Tag Archives: richard dawkins

Ravi Zacharias Ministry –  Christianity and Violence

 

In a 2002 article in The Guardian, author Salman Rushdie, inspired by bouts of violence in his native India, articulated a now-common view on religion. The article was titled, “Religion, as ever, is the poison in India’s blood.” In it, Rushdie outlined the familiar stance of the vociferous new atheists, bidding the world to stop speaking of religion in the fashionable language of “respect” and skating around the obvious conclusions about both God and religion. He writes:

“What is there to respect in any of this, or in any of the crimes now being committed almost daily around the world in religion’s dreaded name? How well, with what fatal results, religion erects totems, and how willing we are to kill for them! […] India’s problem turns out to be the world’s problem. What happened in India has happened in God’s name. The problem’s name is God.“(1)

Rushdie’s voice is merely one among many in the increasingly prevalent conversation about God, religion, and violence. Against Christianity, the critiques come quite specifically. Richard Dawkins describes the Christian story as vicious, sado-masochistic, and repellent, symptomatic of a violent God, a Bible full of violence, and followers willing to overlook that violence, or worse, to embrace it. For Dawkins and his conspirators, God is the problem that initiates the problem of violence: “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, blood-thirsty ethnic cleanser; a misogynist, homophobic, racist, infanticidal, genocidal, filicidal, pestilential, megalomaniacal, sado-masochistic, capriciously malevolent bully. Those of us schooled from infancy in his ways can be desensitized to their horror.”(2)

Unsatisfied altogether by those who try to interpret the Old Testament through the lenses of the New, those who point to Jesus as fulfilling personally and particularly some of the more uncertain images of God, the new atheists see only continuity in the violence of Christian theology.  In Dawkins’ words, “New Testament theology adds a new injustice, topped off by a new sadomasochism whose viciousness even the Old Testament barely succeeds.  It is, when you think about it, remarkable that a religion should adopt an instrument of torture and execution as its sacred symbol… The theology and punishment-theory behind it is even worse.”(3)

While the vitriolic rants of the new atheists are filled with arrogance, oddities, and inconsistencies of their own, their well-voiced objections to Christian violence are hardly unique to them. For many, both in and outside the church, it is an issue deeply felt, a problem that needs a viable answer. Why is it that religion and violence often merge? And what is the solution? For the great majority of those who bravely vocalize such a question, the great “solution” of eradicating religion is simply unhelpful. And in fact some are suggesting the exact opposite, suggesting that the cure to religious violence does not rest in less religion or no religion (an argument that has been on the increase since the Enlightenment), but rather more religion.

In a carefully qualified sense, professor Miroslav Volf explains, “I don’t mean, of course, that the cure for violence lies in increased religious zeal… [rather] it lies in a stronger and more intelligent commitment to the faith as faith.” That is, commitment to the kind of faith that is itself good news, truth and beauty incarnate, a story that reinterprets all others. After the horrific murders of nine members of Emmanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church last week, the world has been shown such a faith. Addressing the one accused of killing their loved ones, they spoke of mercy and offered forgiveness. They did not speak full of rage, just broken hearts.

As Volf continues, “The more we reduce Christian faith to vague religiosity which serves primarily to energize, heal, and give meaning to the business of life whose content is shaped by factors other than faith (such as national or economic interests), the worse off we will be. Inversely, the more the Christian faith matters to its adherents as faith and the more they practice it as an ongoing tradition with strong ties to its origins and with clear cognitive and moral content, the better off we will be.”(4) In other words, Christ’s Incarnation properly understood as a nonviolent invasion of a violent world by the God of shalom hardly fosters violence.

On the contrary, his violent death at the hands of a life-taking world is entirely reversed at the hands of the life-giving Father and the resurrection of a murdered son. His proclamation of a different kingdom is embodied in a God who steps near enough to consume us, but who offers instead a paradoxical alternative: “Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me, and I in him” (John 6:56).  No, Christianity properly understood and entirely embodied cannot be used to incite violence. It instead takes the angry words of its staunchest critics and the vile abuse of misguided disciples, and, like its liberator, lives the radical alternative to the story they tell.

Jill Carattini is managing editor of A Slice of Infinity at Ravi Zacharias International Ministries in Atlanta, Georgia.

(1) Salman Rushdie, “Religion, as ever, is the poison in India’s blood,” The Guardian, March 9, 2002, http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2002/mar/09/society.salmanrushdie, accessed January 15, 2010.

(2) Richard Dawkins, The God Delusion (New York: Houghton Mifflin, 2006), 51.

(3) Ibid., 285.

(4) Miroslav Volf, “Christianity and Violence,” Boardman Lectureship in Christian Ethics, March 6, 2002, http://repository.upenn.edu/boardman/2, accessed January 18, 2010.

