Harris recently gained a good bit of attention when he published “The End of Faith: Religion, Terror, and the Future of Reason.” His more-recent book—the one that Mike was quoting—is called “Letter to a Christian Nation.”
Except for the few snippets I’ve come across, I haven’t read either of Harris’ books. But I gather that both of them advance ideas like:
- Biblical religion is deeply flawed. In fact, it’s just plain bad. If someone had to pick a religion to practice, there are better choices than Christianity.
- In practice, Christians renounce what they say they believe and are committed to. They don’t practice what they preach.
- The commonly-known Christian variety of supernatural theism—where, for example, people can pray expecting that God will act in response, even transcending the laws of nature—is irrational.
How should the church respond to the Samuel Harrises of the world (assuming that it should)? That is, given our situation, where unbelievers make public assertions designed to refute the claims of Christianity and embarrass the commitment of religious faith, how should Christians respond?
What does the way of Christ teach us about how to handle our ever-popular, in-the-news debates between faith and unbelief, reason and religion, science and Scripture?
Most of all, I come back to this question: To what extent is it Christian for believers, as part of the church’s evangelistic thrust, to advance and defend arguments for the existence of God?
Now, if you come from the same place I do, then you’re likely to say that it is only right for Christians to rationally advance theism. In fact, if someone says that he loves his neighbor as himself, and that he completely loves the God who saves us through His Son, how could that person do anything less than to try to convince the atheist or the agnostic of the existence of God? After all, once the unbeliever is convinced of the reality of God, that person can then be led to Christ, the Son of God.
It’s interesting. Karl Barth, the man regarded by many as the greatest Christian theologian of the 20th century, said that what I just described is not, in fact, Christian. Why did he say that? I’ll explain next time.