Recent popular books have ratcheted up the tension between Christianity and competing worldviews. Most prominent is Richard Dawkins’s The God Delusion (Houghton Mifflin), but many other comrades (such as Christopher Hitchens, God Is Not Great; Victor Stenger, God: The Failed Hypothesis; Daniel Dennett, Breaking the Spell: Religion as a Natural Phenomenon) and responders (the many books of John Polkinghorne, for example) are jockeying to get press.
Dawkins, always a good read because of his vibrant prose, expansive knowledge, and infectious inquisitiveness, usually stands head and shoulders above the ragamuffin crowd of essayists and commentators. However, he has met his match, and it is his own doppelganger dark side.
Dawkins’s premise is a good one. Neither the natural world nor human reason can prove that there is a God or gods or some Intelligent Design in this world. The data simply won’t allow it. For every paean of praise tossed up on a marvelous morning, there is an inexplicable tragic night. When order and seeming perfection are discovered in the panoply of nature’s bright canvas, some nasty virus or mean-spirited menace rears its head and makes mockery of anything good. Those who claim to find God, Dawkins says, are delusional when they say God is obviously present and rightly adored.
Dawkins and kin are correct: God or gods or Intelligent Design cannot be conclusively deduced or proved. But The God Delusion takes the matter one step too far. It presumes, in haughty hubris, that lack of such proof confirms the converse. It declares in glee that there cannot be a Creator, and all who linger in religious “superstitions” are fools. Dawkins himself has become the perfect example of David’s opening line in Psalm 53: “The fool says in his heart, ‘There is no God.’”
Still, Dawkins has done Christianity a service. He has clarified the issues. On the one hand he, along with Hitchens, has broken the back of presumptive religion, which claims more than it can deliver. On the other hand, though, he has portrayed the Fool of the religions of atheism and scientism that have become too full of themselves.
There are only a few options in the presuppositional world that nurture our scientific investigations and religious quests. Possibly, indeed, this world we live in is a closed system in which all that happens is cause and effect, sprinkled with some random mutations in which the survivors of the fittest now fight for a link to the future.
Perhaps, in another light, there is an Intelligence in the system at the intersection of Time and Life that is beyond our ken but shapes and grows as it accumulates the experiences of all of us. Thus, we would do well to go with its flow and not against it.
Or, from an entirely different point of view, there is a Creator God outside of the system. Though we cannot fully understand all of the whys and wherefores in this sometimes seemingly unkind playground, belief and faith are at least more helpful than cruelty and skepticism. Within our history, this is the testimony of Jesus and all who knew him. There is good reason, therefore, to trust the Bible and cling by reasonable faith to its message of salvation and divine hope. Christianity is certainly not irrational.
But we do need to read Dawkins and company in order to remember the faith root of our worldview. Dawkins’s analytic self-sufficiency cuts away secondary issues that we sometimes use in place of trust. Yet in the scornful laughter on his vitriolic face we see the ugliness of our own “religious” haughtiness that often boasts of more than it should, to the hurt of millions who still need a Savior. As James rightly noted, “Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress” (1:27).
by Lauren Kesslerreviewed by Sonya VanderVeen FeddemaAs a caregiver in an Alzheimer’s facility, journalist Kessler hoped to understand more about the debilitating effects of the disease that took her mother’s life. Soon she saw “in this Alzheimer’s world life and light where others may see only darkness and despair.” Though not written from a Christian perspective, Kessler’s straightforward narrative, honest reflections on her fears of getting Alzheimer’s, and descriptions of holistic ways to view patients make this book a valuable and comforting resource. (Viking)
reviewed by Otto SellesNo, “Slow Food” does not imply molasses or a child’s attitude to broccoli. From its beginnings in 1980s Italy, the Slow Food movement has promoted local and sustainable agriculture, as well as a return to regional products, culinary traditions, and home cooking. These national websites provide information on Slow Food programs, most notably links to local chapters called “convivia.” There, members come together to organize events and, especially, to cook, eat, and enjoy great local food . . . slowly.
by Third Dayreviewed by Paul DelgerThird Day, one of the heavyweights in Christian music, has earned countless No. 1 hits on the radio during their 10 years of existence. Songs like “Show Me Your Glory” (praise), “Come Together” (rock), and “Cry Out to Jesus” (pop) display Third Day’s versatility in appealing to different age groups. This combination CD/DVD includes a documentary, live footage, and fan videos. (Essential)
by N.D. Wilsonreviewed by Randall D. EngleAdventuresome, youthful Tom ends up in an underwater mountain cavern. On his voyage to find his way out, he faces death and darkness before his arrival back home. While the adventure itself is satisfying enough, theological overtones abound: finding the way back home, following the light out of darkness, and rising to life from a supposed grave to the surprise and delight of all. These themes, in all their guises, never lose their wonder. (Random House)
Boe Memorial Chapelreviewed by Randall D. EngleSt. Olaf College has renovated its chapel and has included a new pipe organ in the acoustical and logistical overhaul. The results are showcased in this glorious pair of CDs, a recording of the first hymn festival and dedicatory organ recital. While the chapel’s cavernous resonance remains, a new inner “shell” offers a simultaneous immediate acoustic. Skilled organist John Ferguson, with the youthful voices of a college congregation, makes this a recording to savor, while proving that exciting, quality hymn singing and organ music need not be lost to our youths. (St. Olaf Records)
by Bob Goudzwaard, Mark Vander Vennen, and David Van Heemstreviewed by Jim Romahn“Our world seems to live under the curse of scrambling for solutions but not finding them.” This statement begins an outstanding analysis of current crises—global warming, wars, depleting oil reserves, poverty, and rising debt levels. Arguing that our “solutions” have become idols—economic “progress,” the military, democracy—that control us, they end with some practical measures to reverse downward spirals. (Baker)