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Monday, October 24, 2011

On the refusal of Richard Dawkins to debate William Lane Craig, 2 responses


On the topic of atheist Richard Dawkins recently refusing to debate Christian apologist William Lane Craig, brother Gregg Metcalf who blogs over at Gospel Driven Disciples was kind enough to share his thoughts on the topic. Brother Gregg's response is as follows...




"I have been assigned to provide “your exegesis on Dr. Dawkins' characterization of Deuteronomy 20:13-15” in regards to his refusal to debate William Lane Craig.

First, Dawkins characterized Deuteronomy 20:13-15 by this statement, “You would search far to find a modern preacher willing to defend God’s commandment, in Deuteronomy 20:13-15, to kill all the men in a conquered city and to seize the women, children and livestock as plunder ... You might say that such a call to genocide could never have come from a good and loving God.”

It appears that Dawkins characterizes this section as a command of God commit genocide. Genocide is defined as “the deliberate and systematic destruction of a racial, political, or cultural group.” (Webster’s Seventh New Collegiate Dictionary, 1969)

Secondly, I think that we may be starting in the wrong place. In attempting to comment or characterize actions of God we must start with the character of God. The first question that we must ask ourselves, does God have right to make such a command? The answer is yes. Why? God is absolutely sovereign. God, as both revealed in the Scripture and defined by His character or nature has the right to exercise His absolute supremacy in accordance with His divine perfections. God is infinitely elevated above the highest creature. He is the most high and is subject to no one. God is independent and does as He pleases, only as He pleases, and always as He pleases.

My counsel shall stand, and I will do all my pleasure. (Isa 46:10) He doeth according to His will in the army of heaven, and among the inhabitants of the earth; none can stay His hand. (Dan 4:35) But our God is in the heavens: He hath done whatsoever He hath pleased. (Psalms 115:3)

God yields His sovereignty anyway He wishes and does not answer to any man. Job found that out when God chose to refine him through a bitter season. As Job questioned his dire circumstances and treatment God never provided him with an answer. Through a series of questions God demonstrated to Job that he did not have the qualifications or character to question God and to call God to an account of His actions.

It is obvious as one studies both Scripture and the character of God that God never exercises His absolute sovereignty apart from the other “attributes” of His nature. His sovereignty is never exercised apart from justice, mercy, love, holiness, righteousness, grace, and/or kindness. God is not arbitrary or capricious. God always acts perfectly and in unison with all of His divine attributes.

When God gave the command to the nation of Israel in Deuteronomy 20:10-15, He had every right to do so. He had the right and operated within the perfection of His nature when He killed all the inhabitants of the earth save eight souls in the ark. He had the right and acted within the perfection of His nature when He destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah with fire and brimstone.

In Deuteronomy 20:10-15 God gives the command to Israel as the armies advance upon a city to call for peace, in other words to summon the city to make a peaceable surrender. If the city surrendered and submitted then the residents became servants to Israel. However, if the city refused to surrender and submit and attempted to fight against Israel then God commanded Israel to besiege the city. If God chose to allow Israel to prevail in battle then Israel was to kill the males and take the women and children captive.

As horrid as that might sound to Mr. Dawkins, this was the prerogative of a supreme and sovereign God. These actions may seem harsh and outrageous to Dawkins and to us. We are not God. We are finite and God is infinite in all of His perfections. We may not understand His acts or His ways at times. We may even pray for a different course of action or outcome, but God is sovereign and does as He pleases.

I think the text is clear and doesn’t need the judgment of Dawkins or the seemingly rewrite by Craig.

“Canaan was being given over to Israel, whom God had now brought out of Egypt. If the Canaanite tribes, seeing the armies of Israel, had simply chosen to flee, no one would have been killed at all. There was no command to pursue and hunt down the Canaanite peoples,” Craig explained.


"It is therefore completely misleading to characterize God’s command to Israel as a command to commit genocide. Rather it was first and foremost a command to drive the tribes out of the land and occupy it. Only those who remained behind were to be utterly exterminated. No one had to die in this whole affair,” he concluded.

