Richard Dawkins simply doesn't understand Christianity.
This is sad for a number of reasons.
He is, after all, a man in need of Jesus--just like the rest of us. He's also--sadly, unlike many of us who know better--viewed as something of an authority on religion. Millions of people around the globe place great stock in his words and judgments.
All the while, he simply doesn't understand Christianity.
Earlier today Dr. Dawkins published a column for the Times Online on 'Christian hypocrisy.'
Certainly such a thing exists, and one does not need any kind of pedigree in Christian doctrine to identify it in many of its forms. Yet, I'm afraid what Dawkins has written reveals more about himself than it does about Christian teaching.
Ignoring his remarks about the doctrine of the Atonement (which, I have to point out, betray pretty clearly his ignorance of Christian teaching), let's take a look at some of his closing remarks. All of this is in the context of a reflection on the recent remarks of Pat Robertson concerning the carnage in Haiti, as well as the Christian reaction against Robertson.
You nice, middle-of-the-road theologians and clergymen, be-frocked and bleating in your pulpits, you disclaim Pat Robertson's suggestion that the Haitians are paying for a pact with the Devil. But you worship a god-man who — as you tell your congregations, even if you don’t believe it yourself — “cast out devils”. You even believe (or you don’t disabuse your flock when they believe) that Jesus cured a madman by causing the “devils” in him to fly into a herd of pigs and stampede them over a cliff. Charming story, well calculated to uplift and inspire the Sunday School and the Infant Bible Class.
Robertson may spout evil nonsense, but he is a mere amateur at that game. Just read your own New Testament. Pat Robertson is true to it. But you?
Dawkins, at the end, suggests that the New Testament is as sadistic (I don't think that's too strong a word) as Robertson himself seems to be; it is the compassionate Christian who has missed the most thoroughly Christian reading of both the ancient text and the contemporary disaster.
Dr. Dawkins, let us see if the New Testament itself might guide us towards the proper, Christian view of such horrors as the earthquake in Haiti.
In fact, let's look at the New Testament's final word on such things.
Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, "Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning nor crying nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away."
I've read my New Testament. I'm not sure what grand theological point you draw from demons driving a herd of swine off of a cliff... but on the issues of pain, suffering, and death, the New Testament is quite straightforward. "Death is swallowed up in victory" (1 Cor. 15:54).
If--and I believe this is the case--Richard Dawkins can really listen to Pat Robertson and then say 'ah, the true Christian voice', he really doesn't understand the first thing about Christianity.
And this man is viewed as something of an authority.
I mean this in all sincerity: pray for Richard Dawkins. Pray that he would come to understand the topics on which he speaks. More than that, pray that he might see something of the God who looks at the world and then says "Behold, I am making all things new."