Friday, December 15, 2006

The God Delusion: Does Testimony Count For Nothing?

This is a quote from a review of the book, "The God Delusion", by Richard Dawkins. It basically sums up what the book is all about:

"...(Dawkins argues that) while Europe is becoming increasingly secularized, the rise of religious fundamentalism, whether in the Middle East or Middle America, is dramatically and dangerously dividing opinion around the world. In America, and elsewhere, a vigorous dispute between 'intelligent design' and Darwinism is seriously undermining and restricting the teaching of science. In many countries religious dogma from medieval times still serves to abuse basic human rights such as women's and gay rights. And all from a belief in a God whose existence lacks evidence of any kind. Dawkins attacks God in all his forms, from the sex-obsessed, cruel tyrant of the Old Testament to the more benign, but still illogical, Celestial Watchmaker favoured by some Enlightenment thinkers."

First off, let me make this clear that I am writing what follows from a Christian perspective. I've been a committed Christian 14 years and reading about a book which makes these sort of claims warrants a response.

Having not read the book myself yet, I don't know in detail what he says, but saying that there is no evidence for the existence of God is wrong for a start. Firstly, and most importantly, there is the Bible. Jesus of Nazereth is acknowledged to have lived, both by atheist and Christian historians alike. The only difference is that Christians beleive he was the Son Of God. The people who wrote the New Testament down clearly did as well, and some had personal experience of living with the man Himself for 3 years and witnessing Him after His resurrection as proof. You cannot just dismiss their experiences and words as non-evidence. After all, in a court of law today we rely on the personal testimony of individuals, why should this not be the case with the Bible?

Does Dawkins have any evidence to disprove testimony from the gospels and those living at the time which shows that a man called Jesus of Nazereth living around 30AD fulfilled all 322 Old Testament prophecies about the Son of God? Is that not evidence? The odds of that number of prophecies being fulfilled in one person at one time are so high that it's nigh on impossible that it could ever happen. But it did in the case of Jesus of Nazereth. From where He was born, to His family line, how he would die and even the fact that soliders would cast lots for His clothes when He was excuted, all the prophecies about the Messiah were fulfilled by Jesus of Nazereth. It's simply too many to be just a coincidence.

Then of course there is the testimony of the millions of Christians living today. I myself have seen people's lives transformed through coming to faith in Christ and seen people healed of serious diseases and conditions in front of my very eyes. I've experienced God's Holy Spirit and healing in my own life and been given words from God for other people which have been completely accurate, without any prior knowldege on my part of their own thoughts and situation and in some cases never having met the person before. You can't make something like that up. Is this not evidence for God, or is it just made up, or tricks of the brain - becuase I know what I've seen and experienced is not made up and just cannot be attributed to tricks of the brain. Your brain can't tell you something specific about a person you've never met before on it's own, no matter how powerful. It's real. It's true.

The argument that there is suffering therefore no God does not hold water and avoids personal responsiblity. God is a God of freedom, He gives us a choice of how to live our lives. If we choose to reject his ways and follow our own selfish desires, then eventually, taken to its extreme, then extreme suffering will result. But if God forced everyone to follow His teachings there would be no individual choice and no freedom, we'd all be robots. That's a God of tyranny, not a God of love. God's love for us gives us freedom, which we have abused. That is why there is suffering in the world. I lost my Mum in April 2000. She was a good person, a Christian. Why? Did she deserve to die young? She suffered from chronic asthma, a condition which like all other illnesses and conditions came about from our rebellion from God, not from God Himself. I don't blame God for her death and in hindsight God has used it for the good of many people. It was her time, and now she's in a better place. Would I want her back? Yes, of course. But she's gone, and I will see her again I beleive. But what happened to her was not God's fault. Human choices have resulted in suffering all through time, and all evil - including suffering, sickness and disease - came into our world not through God but the choice of the human race to rebel against Him.

Human beings go to war, not God, and God's timing is better than ours. He intervenes at different points in human history - but only at the right time. Who are we to question God, considering He is perfect, and the human race are far from it? God made human beings perfectly until they chose to rebel against Him. He also made the universe, He made time itself. Originally everything He made was perfect, until the human race rebelled against Him.

He is also ultimately, perfectly just. Sometimes He allows things to happen that we don't understand. That is why He is God and we are not. He sees all things that have and will happen. He loves all people equally, more than any human being is capable of loving. It's a hard truth, but don't underestimate the responsiblity of human beings for the suffering of this world.

It must also be remembered that God's ways are not our own ways, so sometimes He is difficult to understand and there is an element of mystery about Him. If there were not, we would be equal with Him and He would not be God. We have to allow for that element of mystery.

God loves all people - whatever race, religion, gender, age, colour or sexual orientation they may be. Christians don't beleive homsexuality is the way God made humans to be, but that doesn't mean He hates homosexuals. He loves them as much as anybody else, and they should be treated equally to all other human beings. All human beings have sinned - rebelled against God and disobeyed His commands - in one way or another, and there is no sin worse than another. No-one has a right to judge anyone but God Himself, who as our creator and the perfect, supreme being above all others warrants that position. Any Christian who codemns and judges gays and lesbians or any minority group does not I beleive understand the true notion of grace and forgiveness so inherent to the God of Christianity. They should 'remove the plank from their own eye before looking at the speck in anothers'. Women are very important in the Bible, from Esther to Ruth in the Old Testament to Mary mother of Jesus and then Mary Magdelene, the first Christian evangelist. Jesus throughout His ministry repsected and honoured women, treating them as equals. Some of the writings about women in the New Testament need to be put in context of a culture which saw women as second class citizens, and not as a teaching to apply for all of time. I prefer to look at how Jesus treated women for the Christian attiude towards women - one of equality, but having different roles to play than men.

Certainly, religion is not restricting the human rights of any minority group now, indeed increasingly Christians and traditional 'majority groups' are being marginalised in society in the name of political correctness. So Dawkins' arguments here don't stand up for me.

God a sex-obsessed tyrant? I think not. Not the God I see in the Old Testament (where this is alleged) but also not the God of the New Testament nor that I have seen and had any experience of. The God I read about and have experienced is totally different. In the Old Testament He is shown as a God of creation and of love interested in justice for His people, and the Old Testament shows starkly the rebellion of Israel against God, His punishment for their disobedience and the restoration of that relationship.

God is not a tyrant, if He was we would have no freedom whether to beleive in Him or not. He is a God of grace and mercy, of freedom. And where this 'sex-obsessed' idea comes from I really have no clue. God made sex to be enjoyed within the context of marriage, and anything else is adultery according to the Bible. That certainly is not sex-obsessed in comparison with today's attitudes towards sex and sexuality. How anyone can find Dawkins' argument on this to be true is beyond me.

Finally the arguments about God opposed to science. God and science go together. God made the world, God made science, but God cannot be explained through science, which is where faith comes in. His arguments against science hold no water too. The Bible does not contradict or dispute science, apart from the theories of Darwin - which are only theories with no 100% proof and which Darwin himself came to disagree with by the time of his death.

Basically all these arguments from Richard Dawkins don't stand up to the scrutiny of testimony of Christians all around the world, the testimony of the Bible and the true nature of God. If Dawkins put his narrow-minded intellectual arguments, personal pride and prejudices aside and allowed himself to experience God for himself then he may think differently. Although even then he'd try to explain it all away by saying that it's our mind playing tricks on us.

Bottom line, he has no foolproof evidence that God doesn't exist. The evidence in favour of God is, in my opinion, far more compelling.