Wednesday, June 6, 2007

Dawkins and the Steamroller

In our Adult Education class at Antioch, we're working through the section of The God Delusion where Dawkins seeks to cast doubt on the reliability of Scripture. In a few short pages (92-97), he makes several bald assertions--that Jesus never claimed divinity, that the gospels were written long after the events they claim to record, that the gospels we have were chosen arbitrarily from some dozen others, and on and on. What Dawkins is doing here is an example of what Greg Koukl (of Stand To Reason) has called the "steamroller tactic."
A steamroller is someone who is really not interested in dialogue or having questions answered, but instead seeks to monopolize the conversation and overwhelm the discussion. It's not unusual to encounter a steamroller in debates or conversations. It is rare, however, to encounter a steamroller in writing. Most authors--especially those making a grandiose claim like Dawkins'--would attempt to support each claim with facts, citations, solid premises, or other evidence. But Dawkins does not. Each of his assertions is easily answered, and I suspect that he knows this. It's as if he's thinking, "Here's a claim that might cause someone to think the Bible is untrustworthy, but in case not, here's something else they might fall for..."

This coming Sunday, we'll examine Dawkins' version of the charge that the gospels are the result of tainted transmission--that fallible scribes with their own religious agendas so altered each copy they produced that we have no way of knowing what the original gospels contained. We'll look at evidence from the robust field of New Testament textual criticism and find just the opposite, that we can be very confident in our ability to ascertain with greater than 99% certainty what was originally written by the biographers of Jesus.

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