“Man vs. God”

Google Spotlight is an interesting thing. In the last several weeks since its launch, I have found myself increasingly scrolling past the normal news headlines from around the world which populate Google News to this strange new section at the very bottom of the page which purports to focus on the last great stronghold for traditional media: investigative reporting. Usually, the links in this section prompt me to either nod my head in agreement or, perhaps more likely, shake my fist in defiance. Always, they compel me to think.

Such was the case with the “Nightmare of Christianity” article I commented on yesterday, and such is the case with “Man vs. God” ( http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052970203440104574405030643556324.html ), published by none other than the Wall Street Journal, which is really two essays purported to independently answer the question, “Where does evolution leave God?”

Like “Nightmare of Christianity,” “Man vs. God” is a painfully prejudiced piece penned by Karen Armstrong and Richard Dawkins. The first of these, Karen Armstrong, has written a number of works on religion and theology, but from her narrative, it is abundantly clear that her concept of God is a lot different than mine. Essentially, she thinks of God less as an actual person, being, or even thing, and more as an abstract mental construct conceived – or, probably more accurately, conjured or contrived – to answer the transcendent questions of life and provide comfort in times of difficulty and pain. And the second, Richard Dawkins, is an avowed atheist whose work, including the book The God Delusion, has earned him a reputation as a fierce opponent of theism (i.e., the belief in God) and a favorite proponent of atheistic evolution.

Setting aside, for the moment, the fact that there is no actual theist (i.e., a person who believes in God) present and the obvious journalistic bias that betrays, I do believe it is essential for Christians to recognize a few things about these essays.

The first thing that I would point out is the conclusions that each author presents. Armstrong argues that evolution does not negate God or, perhaps more accurately, the perceived need for “God.” In other words, she believes that religion will always exist, if only as a means to address the fundamental questions in life that science can’t answer such as “Why am I here?”, “How shall I live?”, etc. And Dawkins argues that the absolute certainty of Darwinian evolution makes the concept of a creator-god redundant and, therefore, unnecessary, undesirable, and ultimately unbelievable. The significance of these conclusions is that, if God is, at most, nothing more than a construct of our imaginations born out of our intrinsic desire to answer the otherwise unanswerable questions in life, then we can have no real responsibility or obligation to Him. In other words, we can call on Him if we feel like it, if we need to, but we don’t have to feel guilty about not doing what He says.

I believe that these same conclusions, expressed or not, are at the center of the predominant worldview of our day. While most probably won’t go so far as to completely reject the notion of God, as Dawkins does, the vast majority of our culture operates under the presumption that God, if He is real, is a great Guy to run to in times of trouble or pain or uncertainty but should – and in fact, does – hold no other sway over life. Our world operates under the assumption that God, real or not, is inconsequential.

And to support that conclusion, Armstrong and Dawkins present a couple of key arguments that represent the second thing I would point out about this article. For Armstrong, these arguments go along these lines: the fossil record shows that, if there is a God, he/she/it must be, at best, indifferent to his/her/its creation. Historically, even theistic cultures have recognized this fact. But because there will always be questions that science can’t really answer, humans will always conjure up something or someone to fill in the gaps. And for Dawkins, it takes this form: since science has established with certainty that life evolved through a process of random events governed by the immutable laws of physics, there is left no reason or room for the existence of God.

On the surface, these arguments sound logical. But when you really start to analyze them, they begin to fall apart. Armstrong’s rendition of history, for example, is clearly skewed as she asserts that Christian, Jewish, and other theistic scholars of antiquity never really bought into the notion of “God” as anything more than a way to feel better about themselves and life. Clearly, she’s never heard of the twelve apostles who believed so strongly that their God was absolutely, undeniably real that they were willing to sacrifice their lives long before the 17th century she points to. And Dawkins’ entire line of reasoning depends on the assumption that Darwinian evolution is fact, but the truth is, there are glaring holes that Charles Darwin himself acknowledged and many respected scientists today are beginning to highlight. In fact, the notion that single atoms and molecules could evolve into even a single-cell organism, let alone the complex and even intelligent multi-cell organisms such as man, simply by random chance, even with the laws of physics governing them, has been equated to the idea that a ticking pocketwatch found at the precise center of a stump in the woods was the result of the individual components of that watch falling in precisely the right order, into exactly the right positions, from orbit. Although, technically, such an event is mathematically possible, the probability is infinitesimal. And even if it did happen, one would have to ask, where did the components come from? No, not even the notion of Darwinian evolution truly excludes the possibility of God. Even if it were proven beyond the shadow of a doubt that life was the result of evolution, just as we would assume that someone assembled that watch and set it there, it is entirely – in fact, I would submit, only – reasonable to think that someone – some Creator – must have had a hand in the process.

The importance of these flaws in the logic underlying Armstrong’s and Dawkins’ conclusions cannot be overlooked. As I said in my comments about “The Nightmare of Christianity” yesterday, we Christians have absolutely nothing to be ashamed or afraid of when it comes to debating those who would deny the existence of God or the truth of the gospel message. There is more than enough for us to stand on. But – and this is a big and crucial but – the fact that these purported experts can get away with such blatantly and catastrophically faulty reasoning betrays an essential truth that all Christians must acknowledge and address.

Which brings me to the third thing I would point out. Logic doesn’t matter. Indeed, I am wholly convinced – and Armstrong’s and Dawkins’ broken arguments almost irrefutably prove – that the vast majority of our culture doesn’t care that we can debate their champions under the table. They have heard the Church of Christ bellyache about everything under the sun. They have felt themselves disconnected from congregations unwilling to adjust anything for anyone at anytime, let alone actually reach out to meet others’ needs. They have seen “the people of God” that are hypcritical, overbearing, and/or condescending jerks. They want nothing to do with any of that stuff, and if they can come up with even a weak rationale for their rejection of God and His gospel message, it’ll be more than good enough.

To be honest, when I first started reading “Man vs. God” yesterday, my initial reaction was to stand up and scream, “How can you buy into this?” But then I realized that it wouldn’t really matter. What matters to the people who listen to the likes of Armstrong and Dawkins is much, much simpler than a logical apologetic. They want to see a faith and a God that are real.

They want to see a believer who truly lives out the faith that he claims and strives to come alongside and help others do the same.

They want to feel the impact of a church that will become the body of Christ and actually reach out to meet other people’s needs.

They want to hear the good news of Jesus Christ to which His Church was called to witness.

So stop worrying about whether or not you can debate the atheist in the next cubicle. Stop obsessing about which candidate is the key to putting our nation back on the right track. Stop poring over end-time prophecies and praying that God would come and rapture you today.

Start living your life as though God is real, the gospel of Jesus Christ is true, and the Spirit of God is springing up within you to abundant and overflowing life that you just can’t help but share with the world.


1 Response to ““Man vs. God””

  1. 1 Roger Metcalf September 17, 2009 at 2:36 am

    Jeremy, I think your analysis is right on. Great job! I wholeheartedly agree with your conclusion – if we are ever going to win people for Christ we have to live a life that is attractive to them. We have to be “different” than the world because Christ has changed us.

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