Dawkins’ debating methods

Some observations on Dawkins’ shiftiness…

The way he chose to defend himself, through insults and sneers which tried to cover his tracks as he attempted to retreat from what he had said, furthermore merely emphasised his notable reluctance to address the many arguments of substance against his pseudo-scientific attack on religion which were made by John Lennox on the grounds of scientific reason and accuracy – arguments which Dawkins most tellingly chose to ignore altogether. Instead, he went for what he thought were the soft targets — a credulous Irish Christian and a ‘dreadful woman’ journalist – and substituted smears and jeers for proper debate.

via The Spectator.

Collision Movie: Christopher Hitchens vs. Doug Wilson

I’m really looking forward to this documentary of the book tour and debates between Hitchens and Wilson.

I loved the written debate they had in CT, now available in book form. I have a huge amount of respect and praise to God for Douglas Wilson, his thinking and ministry across a wide range of fields.

This looks like it will be a kind of neutral documentary (I hope) that you could watch with anyone and discuss the issues with.

Collision: Christopher Hitchens vs. Doug Wilson.

An argument I had about Christianity with a Tasmanian gardener

Context: Ridley Evangelistic Mission Team in Tasmania, during 2002. Doorknocking the local area with a survey about peoples beliefs and views.

U = us (myself and fellow Ridley College student). H = him (early retiree age man). This dialogue is obviously not verbatim, but a summary of the gist of the discussion. Whenever I say ‘etc etc’ I mean he talked for a long time on that topic.

U: Hi we’re from C Anglican Church, and we’re doing a survey in your local community…

H: Survey? Survey? What is your sample size? Do you know the formula for working out an ideal sample size? Do you know how unaccurate your survey is?

[Wow he jumped down my throat with this! Short exchange ensues. He was grumpy and adamant on bagging our survey, he wouldn’t listen to the fact we weren’t planning on generalising the results – so his formulae didn’t apply. I’ve studied university level statistics too.]

U: What do you think of Jesus?

H: Jesus, well we don’t really know a lot about him. As he spoke Aramaic and we have no Aramaic texts from him, so we have no accurate records.

U: Well actually the most common language in the Roman empire in the first century was Greek.

H: No it wasn’t. The Romans hated the Greeks. The Romans spoke Latin and the Jews spoke Aramaic.

U: Actually that is not quite true. The linga franca was Greek, even among Jews. This is evidenced by widespread use of the Septuagint, the Greek Old Testament that Jesus used.

H: Anyway, the New Testament documents were corrupted over time. etc etc.

U: What evidence do you have of that?

H: Well all our texts are at least third century. Marginal notes became included in the main text and were taken as part of the original document… etc etc.

U: Well actually there are thousands of extant NT manuscripts with very close correlation much earlier than 3rd Century. They are available in libraries around the world, mostly Europe. The differences are mostly trivial, we have an accurate NT text. I have a copy of the Greek New Testament in my car, I could demonstrate the reliability for you, it has lists of the textually questionable verses. There are not many.

[He changes topic at this point. This happened many times in the conversation.]

H: The OT is even worse. The Jews were not very good at transmitting texts.

U: What evidence do you have of that? There is quite good evidence that the Jews took their texts very seriously. Consider the quality of the 1st C texts found at Qumran, they verified the quality of the OT texts we have been using since the 9th Century.

H: Qumran is a big coverup. With all the politics we don’t know what they found there. Well church history is all about power struggles. How about Henry the 8th? Etc etc.

U: So what do you think of Jesus teaching?

H: Oh I actually don’t mind his teaching, it’s quite good to love one another.

U: But Jesus actually said that was secondary. He said the most important thing was to love God with your heart, soul, strength and mind.

H: Well I think even Jesus got it wrong on that count. How can you believe in an omnipotent God? How could an omnipotent God use something as crappy as the church? Omnipotence is a joke.

U: I’m working hard to consider the claims of Christianity critically and looking objectively at the evidence. That’s what I am doing at Theological College. Are you really considering the evidence?

