A Gnu Unicorn misses the point (On faith)
by David B. Marshall
An atheist named Mike, who calls himself A-Unicornist, has taken some time recently to blog through our e- (and soon paper) book, True Reason, even though he calls it “terrible.” So let me take time to decontruct his critique of my second chapter, even though I didn’t find it so hot, either. After all, if atheists who define themselves as people who don’t collect stamps or don’t believe in unicorns, still expend hundreds of man-hours justifying themselves for not doing what they implicitly claim needs no justification, the least I can do is spend an hour or so rebutting a very bad argument by a gentleman who really does exist.
At least I think he does. Of course, I take Mike’s existence on faith, in the Christian sense (the sense I am going to explain once again), as I take most things that are real on faith.
Faith is the subject of True Reason. The main questions it attempts to answer are, what do Christians mean by the word “faith?” Is Christian faith reasonable? Is it even meant to be reasonable?
I’ve explained my views on all this often and as clearly as I could, for all the good it seems to have done. I wrote a chapter on the subject already in Jesus and the Religions of Man (2000), another in The Truth Behind the New Atheism (2007), quite a few blog posts, a long anthology of what great Christian thinkers have said about faith and reason for the past two thousand years at christthetao.com, and then the chapter in True Reason that Mike is trying to refute. (Or, so we don’t get the cart before the horse, trying to read. Or allegedly trying to read. As we will see, it is difficult to believe he is trying very hard.)
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By “faith,” I argue Christians have almost always meant something rational, and usually something supported by strong evidence. I deliniate four species of faith: in the mind, senses, other people, and God. I argue that faith in the Christian sense (sense four) is just a special case of, and in continuum with, the first three forms of rational faith. And therefore not only can’t one find God without faith, one also can’t walk down the sidewalk, say “Good morning” to a friend, jump in a swimming hole on a hot summer day, or learn about fossils in pre-Cambrian shales. One can almost never do science without faith, in the Christian sense.
In his book The New Atheism, Victor Stenger quoted my chapter on faith in The Truth Behind the New Atheism ten times, and garbled it badly.
Of course I’m not the only one explaining this to atheists. It’s become a cottage industry. Alister McGrath, Oxford professor of theology, wrote a book large parts of which were dedicated to drilling the actual Christian concept into Richard Dawkins’ thick skull, were it at all possible. McGrath is Dawkins’ colleague, and his expertise lies in historical Christian theology, so he ought to (and does) know what it teaches. As I show in The Truth Behind the New Atheism, he might as well have saved his breath — in one of Dawkin’s ears, out the other…
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