Dr. R. Albert Mohler Jr., president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, and I are engaged in a public debate sparked by my recent sermons, podcasts, and blogposts expressing gratitude for the New Atheists. Here’s the progression:
- July 17: Press Release: Michael Dowd to Christian Church: New Atheists are God’s Prophets
- July 19: OneNewsNow.com: ‘Evolutionary evangelist’ gives heresy a bad name
- July 29: My blogpost: Giving Heresy a Bad Name!
- Aug 8: My sermon text: Thank God for the New Atheists!
- Aug 10: Mohler’s blogpost: Thank God for the New Atheists?
In reading Dr. Mohler’s latest, I was impressed by his integrity and demonstrably Christ-ian spirit. He generously quoted me throughout and fairly represented my position. What more could I ask from a debate partner? Hence my zeal for continuing the conversation with this reply on why I view biblical Christianity as bankrupt.
In what follows I will address the main point Dr. Mohler makes in his critique of my enthusiasm for the New Atheists:
“Give Michael Dowd credit for reminding us where the rejection of biblical Christianity inevitably leads.”
I will also respond to his assertions that I reject (a) the supernatural, (b) a personal God, (c) the authority of scripture, and (d) a biblical view of sin and salvation. In the process I will outline the contours of an “evolutionary Christianity” and “Christian naturalism,” and further clarify what I mean by “biblical Christianity is bankrupt.
In Matthew 7:15-20 Jesus is reported to have said that the way to recognize whether or not someone is a prophet is not their beliefs, but their fruit—their character and actions. If this is true, Dr. Mohler and others might wish to think twice about using me as an example of the inevitable result of embracing an evolutionary worldview.
As anyone who has known me over the years will attest, today as a science-honoring, evolution-celebrating Christian naturalist I experience and exhibit far more of what the Apostle Paul called “the fruit of the Spirit”: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, and self-control, than I ever did when I was a God-fearing, Bible-believing un-naturalist.
Trust, gratitude, and inspiration have become my ever-present companions precisely because of my wholehearted embrace of an evidential, deep-time view of human nature, death, and the trajectory of big history. More, an evolutionary appreciation of human instincts and supernormal stimuli has freed me from struggling with my sinful nature. Living in deepest integrity (i.e., “abiding in Christ”) has become virtually effortless, thanks to an evolutionary view of God, guidance, and good news.
During my youth and teenage years, I believed that humanity’s most dependable source of divine guidance and inspiration (our best map of how things are and which things matter) was Roman Catholic tradition and hierarchy. Guilt and fear were present in abundance. After my born-again experience in an Assemblies of God church in Berlin, Germany, at the age of 20, I embraced the Protestant sense of “solo scriptura” (scripture alone) and began seeing the Bible as providing our best map of what’s real and what’s important.
Arrogance and self-righteousness joined my emotional parade—though my anxiety shifted from self concern to concern for family and friends whom I was convinced were destined for eternal torture because they did not believe as I did.
In light of a meaningful science-based view of reality, I now see both of these approaches to religious faith as antiquated and, in a modern world, pernicious.
(Previous Part: Biblical Christianity Is Bankrupt)
(Next Part: Supernatural is Unnatural is Uninspiring)