Ravi Zacharias Ministry – Easter in Academia

 

Lock atheist philosophers who do not specialize in religion in a room with theist philosophers who do specialize in religion (well, don’t really, but if you did), and if you listened to the ensuing debates, you “would have to conclude that the theists definitely had the upper hand in every single argument or debate.”(1)

Those are not my words but the words of an atheist. And not just any atheist, an atheist who is a respected professional philosopher with 12 books and over 140 articles to his name.

Despite his atheism, Quentin Smith draws the theism-friendly conclusion that “God is not ‘dead’ in academia; he returned to life in the late 1960s and is now alive and well in his last academic stronghold, philosophy departments.”(2)

God is alive. And not only in philosophy, but in sociology as well. Fifty years ago sociology was convinced that God was on the way out. The scholars had bought into secularization theory; you know the idea: The more modern and technological the world becomes, the more secular it becomes.

Peter Berger was one of the leading proponents of this theory. Today he has completely abandoned it.

At an academic conference in Miami in 2011, Berger said that he and almost everyone in the field changed their minds simply because that is what the evidence demanded. He said that if you look at the contemporary world,

“The real situation is that most of the world is as religious as it ever was. You have enormous explosions of religion in the world… In fact, you can say every major religious tradition has been going through a period of resurgence in the last 30, 40 years or so… anything but secularization.”(3)

Probably the most influential British philosopher of religion of the last half century is longtime Oxford professor Richard Swinburne. In 2003 he published a book entitled The Resurrection of God Incarnate, and in that book he concludes that on the available evidence today, it is 97% probable that Jesus truly—miraculously—rose from the dead, proving that he is the God he claimed to be.

Do all philosophers agree with Swinburne? Of course not. And even Swinburne recognizes that we can’t take the exact percentage too seriously. He likes to work with probability theory so he plugs in numbers at each point in the argument; they are only meant to provide a rough estimate.

Still though, the fact that someone of his intellectual credibility can make that claim in print, have it published by Oxford University Press, and then ably defend it at top academic conferences all around the world speaks to the fact that the intellectual case for the Christian faith is strong.

A number of popular authors have suggested otherwise in recent years. But these New Atheists are generally not engaged with current philosophical scholarship. In fact, much of the New Atheism at the popular level can be traced directly back to old scholarship at the academic level.

Richard Dawkins denies the existence of a God who can ground good and evil, right and wrong. But criticism without alternative is empty. What is his alternative?: a world in which the disturbing response to being asked whether the wrongness of rape is as arbitrary as the fact that we’ve evolved five fingers rather than six is, “You could say that, yeah.”(4)

Quentin Smith denies the existence of a God who can raise the dead. What is his alternative?:

“The fact of the matter is that the most reasonable belief is that we came from nothing, by nothing and for nothing… We should…acknowledge our foundation in nothingness and feel awe at the marvelous fact that we have a chance to participate briefly in this incredible sunburst that interrupts without reason the reign of non-being.”(5)

Is this any less extraordinary than a resurrection from the dead? On second thought, is this not itself a resurrection from the dead?

If we think it is our minds that keep us from God, we may not be dealing with the arguments at the highest level. My own story is one of reasoning that if God really made me, and if he made me with my mind, then he would ensure that a sincere intellectual search would point in his direction.(6)

To my surprise, that is just what I found. And when I was finally willing to open to God not only my mind but also my heart, I found so much more.

Vince Vitale is a member of the speaking team at Ravi Zacharias International Ministries in Oxford, England.

(1) Quentin Smith, “The Metaphilosophy of Naturalism,” Philo. 4.2 (2001), 197.

(2) Ibid.

(3) Peter Berger, “Six Decades as a Worldwide Religion Watcher: Observations & Lessons Learned.” Ethics & Public Policy Center. n.p., n.d., accessed online on July 22, 2014 at http://eppc.org/publications/berger/.

(4) Richard Dawkins, Interview by Justin Brierley, “The John Lennox—Richard Dawkins Debate.” Bethinking.org, 2008. Web. 25 April 2014. http://www.bethinking.org/atheism/the-john-lennox-richard-dawkins-debate.

(5) Quentin Smith, “The Uncaused Beginning of the Universe,” in William Lane Craig and Quentin Smith, Theism, Atheism, and Big Bang Cosmology (1993), 135. Emphasis added.

(6) Some of the ideas expressed in this Slice are also recorded in the following video: http://bit.ly/WC1rrg

Also see Why Suffering?: Finding Meaning and Comfort When Life Doesn’t Make Sense, co-authored with Ravi Zacharias. Vince Vitale wrote his PhD on the problem of suffering. He now teaches at Wycliffe Hall of Oxford University and is Senior Tutor at The Oxford Centre for Christian Apologetics.

