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Elgin’s Books


  • Christianity and Secularism

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  • Archive for February, 2008

    Consider Christianity Week 2008

    Friday, February 29th, 2008 by Elgin Hushbeck

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    This year’s Consider Christianity Week is March 9th – 15th and is rapidly approaching. The recent release of the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life’s U.S. Religious Landscape Survey shows that it is definitely needed as much now as ever. According to the report, “Religion in the United States is often described as a vibrant marketplace where individuals pick and choose religions that meet their needs, and religious groups are compelled to compete for members. The Landscape Survey confirms that, indeed, there is a remarkable amount of movement by Americans from one religious group to another.”

    One key finding is that “44% of Americans now profess a religious affiliation that is different from the religion in which they were raised.” Thus the key question is, how prepared is your church to compete in the marketplace of religious ideas that now exists?Recently we have seen whole series of challenges enter the religious market place to lure people away from Christianity from bestselling books, such as Harris’ “The End Of Faith,” Dawkins’ “The God Delusion,” and Hitchens “God is not Great” to movies such “The Golden Compass”, and “Zeitgeist the Movie.”Now atheists writing books attacking the truthfulness of Christianity is nothing new. But these threats are different in that they not abstract works aimed at a largely academic audience. They are popular works reaching large audiences, and in fact have been best sellers. They also tend to be different in that they portray Christianity as not just wrong, but as dangerous; Not just as something the educated person should scoff at, but something everyone should not only avoid, but which should be resisted.Zeitgeist the Movie has made quite a stir on the Internet and is behind the upcoming Z-Day which will have hundreds of events around the world to promote its message, a portion of which is strongly anti-Christian. The latter is particularly dangerous as it is aimed directly at a younger U-Tube audience and as an Internet movie has gone largely under the radar.Fifteen years ago when we started Consider Christianity Week, it was already apparent that not only was the culture was becomes increasingly secular and hostile to religion in general and Christianity particular, but that the church was ill equip to deal with the growing threats and focusing on other efforts.That the church’s response has been ineffective is clearly seen in a recent study by the Barna Group, which showed “one of the most significant shifts [in American culture] is the declining reputation of Christianity, especially among young Americans.” All the attacks are having an effect.

    To address these new challenges, Christians more than ever must “do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a workman who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth” (2 Tim 2:15). The main goal of Consider Christianity Week is to equip Christians with the knowledge and ability to “Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do so with gentleness and respect” (1 Pet 3:15).

    This equipping is vitally important, not only for sharing and defending the Gospel in the marketplace of ideas, but it is also vitally important for our own walk with the Lord. As noted in another recent survey, by the Barna Group, only 50% of Evangelical had a Biblical world view. Other Christian groups faired even worst and for the population as a whole it was only 5%. How can we ever hope to proclaim the truth of God’s word, if we don’t even know what God says?

    Another aim of Consider Christianity Week is to promote an interest in Christianity among the general public by correcting many of the lies and myths about Christianity and stressing the positive contributions that Christianity has made to our culture. This is done in the belief that Christianity is not an out dated religious belief, or a belief concerned only with eternity. Christianity is a rational, reasonable, relevant religion. It is not just of historical interest, it is a faith that addresses issues that concerns our daily lives. The solutions that Christians provide are worthy of consideration.

    In short, Consider Christianity Week is devoted to the ideal that Christianity is not just a belief founded on wishful thinking, but a faith solidly grounded in fact. So what are you and your Church doing to counter these attacks? If you are unsure participating in Consider Christianity Week is a good way to start, and you can find more information at www.consider.org.

    This is Elgin Hushbeck, asking you to Consider Christianity: a Faith Based on Fact.

    Is Christianity A Religion

    Friday, February 22nd, 2008 by Elgin Hushbeck

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    Make reference to the “Christian Religion” around other Christians and you are likely to be told something to the effect that ‘Christianity is not a religion is it a relationship.” Now there is some truth in such statements as a key element of Christianity is one’s personal relationship with God. But I believe there is a lot of error, and even some danger as well with such views.