Deuteronomy 7:1-4 states,

"When the LORD your God brings you into the land that you are entering to take possession of it, and clears away many nations before you, the Hittites, the Girgashites, the Amorites, the Canaanites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites, seven nations more numerous and mightier than yourselves, and when the LORD your God gives them over to you, and you defeat them, then you must devote them to complete destruction. You shall make no covenant with them and show no mercy to them. You shall not intermarry with them, giving your daughters to their sons or taking their daughters for your sons, for they would turn away your sons from following me, to serve other gods. Then the anger of the LORD would be kindled against you, and he would destroy you quickly." (ESV, emphasis mine)

God is fully within divine and absolute perfection when He called for the death of these people. The penalty for sin is death. The soul that sins shall die. Death was not always “old age.” When God called for the death of these people and Israel put them to death, they were simply receiving what was due and just.

As I conclude my assignment I shall add a couple of ideas for thought. First, I know of no command, mandate, or directive that an unbelieving sinner must debate anyone. As a matter of fact I don’t even see the value of a debate. It is true that each believer is to be ready to give an answer, a defense, or an apology for what we believe, but I don’t know ifthat same mandate applies to the wicked and the lost.

Secondly, God charged Israel once with the indictment that they had erroneously and sinfully concluded that God was like them. We cannot “start” with a premise of what is fair or unfair, right or wrong, just or unjust and judge the actions of God in either the Old Testament or the New Testament. God is sovereign, full of perfection and will always act in accordance with His divine nature for His glory and our good.

Although we as God’s people today have no mandate to commit genocide against any racial, political, or cultural group, we cannot judge God or His actions as wrong, sinful, inhumane, or against our sense of justice. Otherwise, this is the height of pride and arrogance. My characterization of Dawkins reasons for refusing to debate is that he has placed Himself above God, and made Himself a judge of God and His actions and that is the epitome of pride and arrogance in a sinful, wicked, man in need of redemption."






I thank brother Gregg for his unique and well thought out analysis of this issue. My thoughts on the contraversy are as follows....






It seems that Richard Dawkins has had to stoop to feigning fake moral hand-wringing in order to avoid debating arch-apologist William Lane Craig. While I would surmize that the main reasons that he is avoiding such a debate are because, as Dr. David Berlinski has described, that Dawkins is a 'crummy philosopher' who 'lacks the rudimentary skills to meticulously assess his own arguments' and this would be laid bare publicly in a most embarrassing manner. Also that that debating WLC did not work out very well for the likes of Dr. Peter Adkins and Sam Harris.

However the fact that Dr. Dawkins has raised a poorly constructed argument to rationalize adopting the Run-and-Hide Method of Argumentation in this instance by claiming God condones 'Genocide' is monumentally stupid, even by his own lofty standards. In specific, Dawkins claims to have a problem with the instructions found in Deuteronomy 20:13-15.

"When the Lord your God delivers it into your hand, put to the sword all the men in it. As for the women, the children, the livestock and everything else in the city, you may take these as plunder for yourselves. And you may use the plunder the Lord your God gives you from your enemies. This is how you are to treat all the cities that are at a distance from you and do not belong to the nations nearby. " (NIV translation)

As Brother Gregg mentioned in his response, we should start from the beginning. If were to read just slightly ahead in this chapter of scripture, you would see in verse 18 that if the Israelites do not attack these peoples, then "they will teach you to follow all the detestable things they do in worshiping their gods". Since the Book of Leviticus chronicles the horrific religious practices of these people ranging from all manner of sexual depravity to the human sacrifice of young children, one can see why the people of the Ancient Near East would be much better off not absorbing their practices. There is indication that such practices were starting to seep into other cultures and this did not bode well at all for the region.

One thing I would like you to consider is the very distinct option (that I heard raised by Dr. Norman Wise at a lecture recently) that a society can become so completely and utterly depraved that it can reach a point where there is no turning back.

A point in which there is no societal cure.

Nor a remedy of any kind.

Their morally reprehensible attitudes and perversions can be so thoroughly ingrained from top to bottom of a society that change is not possible and the most likely outcome would then be for their attitudes to start affecting surrounding cultures. Therapy did not exist at the time and I doubt they would have listened anyway.

Additionally, God waited for many years for these peoples to renounce their ways before extolling judgement upon them. They had every opportunity to change, and yet they refused, or as this writer describes for us...

"Thus Canaan had, as it were, a final forty-year countdown as they heard of the events in Egypt, at the crossing of the Reed Sea, and what happened to the kings who opposed Israel along the way. We know that they were aware of such events, for Rahab confessed that these same events had terrorized her city of Jericho and that she, as a result, had placed her faith in the God of the Hebrews (Josh. 2:10-14). Thus God waited for the "cup of iniquity" to fill up -- and fill up it did without any change in spite of the marvelous signs given so that the nations, along with Pharaoh and the Egyptians, "might know that he was the Lord."

