What’s So Great About Christianity? Part 5

In case you’ve joined this in the middle of the series and don’t feel like reading parts 1-4, let me catch you up. The past few years has seen a rise in what some have called a “New Atheism.” Of course atheism isn’t new in the sense that it has just arrived on the scene of American culture. What’s new about “New Atheism” is its aggressive nature. Dawkins, Dennet, Harris, and Hitchens, among others, are unwilling to peaceably co-exist with religious believers of any stripe. Instead they endeavor to rid the world of religious faith and the corresponding belief in the supernatural. Why? Because they believe that religion is the enemy of reason and progress. And they are not alone. Consider this quote from a 2004 article written by Robert Reich the former Secretary of Labor under President Clinton.

The great conflict of the 21st century may be between the West and terrorism. But terrorism is a tactic, not a belief. The underlying battle will be between modern civilization and anti-modernist fanatics; between those who believe in the primacy of the individual and those who believe that human beings owe blind allegiance to a higher authority; between those who give priority to life in this world and those who believe that human life is no more than preparation for an existence beyond life; between those who believe that truth is revealed solely through scripture and religious dogma, and those who rely primarily on science, reason, and logic. Terrorism will disrupt and destroy lives. But terrorism is not the only danger we face.

Many competent authors have responded from a theistic/Christian perspective. In this series of posts I am working my way through one of those books-Dinesh D’souza’s What’s So Great About Christianity.

Section 4 The Argument From Design

Chapter 11 A Universe With A Beginning: God And The Astronomers

Thesis: The current thinking of the best astronomers is that the universe had a beginning. Commonly referred to as “The Big Bang,” the universe was flung into existence by a great explosion of energy and light. It is well documented that many scientists are uncomfortable with that explanation, not because the evidence doesn’t warrant it, but because it demands a creator. If everything that has a beginning has a cause (and of course it does), then the physical universe had a non-physical or spiritual cause.

Key Quotes: “Arno Penzias, who won the Nobel prize for his discovery of the cosmic background radiation that corroborated the Big Bang, said, ‘The best data we have are exactly what I would have predicted had I nothing to go on but the five books of Moses, the Psalms, and the Bible as a whole.'”

“Astronomer Robert Jastrow puts it even more vividly. ‘For the scientist who has lived by his faith in the power of reason, the story ends like a bad dream. He has scaled the mountains of ignorance; he is about to conquer the highest peak. As he pulls himself over the final rock, he is greeted by a band of theologians who have been sitting there for centuries.'”

Chapter 12 A Designer Planet: Man’s Special Place In Creation

Thesis: The latest scientific research shows that contrary to past opinion, the universe is specifically designed for human life. We human beings aren’t an accident. D’Souza gives three possible responses: Lucky Us, Multiple Universes, and the Designer Universe. “Lucky Us” proponents suggest that it is an incredible coincidence that the universe is made just right for human life. “Multiple Universes” proponents suggest that there are many universes in existence and that human life is bound to flourish in one of them. If one rejects the first two options as requiring too much faith to believe, he or she is left with a universe that is just right for human life because it was designed by a Designer who had us in mind. Sounds familiar doesn’t it? Kind of like Genesis 1.

Key Quote: “Astronomer Lee Smolin imagines God as a kind of master technician who is sitting at a control panel with a set of dials in front of Him. One dial sets the mass of the proton, another the charge of the electron, a third the gravitational constant, and so on. God spins the dials randomly. What, Smolin asks, is the probability that this random spinning would result in a universe with stars and planets and [human] life? ‘The probability,’ he answers, ‘is incredibly small.’ How small? Smolin’s estimate is one chance in ten to the power of 229.”

Chapter 13 Paley Was Right: Evolution And the Argument From Design

Thesis: In this chapter D’Souza differentiates between the theory of evolution which he affirms and Darwinism which he rejects. The former is a scientific theory and the latter is a philosophical assumption that denies God. According to the author, evolution explains how physical life developed but it cannot explain how life began, why human beings have a consciousness different from the animals, and morality. The chapter concludes with the point that evolution requires an intelligent designer.

Key Quote: “Christians should not be afraid of the evolution debate, because there is nothing about it that threatens their faith. The Christian position is that God is the creator of the universe and everything in it, and the evolution debate is about how some of these changes came about…My own view is that Christians and other religious believers should embrace evolution while resisting Darwinism.”

Chapter 14 The Genesis Problem: The Methodological Atheism of Science

Thesis: Scientists love to present themselves as reasonable people who go wherever the evidence leads them and only where it leads them. However as one digs a deeper, he finds that scientists are just like everyone else in that they have biases and world views that shape how they interpret the evidence. D’Souza gives several examples of scientists who admit that their atheism isn’t so much a conclusion based on overwhelming evidence as much as it is a premise that they start with. A premise that they refuse to change regardless of the evidence against it.

Key Quote: “Biologist Francis Crick admits that his commitment to materialism and his hostility to religion motivated him to enter his field. ‘I went into science because of these religious reasons, there’s no doubt about that. I asked myself what were the things that appear inexplicable and are used to support religious beliefs.’ Then Crick sought to show that those things have a purely material foundation. In the same vein, physicist Steven Weinberg confesses that the hope that science will liberate people from religion ‘is one of the things that in fact has driven me in my life.'”

My Thoughts: I will keep these brief since this post has already gotten a bit long. When I became a Christian during college, I was influenced by fellow Christians that taught young earth creationism and that evolution was the great Satan. Over the past few years, I’ve come to see things differently. No longer a young earth guy, I find myself open to the Intelligent Design movement as well as evolution as explained by D’Souza. Before you jump on that and begin to doubt the genuineness of my faith, you might want to read his argument for yourself. In addition, you will want to read The Language of God by Francis Collins. I’m not saying that either will convince you that evolution is true, but they might convince you that there is no necessary contradiction between evolution (not Darwinism) and Genesis.

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