Ravi Zacharias Ministry – God in Person

 

“I’m inclined to suspect that there are very few atheists in prison,” writes Richard Dawkins.(1) In his book The God Delusion, the Oxford biologist sets forth the very curious estimation that post-Christian secular societies are far more moral than societies that operate from a religious foundation. He recounts the horrors carried out in the name of God, moving past the monstrosities of the 20th century at the hands of atheist regimes by claiming their atheism had nothing to do with their behavior. When it comes to behaving ethically, he is insistent that believers are worse than atheists.

British statesman Roy Hattersley, himself a fellow atheist, disagrees. In an article published some time after Hurricane Katrina hit U.S. shores, Hattersley makes some observations about the kind of people doing disaster work long after the disaster has been forgotten. “Notable by their absence are teams from rationalist societies, free thinkers’ clubs and atheists’ associations—the sort of people who not only scoff at religion’s intellectual absurdity but also regard it as a positive force for evil.”(2) His words are bold, even if strewn with typical condescension. He continues:

“Civilised people do not believe that drug addiction and male prostitution offend against divine ordinance. But those who do are the men and women most willing to change the fetid bandages, replace the sodden sleeping bags and—probably most difficult of all—argue, without a trace of impatience, that the time has come for some serious medical treatment.”(3)

Those who confess the truthfulness of Christianity—and so choose to embody its message—have confounded the world for ages. Throughout the second century there emerged a great number of rumors regarding the curious beliefs and practices of Christians. After all, the leader these people claimed to follow was a criminal executed by Roman authorities. There was thus a great deal of suspicion surrounding the motives and behavior of Christians. Why would anyone follow a man who had been crucified? Why would they choose to die rather than renounce their faith? Why would they treat those who hate them with kindness?

A Greek philosopher and opponent of Christianity named Celsus was particularly convinced that Christians were, in fact, insane. The Nativity story, the Incarnation of God in Christ, among other things, seemed to him completely irrational. “What could be the purpose of such a visit to earth by God? To find out what is taking place among humans? Does He not know everything? Or is it perhaps that He knows, but is incapable of doing anything about evil unless He does it in person?”(4)

Similarly buried under insult, Celsus nonetheless had his finger on the very quality of Christianity that makes Christians as curious as the philosophy they profess: Their God came in person. In fact, they profess, as Celsus claims, God had to come near; though not because God couldn’t speak to us otherwise nor because God was incapable of touching the world from afar. As a Father who longs to gather his children together, God came near because each child matters. God comes to earth—God comes in person, in body, in flesh—because bodies matter, because the Father longs to be near, because one lost, or one hurting, or one in need was one God would not ignore. Insanely in fact, God comes near enough to lay down his life for each of these reasons.

Christmas is about remembering the one who came in person. It is this God who came near and reordered the world, calling us to see life and each other in startling new ways. It is this God who stepped into an ordinary stable to show us God in the ordinary, who touched the unclean and claimed the untouched, whose broken body is given again and again for broken bodies that we might be whole. Our morality, our countenance, our lives are wrought by his coming among us. In each ordinary moment, forgotten victim, and broken soul and body we see the face of God because God first saw us.

Jill Carattini is managing editor of A Slice of Infinity at Ravi Zacharias International Ministries in Atlanta, Georgia.

(1) Richard Dawkins, The God Delusion (New York: Houghton Mifflin, 2006), 229.

(2) Roy Hattersley, “Faith Does Breed Charity,” The Guardian, September 12, 2005.

(3) Ibid.

(3) As quoted by Origen in the apology Against Celsus.

Ravi Zacharias Ministry –  Theology as a Subject

Ravi Z

“Why would a theologian have anything to contribute to any worthwhile discussion, on any subject whatsoever?”(1) So asks Richard Dawkins, evolutionary biologist and author of The God Delusion. He further articulates his disgust for theology in his 2006 article in The Free Inquiry magazine:

“What has theology ever said that is of the smallest use to anybody? When has theology ever said anything that is demonstrably true and is not obvious? I have listened to theologians, read them, debated against them. I have never heard any of them ever say anything of the smallest use, anything that was not either platitudinously obvious or downright false. If all the achievements of scientists were wiped out tomorrow, there would be no doctors but witch doctors, no transport faster than horses, no computers, no printed books, no agriculture beyond subsistence peasant farming. If all the achievements of theologians were wiped out tomorrow, would anyone notice the smallest difference? Even the bad achievements of scientists, the bombs, and sonar-guided whaling vessels work! The achievements of theologians don’t do anything, don’t affect anything, don’t mean anything. What makes anyone think that ‘theology’ is a subject at all?”(2)

Dawkins scornfully dismisses not only theologians but the subject of theology, too. Francis Schaeffer similarly recalls in his book The God Who Is There meeting a successful young man when he was on a boat crossing the Mediterranean. “He was an atheist, and when he found out I was a pastor he anticipated an evening’s entertainment, so he started in.”(3) It seems not taking theologians seriously is hardly a new phenomenon. As a theologian, I might be tempted to respond to these provocations with the words of the Psalmist: The fool has said in his heart that there is no God. Nevertheless, skeptical commentators like Dawkins might also make me ask other questions. For instance, from where did people get the idea that theology is meaningless and also detached from other subjects? Do others think the same about theologians? Did the theological community contribute in any way to this impression? Are religious leaders guilty of indulging in spiritual talk entirely divorced from reality?

