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Is Yahweh a Moral Monster? - Page 10

Final Thoughts

I would like to draw a few strands together here by revisiting the comments of our "new atheist" friends.

A. Naturalism's foundations cannot account for ethical normativity; theism is better positioned to do so.

Though Dawkins accuses Yahweh of being a moral monster, one wonders how Dawkins can launch any moral accusation. This is utterly inconsistent with his total denial of evil and goodness elsewhere:

If the universe were just electrons and selfish genes, meaningless tragedies . . . are exactly what we should expect, along with equally meaningless good fortune. Such a universe would be neither evil nor good in intention . . . . The universe we observe has precisely the properties we should expect if there is, at bottom, no design, no purpose, no evil and no good, nothing but blind pitiless indifference.[97]

In The Devil's Chaplain, he asserts: "Science has no methods for deciding what is ethical. That is a matter for individuals and for society."[98] If science alone gives us knowledge, as Dawkins claims (actually, this is scientism), then how can he deem Yahweh's actions to be immoral?

Furthermore, Sam Harris's attempt to "demolish the intellectual and moral pretensions of Christianity" is quite ironic for a several reasons. First, contrary to assertions by the new atheists, who view biblical theism as the enemy, it has historically served as a moral compass for Western civilization, despite a number of notable deviations from Jesus' teaching across the centuries (for example, the Crusades, Inquisition). In fact, a number of recent works have made a strong case that biblical theism has served as a foundation for the West's moral development.[99]

Second, despite the new atheists' appeals to science, they ignore the profound influence of the Jewish-Christian worldview on the West's scientific enterprise.[100] Despite naturalists' hijacking the foundations of science as their own, physicist Paul Davies sets forth the simple truth: "Science began as an outgrowth of theology, and all scientists, whether atheists or theists . . . accept an essentially theological worldview."[101]

Third, the new atheists somehow gloss over the destructive atheistic ideologies that have led to far greater loss of human life within one century than "religion" (let alone "Christendom") with its wars, Inquisitions, and witch trials. Dinesh D'Souza notes this "indisputable fact": "all the religions of the world put together have in 2,000 years not managed to kill as many people as have been killed in the name of atheism in the past few decades. . . . Atheism, not religion, is the real force behind the mass murders of history."[102]

Fourth, while we can certainly agree with Harris that we can know objective moral truths "without reference to scripture," we are left wondering how human value and dignity could emerge given naturalism's valueless, mindless, materialist origins. If, on the other hand, humans are made in the divine image and are morally constituted to reflect God in certain ways, then atheists as well as theists can recognize objective right and wrong and human dignity-without the assistance of special revelation (Rom. 2:14-15). But the atheist is still left without a proper metaphysical context for affirming such moral dignity and responsibility. And despite Harris's claims, naturalism seems to be morally pretentious in claiming the moral high ground, though without any metaphysical basis for doing so. No, biblical theism, with its emphasis on God's creating humans in his image, is our best hope for grounding objective moral values and human dignity and worth.[103]

B. The new atheists ignore the sui generis status of Israel's theocracy.

Dawkins is concerned about those who "bossily try to force the same evil monster (whether fact or fiction) on the rest of us." Those who scare Dawkins scare me as well. Despite theonomists and Manifest Destiny Americans who may press for a "return to Christian America," such positions are a misrepresentation of Scripture, which opposes any theocratic utopianism for Christians in this fallen world.[104] National Israel's theocratic status, however, was unique, short-lived, and unrepeatable, and her political role and identity as God's people in redemptive history came to a dramatic end in AD 70.[105] An interethnic (Jewish-Gentile) community in Christ has emerged as the true Israel (cp. Rom. 2:28-9; 1 Pet. 2:9). For Dawkins, Hitchens, and Harris to assume that a consistent Christianity is essentially theocratic is out of touch with Scripture's emphasis on Christians as resident aliens, whose ultimate citizenship is not of this world (Phil. 3:20; 1 Pet. 2:11). The nonnationalistic, multiethnic church-the new Israel-is now called to live as salt and light in this world, revealing by lives of love, peacemaking, and unity that they are Christ's disciples (John 13:35).

C. The new atheists wrongly assume that the OT presents an ideal ethic, while ignoring the OT's redemptive spirit and creational ideals.

Despite Dawkins's surprising hostility towards religious belief, he has something of a point when he mentions the "ubiquitous weirdness" of the OT. Similarly, Hitchens refers to OT authors as "crude, uncultured human animals." The Christian can agree that aspects of the OT reflect a problematic and more-primitive ANE moral framework, which Israel had assimilated. Rather than idealize it, though, we should look to certain fixed creational considerations such as the image of God and committed monogamous marriage to inform us as we navigate the OT's challenging waters. Genesis 1-2 undercuts ANE structures approving of racism, slavery, patriarchy, primogeniture, concubinage, prostitution, infant sacrifice, and the like.

So Harris's claim that the OT represents "God's timeless wisdom" is a gross misrepresentation. While the Mosaic Law represents marked moral improvements over other ANE cultures, it still permits but regulates imbedded negative patterns due to the hardness of human hearts.

The new atheists repeatedly attack the biblical witness for what it does not endorse. Christians can readily acknowledge that the OT text itself is not claiming an ideal or ultimate ethic. So we can, with Daniel Dennett, "thank heaven" that those thinking blasphemy or adultery deserves capital punishment are a "dwindling minority."[106]

For references to this article, click here.

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