Richard Dawkins is rightfully receiving some heat for his comments on “mild pedophilia,” if there is such a thing, and the blog sharks are coming from all directions for some freshly chopped chum.
Rachel Held Evans (hereafter “RHE”) responds to Richard Dawkins through CNN here. Please read it first so I don’t have to use extra energy typing backstory.
It is important for me to start out by saying I believe RHE has good intentions and is right to suggest that respectful dialogue between anti-theists and Christians is needed in a very big way. The apostle Peter admonishes believers to always be ready to provide a defense for the faith we hold. She uses the relevant Christian example of Pat Robertson, who can be as “What the hell did he just say?” as Richard Dawkins.
RHE continues that Dawkins’ remarks are easy to use as “an excuse to paint one another with broad brushes.” She is right that it is tempting to do so, but I can’t help but wonder if Dawkins’ quote is but another aspect of the New Atheists’ favorite tactic: saying something that causes an opponent to take his eye off the argument and focus instead solely on what Dawkins said.
Pedophilia is in fact reprehensible and does damage children long into their adult lives if they do not receive counseling and support throughout; however, focusing just on the “He’s an idiot if he thinks that” aspect is to neglect the fact that Dawkins has just conceded defeat to a major argument for morality. Hear me out.
If we are the results of an unguided, blind evolutionary process, the inclination towards pedophilia is just a chemical reaction in certain adults that is no different from the man who prefers pepperoni on his pizza when his best friend wants Canadian bacon. Without a moral order created by a Creator, molesting a child is no worse than rain falling on a summer afternoon or a lioness chasing down a young antelope on the Serengeti so she can feed her cubs. It is not bad nor good, it simply “is not” anything, or so the atheist argument goes.
Back to the article at hand, RHE begins by citing examples of people who have reached across the theo-philosophical aisle to attempt the respectful dialogue she prizes so highly. The only thing is, any confessing Christian has strong reason to believe the reason her examples are so well-known are because the Christian side of the aisle is the one who conceded in each respective interaction.
Her first example is to point to an article about the Pope responding to a letter from an atheist. The Papal-pupil dialogue is respectful in that the reader never gets the idea the participants are seething in malice towards one another. But I fail to see how the Pope denying the central (read: foundation of all biblical Christian belief) doctrine of Jesus Christ as sole Savior and Propitiation for the sins of the world is in any way engaging with the opponents’ viewpoint. To me it just sounds like heresy and a tail tucked between its legs.
The additional examples of Christians she provides have all, in some fashion, amended a portion of Christian doctrine in such a way that makes it sound no different than a secular version of each topic. Of the examples, I am more familiar with two of them, Francis Collins and Barack Obama. Francis Collins has made one of his life’s works the quest to show how macro-evolution is compatible with the Bible’s description of creation. President Obama is on camera attempting to use Scripture to back up same sex unions, but fails to see how “Thou shalt not kill” applies to children in the womb just like it does to children in Syria.
My point in writing this post is not to decipher the salvation of the above individuals, nor that of Rachel Held Evans. I am guilty many times over of the same attempts to water down the truths of God contained in the Bible to avoid being declared on the “wrong side of history.” But even in my sin, the truth of Christ does not falter in my failure. As Christians redeemed by the blood of Jesus Christ, the sin nature in us causes us all to attempt to use Scripture for our personal justification. In repentance, we return to the grace of Jesus, who alone forgives our sins and renews us. His mercies are new each morning, as Lamentations so eloquently declares:
The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases;
his mercies never come to an end;
they are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness.
“The Lord is my portion,” says my soul,
“therefore I will hope in him.”
To close, RHE offers this plea, with my emphasis in italics:
Still, in the end, it’s not about who has the most charismatic or generous personalities in their roster, nor about who has the most “crazies.” It’s about the truth.
So let’s talk about the truth, and with the people who most consistently and graciously point us toward it.
If I am reading her correctly, she is pointing us to a truth she does not actually believe. Please excuse my broad strokes.