H: Well why don’t you speak to your lecturers and ask the really hard questions? I think you’ll find it doesn’t all fit together. Ask your lecturers the hard questions and don’t stick your head in the sand.

U: I will and I do. I’m not into sticking my head in the sand. Thanks for your time.

It is easy on recollection to repaint the discussion in my favour. In reality he wasn’t even close to being convinced on any topic. He held the upper hand in most of the conversation, he talked the most, he felt he was informed and I was a naïve gullible Christian. He was fairly patronising in that sense. I was trying to be respectful as I was interrupting his gardening, though I sensed he enjoyed the intellectual engagement of the conversation.

I didn’t actually get to the gospel with this man. The closest I got was talking about Jesus says the most important thing is to love God. Everything else was apologetics.

I felt that he was hiding behind a cloak of intellectualism. He had some half-truths that he used to dismiss the credibility of Christianity. Although he does need to hear the gospel, there are many intellectual obstacles in his way. Given more time and a less controntational situation, I would have enjoyed asking him more personal questions about his own involvement with Christianity and Christians, and how he came to form such anti-Christian attitudes.

“What if?”: GFC and the End of Consumerism

This is a “what if?” post – I am not an economist nor the son of an economist:

What if the global financial crisis is the beginning of the end of Western consumerism?

All idolatries are self-destructive ultimately. We should not be surprised.

So are Western Christians ready with an alternative that we’ve been living all along? Or are we shuffling pews in our chapel on the McTitanic?

What new idolatries will fill the void? I expect the idolatry of greed to resurrect itself in new forms – most of them violent.

But what if God in his wisdom decides to answer our prayers for financial justice by bringing the first world societies down to third world levels?

No-one expected that when we started praying for the Millenium Development Goals – not even Bono and Rowan Williams combined will be able to save us.

What if?

Questions posed to heaven in Victorian Bushfires | Herald Sun

Ridley graduate and vicar of Healesville, Tim Anderson, has put together a great piece for the Herald Sun:

I was so proud of my church members who returned to the wreckage of their burned houses bringing food for any wild birds or animals that might have survived the blaze.

We have a God who understands our pain from the inside.

The scandal of Christianity is this: that when God took on human form, he suffered agony and an unjustified and cruel death.

Whatever our pain we can bring it to God, confident that God knows exactly what we are going through.

Jesus already went through it and conquered it — that’s the Easter story.

Questions posed to heaven in Victorian Bushfires | Herald Sun.

5th October Prayer and Protest Rally, Parliament House, Melbourne

The whole family and a bunch of people from church went to the prayer and protest rally for the murderous proposed abortion bill. I reckon about 4000+ people there. There were more than you can see just on these photos, but it was quite big.

There were lots of kids and babies and prams. Josiah and Jemima were asking lots of questions. We tried to be as clear as we could – we were there to protest the government allowing and encouraging thousands of babies to be killed in their mother’s tummies. .

More photos on my flickr page.

A review of There Is a God. By Antony Flew. » Bill Muehlenberg’s CultureWatch

Theism.

In 2004 the atheist world was rocked by the news of one of the most important defections from its ranks in recent times. The world’s leading atheist, Antony Flew, announced that he was no longer an atheist, but a theist. This of course sent shock waves through the anti-theist camp, since they had long been claiming that rational and reasonable people only choose unbelief, whereas believers can only be regarded as stupid, gullible and deluded. It is pretty hard to describe Antony Flew in those terms. Indeed, given his credentials, this is an amazing book about an amazing intellectual about-face. For over 50 years Flew was the number one proponent of atheism. And as a world class scholar with over 30 books on philosophy in print, he was one of the twentieth century’s most imposing intellectual figures.

A review of There Is a God. By Antony Flew. » Bill Muehlenberg’s CultureWatch

Greek New Testament Manuscripts Discovered in Albania

Yes I’m a fan of the Greek New Testament and textual criticism (what pastor isn’t?), this was an exciting read…

Thus, Tirana was housing at least seventeen manuscripts unknown to western scholarship and as many as thirty-four! Since the dawn of the 21st century, an average of two or three Greek New Testament manuscripts is brought to light each year. A cache of 17 to 34 manuscripts is a remarkable find, regardless of the age and pedigree of the manuscripts.

