The 200th anniversary of Charles Darwin’s birth was celebrated at Cambridge. Philip Clayton, a theology prof of mine, was in a public debate with Daniel Dennett (scientist and new atheist). Dennett blogged about it:
Richard Dawkins’ wonderful sentence about how nasty the God of the Old Testament is was read with relish by Philip Clayton, Professor at Claremont School of Theology in California, and the point apparently was to illustrate just how philistine these atheists were…though I noticed that he didn’t say he disagreed with Richard’s evaluation of Yahweh…
Clayton astonished me by listing God’s attributes: according to his handsomely naturalistic theology, God is not omnipotent, not even supernatural, and . . . . in short Clayton is an atheist who won’t admit it.
For my part, I can only express my amazement that Dan chose not to mention any of the philosophical questions, nor the call to dialogue itself, but only to answer with a series of dismissive comments and rhetorical moves. Not only does he decline the invitation to reasonable debate; he fails even to mention it. In fact, isn’t his choice of rhetoric instead of argument an instance of exactly what he is accusing theologians of doing?
I can only express my deep disappointment at a philosopher who has so lost interest in philosophical debate. I remember the pride in our discipline that I felt as an undergraduate philosophy major. We were willing to take the best of human reason into absolutely any area, and while many would be unwilling to follow “the force of the better argument” … or even to defend their views at all … at least philosophers would never shy away from the task. I remember looking up to famous philosophers, including the young Daniel Dennett, as ideas worthy of emulation.
Things to learn. When debating an atheist scientist you should remember that Christianity is only Christianity….
….if you are fundamentalist who takes the Bible literally in all cases
….ascribe the Greek philosopher and scientist Aristotle’s divine attributes (omnipotence being their favorite) to God
….agree with them that Yahweh, like every God worth the title of deity, wants to order genocide
IF you do not do these things and instead engage in a passionate and intellectual journey to articulate your faith in the God revealed in Jesus Christ through rigorous philosophy and scientific engagement you are clearly a closeted atheist. Even more sneaky than that, Philip teaches at a seminary and prepares ministers for careers in churches all the while never admitting to anyone, even himself, that he has given his life to a sham.
UPDATE 2: Denis Alexande posted his own response at the Telegraph