    Often the claim that Christianity is not a religion is said in an attempt to avoid some of the problems that people have with religions. These problems generally fall into two main areas, historical such as with the Inquisition or more personal reasons such as a bad experience. But attempts to avoid these problems rather than confront them are not only misguided, the chance of their working is at best slim.

    Like it or not, it is just a fact that evil has been done by Christians. Whether acting as a result of a relationship, or as a religion, Christians have at times done evil in the name of God. To say otherwise is simply not being truthful and it is well to remember that along with saying that he was the way, and the life, Jesus said he was also the truth. (John 14:6)

    This is also a sobering reminder that as Christians we are representing God and people are watching. We often think of witnessing as something we do occasionally, and probably should do more. The fact is that we are always witnessing. If you are a Christian, unless you hide your Christianity very well, you will be witnessing. So the real question is not will you witness, but rather what kind of witness will you have. Will you live your life in such a way as to draw people towards Christ, or will you live your life in such a way as to push people away.

    But back to people’s problems with religion, rather than trying to avoid the historical problems, a much better strategy is to acknowledge the failings, put them in perspective, and point to the great good that Christians have done, and continue to do, from big things like the abolition of slavery, to small things like helping people in their neighborhood. For example, how many people know about Mission Aviation Fellowship? MAF is a Christian ministry that flies 2.9 million miles a year to serve remote areas that are otherwise unreachable. MAF not only file missionaries, but also supports critical needs such as transporting doctors and medical supplies.

    The danger in these attempts to restrict Christianity to a relationship is in the implied rejection of rituals which is often at the core of such statements. Rituals are out of fashion at the moment as the formalized structure of ritual does not fit in well with our current causal approach to God. Rituals are seen as dry, meaningless, formalize, the epitome of all that is wrong with religion. Yet it is important to note that God must have thought that ritual were important to have included so much of it in the Bible. It is certainly true that ritual by itself is hollow, but it hardly then follows that ritual is the problem.

    Rituals serve many important functions. When rituals are imbued with meaning, they can focus and magnified belief. Rituals also serve as a teaching function. In fact a very good case can be made that it was the central role of ritual in Jewish life that help preserved the Jews for nearly 2000 years without a homeland.

    Perhaps one reason people find ritual so dry and meaningless, is that they were never taught the meaning and significance behind them. This is critically important today, as it is becoming increasingly common that when children leave home, they leave the Church as well. As I have cited before Josh McDowell has documented in his book, “The Last Christian Generation” how many young people see church as just a series of events with little impact on their spiritual life. (pg 59 – 61)

    Ritual teaches a habit of worship, a worship that is not based on feelings or mood. We all have ups and downs in our spiritual life. During the good times rituals amplify and focus our worship to make it even better. During the lows ritual can carry us through to return to the good times.

    One other benefit of ritual is that it can help maintain the view of the Holiness of God. Much of our understanding of God is a balancing of seemingly conflicting views. We cannot understand how God is three persons, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit and yet God is one. We cannot understand how Jesus could be God incarnate. We do not always understand how God’s Love lines up with God’s justice. Currently the idea of God as our Father and friend is dominated, and he is. But at times this attitude about becomes so casual as to conflict with another truth, the truth that God is God almighty.

    Here is a quick test, what does the Bible mean when it says that “Holy, Holy, Holy is the Lord God Almighty” (Rev 4:8)? What does the Apostle Paul mean when he says “we know what it is to fear the Lord?” (2 Cor 5:11) If these verses don’t have much meaning or even seem to conflict with your view of God, perhaps you could use some more ritual in your worship.

    This is Elgin Hushbeck, asking you to Consider Christianity: a Faith Based on Fact.