I can only guess as to why Dawkins concentrates on this particular passage from Deuteronomy when, if he wanted to wail about the destruction of certain peoples, then the judgement that befell certain 'cities of the plain' would seem much more likely a candidate for criticism as entire towns were made to disappear from the face of the earth through natural disasters. However, to use an example that utilized fire and brimstone to achieve it's ends would deprive Dr Dawkins of all of the lurid and vivid imagery that the word Genocide conjures up in the mind, complete with internment camps of poor souls, wasting away and awaiting The Big Dirt Nap while the outer perimeter is patrolled by whatever equivalent the Ancient Near East had to Shutzstaffel guards. Fire and brimstone just don't cut it in this sense and would not be nearly as useful to Dr. Dawkins in committing his pet appeal to emotion fallacy.

We know that when fallible man was put in charge of carrying out God's judgement rather than a natural disaster that these people were not wiped out.

"That many of the Canaanites continued in the land even to the days of Solomon, we have the fullest proof; for we read, 2 Chronicle 8:7 "All the people of the land that were left of the Hittites, Amorites, Perizzites, Hivites, and Jebusites, who were left in the land, whom the children of Israel consumed not, them did Solomon make to pay tribute to this day." Thus Solomon destroyed their political existence, but did not consider himself bound by the law of God to put them to death."

Dr Dawkins, I would encourage you to examine God's written word with something other than a mind that is completely closed and through the clouded lense of poor, militant, evangelical atheist apologetics and that you embrace the faith of your youth. He is waiting for you now and would like to see all come to repentance...




"Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” Matthew 11:28-30







22 comments:

Larri @ Seams Inspired said...

Great food for thought. Gregg, excellent response. Too heady for me to weigh in, though I thoroughly enjoyed reading this post. Happy Monday! ☺

GentleSkeptic said...

We cannot “start” with a premise of what is fair or unfair, right or wrong, just or unjust … we cannot judge God or His actions as wrong, sinful, inhumane, or against our sense of justice.

It's statements like this that summarize so succinctly the moral abyss of Divine Command Theory, and show so clearly why Dawkins will never dignify WLC by sharing a stage with him.

The Euthyphro objection is still robust and valid.

Justin Vacula said...

JD, I have 'reconsidered' by decision to debate you [and have sent a debate challenge to WLC myself]. Blog post of mine is upcoming.

Let's work out the details. How about the topic "Does the Christian God exist?"

We can post our individual statements on our respective blogs and do this in a 'correspondence' matter of 'one person posts, the next person posts' in a minute length typed format

(opening statements from each - 10 minutes, rebuttals 10 minutes,
rebuttal responses 10 minutes
closing statements 5 minutes)

Here are some ideas I have:
Keep the discussion limited to the debate; don't go pulling previous posts your opponent authored, but rather 'start a new case' and directly address what is in the debate.

48 hour response time to any given post.

No copy-pasting to form your arguments or rebuttals.

Any other ideas?
Want to do this?

JD Curtis said...

The Euthyphro objection is still robust and valid

It really doesn't concern me GS. Consider the following...

"Is that which is legal legislated by the legislature because it is legal, or is it legal because it is legislated by the legislature?"

"Judicial- and executive-branch encroachment on the legislative function notwithstanding, the legality of a law depends solely upon the fact that it was legislated by the relevant legislature. Nor can there be any question that a legislature has the power to set itself above the legality of its own laws since we see Congress doing this on a regular basis. And yet, no sane being would claim that this somehow calls into question the existence or the substantive meaning of either the law or the legislature.

An act which was not legal yesterday is transformed into legality by the act of legislation. So, unless one genuinely wishes to argue that there is no substantive meaning to saying "that which is legal is legal because it is legislated by Congress", one cannot possibly argue that there is no substantive meaning to saying "that which is moral is moral because it is commanded by God."

Link

JD Curtis said...

How about the topic "Does the Christian God exist?"

How about, "Is it likely that the Christian God exists?"

Do we have a moderator?

Feel free to send me an email.

Gregg said...

I am not sure how having an unconverted atheist on stage becomes a dignifying act. The age old question of whether something is good or because God says it is or by virtue of commanding it becomes good is a foolish question that the Apostle Paul warned his disciple Timothy against entering into. It leads to strive. It is as useless as questioning whether God can make a rock so heavy He couldn't lift. God has revealed Himself to the extent that He has chosen to us in the Scriptures. He states that His ways are not our ways, He and His ways are "above" our ways or beyond our comprehension.

