Tuesday, October 26, 2010

David B. Hart vs. The New Atheists

I'm a certified David B. Hart fanboy. I love reading his writings on any subject. But he's most prolific and noteworthy in his battles with the New Atheists. I've collected links to all of his articles at First Things on the subject, as well as one link to his book on the topic. Some of the links you have to be a subscriber to the magazine to access, but at least 2 of them are available to all.

The Desirist's Unsatisfiable Desires
Believe it or Not
Origin of the Specious
Daniel Dennett Hunts the Snark
The Dawkins Evolution
Beyond Disbelief
Atheist Delusions: The Christian Revolution and Its Fashionable Enemies

Hart's prose is phenomenal and I enjoy his haughty, provocative aesthetic. His penetrating insights cut to the heart of the matter and do so with finesse. He has a broad knowledge of history, encompassing not just the 'raw data' but a keen sense of how and why history works as it does. Hart is on the front line in the fight against the New Atheists, and consistently makes significant advances against their often unreflective and incoherent materialism.

One might ask why, as a Christian, we should expend so much energy bothering to refute atheist arguments? Rather than simply be a living example of Christ. We know the atheist is wrong, but arguments aren't going to convince them that they are. Especially not the entrenched, professional atheist who has so much at stake. So why bother?

There are a few important reasons we must contend with them directly. To meet them on the intellectual battlefield, as C.S. Lewis says. The first reason is that scientific-minded atheists are staking a claim to reality. The Christian faith is strongly grounded in historical, factual claims about physical events. Therefore our claims of what the facts of history are and how they are to be interpreted immediately and naturally conflict. But why try to argue the truth of Christ to a hardened heart? Indeed, but in this struggle there's more at stake than just the fate of the combatants in the ring. 'New Atheism', primarily in the form of anti-God literature, is a million dollar industry and is winning many converts with its gospel of lies, untruths and deceit. There are many sincerely undecided and educated people who are being convinced that Christianity is an intellectual and factual non-starter. So there is actually a lot at stake in confronting and refuting their arguments.

Beyond counteracting their anti-Gospel, it's also important that Christians be able to vigorously defend their faith for our own sake. We are called to test everything and hold on to the good. We can't allow that dangerous and false perception that Faith resides in one sphere, while fact and reason reside in another, and that the two things are unrelated, to fester and harden in people's minds. It's incumbent upon us to make clear the ways in which the two are inextricably related.

Of course there are various pitfalls that come with the territory. Pride can take over and winning arguments for your own self-satisfaction can become central, rather than the ultimate goal of glorifying Christ. But we don't have to fall prey to this. Rather we must allow fact and reason to be incorporated into our living testimony. How could they not be? Doing this often requires introspection and questioning of many of our own long held, traditional assumptions. Many times resulting in a new, deeper understanding of our own faith, as well as a more sound and convincing apologetic to share with others.

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