    A Review of Richard Dawkins’ The God Delusion – Summary

    Wednesday, February 20th, 2008 by Elgin Hushbeck

    The following is an outline of my review of Richard Dawkins’, “The God Delusion

    Part I – Chapter One
    Three major problems with Dawkins’ approach

    Part II – Chapter One
    Discussion of the “educated elite,” and how it is a negative term. How the errors of the educated elite are similar to the errors of atheism.

    Part III – Chapter One
    How Dawkins statements show that hope and faith disguised as science are a major factor.

    Part IV – Chapter One
    Dawkins’ claim that there is a belief that religion should not be attacked.

    Part V – Chapter Two
    Dawkins’ view of God, and his idea that theology “has not moved on in 18 centuries.”

    Part VI – Chapter Two
    Dawkins discussion of the Founding Father.

    Part VII- Chapter Three
    Aquinas arguments for the existence of God.

    Part VIII – Chapter Three
    Dawkins main rebuttal to Aquinas, the problem of the definition of Natural and Supernatural.

    Part IX – Chapter Three
    More problems with Dawkins attempt to rebut Aquinas – the wrong type of sequence.

    Part X – Chapter Four
    Point 1- 3 of Dawkins central argument of the book.

    Part XI – Chapter Four
    Point 4- 6 of Dawkins central argument of the book.

    Part XII – Chapter Five
    The origin of Religion – the freedom of speculation, in absence of evidence.

    Part XIII – Chapter Six
    The origin of Morality – the role of chance and meaning.

    Part XIV – Chapter Six
    The origin of Morality – the evolution as a tautology – evolution as a source for morality.

    Part XV – Chapter Seven
    Morality in the Bible – Dawkins errors of interpretation.

    Part XVI – Chapter Seven
    The Moral Zeitgeist as a moral foundation

    Part XVII – Chapter Seven
    The role of absolutism and Summation

    A Review of Richard Dawkins’ The God Delusion Part XVII

    Friday, February 15th, 2008 by Elgin Hushbeck

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    The latter part of the Richard Dawkins’, “The God Delusion”  becomes increasingly speculative as he applies his view of atheism and religion to topics such as homosexuality, abortion, and children and these issues would be better treated in more general discussion of the individual topics than a specific review of Dawkins’ slant on them.

    One point Dawkins makes, however, is worthy of comment and on this point I will conclude my review.  It is when he talks about the “dark side of absolutism.” (pg 284) There is a lot of truth to Dawkins’ comments on this subject, and yet because they are true, they actually undermine Dawkins main point at the same time.

    As he has throughout his book, Dawkins points to examples of religious people being so sure they were correct that they made their beliefs into law, or in some other way forced their beliefs on others. Such as a Pakistani Doctor sentenced to death for blasphemy because he said Muhammad was not a Muslim before he invented Islam.

    The problem for Dawkins is can be seen in his claim that “Such absolutism nearly always results from strong religious faith.”  To see the problem in Dawkins statement we need to consider that nature of this dark side of absolutism and what makes it so bad.  At its core absolutism, is simply enforcing what you believe to be true on others. All societies do this to some extent. After all, that is what a law is; it is the power of the state forcing people to do some things and prohibiting them from doing others.  For example, we as a society are pretty absolute and downright intolerant when it comes to child molesters, and I would argue this is a good thing.

    Absolutism becomes dark when the truth being enforced becomes uncertain, and it is this dark absolutism that we generally are referring to when we talk of absolutism.    This is a difficult area to discuss because people do not see themselves as being on the dark side of absolutism, they see themselves as standing up for the truth, or right, or good.

    For example, currently there is a major debate over man-made global warming. Those who believe in it are trying to pass laws to prevent it. Those who do not believe it label these laws as part of the dark side of absolutism. Thus whether or not this is an example of the darker side of absolutism largely depend on what you believe.

    Dawkins is certainly correct that throughout the history of religion the dark side of absolutism has been a factor.  What he fails to see is that, contrary to his statement, such absolutism is not at all restricted to religion, and in fact it is even a prominent part of modern day atheism. 