Bible.org: Greek New Testament Manuscripts Discovered in Albania

Do Christians Have a Worldview?

There is some important work being done over at the Gospel Coalition.

A particular work I recommend is the very good article by Graham Cole: “Do Christians Have a Worldview?

There are many different topics and hobby horses bandied about under the heading of “the Christian worldview”. Graham shows how to do the “worldview thing” properly.

Neo-natal specialist recognised in Australia day honours list – ABC News (Australian Broadcasting Corporation)

Professor Yu’s dedication in the field of neo-natal medicine and his services to religion in his capacity as an Anglican Deacon has earned him the title of Member of the Order of Australia, in this year’s Australia Day honours.

Congratulations Victor! Unfortunately this ABC article fails to discuss anything about his gospel ministry as an Anglican deacon. The praises of men mean nothing, but God is much glorified through his faith and witness in saving the lives of countless premature babies and in his own preaching of the gospel to inner urban Asian migrants.

Neo-natal specialist recognised in Australia day honours list – ABC News (Australian Broadcasting Corporation)

Tischendorf and the Codex Siniatius Discovery in 1860

Constantine Tischendorf was an “Indiana Jones” style searcher for treasures of ancient Biblical manuscripts. He was passionate about finding better copies of the Bible about making them available to the church – he devoted his life to traveling the world on this task. He discovered an Eastern Orthodox convent in the Middle East that were throwing out ancient biblical parchments to stoke their fires! He managed to convince them to let him have some of them, and he kept the location of the convent a secret. On another visit a monk showed him a secret in his closet: a full manuscript set of the Greek Old Testament, a full New Testament and other early Christian literature, all dating from around the 4th century! In his own words:

Full of joy [on seeing the manuscripts], which this time I had the self-command to conceal from the steward and the rest of the community, I asked, as if in a careless way, for permission to take the manuscript into my sleeping chamber to look over it more at leisure. There by myself I could give way to the transport of joy which I felt. I knew that I held in my hand the most precious Biblical treasure in existence–a document whose age and importance exceeded that of all the manuscripts which I had ever examined during twenty years’ study of the subject. I cannot now, I confess, recall all the emotions which I felt in that exciting moment with such a diamond in my possession.

(read the full exciting account)

Tischendorf had to negotiate carefully for the release and publication of this discovery. Actually he did a fair bit of dodgy deal making to secure the manuscripts. Since then the value of ancient manuscripts is well known and nearly all are carefully stored in museums and libraries around the world, with facsimile (photographed) copies publicly available for researchers. “Codex Sianiaticus” was sold by the athiestic communist government of Russia to the British government in 1933 for 100,000 pounds. In historical and archaeological terms this is an absolute bargain.

In 2005 they began an important digitization project of the codex. I did read somewhere that afterwards they are planning to redistribute parts of the codex to the various parties involved in it’s history: the British Library in London, St. Catherine’s Monastery of Sinai, Leipzig University Library, and the Russian National Library in St Petersburg. At the time it struck me as awfully politically correct, such a thing of beauty should be kept in one place. I hope it is not true.
This kind of manuscript discovery explains why the quality of Bible texts has increased over 2000 years of church history, not decreased, as many people naively claim.

November 21, 2007 Postscript:

I can’t find the article I read online a few years ago that suggested they were going to redistribute parts of the codex after the digitization project. So I’m not sure this is true (text above modified). It appears that the Sinai monastery found a room with other parts of the codex in 1975, which explains the pieces they currently own. Futhermore, according to the recent cover article in the Nov/Dec 2007 Biblical Archeology Review, the St Catherines claims the “burning of the parchments” story of Tischendorf is part of his deception in order to steal the codex! They even have a signed receipt from Tischendorf claiming that the codex was merely on loan. It sounds more like an Indiana Jones adventure all the time.