Nonbeliever

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G.K. Chesterton tells the story of his first journalistic ‘misadventure.” It concerned one Grant Allen, who had written a book about the evolution of the idea of God. Chesterton commented that a more interesting book would have been one by God on the evolution of the idea of Grant Allen!

I thought of this Sunday, after contemporary atheists hit me with back-to-back volleys.

First came the NYT piece on the “Nonbeliever” by Tufts University Professor Daniel Dennett, author of the new book “Breaking the Spell: Religion as Natural Phenomenon.” (Photo).

Among his comments, (“About God?) Certainly the idea of a God that can answer prayers and whom you can talk to, and who intervenes in the world – that’s a hopeless idea. There is no such thing¢â‚¬¦ (About the Soul) Ugh. I certainly don’t believe in the soul as an enduring entity. Our brains are made of neurons, and nothing else. Nerve cells are very complicated mechanical systems. You take enough of those, and you put them together, and you get a soul. (About the church?) Churches make a great show about the creed, but they don’t really care. A lot of the evangelicals don’t really care what you believe as long as you say the right thing and do the right thing and put a lot of money in the collection box¢â‚¬¦Churches have given us great treasures (Bach, spectacular architecture and painting). Whether that pays for the harm they have done is another matter.”

I then read a comment elicited from a reader of one of my blogs about God “Are you all a little too old to have an IMAGINARY FRIEND?” This one was a little less bold as it was signed John Doe.

The Psalmist offers an unflattering assessment of such people saying “The fool believes there is no God.” Most people believe in “other gods,” not “no god,” and contemporary humans follow an ancient tradition when they enthrone other, but more trendy, contemporary gods in place of the one true God.

For many, science and technology are the latest “god” and their devotees are legion. I ran across this fascinating summary of Jacque Ellul’s thought: “Christianity desacralized nature, after which Christianity became sacred. The Reformation desacralized the church in the name of the bible, and the Bible became the sacred book. Science and reason desacralized the scriptures, and since that time Science has become sacred. Today, argued Ellul, it is the technological society that we hold sacred.” (This quote is from Dr. Samuel Ebersole, Colorado State University, summarizing Dr. Darrell Fasching, who was summarizing Jacques Ellul!)

C.S. Lewis, who progressed from atheist to theist and then to devoted Christian, argued that ultimately belief requires accepting authority. “Do not be scared by the word authority. Believing things on authority only means believing them because you have been told them by someone you think trustworthy. Ninety-nine percent of the things you believe are believed on authority. I believe in such a place as New York. I have not seen it myself¢â‚¬¦. the ordinary man believes in the Solar system, atoms, evolution, and the circulation of blood on authority–because the scientists say so.”

Lewis found “authoritative” affirmations for God through revelation (nature, Scriptures, conscience), reason, and experience, and from the ancient truths passed from one trustworthy witness to the next. Ultimately, having concluded Jesus is God based on many reliable and authoritative witnesses, Lewis accepted the authority of Jesus and enthroned Him as Lord. This is my story as well!

Which brings me back to Chesterton paraphrased. The cavalier dismissal of God by the atheist is not nearly so fascinating to me as the refusal of God to similarly dismiss the atheist. I have this on good authority.
Yours for the pursuit of God in the company of friends, Dick Staub.

PS. And remember, “these are the best of times and the worst of times, but they are the only times we have.” (For Now).

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    Posted in Staublog in January 25, 2006 by | No Comments »

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