January 2015

The Dawkins Delusion

 

The word ‘new’ is being attached to many philosophies and movements nowadays. One of the newest News is a militant form of atheism promoted by people such as Richard Dawkins.

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I have written this short article to provide some background reading into one of the better known books coming out of the New Atheist camp; ‘The God Delusion’ by Richard Dawkins.

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I am not an apologist; and I make no apology for this. An apologist is a person who offers an argument in defence of something, and in theological circles that ‘something’ is the Christian Faith. I do not believe that God needs defending: the very idea is as absurd as an ant attempting to justify to another insect that Richard Dawkins exists (comparison intended). And that brings me to the subject of this post.

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A short while ago I chanced upon a televised interview of Professor Dawkins. I knew of him but hadn’t taken time to read his books, so I stayed tuned and listened for a while. A number of things struck me but I have already mentioned these in a sermon I preached that same week, so I will only cite two here – his very narrow world-view and his obvious contempt for those who include a spiritual dimension to their concept of reality.

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The Dawkins world-view has no room for anything beyond what can be scientifically observed and quantified. I, on the other hand, believe in a spiritual realm on a number of grounds. I have experienced it, it makes sense to me, the bible describes it, and Jesus spoke much about it. Of course folk like Dawkins regard the bible as a collection of ancient myths and theologians as benighted souls who peddle these myths. This is what he says; ‘I have listened to theologians, read them, debated against them. I have never heard any of them ever say anything of the smallest use, anything that was not either platitudinously obvious or downright false’. He has indeed debated with some church men but seems to carefully avoid those who could easily refute his views. Dr William Lane Craig is a highly trained and articulate theologian who has repeatedly, but unsuccessfully, attempted to engage Dawkins. In his justification, ‘Why I refuse to debate with William Lane Craig’ Dawkins writes; ‘Don’t feel embarrassed if you’ve never heard of William Lane Craig. He parades himself as a philosopher, but none of the professors of philosophy whom I consulted had heard his name either. Perhaps he is a “theologian”’. Note particularly the dismissive use of inverted commas.

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For interest I looked up the Wikipedia entries for both Dawkins and Lane Craig. The article on Dawkins contains a mere 6 lines describing his education. Lane Craig on the other hand… well see for yourself – I know whose CV impresses me the most: No wonder Dawkins does not want to debate him!

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Here is Lane Craig’s evaluation of Dawkins’ logical argument – as they say in my part of the world, “Ag shame”. By the way, I borrowed the title of this post from this particular article although I doubt if Lane Craig is the only one to use the catchy description of Dawkins Think.

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As one of the despised theologian class I of course heartily agree with Lane Craig, but I chose rather to consult some non-Christian critics in order to get a non-spiritual view of the Dawkins Delusion. Robert Stewart, writing in the Journal of Evolutionary Philosophy, produced a detailed summary and review of Dawkins’ book ‘The God Delusion’. In this paper Stewart points out that Dawkins claims that he can prove that the probability of God’s existence is almost zero. He goes on to mention that Dawkins based the entire credibility of his book on his ‘proof’ of God’s non-existence, but that the only proof that he delivered was a rhetorical hypothesis… Again, “Ag shame”.

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I went one step further and downloaded a Kindle book titled ‘Illogical Atheism’ by a doctor of Laws writing under the name of Bo Jinn. The book’s title speaks for itself but just to clarify one reviewer wrote; ‘In his book Illogical Atheism, Bo Jinn incisively lays down the failure of atheism to provide a grounding for reason’.

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I can’t do better to end this short article than by quoting Lane Craig’s conclusion to one of his articles on the same subject ‘Several years ago my atheist colleague Quentin Smith unceremoniously crowned Stephen Hawking’s argument against God in A Brief History of Time as “the worst atheistic argument in the history of Western thought.” With the advent of The God Delusion the time has come, I think, to relieve Hawking of this weighty crown and to recognize Richard Dawkins’ accession to the throne’.

