On the other hand, McLaren’s A Generous Orthodoxy appears to have done exactly as I hoped: clearing away the peripheral gripes to enable us to focus on the core disputation. Together with Seeking Middle Ground (Alan’s followup to my Pursuit of Beauty, Goodness, and Truth a la The Pilgrim’s Regress) I think I may finally have a (tentative) grasp on the core of Alan’s beef with Christianity.
Have I got it right about what he thinks I’ve got wrong? [Read more] to find out…
In these last couple posts, though, I think I’ve glimpsed two core issues that strongly highlight the differences between our respective positions. From what I can tell, Alan objects to:
Or, in layman’s terms, that there is one holy and loving God over all the universe, and that we can usefully know Him through the Bible.
In my moments of wilder optimism, I dare to presume that these might actually be Alan’s foundational objections to Christianity. That is, if (hypothetically) Alan could be convinced that belief in these two propositions was well-justified, he would concede that Christianity as a whole (or at least my variant of it) was a well-justified.
On the flip side, I think Alan’s main thrust so far is not so much to show that those beliefs are “false”, but i) unjustified, and ii) irrelevant. As best I can tell, his position is roughly as follows:
I. Belief in an omnipotent, benevolent Deity is superfluous at best, and dangerous at worst
That is, it is entirely possible — and perhaps easier — to:
by denying the existence of such a deity, rather than affirming such. In other words, there exist orthogonal belief systems which are at least as capable of producing social good and epistemic accuracy as Christianity-as-we-know-it (CAWKI).
II. Any and all purported records of encounters with divinity are due to confusion, deception, or delusion on the part of the authors
That is, Biblical stories (or, for that matter, personal anecdotes) that describe God speaking or acting in various are pure fabrications, and have no normative value whatsoever in elucidating the true nature of the universe. Sure, some stories (e.g., the Sermon on the Mount) or beliefs (e.g., in hell for the wicked) may have some inspirational value in motivating virtuous living, but to uncritically treat all of them as authoritative is unjustified, unnecessary, and quite possibly dangerous.
While not quite a Brickman, this is hopefully at least kinder to Alan that a pure Strawman — might we call it a Woodman?
Alan, do these fairly capture your position on these issues? How might you modify, elaborate or expand upon them? Would you also agree that these are central to your critique of my brand of Christianity, as represented by McLaren and Lewis?
On the flip side, I am willing to defend the following two propositions:
That is, I am not claiming perfect knowledge or irrefutable evidence, but I am claiming that the basis of my belief in God and the Bible is precisely comparable to what I hope we would both consider “settled scientific fact.”
Which leads to the question: if I am able to successfully define, debate, and defend these two propositions, would Alan agree that my faith is well-justified — whether or not he agrees?
For my part, I’m willing to let the outcome of our DiaBlogue hang on these two issues. To be sure, I’m not really expecting this to necessarily change what either of us believe, but I do hope we can at least agree about which beliefs are (and are not) well-supported by the available facts.
What do you think, Alan?