Thursday, July 16, 2009

The Christian God

Alister McGrath -- one of the best Christian apologists I've ever heard -- recently debated Christopher Hitchens at Georgetown University. If you have some time to spare and you're interested in religious philosophy, it's definitely worth watching.

I am no longer a practicing Catholic, but I've always had a big problem with the kind of militant atheism offered up by prominent "antitheists" like Christopher Hitchens and Richard Dawkins. These men consistently distort the Christianity that I grew up with, presenting the most horrific passages from the Old Testament as an integral part of Christian dogma.

I suspect Hitchens and Dawkins know that they are setting up a straw man here, since any theologian would tell you that serious Christians do not follow the law of the Pentateuch.

In his book The Dawkins Delusion?, McGrath offers an excellent explanation of how Christians tend to reflect on the Old Testament:

So how are we to make sense of the Hebrew Scriptures . . . ?

Christians base their approach on the teaching of Jesus, who saw himself as having come to fulfill, not abolish, the Jewish law (Matthew 5:17). Dawkins takes the view that Jesus regarded the Old Testament as wrong, requiring correction; Jesus, however, saw himself as fulfilling the Old Testament, and thus transforming it.

The Hebrew Scriptures are read and interpreted through a Christological filter or prism. It is for this reason that Christians do not -- and never have -- implemented the cultic law set out in the pages of the Old Testament.

True to form, Dawkins ignores this inconvenience, insisting that to take the Bible seriously is to "strictly observe the Sabbath and think it just and proper to execute anyone who chose not to." Or to "execute disobedient children." Dawkins knows this is not true; enough Christians have told him so.

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