When the apostle Paul visited Athens “his spirit was provoked” as he observed the city full of idols. Nevertheless, when he addressed the Areogagus gathering he commended them for being a religious people. Having spent time understanding their religious and philosophical beliefs he begins his message by finding a bridge in their idolatry with “The unknown god.” He knew that bridges could not be built without starting at their end of the shore. And he knew their ideas and interests well enough to quote their own poets and prophets.

The Christian embodies theology in this world of commerce, science, philosophy, and the arts. It is a subject because of its Subject. Where Christianity is lived well, the charge that theologians can engage only in the pursuit of theology devoid of contemporary issues should sound false to the ears of this generation. For all truth is God’s truth. As hymn writer Maltbie Babcock wrote more than a century ago:

This is my Father’s world,

and to my listening ears

all nature sings, and round me rings

the music of the spheres.

This is my Father’s world:

he shines in all that’s fair;

in the rustling grass I hear him pass;

he speaks to me everywhere.

Cyril Georgeson is a member of the speaking team with Ravi Zacharias International Ministries in Mumbai, India.

(1) Richard Dawkins as quoted in “What’s so heavenly about the God particle?” Newsweek, January 2, 2012.

(2) Richard Dawkins, “The Emptiness of Theology,” Free Inquiry magazine, Volume 18, Number 2.

(3) Francis Shaeffer, The God Who Is There in The Francis A. Schaeffer Trilogy (Wheaton: Crossway, 1990), 68.

Ravi Zacharias Ministry – IS RELIGION VIOLENT?

Ravi Z

In a 2002 article in The Guardian, author Salman Rushdie, inspired by bouts of violence in his native India, articulated a now-common view on religion. The article was titled, “Religion, as ever, is the poison in India’s blood.” In it, Rushdie outlined the familiar stance of the vociferous new atheists, bidding the world to stop speaking of religion in the fashionable language of “respect” and skating around the obvious conclusions about both God and religion. He writes:

“What is there to respect in any of this, or in any of the crimes now being committed almost daily around the world in religion’s dreaded name? How well, with what fatal results, religion erects totems, and how willing we are to kill for them! […] India’s problem turns out to be the world’s problem. What happened in India has happened in God’s name. The problem’s name is God.“(1)

Rushdie’s voice is merely one among many in the increasingly prevalent conversation about God, religion, and violence. Against Christianity, the critiques come quite specifically. Richard Dawkins describes the Christian story as vicious, sado-masochistic, and repellent, symptomatic of a violent God, a Bible full of violence, and followers willing to overlook that violence, or worse, to embrace it. For Dawkins and his conspirators, God is the problem that initiates the problem of violence: ”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, blood-thirsty ethnic cleanser; a misogynist, homophobic, racist, infanticidal, genocidal, filicidal, pestilential, megalomaniacal, sado-masochistic, capriciously malevolent bully. Those of us schooled from infancy in his ways can be desensitized to their horror.”(2)

Unsatisfied altogether by those who try to interpret the Old Testament through the lenses of the New, those who point to Jesus as fulfilling personally and particularly some of the more uncertain images of God, the new atheists see only continuity in the violence of Christian theology.  In Dawkins’ words, “New Testament theology adds a new injustice, topped off by a new sadomasochism whose viciousness even the Old Testament barely succeeds.  It is, when you think about it, remarkable that a religion should adopt an instrument of torture and execution as its sacred symbol… The theology and punishment-theory behind it is even worse.”(3)

While the vitriolic rants of the new atheists are filled with arrogance, oddities, and inconsistencies of their own, their well-voiced objections to Christian violence are hardly unique to them. For many, both in and outside the church, it is an issue deeply felt, a problem that needs a viable answer. Why is it that religion and violence often merge? And what is the solution? For the great majority of those who bravely vocalize such a question, the great “solution” of eradicating religion is simply unhelpful. And in fact some are suggesting the exact opposite, suggesting that the cure to religious violence does not rest in less religion or no religion (an argument that has been on the increase since the Enlightenment), but rather more religion.