    For example, almost everyone in western civilization, if not the world, would agree that the Taliban destruction of the Buddhist statues was an example of the dark side of absolutism. But at its core, how is this action any different than the atheist demanding the removal of a tiny Cross that was in seal of the city of Redlands, or any of the numerous other examples of the atheist desire to expunge society of religion.  Was the Taliban’s was seeking to remove any vestige of religion symbols they disagreed with really that different than the atheist desire to remove religious symbols they disagree with, particularly if they are Christian.

    But that is the problem with such absolutism; it is very difficult to see from the inside. This is particularly true when the belief that one is correct, is coupled with corresponding view that others are wrong.  Dawkins and other atheist undoubtedly sees themselves as defending reason and science, when in reality they are often guilty of the same sort of intolerance and in some cases bigotry that they are so critical of in religion. 

    I said earlier that Dawkins comments on absolutism undermine the main point of his book.  If one takes Dawkins comments on such absolutism to heart, then it is hard to reach any other rational conclusion than that it is this dark absolutism which is the real problem not religion.  In fact if you remove all the example of religious absolutism from Dawkins book, what remained would be some theories of the existence of God, some comments on the reliability of the Bible, and very little else. In short, though aimed at religion his book is really more an indictment of this dark absolutism in religion, something I and I believe most Christians also condemn, even if we don’t accept all of his examples.

    To sum up this review, Dawkins’ book fails at almost every point, except his criticism of religious absolutism, but even here he mistakenly see this as an indictment of all religion, rather than an indictment on absolutism.  He is quick to point out any flaw of particular religions or religious believers as automatically an indictment of all religion. Yet, any positive quality or action is either ignored or written off as due to something other than religion.  More damming is that his knowledge of religion is often superficial if not actually in error.  Ultimately Dawkins book is more an example of atheist’s absolutism than any serious attack on religion much less Christianity.

    This is Elgin Hushbeck, asking you to Consider Christianity: a Faith Based on Fact.

    A review of Evidence for the Bible

    Tuesday, February 12th, 2008 by Elgin Hushbeck
    Christopher Smith,a Master’s student in Christan History at Wheaton College, has written a review of my book,  here is my response to his first installment:

    Let me first thank you for both your review, and for the kind introductory remarks. As for your more critical comments, I think they somewhat miss the mark, for a couple of reasons.

    First, writing any book involves a whole series of choices and tradeoff. One of the decisions I made was to make this a more popular book rather than a more scholarly one, aimed at the educated non-Christian, rather than the biblical scholar. Because of this I drew on more popular books and addressed arguments my target audience would likely have encountered, such as in an introductory class in religion at a secular college, or in a popular best seller, or magazine, etc.

    I knew at the time this would not satisfy the scholarly minded, but then that was not my audience, and space is limited. Granted, I may not have mentioned the particular scholars you wanted to see (part of which may be that these are expanded and updated versions of an early work). On the other hand, at least I do cite a number of critics, many scholars, and much of the book is dealing with their arguments, which is far better than most of the critics, who for the most part completely ignore all conservative opposition, or if they do mention it, do so only as an off handed dismissal.

    One particularly annoying comment in its pettiness, and one which I found to be at best somewhat misleading was when you commented “Hushbeck’s ignorance, of German, moreover, is painfully evident. In one place he refers to “the German scholar Frank” (meaning, apparently, Franz Hermann Frank) and spells two German words in the title of “Frank’s” book incorrectly. The omission of the author’s first name, the publisher information, and a page number makes it altogether evident that he’s relying on Josh McDowell’s partial citation of this work.”