I have attended debates as most of us have. Last year I attended a Doug Paget - James White debate. After sitting through the debacle I came away believing that debates were absolutely useless and truly serve no purpose.

I did not say that apologetics or apologists were useless and served no purpose. We believers are clearly called to "give an answer for the hope that lies within us." We must examine a doctrine or teaching in light of the Holy Scriptures and issue a position paper, statement, an exegetical apology and clearly state the Christian position, but a debate. Why give time to error or false teaching. Paul told Timothy to keep it out of the church and learn now to shut it down.

So, I don't think RD could "dignify" WLC by his presence on stage if the Divine Command Theory was a non issue.

GentleSkeptic said...

I don't think RD could "dignify" WLC by his presence on stage if the Divine Command Theory was a non issue.

One wonders, then, why WLC is clamoring so loudly for Dawkins' attention.

So, unless one genuinely wishes to argue that there is no substantive meaning to saying "that which is legal is legal because it is legislated by Congress", one cannot possibly argue that there is no substantive meaning to saying "that which is moral is moral because it is commanded by God."

What a spectacular question-begging non-sequitur. If you believe that legality and morality are the same, or are similarly derived, then you are more deceived than I had thought. As is Vox.

All we need to hear from the apologists is this:

We cannot “start” with a premise of what is fair or unfair, right or wrong, just or unjust

Got that? You CANNOT.

Justin Vacula said...

Why change "Does the Christian god exist" or "Is it likely that the Christian god exists?" Doesn't this give you quite an advantage/ make the debate much more difficult for me?

Stormbringer said...

Transparent excuses show for what they are. I remember someone demanding that I prove God's existence in the comments section of someone's Weblog. (Yeah, sure.) I told him that I have a page of apologetics links at my site that would probably provide him with evidence, and answers for his questions. His response? "No, I know what they're going to say". That's my prize winner for lamest excuse (and calling his bluff about wanting answers). I have similar problems referring evolutionists to my Piltdown Superman links...

JD Curtis said...

Why change "Does the Christian god exist" or "Is it likely that the Christian god exists?" Doesn't this give you quite an advantage/ make the debate much more difficult for me?

Then use 'Does the Christian God exist?' if you wish.

Irregardless, I feel that if someone that is openminded is reading the discussion, they would probably conclude that it is either more likely or less likely that the God of the Bible exists following any debate.

JD Curtis said...

One wonders, then, why WLC is clamoring so loudly for Dawkins' attention

Dawkins regularly criticizes the Bible and yet who are the top-tier apologists he has ever alowed himself to debate?

What a spectacular question-begging non-sequitur. If you believe that legality and morality are the same, or are similarly derived, then you are more deceived than I had thought. As is Vox

Please reread the above (8:13) post.

When you have done so, please define what a 'legislature' is in the given example.

GentleSkeptic said...

Oh, I read it. There is no "given example."

unless one genuinely wishes to argue that there is no substantive meaning to saying "that which is legal is legal because it is legislated by Congress", one cannot possibly argue that there is no substantive meaning to saying "that which is moral is moral because it is commanded by God."

In other words

legal = "legislated by Congress", therefore moral = "commanded by God."

Vox is just creating definitions. Which is known as question begging. He hasn't shown in any substantive way that his definition holds water. He's simply asserted it. It's a bait & switch: he blathers on about Congress, and then jumps to his non-sequitur claim: a legislature is an inherently legal entity, by definition, therefore God is an inherently moral agent, by definition.

Read it this way:

That which is (legislated by Congress) is (legislated by Congress) because it is legislated by Congress.

That which is (commanded by God) is (commanded by God) because it is commanded by God.


This kind of tautology is only convincing when you already agree.

………

Dawkins regularly criticizes the Bible and yet who are the top-tier apologists he has ever alowed himself to debate?

There is only one tier of apologists.

JD Curtis said...

GS, if, by definition, a legislature 'legislates' and gets to define what a law is, then why is it inconsistent for God define what is good? The fact that you might not agree with Him?

Is the fact that you may not agree with laws passed by the legislature make the ability of the legislature to define what constitutes a law then a 'tautology'? Or do they still get to define law and you simply are in disagreement with them?

JD Curtis said...

Just for shucks and giggles, I posted the link to this discussion on a forum over at richarddawkins.net

I can't wait for the overwhelming amount of 'rational free-thought' to start permeating this particular thread.

JD Curtis said...

