Monday, January 15, 2007

A criticism of Randerson

Professor Richard Dawkins, a zoologist from Oxford, has written a book called The God Delusion, in which he attempts to offer cogent argument against religious belief in general and Christian belief in particular. Leaving aside the ludicrous idea of a zoologist and atheist writing about religion, we turn our eyes closer to home and another Richard, Richard Randerson by name, who holds a position of some significance within the Anglican Church of New Zealand.

According to Deputy Bishop Randerson the appropriate response to Professor Dawkins’ fulminations is to roll on ones back and play dead. More specifically; to say that the response to Dawkins’ criticisms of Christianity is that some in the Christian church don’t believe in such concepts as God as supreme being anyway. Such a position is not Christian.

To argue that science cannot prove the existence of God as Randerson does is to say nothing. The scientific process is based on an individual observing a phenomena, constructing a hypothetical mechanism to explain that phenomena, testing the hypothesis and if it stands declaring it a theory and casting it into the trash if it does not. Few if any “theories” are proven; they are merely in a state of pre-falsification. Science does provide us with inferences such as the argument from first cause, or the design argument, which suggest the existence of deity but such general revelation does not lead us automatically to the God of the Bible.

The specific means by which we can know about God is through the Bible. This book records a history of the relationship between God and the human race through the eyes of Moses and the people of Israel. However Randerson rejects much of this book as well, in favour of his “god is a warm fuzzy feeling” heresy. He rejects the existence of the first man and woman, despite the fact that even atheists recognize that without a literal Adam and Eve and a literal rebellion against God, there is no need for Jesus, a divine settling of debts (atonement) or a literal resurrection. Interestingly enough Randerson accepts some form of resurrection despite it being unnecessary from his perspective and impossible for his warm fuzzy god to achieve.

The gospels that we have were determined by Dr. John A.T. Robinson to have been written prior to 64AD, within forty years of the Crucifixion and within the lifetime of many observers including Mary, Jesus’ mother. The gospels of Mark and Luke were not written by eyewitnesses but by researchers who were extremely careful in their work. It makes no sense for Randerson to reject the accounts of the Virgin Birth because Matthew and Luke could not have experienced it personally, if they could get the information from others. Those sources could have been friends of Joseph for Matthew, and Mary for Luke.

Christianity is based on events whose historical accounts at least rival the accuracy of other ancient sources. The doctrines derived from the accounts are logical and rational. In place of them Richard Randerson would substitute a tyranny of feelings and post-modern illogic. Ironically on this point Professor Dawkins and I agree. Dawkins despises Christians, but he has no use for those who profess some watered down beliefs. The beliefs of liberal Churchmen like Richard Randerson are indistinguishable from those of atheists on any point that matter and hence I have no use for them either.

I may have been a little hard on Richard Randerson, based on later comments he seems to adhere to a fairly orthodox position on the nature of God and Jesus. However the main thrust of my argument, that the Christian should not compromise their position because of the latest nonsense from atheists, is undisturbed.