In a carefully qualified sense, professor Miroslav Volf explains, “I don’t mean, of course, that the cure for violence lies in increased religious zeal… [rather] it lies in a stronger and more intelligent commitment to the faith as faith.” That is, commitment to the kind of faith that is itself good news, truth and beauty incarnate, a story that reinterprets all others. He continues, “The more we reduce Christian faith to vague religiosity which serves primarily to energize, heal, and give meaning to the business of life whose content is shaped by factors other than faith (such as national or economic interests), the worse off we will be. Inversely, the more the Christian faith matters to its adherents as faith and the more they practice it as an ongoing tradition with strong ties to its origins and with clear cognitive and moral content, the better off we will be.”(4) In other words, Christ’s Incarnation properly understood as a nonviolent invasion of a violent world by the God of shalom hardly fosters violence!

On the contrary, his violent death at the hands of a life-taking world is entirely reversed at the hands of the life-giving Father and the resurrection of a murdered son. His proclamation of a different kingdom is embodied in a God who steps near enough to consume us, but who offers instead a paradoxical alternative: “Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me, and I in him” (John 6:56).  No, Christianity properly understood and entirely embodied cannot be used to incite violence. It instead takes the angry words of its staunchest critics and the vile abuse of misguided disciples, and, like its liberator, lives the radical alternative to the story they tell.

Jill Carattini is managing editor of A Slice of Infinity at Ravi Zacharias International Ministries in Atlanta, Georgia.

(1) Salman Rushdie, “Religion, as ever, is the poison in India’s blood,” The Guardian, March 9, 2002, http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2002/mar/09/society.salmanrushdie, accessed January 15, 2010.

(2) Richard Dawkins, The God Delusion (New York: Houghton Mifflin, 2006), 51.

(3) Ibid., 285.

(4) Miroslav Volf, “Christianity and Violence,” Boardman Lectureship in Christian Ethics, March 6, 2002, http://repository.upenn.edu/boardman/2, accessed January 18, 2010.

Ravi Zacharias Ministry – More or Less Relgion?

Ravi Z

In a 2002 article in The Guardian, author Salman Rushdie, inspired by bouts of violence in his native India, articulated a now-common view on religion. The article was titled, “Religion, as ever, is the poison in India’s blood.” In it, Rushdie outlined the familiar stance of the vociferous new atheists, bidding the world to stop speaking of religion in the fashionable language of “respect” and skating around the obvious conclusions about both God and religion. He writes:

“What is there to respect in any of this, or in any of the crimes now being committed almost daily around the world in religion’s dreaded name?  How well, with what fatal results, religion erects totems, and how willing we are to kill for them! […] India’s problem turns out to be the world’s problem. What happened in India has happened in God’s name. The problem’s name is God.“(1)

Rushdie’s voice is merely one among many in the increasingly prevalent conversation about God, religion, and violence. Against Christianity, the critiques come quite specifically. Richard Dawkins describes the Christian story as vicious, sado-masochistic, and repellent, symptomatic of a violent God, a Bible full of violence, and followers willing to overlook that violence, or often worse, to embrace it. For Dawkins and his conspirators, God is the problem that initiates the problem of violence: ”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, blood-thirsty ethnic cleanser; a misogynist, homophobic, racist, infanticidal, genocidal, filicidal, pestilential, megalomaniacal, sado-masochistic, capriciously malevolent bully. Those of us schooled from infancy in his ways can be desensitized to their horror.”(2)

Unsatisfied by those who point to Jesus as fulfilling personally and particularly some of the more uncertain images of God, the new atheists see only continuity in the violence of Christian theology. In Dawkins’ words, “New Testament theology adds a new injustice, topped off by a new sadomasochism whose viciousness even the Old Testament barely succeeds. It is, when you think about it, remarkable that a religion should adopt an instrument of torture and execution as its sacred symbol… The theology and punishment-theory behind it is even worse.”(3)

The well-voiced objections to Christian violence are hardly unique to the new atheists, whose vitriolic rants are filled with inconsistencies of their own. For many, both in and outside the church, it is an issue deeply felt, a problem that needs a viable answer. Why is it that religion and violence often merge? And what is the solution? For the great majority of those who bravely vocalize such a question, the great “solution” of eradicating religion is simply unhelpful. And in fact some are suggesting the exact opposite, suggesting that the cure to religious violence does not rest in less religion or no religion (an argument that has been on the increase since the Enlightenment), but rather more religion.

