modern concepts is the height of arrogance and it exposes a true intellectual bankruptcy. One does not have to believe in Christianity to know that its survival of 2,000 years, its manuscript evidences, logical argumentation, etc make it far more credible than the spaghetti monster.
As a Christian I am happy to admit that Islam, which I reject, is more credible than the invisible tea-pot. I find Islam untrue, contradictory, and evil, but I would still never lump it in with ferries. These comparisons are clear signs that Dawkins is a man with no intellectual integrity.
As a matter of fact, this arrogance by Dawkins goes so far he refueses to debate because he does not want to give any credibility to theological persuasions that contradict his worldview. There is no doubt this is cowardice garbed in insult. Can you imagine how badly Douglas Wilson defeat Dawkins? However, the point remains that Dawkins is so arrogant, he cannot even bring his worldview into a place where it will be publicly cross-examined by us idiots.
A final example of Dawkins’ criticisms marred by his arrogance includes, when speaking about the Arius’ 4th century heresy, his describing Trinitarian and Christological heresies this way:
“Splitting Christendom by splitting hairs- such has ever been the way of theology” (54).
This is historical, biblical, and theological lunacy. One cannot begin to wrap their head around the ignorance of a person who thinks the nature of Christ, the deity of Christ, and other Trinitarian heresies are “splitting hairs.” Certainly, Jesus Himself does not agree with Dawkins,
“I told you that you would die in your sins, for unless you believe that I am he you will die in your sins” (John 8: 24).
Jesus, and the 4th century Christians knew that getting Jesus right was a matter of heaven and hell, of sin and forgiveness, hardly was it “splitting hairs.” But again, all of this rightly understanding the other side stuff is beneath Dawkins.
(By way of a side, Dawkins used this opportunity to bash the Trinity for its complexity and the difficulty he has in apprehending the doctrine. Douglas Wilson had a brilliant response to men like Dawkins in his debate with Christopher Hitchens at Westminster on this same issue.
After Hitchens spent a long time describing the nature of a black hole, and how if one could go over its Event Horizon, one would see the past, present, and future all at the same time, but you wouldn’t have the time to do it. Wilson responded by pointing out the inconsistency of scientists who recognize that even in the material world there are things that we can apprehend to be true, but cannot fully comprehend their complexity.
“The thing that astonishes me when I read physicists, particularly Atheistic fellows who are evoking a sense of wonder out of of the descriptions of these sorts of things…they then turn around and say that they have objections to the doctrine of the Holy Trinity because they can’t make sense of it. Does it make sense to you that you could see the past and future at the same time, provided you were headed toward a big black hole of nothing? Would you sketch that for me on the blackboard please?”)
The god of Science
Along the lines of Dawkins belittling theology, he simultaneously gave away his hand. Dawkins clearly thinks way too highly of science. The atheistic worldview Dawkins holds has little respect for anything that falls into a discipline outside of science. Dawkins makes clear all important questions are scientific questions.
Dawkins has another chapter section titled “NOMA” in which he criticizes Agnostics and Theists alike for accepting the idea that there are questions outside the realm of science, often called “why” questions. The understanding is that science only deals with the natural order, therefore non-empirical questions (i.e. morality) and supernatural questions (i.e. God’s existence) lie outside the realm of science.
There were many times I agreed with Dawkins in this chapter. Certainly, a personal God who created the universe, upholds the universe, and interacts with His universe is likely to show up when we study the universe. I too would reject the dichotomy to some degree, I do believe the natural order is a means God uses to reveal Himself to man (Romans 1), therefore, God is a God to be found in science.
However, Dawkins takes his worship of science too far. There certainly are many things that science is incompetent to address. There are many things science is inept and unqualified to answer or address.
For example, not only have we already mentioned that moral claims lie completely outside the scientific method, Science also cannot answer mathematics questions. On the contrary, science must presuppose mathematic principles. And the most powerful observation is that science cannot even account for itself! William Lane Craig here gives three other important disciple
If one were to claim (which Dawkins subtly does) that ‘only that which can be proven scientifically ought to be believed’, one would engage in self-refutation, because that very truth proposition ought to be believed apart from being proven scientifically!