    First let me plead guilty as charged to having no real working knowledge of German. In fact, there are a whole range of languages that I have no working knowledge off, and in some cases no knowledge at all. But then I never claimed otherwise. Considering that these two misspelled words appeared only in an endnote, they hardly are a substantial incitement against the book itself. As for relying on McDowell for this quote, again I plead guilty, though I am somewhat puzzled while you needed all of those clues you cited to make this “evident,” when the citation you mentioned included “quoted in Josh McDowell, Evidence That Demands a Verdict Vol. II (San Bernardino, CA: Here’s Life Pub., 1975) p. 7”

    As for me not bothering to check these, you speak from ignorance. While, there was no way you could have know, the research for this book took me several years, and I went to great lengths to check out the quotes in the book. Now at the time, I was working for JPL and traveled across the country, to Europe and Australia and thus was able to visit libraries such as at Harvard, and the National Library in Australia. During this time was able to find almost all of the works cited. I believe that the quote you cited is the only quote in both books I was not able to verify, which is why I cited it the way I did. Hardly an unknown practice, even among scholars and certainly not worthy of criticism.

    Frankly of far more interest to me than the irrelevances of whether or not searching all these libraries constitutes “bothering” is whether or not the quote is accurate. If the quote is accurate it really does not matter how it came into the book. If it is not, then I would really like to know so that I can remove it. So is it accurate?

    As far as the sources tending to be from a conservative perspective, that is simply false. The general pattern for the book is to cite the critics and then deal with what they are saying. As result, I cite both critical and supportive works, and do cite scholarly critics.

    Much the same can be said for the two chapters on science, though you ignored most of both chapters to focus on the last section that dealt with evolution. But even here you seem to have missed the point. The focus here was not so much to argue that evolution is wrong, but rather to address the question why is it that so many Christians question evolution. Perhaps a few words on theistic evolution should have been included, though I would point out that my personal experience with my target audience is that while they are well aware of theistic evolution as an option, and I do say there is a diversity of opinion in this area, most have never seen a serious treatment of the arguments against evolution, for these arguments have been pretty successfully suppressed outside Christian circles.

    As for simply “parroting” Christian apologists, sure I cite some, where it is appropriate, just like I cite critics such as Carl Sagan, Robert Jastorw, and semi-critical scientists such as Steven Hawkings. I would point out that Dallas Willard, hardly someone uninformed in on these matters, told me that he had never encountered some of these arguments when I wrote them in a paper for him, which was why he encouraged me to publish. As such this charge is hard to see as anything other than slanting.

    In summary, I would say that your review so far has been long on accusation, and short on substance. Perhaps in later posts you will get into more detail, but so far you have demonstrated the academic’s over preoccupation with citations, rather than actual argument, at times drifting very close to ad hominem attack when you at least imply that certain sources are to be rejected While you praise me for dealing with so much in so few pages, (and length was a key consideration when writing the book, and much was left out or cut), you turn around and are very critical for not going into greater detail. Again I think the audience I was targeting address most of these criticism. More to the point, nothing you have said so far actually challenges the any of arguments I make in the book.

    BTW, while I thank you for the promotion, I only have two masters degrees, not a phd.

    A Review of Richard Dawkins’ The God Delusion Part XVI

    Friday, February 8th, 2008 by Elgin Hushbeck

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    In the last installment of my review of Richard Dawkins’, “The God Delusion” I looked at Dawkins’ arguments for why we can’t use the Bible as the basis for our morality. But if we cannot use the Bible then where should we get our morals?

    For Dawkins, the answer to this question is the Moral Zeitgeist, which Dawkins sees as “a consensus about what we do as a matter of fact consider right and wrong: a consensus that prevails surprisingly widely.” (pg 262).

    Now there is some truth to this statement.  Certainly there is a Moral Zeitgeist, a general consensus about right and wrong, and Dawkins easily shows this by pointing out a whole list of historical examples of things that were acceptable during their time, but which would be condemned today. 

    In fact as I have frequently argued, to properly understand people in the past one must understand the general consensus of the times.  While very common, it is grossly unfair to condemn those in the past who broke with the conventions of their day to move society forward, simply because they did not quite meet our current standards.