In a carefully qualified sense, professor Miroslav Volf explains, “I don’t mean, of course, that the cure for violence lies in increased religious zeal… [rather] it lies in a stronger and more intelligent commitment to the faith as faith.” That is, commitment to the kind of faith that is itself good news, truth and beauty Incarnate, a story that reinterprets all others. He continues, “The more we reduce Christian faith to vague religiosity which serves primarily to energize, heal, and give meaning to the business of life whose content is shaped by factors other than faith (such as national or economic interests), the worse off we will be. Inversely, the more the Christian faith matters to its adherents as faith and the more they practice it as an ongoing tradition with strong ties to its origins and with clear cognitive and moral content, the better off we will be.”(4) In other words, Christ’s Incarnation properly understood as a peaceful invasion of a violent world by the God of peace hardly fosters violence!

On the contrary, his violent death at the hands of a life-taking world is entirely reversed at the hands of the life-giving Father and the resurrection of a murdered son. His proclamation of a different kingdom is embodied in a God who steps near enough to consume us, but offers instead a paradoxical alternative: ”Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me, and I in him” (John 6:56). No, Christianity properly understood and entirely embodied cannot be used to incite violence. It instead takes the angry words of its staunchest critics and the vile abuse of misguided disciples, and, like its liberator, lives the radical alternative to the story they spout.

Jill Carattini is managing editor of A Slice of Infinity at Ravi Zacharias International Ministries in Atlanta, Georgia.

(1) Salman Rushdie, “Religion, as ever, is the poison in India’s blood,” The Guardian, March 9, 2002, http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2002/mar/09/society.salmanrushdie, accessed January 15, 2010.

(2) Richard Dawkins, The God Delusion (New York: Houghton Mifflin, 2006), 51.

(3) Ibid., 285.

(4) Miroslav Volf, “Christianity and Violence,” Boardman Lectureship in Christian Ethics, March 6, 2002, http://repository.upenn.edu/boardman/2, accessed January 18, 2010.

Ravi Zacharias Ministry – God in Public

Ravi Z

God has been in the news a lot lately. From Christian prayers in council meetings, to statements from the highest echelons of the Royal Family and the government, discussion of the place of God and in particular the role of Christianity in Britain today has been in the news on a daily basis. The former Archbishop of Canterbury’s debate with Professor Richard Dawkins captured the twittersphere as Dawkins argued that religion had no place in the 21st century. It seems it is now acceptable to discuss the Christian faith and belief in God in public. From radio studios to the school gate I have enjoyed being a part of this. The role of God in Britain is being discussed up and down the country in government, education, legislation, and community life in a way that I can’t remember in recent history.

While secularism insists that nothing good comes from religion, isn’t it actually the case that it is a Christian heritage that actually provides us with this free and open society—encouraging people to question and reason for themselves? For many, religious faith is a process, a journey of discovery on the basis of evidence, reason, and personal experience. Christianity has provided the foundation in Britain for an open and tolerant society. It was the great Christian leader Augustine who coined the phrase tolerare malus. He claimed that political structure influenced by the Christian faith must tolerate that which it disagreed with and perceived as wrong for the greater good of freedom.

Freedom and tolerance of others arise from a worldview—a set of values and beliefs that are conducive to liberty, they do not come about by random chance. In Britain this foundation or worldview has undeniably been the Christian faith. But this seems to fly in the face of the claims made by leading atheists that belief in God is delusional and oppressive and that people in Britain are not truly religious anyway. Invoking what has come to be known by sociologists as the secularization thesis they tell us that modern countries eventually turn their back on spiritual belief. That as people progress they become less religious.

However, this myth of secularization has plainly not panned out and it has been soundly debunked within academia. The leading sociologist Mary Douglas announced the death of the secularization theory in 1982 in an essay that began with the words, “Events have taken religious studies by surprise.” Even prominent proponents of secularization like sociologist Peter Berger have now abandoned the theory since the world is plainly becoming more religious not less.

Our most profound laws and rights, and the concept of the dignity of the human person expounded in the Magna Carta arise from a Christian vision and assume God’s existence. Our greatest social reform movements from the abolition of the slave trade to the reform of child labor laws, and many other justice movements are the bequest of our Christian heritage as a country. Britain has benefitted so much in our history from Christianity—and this continues today as we see the values of the charitable, tolerant society envisaged by St. Augustine allow for Rowan Williams and Richard Dawkins to debate without fear of reprisals. Does everyone in Britain agree with the central tenets of the Christian faith? No, of course not, but does our Christian heritage make a way for peace, courteous debate, tolerance, inclusion, and freedom? I believe it does.

As people up and down the country discuss belief in God and the newspapers continue to run stories about Christianity, it is my hope that we will continue to see a greater openness to speak and inquire about the gospel in Britain.

Amy Orr-Ewing is director of programmes for the Oxford Centre for Christian Apologetics and UK director for Ravi Zacharias International Ministries in Oxford, England.

(1) Adapted from an article appearing in Christianity Magazine, March 2012.