It lasted about half an hor before they deleted it. Such intellect over there

GentleSkeptic said...

if, by definition, a legislature 'legislates' and gets to define what a law is, then why is it inconsistent for God define what is good?

Because the two are completely unrelated, and "what is good?" is the question before us, not a handily referenced and agreed-upon dictionary definition. By all means, please link to the definition of "good" that says "what God defines."

In any case, if a member of the legislature breaks the law, we don't say what he did was "legal", we launch an investigation and punish the crime. (John Ensign.) If, for some reason, the member "gets away with it," we still don't say that what he did was "legal", just that he broke the law but ultimately got away with it because he's in a protected political class. (Richard Nixon.) It still doesn't make everything the members of the legislature do inherently "legal."

If God, on the other hand, commands or does something that isn't actually "good," you just change the definition of "good" to mean whatever God did, and continue to say that it was "good." So maybe the reality is actually that God says and does some bad stuff, but just gets away with it because He's God? It still doesn't make everything God does and says inherently "good."

Such intellect over there

Says the guy who used "irregardless" without a trace of irony, and can't spell-check "half an hor".

JD Curtis said...

Because the two are completely unrelated

To the extent that they are 'related' is not germane to this discussion.

The fact is you have not addressed the point that you (presumably) accept that a legislature, by it's very definition and nature, gets to legislate, define what a law is and even to supercede and change a law, while you will not accept the same characteristics in relation to God and what is 'good'.


Furthermore, your intentional obfuscation by trying to change the subject from an entity such as a 'legislature' to individual members of a legislature and their imagined proclivities indicates that either you do not grasp the subject at hand or you are being willfully obtuse.

GentleSkeptic said...

I don't know how to put this more clearly.

The definition of a legislature does not in any way point to the definition of morality, or God's authority to determine it. One is not proof of the other. One is not evidence of the other. It is, at best, a false parallel, a bad simile—"legislature" is to "law" as "God" is to "morality"—not a conclusive proof. It's not even close to a proof, it's a simple comparison, with authority as the common ground, and one that falls rather short.

It is your task to show that they are related (which is, in fact manifestly germane…why else would Vox, or anyone, even make the comparison?) not to keep simply asserting it as obvious. It is not obvious.

I have to say, this really takes the cake as one of your dumber lines of "argument."

GentleSkeptic said...

Let me put it this way:

Accepting the definition of "legislature" and it's relationship to "law" put forth by Merriam-Webster does not compel me, or anyone, to accept the definition of "God" and His relationship to "morality" put forth by conservative Christian bloggers.

Ironically, you are focusing on the authoritative aspect of a legislature, when you'd get a much stronger parallel for the origin of morality if you focused on the collective aspect, since a democratic legislature actually derives its authority to make law from the consent of the governed.

Your analogy actually works better if you begin with a king and his kingdom or a dictator and his country: "King Henry/Kim Jong Il is to law as God is to morality."

A democratic legislature and its laws represent a consensus, and the consent of the governed. How does a divinely decreed moral code represent a consensus or the consent of God's subjects? (Hint: it doesn't.)

Here's a much better parallel: "A democratic legislature is to law as culture is to morality." Both are collectively derived and enforced. No divine decrees necessary.

JD Curtis said...

A democratic legislature and its laws represent a consensus, and the consent of the governed

Demonstrably incorrect. Since when does a legislature have to be democratically elected and enjoy the 'consent of the governed' in order to legislate? I'm sure if we were to ask Kim Jong Il about it, he would have some very interesting thoughts on the matter.

And this has nothing to do with 'morality' (or 'ethics' for that matter), but with the ability of an entity to both DO what it IS.

Theological Discourse said...

Because the two are completely unrelated, and "what is good?" is the question before us, not a handily referenced and agreed-upon dictionary definition. By all means, please link to the definition of "good" that says "what God defines."
They're related. You don't see it most likely due to your complete ignorance in consistent and logic thought.

A legislator defines what is law by nature of the position. God, being the 'legislator' of the entire universe, defines what is good by nature of the position of the creator of the universe.

The creator of a law actually breaking the law is an entirely different argument. Can you seriously not tell the difference between who gets to define what X is and breaking X after it is already defined? the 2 are completely different topics.

Hilarious inconsistent skeptics like GS are. They insist things like the origin of life is a separate argument than evolution, but want to insist that breaking a law after it has been created is somehow the same topic as define what exactly a law is.

GentleSkeptic said...

Hey JD: why, do you suppose, does William Lane Craig refuse to debate his former student John Loftus?