Cross Examined

This year’s CICCU convert-a-thon is called Cross Examined. Stalkerbook tells me it’s happening this week. The talks are available online (as Windows Media files, alas, CICCU having made a pact with the Beast). They are given by Simon Scott, who used to preach at my old church (and who marnanel will no doubt remember for his habit of starting sermons with quotations from pop songs), and by Phillip Jensen, perhaps best known for his views on the Archbishop of Canterbury.

Never being one to pass up an opportunity like this, I listened to some of talks they’ve given so far. Here are some brief notes on what they said:

Wed 07th Faith and Reason: Does God Want Me to Lose My Mind?

Scott gives a lunchtime talk on whether Christianity is reasonable.

He talks of reasonable assumptions, but leaps from assuming that a chair will hold you or that CICCU won’t poison you to the reasonableness of believing in supernatural stuff, bypassing considerations of the magnitude of Christianity’s claims.

Many atheists do not assert that God definitely does not exist. Quotes Dawkins but either hasn’t read or hasn’t understood the point of The God Delusion, namely that it’s about the balance of evidence.

Like many evangelicals, he asserts that there is sufficient evidence and that people don’t believe because they don’t want to, assuming bad faith on the part of anyone who has the temerity to disagree with him.

He defines the coming of Jesus as an events which is unique, so that we should not expect to see God again today. That’s fair enough as far as it goes, but doesn’t address why God isn’t more obvious even if Jesus isn’t still around. Alongside his admission that you can’t see God today, he does say that there are intelligent people on both sides of the God debate, which seems to leave him open to the Argument from Reasonable Non-belief.

Thurs 08th Christianity: Intolerant, Arrogant . . . True?

Scott talks a lot of sense about the sort of cartoon relativism which only liberal arts academics seriously believe. It’s not clear why he thinks this is an argument in favour of Christianity. I think it’s the same sort of false dichotomy that Jensen also perpetrates (see below). Christianity or moral chaos! Choose now! Banzai!

Gently brings up the delicate subject of hell (evangelicals had more gumption in the good old days). Doesn’t quite address why the God who we can trust not want to hurt us is also the danger we face. I’ve written about Hell before: go read that.

Mon 12th Jesus Asked, “Are you so dull?” (Mark 7v18) The Source of Immorality and Corruption Exposed

Jensen does the Total Depravity Roadshow: I’m not OK, you’re not OK either.

False dichotomies all over the place: either accept that people are naturally good, or become a Christian. Accept moral chaos, or become a Christian.

Dawkins is, according to Jensen’s quote, naive about human nature, but Pinker (another atheist) isn’t. This is significant, somehow (unless all atheists agree, they’re wrong?)

When we disagree with the Bible, we disagree with God, apparently.

Roy Hattersley’s Grauniad article is his best point, but even this never actually addresses whether Christianity is true. Is it right to encourage people to believe it merely because it might make them better? Does it, in fact, make them better, I wonder? It probably gives them a certain kind of structure which is sadly lacking in many people today, it seems, but I bet if they became Humanists, Muslims or Buddhists, or merely had managed to get some sort of education from their parents or their school, they’d be nicer too.

Summary

Lots of contemporary relevance (Harry Potter is taking it a bit too far, I think). Reasonable explanation of what evangelicals think. It’ll be interesting to see where Jensen goes with it, but neither of them are very good at saying why one should believe something. Perhaps the approved technique in evangelism these days is just to lay out your stall and hope it clicks with where someone is at the moment.

More soon, no doubt 🙂

3 Comments on "Cross Examined"


  1. The whole attitude of “It’s either Christanity or Nothing” confuses me utterly. It’s such a basic fallacy that it boggles me anyone falls for it at all.

    The recent news that philosophy will be taught to Scottish primary school kids fills me with relief that they’ll be better able to take apart arguments like this…

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