    So when it comes to the existence of a Moral Zeitgeist, Dawkins is on solid ground. Where he runs into problems is when he goes beyond the existence of the Moral Zeitgeist and argues that this should be the foundation for our morality, something it cannot be. His claim that it is, is simply irrational.

    To see this consider the following statement by Dawkins, “The Zeitgeist may move, and move in a generally progressive direction, but as I have said it is a sawtooth not a smooth improvement, and there have been some appalling reversals.” (pg 272)

    While a seemingly innocuous statement, it actually completely undermines Dawkins claim. If Dawkins were correct and the Zeitgeist did in fact define our morality, then there could be no concept of progress or reversal.  Whatever the Zeitgeist said was good, would be good, and whatever the Zeitgeist said was evil would be evil. In those areas today where the Moral Zeitgeist allow slavery, slavery would be good. In those areas where family members should kill a daughter who was raped to so as to end the dishonor to the family, then it would be a good thing to kill a daughter who was raped.  That would be the moral Zeitgeist.

    If slavery were to be reintroduced, or honor killing introduced into 21st century America, and sadly both honor killing and slavery, though thankfully rare are beginning to occur here, it could not be seen as a step backward, but merely a change, for again it would be the moral Zeitgeist that ultimately determined right and wrong, and thus there would be no way to say that one Moral Zeitgeist was any better than any other Moral Zeitgeist. 

    The very fact that Dawkins talks of a “generally progressive direction” and “appalling reversals,” shows that there must be something beyond the Moral Zeitgeist that is actually the foundation for morality. 

    In fact without such a foundation, there would be no reason to even change the Zeitgeist.  Slavery was ended when Christians argued that it was immoral, regardless of what the Zeitgeist said.  In fact most of the improvements Dawkins cites were brought about by people, often with Christians in the lead, arguing that these things were wrong, thereby changing the Moral Zeitgeist of their time.

    Ultimately, Dawkins view is completely unworkable, for if it were true, how could anyone argue anything it terms of morality?  In fact all of Dawkins arguments discussed earlier about the immorality of the Bible would be meaningless. They would not be things to condemn as Dawkins attempts to do, they would simply be a different moral Zeitgeist and again there would be no way to say that our current Zeitgeist is any better or worse than any other Zeitgeist.

    In short, Dawkins wants to have it both ways. His view of morality is firmly grounded and should be accepted, so much so that he condemns those who disagree with his view.  Yet if we subject his moral views to the same scrutiny, they fall apart.

    Whether one agrees with Christian morality or not, at least Christians have a foundation upon which to base their moral views. At least Christians have a basis to say that Society has improved, and not just changed.  At least Christians have a track record that puts them in the forefront of the moral advances that society has made. Christianity does not by any means have a perfect record, but it is a good one that on the whole Christians should be proud of.  The strongest criticism that can be mounted against Christian morality is that Christians have not always lived up to the teaching of Jesus.

    In place of this Dawkins proposes a muddled view that is at best logically inconsistent, and one that conflict with his own claims. It is a view that places the greatest good on the same level as the greatest evil, with no means of saying one is any better than the other, except that one may happens to be part of the general outlook of the time.

    The most amazing thing about Dawkins’ claim is that he really believes he is the one with the rational position.

    This is Elgin Hushbeck, asking you to Consider Christianity: a Faith Based on Fact.  

    A Review of Richard Dawkins’ The God Delusion Part XV

    Friday, February 1st, 2008 by Elgin Hushbeck

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    In chapter 7 of his book, “The God Delusion” Richard Dawkins, turn the issue of morality and the Bible.  Dawkins lays down his goal pretty clearly in the opening paragraph when he says that the Bible, “encourages a system of morals which any civilized modern person whether religious or not, would find – I can put it no more gently – obnoxious.”  As for the millions of people who do get their morality from the Bible and yet somehow seem to be civilized and modern, Dawkins claims that “they either do not read it, or do not understand it.”