The question, “Why must I trust the scientific method?” cannot be answered with the scientific method. Not only is this impossible, but it would engage in egregious circular reasoning. Science must rely on other disciplines to even account for itself.
Dawkins worldview is already beginning crumble, and we still have yet to get to the meat of the book. His worship of science explains his disdain for theology, because most theological questions cannot be answered scientifically. Some can be, but Dawkins must abhor theology because theology destroys his idol.
A positive from the NOMA sub-chapter is a good example why I reject the popular Christian apologetic method of the day. Dawkins constantly admits the often repeated claim that “You cannot disprove a negative” or, “you cannot prove something does not exist.” Dawkins responds to this by admitting it, but establishing degrees of belief and unbelief.
Dawkins quotes popular Christian apologist Alistar McGrath admitting that God ultimately cannot be proved or disproved, which leaves us to agree with Dawkins that degrees of probability are all we are left with.
Other men like William Lane Craig embrace this, publicly admitting they do not know if God exists, but the evidence seems to suggest its more likely he does.
The problem is that is not Christian. Romans 1 teaches with clarity that all men know, with certainty, God exists. Some suppress and exchange, others embrace, but we all know this to be true.
However, it is also simply not true that we cannot prove the non-existence of things. For example, we can prove their are no dogs on the United States Supreme Court. We can also disprove things through logic. We can prove round triangles do not exist, we can prove no married bachelors exist. Using Romans 1, we can prove no atheists exist. All of these things certainly disprove the claim made by Dawkins that “[R]eason alone could not propel one to total conviction that anything does not exist” (Dawkins, 74).
We can do this with idols too. We can prove the gods that do not exist the same way we disprove the Atheistic worldview: the inconsistencies and logical impossibilities of their truth-claims.
Thus, Agnostics cannot retreat behind this, but neither can Christians. And that is why I embrace Presuppositional Aplogetics. God is not a bet, He is not a probability. He is the certain God who has revealed Himself to all with clarity (Romans 1: 18-32). I want to defend that God, not a probability.
Dawkins made an interesting claim in this chapter,
“If [God] existed and chose to reveal it, God Himself could clinch the argument, noisily and unequivocally in His favor” (Dawkins, 73).
The reason this is interested is because it’s true. And it’s not only true, God has already done it. Romans 1: 18-24,
“For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things. Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen.”
Contrary to Dawkins’ thesis to the book, that God is a delusion, and contrary to the thesis of chapter two, that God is a hypothesis, God is instead the certain God who has revealed Himself to Dawkins with clarity, and He is the necessary presupposition to make sense of all intelligibility Dawkins utilizes to even write his book.
God has noisily and unequivocally clinched the argument, and Dawkins knows it. He is, however, suppressing it.
Secondly, what Dawkins is referring to here is that God is capable of doing amazing, miraculous things right now to prove His existence. We know God already has, but I wonder what the Bible says about Dawkins implications. Would Dawkins believe in God provided God “noisily” prove Himself? In other words, the question could be posed this way: When Dawkins says God could prove Himself, how? What would God have to do to prove His existence to Dawkins, and would this action actually convince Him otherwise?
The biblical answer is that no external, noisy miracle could do anything for him: Luke 16: 27-30,
“And [the rich man in Hades] said, ‘Then I beg you, father, to send [resurrected Lazarus] to my father’s house— for I have five brothers—so that he may warn them, lest they also come into this place of torment.’ But Abraham said, ‘They have Moses and the Prophets; let them hear them.’ And he said, ‘No, father Abraham, but if someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent.’ He said to him, ‘If they do not hear Moses and the Prophets, neither will they be convinced if someone should rise from the dead.’”
The better way to phrase the question to Dawkins, and all agnostics alike, is how Sye Ten Bruggencate phrases it:
“What evidence would it take to convince you of the God who says you already have enough evidence?”