Common Courtesy?

It’s been a busy couple of months. My leisure reading has slowed to a crawl.

I’ve been going pretty slowly through a book titled The God Delusion by Richard Dawkins. It got all the accolades you’d expect from an acclaimed academician cranking out stuff for the masses. Frankly, I’m fascinated by his intelligence. You see this in how much he knows regarding a broad array of scientific topics.

So, I’m seeing how the other half lives.

Anyway, I get to this chapter titled “Why There Almost Certainly is No God.” And, I’m actually in general agreement with the author that those that hold to a creationist position (not necessarily limited to Judeo-Christian views, although these are where he focuses much of his argument) should NEVER use their position as a “default” position in their argument. Usually, these arguments are posited along the lines of, “Well, if there are gaps in the fossil record or if something is show to be irreducibly complex, then God must exist.”

See where that “default” position is weak? See why I agree that those holding to a creationist position shouldn’t presume that this proves anything of that position? So, I agree with the general idea of the chapter. That isn’t what I wanted to talk about.

It’s the statements like these (found in Chapter 4 in my paperback edition, roughly pages 137–188):

“Admissions of ignorance and temporary mystification are vital to good science.” (page 152)
“It is utterly illogical to demand complete documentation of every step of any narrative, whether evolution or any other science.” (page 153)

After giving an example of seeing a brilliant illusion (one in which they shoot bullets at one another and catch the other’s in their teeth, despite having the entire audience overseeing their marking the bullets, etc.) done by world-class illusionists Penn & Teller and his inability to explain how they accomplished it, the author says, “There is a perfectly good explanation. It is just that I am too naive, or too unobservant, or too unimaginative, to think of it. That is the proper response to a biological phenomenon that appears to be irreducibly complex.”

Again, I’m in agreement that is no reason for a creationist to revert to a default position.

But here’s what I’m thinking:


…admissions of ignorance and temporary mystification are vital to science, would the author agree that the same can be said of theology?
…it’s illogical to demand complete documentation before declaring “proof,” wouldn’t the same be true for theology?
…and if there’s a “perfectly good explanation” for Penn & Teller’s illusion, you’d have to presume up front that it was indeed an illusion, wouldn’t you? (granted, in this case, since you paid for an evening of entertainment based on that very premise, it’d be a–the–logical presumption)

My point is this:

There are plenty of areas which I’m ignorant and temporarily mystified about regarding theology and the historical outworkings of Scripture. (I’ll hand you an easy one: A worldwide flood of Noahic proportion)

The jury is out on my side of the equation in areas such as a literal “day” of creation and archaeological verification of Jericho’s fall and all sorts of stuff like that.

And, there’s no question in my mind that you’re presuming up front that natural selection and evolution is the way it all happened. So, while you’re gathering evidence for your “perfectly good explanation,” you’re presuming you’re looking for a specific “illusion.”

While I’ll concede that you’ve forgotten more than I’ll ever know about pretty much everything you’ve written in your book, why can’t you see that you’ve got your very own “default” position? In many ways, if we were to get into a debate, it’d be like that show “Are You Smarter Than A 5th-Grader?” on my end of it. You’ve got expertise in an area that I dabbled in 25 years ago. You’d make short work of me on things like natural selection and fossil records and biological complexity…the whole bit.

I would like to remind you, though…

…sometimes those 5th-graders are right.

And, sometimes, it’d be considerate as a scientist and as a person, to remember to extend to others the very things you request as you go on your search for Truth. Theologians still have plenty of mystifying things we’re working through, Holmes. There’s plenty of branches of theology and room for growth in all areas of all of them. Our books aren’t finished, either.

Side note, Dr. Hawkins (with thanks to Norman Geisler for this little nugget): Just don’t be surprised if you get to the top of that academic mountain and find truth, only to have theologians holding a sign that says, “We’ve been here for roughly 6,000 years. Where’ve you been?”

I say all this to say that I firmly believe that all of this time Christians spend trying to learn all these presuppostional apologetics to win debates is largely fruitless. It all gives me a severe case of tired-head. I doubt seriously that anyone is going to be won to Christ in this day and age by throwing some argumentative haymaker resulting in the opponent’s intellectual knockout. The very idea that they’ll wake up from their smelling salts and proclaim Jesus as Lord is highly unlikely. We’ve got weak spots. So do scientists. Both sides fail to admit most of them.

It’s much more difficult to argue with a life well-lived.

One of fruit of the Spirit.

Which means we’d be better served to focus on loving God and our neighbor.

That’s mystifying enough, folks.