Snippets of True Reason, part 1

One of the books I’ve been reading of late is True Reason, edited by Tom Gilson and Carson Weitnauer. It’s a collection of essays (originally published in electronic format) by various Christian professors and apologists, addressing issues related to the claims by today’s “New Atheists” that non-theists “own” reason & rationality, while theists are characterized by blind faith and obvious irrationality. Not only do the contributors disagree with that assertion, but they propose that, in many cases, the exact reverse is true. Christianity holds the proper claim to rationality and atheism is, upon closer scrutiny, at least as often irrational. Quite a bold claim to make these days,… or is it?

In this and subsequent posts scattered over the next few weeks/months, I plan to share snippets of text from each of the book’s 18 chapters, which I hope will capture the contributors’ positions (or, at least some salient points), writing styles, etc. If you like intellectual stimulation and the subject appeals to you, regardless of which side you are on, you might want to pick up True Reason for yourself. It’s a good read.

One: “The Party of Reason?” (Tom Gilson)

“We believe Christianity is on the whole much more reasonable than atheism. Admittedly, that is a bold statement. For some it will be incredible in the strict sense of the word: not credible. Nevertheless, we intend to make the case that it is true.

Christian thinkers down through the centuries have held reason in the highest regard, and have practiced it according to the highest standards. Obviously that has not been true of all Christians. As with any large group, there are better and worse thinkers within Christianity. Still, the Christian faith as a whole supports sound reason, and Christian thinkers have applied it well. Meanwhile, despite their protestations to the contrary, parallel examples of excellent thinking are often lacking among today’s New Atheist thought leaders.” (pp.15-16)

Two: “The Irony of Atheism” (Carson Weitnauer)

“Here’s how it appears from the outside looking in. It seems that many atheists, out of an overwhelming desire to crush religion and win a cultural battle on behalf of secularism, have convinced themselves that they are an exceptional group of human beings who are uniquely governed by reason. Freed from the perceived handcuffs of faith and dogma, they believe they have been singularly liberated to exercise rational thought and the tools of science on behalf of human progress. Unfortunately, these loud, public, and oft-repeated declarations of their great love for reason have also blinded them to some obvious realities.

The truth is that atheists, like people in various religious traditions, are prone to believe things on faith (in the pejorative sense of ‘faith’ that atheists often use), assume without argument the coherence of their belief system, blindly follow their leaders, accept what they want to be true, and dismiss contrary evidence. These are practical fallacies; fallacious approaches to deciding one’s beliefs.” (p.34)

Three: “Dawkins’s Delusion” (William Lane Craig)

Craig (left) / Dawkins (right)

“Dawkins’s fundamental mistake lies in his assumption that a divine designer is an entity comparable in complexity to the universe. As an unembodied mind, God is a remarkably simple entity. As a nonphysical entity, a mind is not composed of parts; and its salient properties — like self-consciousness, rationality, and volition — are essential to it. In contrast to the contingent and variegated universe with all its inexplicable physical quantities and constants (mentioned in the fifth step of Dawkins’s argument), a divine mind is startlingly simple. Certainly such a mind may have complex ideas (it may be thinking, for example, of the infinitesimal calculus), but the mind itself is a remarkably simple entity.” (p.40)

Four: “Richard Dawkins’s Illusions” (Chuck Edwards)

“What is so breathtaking about Dawkins’s smug dismissal of the cosmological argument is that he does not attempt to respond to any of the specific points that [Christian philosopher William Lane] Craig and others bring up. He doesn’t even acknowledge them; it’s as if he is completely ignorant of them…. Dawkins simply asks, ‘Where did God come from?’ With this, Dawkins shows he is totally unfamiliar with the wealth of literature on the subject and the strongest arguments currently employed. If he had done his homework, he would have realized his question misses the point entirely. The first point of the kalam cosmological argument is that whatever begins to exist must have a cause. God, by definition, never began to exist. Thus, God is the ‘Uncaused Cause’, and the question, where did God come from?, is irrelevant.” (p.48)

Intrigued, yet? Aghast? Amused? More to come later….

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