Friday, 17 February 2012

Funny but meaningless; Sad but meaningful

You might have heard about the Radio 4 fuss the other morning. 

Richard Dawkins was commenting on a survey that showed, apparently, that a lot of people who claim to be Christians who don't believe fundamental Christian doctrines, they don't read the Bible, or know basic things about the Bible (like the first book of the New Testament).  Reverend Giles Fraser of the Church of England asked Dawkins did he know the full title of Darwin's book, On the Origin of Species.  Dawkins floundered, even uttering the name of God (probably an oath rather than a prayer) and got it wrong, (here and here).

Cue great hilarity and guffaws of laughter all around the internet!  Dawkins doesn't know the title of his own "Bible"!!! 

Now, I must admit, it was quite funny, especially because Richard Dawkins claimed without hesitation he could cite the full title.  I had a chuckle, but it was a pretty meaningless point.  I'm quite sure Dawkins is well versed in the theory of evolution (forgive the understatement), and I find that the fact he fluffed a 21 word title to be somewhat irrelevant - I don't think it shows any contradiction between what Dawkins professes to believe and what he actually believes.

What would have been much more meaningful in showing a contradiction between Dawkins' professed and actual beliefs would have been to show that although he said (in Scientific American, November 1995) that there is, in the universe, "no design, no purpose, no evil, no good, nothing but pitiless indifference", he cannot live a life consistent with that statement.  He is constantly condemning people for their "immoral" views, decrying the "evils" of the Bible, objecting to the "bad" behaviour of religious people, exposing the "vice" of willful ignorance, extolling the "virtues" of learning, etc. etc. But according to his worldview these catagories don't exist!  The man is a walking, talking contradiction.  Every time he opens his mouth to condemn any behaviour he contradicts his own professed belief that there is "no purpose, no evil, no good".  Every time he says we ought to behave a certain way he is contradicting his "belief" that we just dance to the music of DNA.  Every time he says we should do this or that, he is violating his own dogma that we are machines for propagating DNA and that is the sole purpose for living (Royal Institution Christmas Lecture, 1991).

Dawkins beliefs are unliveable - they don't match reality, and if they don't match reality then they aren't true.  This is the significant contradiction Dawkins ought to be skewered with every time he presents himself in public.  He can't live consistently with his professed beliefs so he invents morality and purpose and dignity - on his view they aren't real and objective - they are inventions, which he then feels he has the right to force on others.  So in order to get through life Richard Dawkins invents immaterial concepts that he imposes on others...wait a minute!  Is that not what he blasts religious people for doing!?!  Of course it is!  But of course the point is, deep down he knows that morality, purpose and dignity are real, and he also knows atheism can't account for those realities.  Only the Triune God of Scripture can.

Getting back to the census - I must say I feel Rev. Fraser was being far too woolly, and Professor Dawkins had a very valid point - just calling yourself a Christian doesn't make you one.  If I call myself a vegetarian and get stuck into a steak I'm not a vegetarian.  If I say I'm an atheist and yet pray to God every day, I'm not an atheist.  If I refer to myself as a Muslim but don't believe Muhammad was a prophet then I am not a Muslim.  And if I say I am a Christian and yet I don't believe Jesus Christ is the Son of God then I am not a Christian!  It's not rocket science. 

The clergyman needs to be warning the people in this country that what Richard Dawkins is saying is true - there are many people who call themselves Christians and they aren't at all!

The word "Christian" occurs three times in the Bible, Acts 11 v 26; 26 v 28; 1 Peter 4 v 16.  What you find when you look at these passages is that a Christian is someone who has believed the message of the Gospel and turned to the Lord (Acts 11 v 21).  A Christian is someone who has put his faith in the Lord Jesus and has received forgiveness from sin's penalty, freedom from sin's power, and a glorious future inheritance (Acts 26 v 18).  A Christian is someone who has been born again through accepting the message of the Gospel concerning God's Son (1 Peter 1 v 3-5, 23-25).  It is not ticking a box, observing an ordinance, undergoing a ritual or any other external action.  It is a personal, soul-saving, life-changing encounter with the risen Christ, when I recognise my guilt and helplessness, and see that the Lord Jesus is the only one who can save me (because He died for my sins), and I put my trust in Him for salvation. 

People may "self-identify" as Christians, but what matters is does God identify you as one?  He tells you how you can be one - it's only through turning to Christ for salvation.