Wednesday, October 11, 2006

The God Delusion

[I blogged this on my other blog, but I thought it would fit here too...]

I'm reading 'The God Delusion' by Richard Dawkins at the moment (thanks to a generous offer from Amazon and a donation from the Ladies Fellowship!). There are literally hundreds of blog posts about the book, so I slightly wonder if I'm wasting my time blogging about it. Although, I am actually reading the book, which I suppose lends some validity to my comments...

I'll blog some more specific comments when I've read more, but here are a few comments based on what I've read so far.

I've always been impressed by Prof. Dawkins' writing ability. Obviously, apart from being a very clever bloke, he's a gifted writer. He manages to make his arguments clearly and simply, so that anyone can understand them. But he also manages to use the way he writes to strengthen his argument without adding anything to them. For example, everytime he mentions religion he uses words which make it sound stupid, and when he discusses atheism and scientific naturalism, he makes it sound clear-headed and unbiased. Just to show he is fair and balanced, he does express his appreciation for some religious people who talk sense (although these are usually people who are so liberal they are quite close to his own way of thinking). But a lot of his argument is built on his ability to influence the thinking of his readers through the language he uses and the way he arranges things (which ought to be something he hates).

A quick skim of the book suggests that he hasn't really come up with anything new. But he has collected together lots of the arguments into one place, expressed them in quite emotive language, and added the stamp of approval his reputation gives. I'm quite interested by Dawkins' method of sampling his sources. He keeps making reference to 'evangelicals' and 'fundamentalists' - and he definitely speaks to Fundamentalists. He talks about and to the sorts of people you would see on the God Channel etc. These are set in contrast with 'reasonable' churchmen, mainly liberal anglical bishops. But a look in the index shows that more 'level-headed' evangelicals are absent. I wonder what the book would've turned out like if he had spoken to John Piper, or John Stott, or Jim Packer, or any other people of that ilk. Alister McGrath gets one mention, but only for Dawkins to respond to his book "Dawkins' God" (I would've thought a book so obviously related to his subject would've warranted a more in-depth treatment than one paragraph...).

My main thought it that his arguments make absolute sense for his worldview, one which places man in the centre. In that framework, it's perfectly reasonable to treat God as a hypothesis to be proven or disproven. But once God is placed in the centre, it is ludicrous for God to be treated as a hypothesis. Why should God conform to the natural laws he created? How can science (which has developed to investigate the natural universe) be used to investigate God? I'll have more to say on this as I get into the book, but my first major realisation is that, underneath the arguments and the rhetoric, is good (by which I mean bad) old-fashioned idolatry. Elevating that which is created (nature) above the Creator. In fact, it is elevating something created by human 'hands' (science) above the Creator of humanity.

I think seeing it in those terms is helpful. It moves things out of tit-for-tat arguments, trying to win, and realising that at the heart of the problem is sin. And what's at stake is not winning or losing aherents, but God's glory. It's also reassuring that in all these controversial books etc that keep coming out, things don't really change. It's happened before, and God's people have weathered the storm!

I'm hoping to write an article for down-to-earth about the book once I've finished it. But I'll add stuff up here as I work my way through it.

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