More great (and seasonally appropriate) stuff from Sin Boldly!: Justifying Faith for Fragile and Broken Souls by Ted Peters, who we are so excited to have/hear speak at our upcoming NYC conference. This comes from chapter 10, entitled “Faith as Belief” in which Dr. Peters challenges some of the assumptions put forward by the New Atheists, particularly the conclusions reached by Richard Dawkins in relation to the “God Hypothesis”, i.e. that a scientific examination of the proposition that God exists finds the notion to be lacking in credibility. Peters writes:

george-van-biesbroeck-looking-through-worlds-largest-refracting-telescope-yerkes-observatory-1926In light of the theology of the cross, I recommend we concede this point: the idea of God does not fit easily within a narrowly scientific or reductionist view of the world. While the idea of God is certainly not incompatible with science, the God of grace cannot be uncovered through investigation of the God hypothesis or strictly rational proofs. In fact, if we look for God there, we should not be surprised not to find him. It’s like looking through a telescope for a cell of an organism when we should be using a microscope. No wonder we don’t see what we’re looking for.

God is present under the contrary, not in the conclusion to an empirical investigation. Where we see death, God is present with the promise of life. Where we see deterioration and dissipation, God is present with creativity and newness. Where we see natural law and contingency, God is present with faithfulness and openness. Where we see survival of the fittest, God is present in solidarity with the unfit. Attempting to prove the existence or non-existence of a prime mover by projecting a God hypothesis in a so-called scientific manner can never admit the kind of evidence found in the cross…

Christians who place their faith in the God of grace–revealed in, with, and under the cross of Jesus Christ–are unaffected by the reductionism implied in the God hypothesis for two reasons. First, the God who Dawkins is testing for is not exactly the same God revealed in the cross. Don’t get me wrong. Yes, we are talking about the omnipotent God of theism who is responsible for the creation of the world, the prime mover. However, what Christian faith discerns in the cross is that God is gracious, and this cannot be discerned when asking about the creative power behind natural phenomena.

Secondly, the two pathways to knowledge are not consonant. To set out to confirm or disconfirm a scientific hypothesis is to look for relevant evidence that supports or challenges the hypothesis. All such evidence is evaluated positively. In contrast, revelation through the cross provides negative knowledge, or at least paradoxical knowledge. We see weakness, but power is revealed. We see defeat, but victory is revealed. We see sin, but forgiveness is revealed. We see disgrace, but grace is revealed. The truth or falsity of this Christian claim cannot be adjudicated by an appeal to scientific research. That today’s atheists do not even hypothesize about God’s graciousness is no surprise, but it signifies that they do not address what is at the heart of distinctively Christian belief in God.  (pgs. 281-82)

And a few pages later:

untitled-2The complaint that [Sam] Harris and other aggressive atheists raise against religion is that religion fosters violence. Perhaps we should concede this point. However, we should point out that violence is a generic human trait that we share with non-religious and post-religious and anti-religious people. In earlier chapters, we have seen how secular governments create their own civic spiritualities and manipulate millions of people into marching off to war. Secularism or sustained opposition to institutional religion provides zero protections from self-justification, scapegoating, and violence.

At the very least, faith in Jesus Christ is justifiable because it offers an opportunity to face realistically the truth about the human condition, our own condition. The truth is that our confused contortions, which are spawned by self-justification, alienate us from one another and even from ourselves. The presence of God in the scapegoated Christ reveals a truth about ourselves that is difficult to uncover in other ways. The best we get from the roaring and bellowing and squawking atheists is their own version of self-justification; they draw the line between good and evil and then place themselves on the good side with religious nincompoops on the evil side. This justifies the elimination of religion, even with nuclear weapons if necessary. What atheists cannot see from within their own logic is our shared human condition. What faith in Jesus Christ offers is truth about ourselves, which is accompanied by something even better—the realization that God loves us graciously. (pgs. 288-89)