Irenic Thoughts

Irenic. The word means peaceful. This web log (or blog) exists to create an ongoing, and hopefully peaceful, series of comments on the life of King of Peace Episcopal Church. This is not a closed community. You are highly encouraged to comment on any post or to send your own posts.

10/27/2006

Delusional?


Richard Dawkins is an atheist ready to dismantle all religions so that mankind can get on with life without the old superstitions of religion, which he attributes to evolutionary misfiring. His latest book is The God Delusion. In a lengthy book review in The New York Times, reviewer Jim Holt writes,
Despite the many flashes of brilliance in this book, Dawkins’s failure to appreciate just how hard philosophical questions about religion can be makes reading it an intellectually frustrating experience. As long as there are no decisive arguments for or against the existence of God, a certain number of smart people will go on believing in him, just as smart people reflexively believe in other things for which they have no knock-down philosophical arguments, like free will, or objective values, or the existence of other minds.

Dawkins asserts that “the presence or absence of a creative super-intelligence is unequivocally a scientific question.” But what possible evidence could verify or falsify the God hypothesis? The doctrine that we are presided over by a loving deity has become so rounded and elastic that no earthly evil or natural disaster, it seems, can come into collision with it. Nor is it obvious what sort of event might unsettle an atheist’s conviction to the contrary. Russell, when asked about this by a Look magazine interviewer in 1953, said he might be convinced there was a God “if I heard a voice from the sky predicting all that was going to happen to me during the next 24 hours.” Short of such a miraculous occurrence, the only thing that might resolve the matter is an experience beyond the grave — what theologians used to call, rather pompously, “eschatological verification.”

If the after-death options are either a beatific vision (God) or oblivion (no God), then it is poignant to think that believers will never discover that they are wrong, whereas Dawkins and fellow atheists will never discover that they are right.
This fits in with recent blog entries as Dawkins is one who would decidedly say that the Scientific Method is the way to know things. In the evolutionary biologists worldview, there is no way of knowing beyond what can be proved by observation and testing.

But as for the voice-from-heaven proof suggested above, the Christian philosopher Dallas Willard causes his students to confront this quandary each year. I found this illustration in Lee Strobels book, The Case for Faith. Try thinking through this scenario from Willard’s in-class hand-out:
Next Tuesday morning, just after breakfast, all of us in this world will be knocked to our knees by a percussive and ear-shattering thunderclap. Snow swirls, leaves drop from trees, the earth heaves and buckles, buildings topple and towers tumble. The sky is ablaze with an eerie silvery light, and just then, as all the people of this world look up, the heavens open, and the clouds pull apart, revealing an unbelievably radiant and immense Zeus-like figure towering over us like a hundred Everests. He frowns darkly as lightning plays over the features of his Michaelangeloid face, and then he points down, at me, and explains for every man, woman, and child to hear, “I’ve had quite enough of your too-clever logic chopping and word-watching in matters of theology. Be assured, Norwood Russell Hanson, that I most certainly do exist!”
Dallas Willard then asks his students, if the heaven opened and God so spoke that clearly and directly to some guy named Norwood Russell Hanson, what would this Hanson do? Willard’s best guess is that he would explain the whole thing away.

So what do you think? Is there anything that could disprove God to all the faithful of varying religious stripes? Is there anything that could prove God to all those who say, "I have no need of that hypothesis" when thinking of things divine. After all, one could decide that it had just been a delusion. Apparently, this is not a new issue. Jesus ended his story of a rich man and the poor man Lazarus who begged at his gates with the rich man asking God to send Lazarus back to preach to his family. Jesus' punchline was,

"If they won't listen to Moses and the prophets,
they won't listen even if someone rises from the dead."
—Luke 16:31

So if Jesus was convinced returning from the dead wouldn't be enough to give someone faith, what would show God to be more than mere delusion?

peace,
Frank+
The Rev. Frank Logue, Pastor + King of Peace Episcopal Church

3 Comments:

  • At 10/27/2006 10:33 AM, Anonymous Debbie said…

    Not meaning to be a (strict)Calvinist or anything, I can't help but believe that without the convicting power of the Holy Spirit, man cannot of himself come to God. John 6:44 says that "No man can come to me unless the Father draws him;", and Peter's confession in Matthew 16 that Jesus is the Christ was followed immediately by Jesus' assertion that "flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven." In Ephesians 2, Paul said that it was by grace we are saved through faith, and that isn't even ours, but a gift from God as well.

    Knowing man's capacity for denial and self-deception, is it surprising that it would take a move of the Almighty to change the human heart?

     
  • At 10/27/2006 11:11 AM, Anonymous Kenny said…

    Agreed with Debbie but also with these comments.

    I'm a big sci-fi fan so I'm sort of used to thinking about fantastic things happening. In the case you propose, Frank, how would I know that wasn't just an alien pretending to be God to get me to do something?

    Arthur C. Clarke's third law goes something like this: "Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic." This has been used to argue different sides of the question but it can also be used by Christians as defense against getting caught up in "miracles" performed by evil powers.

    That's why the testimony of the Bible should be used as a baseline for what we experience.

    Also, keep in mind the words of Captain Kirk when confronted by 'god.' "What does God need with a starship?" :)

     
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