 

 

Ravi Zacharias Ministry – In Person

Ravi Z

“I’m inclined to suspect that there are very few atheists in prison,” writes Richard Dawkins.(1) In his book The God Delusion, the Oxford biologist sets forth the staggering estimation that post-Christian secular societies are far more moral than societies that operate from a religious foundation. He recounts the horrors carried out in the name of God, moving past the monstrosities of the 20th century at the hands of atheist regimes by claiming their atheism had nothing to do with their behavior. When it comes to behaving ethically, he is insistent that believers are worse than atheists.

British statesman Roy Hattersley, himself a fellow atheist, disagrees. In an article published some time after Hurricane Katrina hit U.S. shores, Hattersley makes some observations about the kind of people doing disaster work long after the disaster has been forgotten. “Notable by their absence are teams from rationalist societies, free thinkers’ clubs and atheists’ associations—the sort of people who not only scoff at religion’s intellectual absurdity but also regard it as a positive force for evil.”(2) His words are bold, even if strewn with typical condescension. He continues:

“Civilised people do not believe that drug addiction and male prostitution offend against divine ordinance. But those who do are the men and women most willing to change the fetid bandages, replace the sodden sleeping bags and—probably most difficult of all—argue, without a trace of impatience, that the time has come for some serious medical treatment.”

Those who confess the truthfulness of Christianity—and so choose to embody its message—have confounded the world for ages. Throughout the second century there emerged a great number of rumors regarding the curious beliefs and practices of Christians. After all, the leader these people claimed to follow was a criminal executed by Roman authorities. There was thus a great deal of suspicion surrounding the motives and behavior of Christians. Why would anyone follow a man who had been crucified? Why would they choose to die rather than renounce their faith? Why would they treat those who hate them with kindness?

A Greek philosopher and opponent of Christianity named Celsus was particularly convinced that Christians were, in fact, insane. The Nativity story, the Incarnation of God in Christ, among other things, seemed to him completely irrational. “What could be the purpose of such a visit to earth by God? To find out what is taking place among humans? Does He not know everything? Or is it perhaps that He knows, but is incapable of doing anything about evil unless He does it in person?”(3)

Similarly buried under insult, Celsus nonetheless had his finger on the very quality of Christianity that makes Christians as curious as the philosophy they profess:  Their God came in person. In fact, they profess, as Celsus claims, God had to come near; though not because God couldn’t speak to us otherwise nor because God was incapable of touching the world from afar. As a Father who longs to gather his children together, God came near because each child matters. God comes to earth—God comes in person, in body, in flesh—because bodies matter, because the Father longs to be near, because one lost, or one hurting, or one in need was one God would not ignore. Insanely in fact, God comes near enough to lay down his life for each of these reasons.

Christmas is about remembering the one who came in person. It is this God who came near and reordered the world, calling us to see life and each other in startling new ways. It is this God who stepped into an ordinary stable to show us God in the ordinary, who touched the unclean and claimed the untouched, whose broken body is given again and again for broken bodies that we might be whole. Our morality, our countenance, our lives are wrought by his coming among us. In each ordinary moment, forgotten victim, and broken soul and body we see the face of God because God first saw us.

Jill Carattini is managing editor of A Slice of Infinity at Ravi Zacharias International Ministries in Atlanta, Georgia.

(1) Richard Dawkins, The God Delusion (New York: Houghton Mifflin, 2006), 229.

(2) Roy Hattersley, “Faith Does Breed Charity,” The Guardian, September 12, 2005.

(3) As quoted by Origen in the apology Against Celsus.

 

Ravi Zacharias Ministry – Evidence

Ravi Z

A charge that some people make is that religion in general and Christianity in particular are irrational. It’s ridiculous to believe in God, they say; there’s no evidence that God even exists! Richard Dawkins, in his best selling book The God Delusion, makes this very claim, saying that faith in God is just like belief in Santa Claus!

But of course, there’s a major problem with comparing faith in God to belief in Santa Claus. I don’t know anybody who came to believe in Santa Claus in adulthood. Yet I know many Christians—often former atheists—who discovered God as adults. This alone should tell you that God and Santa are utterly different. (If they weren’t, one wonders why Richard Dawkins didn’t write “The Santa Delusion.”) Furthermore, thousands upon thousands of great thinkers— now, and throughout history, have believed in God. That alone suggests that belief in God is hardly “irrational.”

But what about the other claim: “You can’t prove God exists!” What might a believing person say to skeptics? Well, I might start by gently pointing out that there are many good arguments that, whilst not proving God exists, certainly suggest God’s existence is extremely likely. There are philosophical arguments, such as the cosmological argument: (i) everything that begins to exist had a cause; (ii) the universe began to exist; (iii) therefore the universe had a cause. Most philosophers would say that’s a powerful argument.

