I received this in the other day from a reader and thought I’d share…
I saw the recent dust up between the doctors Cargill and West. You seemed to be okay with Cargill who West has outed as an agnostic. You’ve also said New Atheists and other atheists are something like prophets. Why, as a Christian, do you treat atheists and agnostics so good? Shouldn’t you try to shame them into conversion? Can’t we just burn them at the stake like the bloody heretics they are?
– Harry Z.
Thanks, Harry. Yes, I do see value in atheism and agnosticism even to the Christian perspective. I guess as a Methodist I believe everyone is on an equal journey where God will lead and thus use them. I also find that as my faith grows in the unknowable it also requires more knowledge, so how can I dispense with this who prefer absolute knowledge or even the modern descendants to Dionysius?
I believe facts are facts regardless of generation. After all, Scripture testifies to the demons who understood the fact of the One God. If they told us of One God would we deny them that fact? Or would we not find a way to use that admission to benefit our own view?
You might ask “shouldn’t we prefer our Christian brothers to outsiders?” Why yes, I believe so. Of course, if we allow that the parable of the Good Samaritan may still teach us something more applicable we might consider all of those whom we despise to be our neighbors. Perhaps that is the first sign of who our neighbor is — do we despise them enough? I’m not saying I despise atheists by any means, but I believe I could argue in favor of the fact that many Christians do. So, if we are to prefer our brothers, and neighbors are everyone, can we separate too easily neighbors and brothers?
I guess the question we must ask is whether or not to consider others is whether or not their mission is to destroy — obliterate — Christianity. Unlike trolls from South Korea who clearly has made it his mission to obliterate Christianity, I do not believe Cargill is out to destroy Christianity. He does call attention to the reality that often times, Christians are engaged in cognitive dissonance. What do I mean, you may ask. Rightly so, let me suggest the message of the Pat Robertson meme is not that Christianity is deluded, but that it has a double standard. For instance, we chalk it up to fantastical faith evolution and other scientific discoveries and yet suggest that our faith in a Risen Lord is beyond testing, even on a historical ground (Look for the book by James McGrath. This is a logical fallacy. We should endeavor to be honest, and unlike Ham and TT, Cargill calls us to be honest with ourselves in exploring Christianity.
For me, I would submit, faith is part of the Logos. In John, we read of the Spirit of Truth that is to come and guide us into all truth. For Christians, this has given us the canon of the New Testament — including books not written by the purported authors — as well as developed doctrines. But, equally so, it has given us science and the need to further our knowledge of exactly what truth is. If God is the God of Truth (and Deutero-Isaiah declares him to be), then Truth like God is not limited to a certain time and place, but must be experienced until the fullness is reached. Where we find truth, we will find the divine. That is, if we allow certain frictions with classical theology to wear-off. This is a new world, but it is nevertheless a world that values truth. If we are those who value truth as well, then regardless of where that truth originates, we as Christians will seek it out and not limit it to a specific time and place. Like God, we know that truth goes ahead of us. Once we find it, we will cherish it, not suffocate it under a superstitious poison.
This is where atheists and agnostics come in at. I have faith in God, but I have a greater faith in the Christian Tradition. As far as the theology of the Living God, I must concur with the apophatic theologians, who I would suggest, would be more favorable to agnostics — who are humble enough in their humanity to suggest that simply, they don’t know (and maybe do not care) — than we are. I would rather doubt God than prove him. After all, the God you can prove is only the god of your Creation. This is why I would give quarter to all facts, regardless of generation — because all truth is God’s truth. This is why I would prefer agnosticism than fundamentalism.
So, Harry, I hope that answers some of your questions. Please feel free to email me with any more.