Apr 2, 2013

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MEDITATION: A repentant refutation

Be not wise in your own eyes (Proverbs 3:7).

One of the very best theological defences against the scientist Richard Dawkins arguments that God is a delusion and that therefore faith is needless and redundant, was presented by the Lutheran theologian Klaus Nürnberger.

In his book “Richard Dawkins’ God Delusion – A repentant refutation”, Nürnberger admits that Dawkins has very good arguments. That he rightly shows us how Christianity has often betrayed the gospel and failed humanity. Nürnberger is deeply aware of this, therefore the title of his book: “A repentant refutation”. His book is therefore also an urgent appeal that we should once and for all rid ourselves of a religion that is exclusive, discriminatory and which keeps its followers ignorant.

It is however also clear that Dawkins’ book had disturbed Nürnberger, who is a honest thinker and committed believer, very deeply – especially because of its one-sidedness and ignorance regarding the understanding of Biblical texts and traditions, as well as theology’s own internal debates. Also Dawkins’ arrogant discounting and rejection of a faith that had changed the lives of many over the centuries, offering them freedom and consolation, is for Nürnberger a stumbling block.

For him Dawkins and his followers’ stance is an upsetting example of how the spirit of modernism, which sees empirical proof as the only criterion for truth, can limit your view of life and even worse: create the illusion that we as humans are the masters of the universe.

The feeling that the book and the related debate left with me is best described by the first strophe of a poem that goes like this.

That the longing for a God has disappeared
and that only the taunt and the scorn continues
remains the big shame of our age.
While reading the book, I realized again that the mysteries of life are much bigger than we can ever think or understand. Also that in the debate between faith and science we need, on both sides, to retain a spirit of humility and honest curiosity – one which should help us not to become overconfident, arrogant or to claim final answers too quickly.

Because in the words of Nürnberger: “Science needs best faith to be responsible, while faith needs best science to be credible.”

Carel Anthonissen

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