Thursday, November 16, 2006

Do Christian apologists and atheists agree on something important that much of the world denies?

On the Secular Outpost Jeff Lowder posted a letter by Keith Parsons in response to a letter from William Lane Craig about people who found Christianity irrelevant. I have always found the agreements between atheists and theists to be as interesting as their disagreements, but we don't talk about them as much.

I read the response of Charity's friends differently. I would have thought that it was one of the fundamental areas of agreement between atheists like Parsons and Christian apologists like Craig that the differences between Christian theism and atheism were matters of truth and not relevance, that it does matter whether Christianity is true or not, and that rational argument can at least possibly aid us in resolving the question of whether or not it is true. So I read Charity Craig's friends not as saying that they thought Christianity false (they would have said that if that is what they meant to say) but rather to have fallen into the same sort of postmodern trap that is as old as Protagoras and in fact is as dangerous to modern science as it is to Christianity. "Evolution is an interpretation, and creationism is an interpretation, and there really isn't any such thing as truth, so can't we all just get along, and accept whatever is relevant, and what is relevant to me is true for me, even if it is not true for you."

Craig does indulge in the rhetoric that life is meaningless without God, but at least one can say that if Christianity is true then those who deny it have gotten the wrong meaning out of life. But I must admit that unless Craig can get this argument beyond the stage of exchanging autobiographical reports (T: I found life meaningless without God A: I find life completely meaningful without God) this type of claim does nothing to provide a reason for the hope within.

9 comments:

Anonymous said...

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www.minor-ripper.blogspot.com

Anonymous said...

I think Lewis adequately answers this in Man or Rabbit.

“Can’t you lead a good life without believing in Christianity?” This is the question on which I have been asked to write, and straight away, before I begin trying to answer it, I have a comment to make. The question sounds as if it were asked by a person who said to himself, “I don’t care whether Christianity is in fact true or not. I’m not interested in finding out whether the real universe is more what like the Christians say than what the Materialists say. All I’m interested in is leading a good life. I’m going to choose beliefs not because I think them true but because I find them helpful.” Now frankly, I find it hard to sympathise with this state of mind. One of the things that distinguishes man from the other animals is that he wants to know things, wants to find out what reality is like, simply for the sake of knowing. When that desire is completely quenched in anyone, I think he has become something less than human. As a matter of fact, I don’t believe any of you have really lost that desire. More probably, foolish preachers, by always telling you how much Christianity will help you and how good it is for society, have actually led you to forget that Christianity is not a patent medicine. Christianity claims to give an account of facts—to tell you what the real universe is like. Its account of the universe may be true, or it may not, and once the question is really before you, then your natural inquisitiveness must make you want to know the answer. If Christianity is untrue, then no honest man will want to believe it, however helpful it might be: if it is true, every honest man will want to believe it, even if it gives him no help at all.


http://www.merelewis.org/CSL.gitd.1-12.ManOrRabbit.htm

Steven Carr said...

LEWIS
'Christianity claims to give an account of facts—to tell you what the real universe is like'

DAWKINS
'Either Jesus had a father or he didn't. The question is a scientific one, and scientific evidence, if any were available, would be used to settle it. The same is true of any miracle — and the deliberate and intentional creation of the universe would have to have been the mother and father of all miracles. Either it happened or it didn't. It is a fact, one way or the other.'

CARR
neither Dawkins nor Lewis seem to have much time for the idea that religion and science are talking about different fields of knowledge.

both claim that religion and science deal with facts about the universe

Mike D said...

"so can't we all just get along, and accept whatever is relevant, and what is relevant to me is true for me, even if it is not true for you."

Has anyone else noticed that people confuse the words "relative" and "relevant" in relation to truth so much that they have become synonyms? Drives me nuts.

Steven Carr said...

Lewis's detestable, smug arrogance really comes through in that essay.

With one swoop, he writes off Muslims and Jews as being good people 'If Christianity should happen to be true, then it is quite impossible that those who know this truth and those who don’t should be equally well equipped for leading a good life.'

Then he descends into fantasy 'To the Materialist things like nations, classes, civilizations must be more important than individuals, because the individuals live only seventy odd years each and the group may last for centuries.'

I always thought it was good Catholics like John F. Kennedy who said 'Ask not what your country can do for you. Ask what you can do for your country.' Possibly he realised that a group of individuals was obviously more important than any one individual in a group.

Why do people read Lewis? Is it his smugness that appeals? Or his arrogance?

Victor Reppert said...

The idea is that if someone is going to reject Christianity on the basis of its irrelevance, it looks as if one is failing to ask first whether or not it is true. If it is true, its relevance is inescapable, if it's not true it is about as relevant as any other false doctrine.

Victor Reppert said...

CARR
neither Dawkins nor Lewis seem to have much time for the idea that religion and science are talking about different fields of knowledge.

VR: Both are concerned about truth claims. Whether these are in the same field of knowledge or in different ones is not stated by Lewis. Lewis thought that the kind of scientific thought that leads to naturalism is "truncated" and leaves critical things out of account when advanced as a comprehensive philosophy. Dawkins, of course, disagrees.

SC: both claim that religion and science deal with facts about the universe

VR: Yes, both would disagree with some kind of a "two-truth" theory that would have science and religion playing incommensurable language games. That's the area of agreement that I was pointing to in the post's title. I'm glad we agree on something.

Victor Reppert said...

SC: Lewis's detestable, smug arrogance really comes through in that essay.

VR: Your accusing anyone on earth of detestable, smug arrogance should get a good belly-laugh from most of the readers of this blog.

SC: With one swoop, he writes off Muslims and Jews as being good people 'If Christianity should happen to be true, then it is quite impossible that those who know this truth and those who don’t should be equally well equipped for leading a good life.'

VR: Learn to read, Steven. He never said that Muslims couldn't be good people. He said that people with false beliefs about reality are less well equipped in leading a good life as people with true beliefs. You want to deny that? If you do, then I have trouble understanding your fervor for atheism.

SC: Then he descends into fantasy 'To the Materialist things like nations, classes, civilizations must be more important than individuals, because the individuals live only seventy odd years each and the group may last for centuries.'

I always thought it was good Catholics like John F. Kennedy who said 'Ask not what your country can do for you. Ask what you can do for your country.' Possibly he realised that a group of individuals was obviously more important than any one individual in a group.

VR: Lewis never said that groups were not important. He said they were less important than individuals, since individuals can be saved or lost, and groups cannot. Why can't someone accept Kennedy's claim and still accept the Christian view.

SC: Why do people read Lewis? Is it his smugness that appeals? Or his arrogance?

VR: I sometimes find a level of triumphalism in Lewis's writings that makes me uncomfortable. But that is nothing compared the the smugness of many atheists, especially you, Steven.

Edward T. Babinski said...

Two comments, here and here.