    As a Christian friend of mine is fond of saying when confronted with such statements, “And yet here I stand.” The simple fact is that there are many people who do read and understand the Bible, probably a lot more than Dawkins, who reach vastly different conclusion.

    It is true that on the one hand there are the extreme fundamentalists who insist that any deviation from how they read the Bible is heresy. In fact, in some cases they even argue that if you don’t read the same translation they do, you must be a heretic.  Yet on the other hand there are the skeptics like Dawkins who, if you deviate from how they read the Bible you are picking “which bits of scripture to believe” (pg 238).  Other than the conclusions they reach, I find very little difference between the two groups, as they both have a very superficial view of scripture, and dogmatically reject any deviation from their view.

    Again Dawkins is not completely at fault here for he relies on the work of liberal scholars who are also critical of the scripture, such as Bishop Shelby Spong. But as I detail in my book, Evidence for the Bible, Liberal scholars are often little better than these other two groups. For example a while back I heard Bishop Spong being interviewed on the radio and he said that the Gospel of John that was anti-Semitic, and he knew of no scholars who would argue differently.  This means that he was completely unaware of those scholars, for they certainly do exist.  D. A Carson for example, in his Commentary on John’s Gospel, lists other possible understandings and argues quite convincingly from the text that anti-Semitism simply does not fit.

    Dawkins’ analysis of the Bible starts out by listing the acts of God he considers immoral such as Noah and the Flood, and Sodom and Gomorrah. There are two main problem Dawkins faces with these arguments. The first, as discussed in earlier installments of this review, is on what basis of morality are we to make such criticism?

    A bigger problem however, is that to really judge the morality of an action, we need to have all the relevant information the person had at the time.  Without that information, an act that seems immoral could in fact have been moral in light of the addition information.  For example, if all you knew was that John cut Mary with a knife, that might seem immoral until you find out that John was a doctor removing a cancerous growth.

    The simple fact is that we can never hope of have all the relevant information available to God so as to be in a position to pass judgment on God.  Nor does this really matter, in terms of our morality, as even in the Bible these are special cases, and not models for us to follow today.

    Another problem in Dawkins critique is that he at times fails to distinguish between the Bible describing what happened, and the Bible telling us how we should act. For example, he cites the instance in Judges where a priest cut up his concubine into 12 pieces (Judges 19).   But as the book of Judges says about the period, “in those days Israel had no king; everyone did as he saw fit.” (Judge 21:25)  One of the unique aspects of the Bible is that it does not present the main figures as perfect and noble, but as flawed.   We are not so much to follow their actions, but frequently to learn from their mistakes.  But Dawkins often is too busy ridiculing to notice such distinctions.

    One of the stranger side trips Dawkins takes, is when he condemns “America’s Ten Commandment tablet-toters” arguing that they should be praising the Taliban for their destruction of Buddhist statues.  He says “I do not believe there is an atheist in the world who would bulldoze Mecca—or Chartres, York Minster or Notre Dame,  the Shew Dagon, the temples of Kyoto, or of course, the Buddhas of Bamiyan.” (pg 249)  Apparently Dawkins is unaware that much of the controversy in the U.S. is over the removal of Christian religious symbols such as crosses and the Ten Commands.  In short, those in the U.S. acting like the Taliban in their intolerant seeking to remove religious symbols they disagree with are not Christians, but atheists.

    Finally Dawkins fail to consider the historical context of the time. For example, he asked if a whole range of offenses should have the death penalty, starting with cursing your parents. This was nothing new to the age, in fact even today; in some cultures parent have the right and even the duty to kill their children that dishonor them. What was new in the Bible’s command was that parents had to “bring him to the elders at the gate of his town.”  The change the teaching of the Bible brought about was that the power to kill was removed from the parents. But like in so much of his analysis, Dawkins missed the point of the passage.  

    This is Elgin Hushbeck, asking you to Consider Christianity: a Faith Based on Fact.