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When the music died

I started playing the guitar at the age of 13 when I saw an older boy playing and wanted to be able to make music myself. So I saved up my pocket money, went off to a music store, and bought the cheapest guitar there. It was a terrible instrument that sounded like strings stretched over a tin can, but I loved it. I figured out how to play three chords, but then a kindly adult explained that my guitar was totally out of tune and that I needed to learn to tune it. So I started again and quickly mastered most of the basic chords and strum techniques.

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In my late teens, I started a rock band with some school friends and played lead on a powder blue Hoffner solid-body guitar. At the age of thirty, the same year I became a follower of Jesus Christ, I decided to learn classical, bought a suitable instrument, and enrolled for lessons. Within a few years I was quite proficient and enjoyed playing – I even composed my own pieces and performed occasional recitals at church functions. However, the church’s need at that time was for a worship leader, not a classical musician, and so I bought an Ovation guitar and from then on focused on rhythm accompaniment.

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From the age of about 50 arthritis struck both hands and playing became increasingly difficult. But I still loved music and often listened to records (remember them) featuring great guitarists, classical and other types of music. Our local church now had the joyful service of some very competent musicians and worship leaders, and so my Ovation joined the YaIri classical guitar to collect dust in the cupboard.

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About four years ago one of our musicians set up a workshop for beginners. She offered drum, piano, and guitar lessons and asked me to run the guitar workshop. Half way through the first session my hands were so painful that I put the guitar down; “I am so sorry folks but I just can’t go on; I am in too much pain”. I drove home that evening in deep distress; I felt as though something precious had been taken from me or like I had lost a limb. Something very sad happened that night. Music died in my soul. It was probably a coping mechanism, but from that night on I blotted music from my life. I no longer played, or listed to music. I sang in church, but that was all.

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Christmas time a year ago all our worship leaders were away and most of the other musicians were also on holiday. There was nobody to lead the church services; what could we do? I prayed earnestly and felt the Holy Spirit urging me to rise to the challenge and lead the worship myself. So I prayed; “Lord, if this is what you want me to do then you will need to do something miraculous to my hands and musical memory.” I have to tell you that for a few years I had been taking vitamin and mineral supplements and, although still uncomfortable, my hands were no longer constantly painful. I took my Ovation out of the cupboard, cleaned it up, re-tuned it… and started to play. Of course, my left-hand fingertips were tender because I had not played for such a long time, but I could shape the chords and I could strum quite adequately. I was amazed and so very grateful!

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One of my retirement projects is to become skilled once again on the classical guitar and also the piano. I started practising a couple of months ago and am making good progress. In fact, I am so encouraged that I am in the process of acquiring a quality classical guitar so I can retire the old YaIri and move on to a new musical level. I have unearthed my old classical scores and the tunes I composed 35 years ago… and I am greatly enjoying playing! What was once dead has come alive again! Isn’t that just what God loves to do?

 

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When the music died Read More »

About Me

My name is Christopher Peppler and I was born in Cape Town, South Africa in 1947. While working in the financial sector I achieved a number of business qualifications from the Institute of Bankers, Damelin Management School, and The University of the Witwatersrand Business School. After over 20 years as a banker, I followed God’s calling and joined the ministry full time. After becoming a pastor of what is now a quite considerable church, I  earned an undergraduate theological qualification from the Baptist Theological College of Southern Africa and post-graduate degrees from two United States institutions. I was also awarded the Doctor of Theology in Systematic Theology from the University of Zululand in 2000.

Four years before that I established the South African Theological Seminary (SATS), which today is represented in over 70 countries and has more than 2 500 active students enrolled with it. I presently play an role supervising Masters and Doctoral students.

I am a passionate champion of the Christocentric or Christ-centred Principle, an approach to biblical interpretation and theological construction that emphasises the centrality of Jesus

I have been happily married to Patricia since the age of 20, have two children, Lance and Karen, a daughter-in-law Tracey, and granddaughters Jessica and Kirsten. I have now retired from both church and seminary leadership and devote my time to writing, discipling, and the classical guitar.

If you would like to read my testimony to Jesus then click HERE.