Ardent atheist Richard Dawkins was, once again, making headlines in 2016. However, rather than being for his bellicose attacks on religion, especially Christianity and Christians, Dawkins has made some head-turning comments. As reported by Charisma Podcast News, Dawkins laments the “decline of Christianity” because “Christianity might be a bulwark against something worse [like Islamic terrorism].”
While some may think Dawkins is softening his position on Christianity, he is not. Rather, he decries the evil of radical Islamic terrorism, and laments the decline of whatever might be a counterbalance to it, i.e., Christianity. As such, his lament isn’t really outside his worldview.
This, however, is not the only statement that’s made headlines. TheBlaze reported that Richard Dawkins “revealed the best argument that he’s ever heard for God’s existence.” At least that’s how the headline and opening paragraph spin it; they left off his vital qualifier. Dawkins stated, “It’s still a very, very bad argument, but it’s the best one going.”
The argument: Deism.
Deism, put simply, is the view that a deity created the universe, set things in motion, then withdrew himself/itself from that creation. Deists reject the idea of an interactive, intervening almighty power. Deists are not Christians. Deists, however, would accept the idea of intelligent design (i.e., the idea that a higher power designed and formed all of creation).
Dawkins Sarcastically Gives Nod to Deism
While many Christians posted and re-posted TheBlaze’s article and others using the same eye-catching, click-bait headline about Dawkins possibly giving serious thought to an argument for God’s existence, it seems many overlooked those important qualifiers: “still a very, very bad argument” and “the best one going.” In other words, he still absolutely rejects the idea of intelligent design, biblical creation, and even the existence of any deity. However, he characteristically gives Deism a sarcastic nod as merely better than anything else. He is not advocating Deism or the existence of a deity, but rather saying that in his view, Deism is a better argument than anything else religious people have offered.
Let me frame it this way: religion, according to Dawkins, would be like a rusted out, wrecked, broken down car. He believes it’s a pile of junk. However, Deism is just another rusted out, wrecked, broken down car, but this time with an air freshener in it. It’s still a piece of junk, but it smells nicer.
So, Dawkins isn’t giving any serious credence to Deism, but merely saying it’s slightly better than any other religious argument in his opinion.
The Key is Dawkins’ Opinion and Dawkins’ Heart, not the Arguments Presented
As stated in TheBlaze’s article, Richard Dawkins sternly asserted that “there is no decent rebuttal of evolution . . . and there is no decent argument in favor of the existence of deities.” Such bold, closed-minded statements are typical of zealots and ideologues. They are not statements made by honest scientists, as Dawkins tries to claim he is. Dawkins’ adamant—even fanatical—rejection of even the possibility that there is deity or an alternate view to evolutionary theory reveals his heart.
Dawkins is one of many who reject evidence that doesn’t fit into their preconceptions. Rather than counter the arguments made and evidence presented by religious people, Dawkins unequivocally rejects both as mere religious nonsense.
As many who preceded him, Dawkins’ heart is hardened to the truth (or from an atheist’s view, hardened to alternative ideas). In the first century AD, Paul wrote to his protégé, Timothy, about those who are presented the truth, but outright reject it: “Just as Jannes and Jambres opposed Moses, so these men also oppose the truth, men corrupted in mind and disqualified regarding the faith.” (2 Tim 3:8, ESV).
Paul is referencing a time when two men were presented arguments for the truth, but chose to outright reject it in favor of their own opinions. He continued that their “folly” was “plain to all” in the end (2 Tim 3:9).
Years earlier, Paul addressed the problem of non-believers and the evidence of God’s existence, the exact position of Dawkins:
For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things.
Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen.
Romans 1:18-25 (ESV)
In other words, the evidence for God’s existence has been presented, but people in their sin rejected that evidence in favor of their own opinion. This is what Dawkins is doing. The proof of God’s existence is before him, down to the very inner-workings of the cell (cf. Signature in the Cell). As a result, God’s wrath is upon Dawkins and all those who reject the truth.
Not only does Paul affirm that creation itself gives evidence for God’s existence and some of his attributes, the psalmist (possibly David) also attests to this:
The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork. Day to day pours out speech, and night to night reveals knowledge. There is no speech, nor are there words, whose voice is not heard. Their measuring line goes out through all the earth, and their words to the end of the world. In them he has set a tent for the sun, which comes out like a bridegroom leaving his chamber, and, like a strong man, runs its course with joy. Its rising is from the end of the heavens, and its circuit to the end of them, and there is nothing hidden from its heat.
Psalm 19:1-6 (ESV)
While many Christians might see Richard Dawkins as softening his antagonism toward religion and Christianity in particular, such as not the case. Dawkins, like many, remains as derisive and dismissive of anything related to religion as ever before. Why? Because he, like those before him, have rejected the evidence presented. Instead, he has turned to his own gods and his own religion; he bows at the altar of humanity, and preaches the gospel of Darwin.
The problem, thus, is not the arguments presented in favor of God’s existence, but rather, the heart of the one rejecting those arguments.
Christians and Arguments by Non-Believers
At this point, I want to address the issue of how Christians should respond to the arguments presented by atheists (I refer to honest arguments, not sarcastic, condescending comments). Sadly, Christians can be just as hard-hearted as Dawkins, flippantly dismissing any and all evidence presented by a non-believer. Such should not be the case.
When presented evidence, Christians should honestly weigh the arguments made and evidences presented by non-believers against those found in Scripture and creation itself. In other words, we should always weigh the evidence honestly and openly. I believe, based on that evidence, that the only reasonable conclusion is that there is a God, that he created it all, that he has a purpose in that creation, that man sinned and is under judgment from which he himself cannot escape, and that God acted to restore that which we corrupted. I also believe that the overwhelming evidence proves that Jesus existed, that his claims to be Messiah are true, that he died to pay for sin, that he physically rose from the dead, and that all who believe in Jesus alone are saved from their sin.
Is there evidence or are there arguments that seem to counter my conclusion? Yes. However, when I weigh them against the arguments for God’s existence and the gospel, there is too much evidence in support of God and the gospel.
When Christians brashly dismiss any honest view of an atheist or other non-believer, they are no better than Dawkins. Rather, all the evidence should be considered because honest debate and discovery is better than vain pretension. Everything I’ve seen and heard, so far, though, convinces me of God and the gospel of Christ.