There are also arguments from design. The universe and the laws of nature look, as one physicist once put it, suspiciously like a put up job. Or we might talk about the purpose that seems to be inherent in life. Most of us intuitively know that life has meaning and purpose. Indeed, a question one might fire back at our atheist friends concerns this very point: how does the atheist avoid nihilism, the view that life is meaningless, pointless, and nothing really matters. The question for the nihilist becomes “Why not suicide”?

The Christian would also want to point out that the deepest things that matter to us as humans all lie beyond the physical and the material: morality and meaning, love and friendship, beauty and truth. All of these don’t fit happily with atheism: “Darwinian mistakes,” Richard Dawkins once called them. That to me is tragic.

But perhaps the most powerful evidence for God is the one the Bible uses most consistently. The Bible doesn’t offer an argument for God, rather it points to God’s involvement in the world. Most significantly, that would be how, in the person of Jesus Christ, the God who created the world took on flesh and stepped into our world to rescue and save it. This is not a distant, remote, theoretical God, but a God who is very much alive. That’s a quite different proposition—and if that God exists, that changes everything. C. S. Lewis put it this way: “I believe in Christianity in the same way as I believe that the sun has risen. Not because I see it, but that by it, I see everything else.”

Andy Bannister is a member of the speaking team at Ravi Zacharias International Ministries in Toronto, Canada.

 

 

Insane or In Person? – Ravi Zacharias

 

“I’m inclined to suspect that there are very few atheists in prison,” notes Richard Dawkins.(1) In his book The God Delusion, the Oxford biologist sets forth the staggering estimation that post-Christian secular societies are far more moral than societies that operate from a religious foundation. He recounts the horrors carried out in the name of God, moving past the monstrosities of the 20th century at the hands of atheist regimes by claiming their atheism had nothing to do with their behavior. When it comes to behaving ethically, he is insistent that believers are worse than atheists.

British statesman Roy Hattersley, himself a fellow atheist, disagrees. In an article published some time after Hurricane Katrina hit U.S. shores, Hattersley makes some observations about the kind of people doing disaster work long after the disaster has been forgotten. “Notable by their absence are teams from rationalist societies, free thinkers’ clubs and atheists’ associations—the sort of people who not only scoff at religion’s intellectual absurdity but also regard it as a positive force for evil.”(2) His words are bold, even if strewn with typical condescension. He continues:

“Civilised people do not believe that drug addiction and male prostitution offend against divine ordinance. But those who do are the men and women most willing to change the fetid bandages, replace the sodden sleeping bags and—probably most difficult of all—argue, without a trace of impatience, that the time has come for some serious medical treatment.”

Those who confess the truthfulness of Christianity—and so choose to embody its message—have confounded the world for ages. Throughout the second century there emerged a great number of rumors regarding the curious beliefs and practices of Christians. After all, the leader these people claimed to follow was a criminal executed by Roman authorities. There was thus a great deal of suspicion surrounding the motives and behavior of Christians. Why would anyone follow a man who had been crucified? Why would they choose to die rather than renounce their faith? Why would they treat those who hate them with kindness?

A Greek philosopher and opponent of Christianity named Celsus was particularly convinced that Christians were, in fact, insane. The Nativity story, the Incarnation of God in Christ, among other things, seemed to him completely irrational. “What could be the purpose of such a visit to earth by God? To find out what is taking place among humans? Does He not know everything? Or is it perhaps that He knows, but is incapable of doing anything about evil unless He does it in person?”(3)

Similarly buried under insult, Celsus nonetheless had his finger on the very quality of Christianity that makes Christians as curious as the philosophy they profess:  Their God came in person. In fact, they profess, as Celsus claims, God had to come near; though not because God couldn’t speak to us otherwise nor because God was incapable of touching the world from afar. As a Father who longs to gather his children together, God came near because each child matters. God comes to earth—God comes in person, in body, in flesh—because bodies matter, because the Father longs to be near, because one lost, or one hurting, or one in need was one God would not ignore. Insanely in fact, God comes near enough to lay down his life for each of these reasons.

Christmas is about remembering the one who came in person. It is this God who came near and reordered the world, calling us to see life and each other in startling new ways. It is this God who stepped into an ordinary stable to show us God in the ordinary, who touched the unclean and claimed the untouched, whose broken body is given again and again for broken bodies that we might be whole. Our morality, our countenance, our lives are wrought by his coming among us. In each ordinary moment, forgotten victim, and broken soul and body we see the face of God because God first saw us.

Jill Carattini is managing editor of A Slice of Infinity at Ravi Zacharias International Ministries in Atlanta, Georgia.

(1) Richard Dawkins, The God Delusion (New York: Houghton Mifflin, 2006), 229.

(2) Roy Hattersley, “Faith Does Breed Charity,” The Guardian, September 12, 2005.

(3) As quoted by Origen in the apology Against Celsus.