I’ve been reading another of those books by the “new atheists”—the kind of book that the publisher likes to claim will put Christianity into its grave. About the only thing that is “new” is that their voices are more strident than they were a few years ago. Still, I think it is worthwhile commenting in general terms on one of the approaches they use in their attacks.
One section of 23 pages lists about 36 errors, contradictions and myths supposedly contained in the Bible. Some of the charges are so ludicrous that a careful reader of the English Bible should be able to see through them. However many depend on specialized knowledge of the biblical languages, history and archaeology. In most cases, these “errors” are simply listed as well-known facts without any indication of the careful responses made by conservative Bible scholars.
The average reader of such a catalog is simply not in a position to study every accusation for himself, but the authors couple their hit and run attacks with a diabolically clever insinuation: Anyone who cannot answer all the charges leveled against Christianity is engaging in a blind, foolish faith inherited from his culture. If he is not a moron, he is deliberately deceiving himself.
Then comes the cleverly calculated challenge: Practice pretending that you are not a Christian. Just try looking at the world as if you were an atheist. Try it for an hour at a time. Next work up to a day and then a week of unbelief.
What is the likely result of such an exercise? Consider, by way of comparison, what a counselor is likely to tell a married couple who no longer think that they are in love with each other. He will teach them how to listen to each other. He will help them learn how to express love in ways that their partners can appreciate. In short, as they practice being in love, they may fall in love again. So it is too with practicing unbelief.
I have a suggestion for the “new atheists.” Why not spend an hour then a day then a week doubting your atheism. After all, there are numerous intellectual obstacles that a consistent atheist has to overcome. Practice coming to the Bible with a humble, open mind seeking to see what has gripped the minds and hearts of Christians throughout the centuries.
In spite of what the “new atheists” so brazenly assert, the issue is not a lack of intellectual honesty on the part of Christians. Atheism and Christianity represent diametrically opposed views of the world and the meaning of life. The clash between atheism and Christianity is not really an argument over who has the most “facts” to bolster his case—after all both sides are slinging “facts” at each other all the time. It is rather a conflict between opposing worldviews. Which approach provides the most comprehensive, consistent and compelling view of our world and of ourselves?
In my book, The Beauty of God for a Broken World, I did not engage in classical apologetics. I respect those who have capably defended the historical accuracy of the Bible and who have marshaled philosophical arguments for the existence of God. My task, however, was different. I have attempted to answer the charge that the God of the Bible is ugly by applying a Trinitarian understanding of beauty to some of the perplexities regarding Scripture and to the problems of life. I have tried to show that a Trinitarian worldview is ultimately the only truly satisfying answer for a broken world and for our broken lives.