October 15, 2007
How Richard Dawkins Helps Us
Atheistic rants may lead us to stronger apologetics.
Last week, Opinion Journal's Naomi Schaefer Riley attended a public debate between Darwinian biologist Richard Dawkins, most (in)famous for his recent work, The God Delusion, and mathematician?Christian apologist John Lennox. The debate focused on the question, Does God exist?
What's newsworthy is not so much that the debate occurred or that it received so much press; it only takes a monthly glance at the New York Times bestseller list to see that this question, and the atheistic rants that often ensue, get our attention. According to Riley, the debate between the two Oxford scientists, which took place at the Alys Stephens Center in Birmingham, Alabama, on October 3, had been sold out for weeks prior, and received more buzz than Alabama football, which apparently is saying something.
What may be surprising to some about the debate, not least of all Richard Dawkins himself, is that many believers are eager to attend such events and to heartily engage the intellectual conclusions of each side. To watch two brilliant scientists construct arguments, and, in good English fashion, throw in some rhetorical punches along the way, is both entertaining and instructive. Dawkins and other atheist-apologists might envision Christians running away from such challenges, afraid and dejected. What they may be horrified to find out is that such debates actually spur many Christians to ask big questions, examine their beliefs, and arrive at even more robust reasoning for accepting the gospel as "gospel truth." As Riley quotes apologist Jonalyn Fincher as saying, "If our God is the God of truth, what are we afraid of?"
As a counterproposal, would Dawkins and the rest of the New Atheist league be willing to sit in for a session at next month's Apologetics Conference, featuring J. P. Moreland, William Lane Craig, and Gary Habermas? Just a thought.
*Look for our review of fellow Oxford scholar Alister McGrath's response to Dawkins in the November issue of Christianity Today.