In the latter part of 2006 one of the best selling books, worldwide, was ’The God Delusion’ by Professor Richard Dawkins. On his official website we read – ”Richard Dawkins is the Charles Simonyi Professor of the Public Understanding of Science at Oxford, a position he has held since 1995…With rigor and wit, Richard Dawkins examines God in all his forms…The God Delusion makes a compelling case that belief in God is not just wrong, but potentially deadly”.
A review of the book in the Daily Telegraph of 8 October 2006 by Kenan Malik, entitled ‘Why I don’t believe in Richard Dawkins’ stated “Dawkins is Britain’s most famous atheist and in The God Delusion he gives eloquent vent to his uncompromising views…Dawkins’s polemic against the need for religion is compelling, even if the arguments are not particularly new…So great is his loathing for religion that it sometimes overwhelms his reasoned argument…Part of the problem is Dawkins’s view that religion is not so much a set of beliefs as a mental illness. And moreover, a mental illness to which evolution has made the human mind particularly susceptible”.
The word ‘delusion’ is defined in Collins English Dictionary as ‘a mistaken idea, belief’ and the verb ‘delude’ is defined as ‘to deceive, mislead, beguile’. So it would appear from this that those who are ‘suffering’ from ‘The God Delusion’, a mistaken belief that there is a God, have been deceived, misled and beguiled. We further learn from Mr Dawkins that according to Kenan Malik’s book review this ‘delusion’ is due to some form of ‘mental illness’.
On Tuesday evening, 20 February 2007, on BBC1 TV, a half-hour interview between Richard Dawkins and local Northern Ireland media presenter, William Crawley was broadcast. William Crawley [who I have good reason to believe is a ‘theistic evolutionist’] trained as a Presbyterian Minister but recently ‘resigned his commission’ to pursue a full-time career in broadcasting.
This thought of belief in a God being a ‘delusion’ and a form of ‘mental illness’ was touched on in the interview but as you will see and hear shortly Mr Dawkins actually softened his views in this area and distanced himself from any suggestion of ‘insanity’ on the part of those who believe in God. This is something that I have noticed about Mr Dawkins on a number of occasions that in interviews/debates he often comes out with quite strong statements but then later is basically forced to ‘tone down’ or ‘back down’.
At this point I want to direct you to a short segment from the interview and then I will comment upon the issue that I really want to address in this article.
You can view the segment by clicking here
After his retreat on the ‘mental illness’ allegation William Crawley then challenged Richard Dawkins about the fact that some famous scientists had no difficulty in reconciling their scientific knowledge with belief in God and he cited by way of example the famous scientist and Christian, Isaac Newton. Richard Dawkins pointed out that Newton lived before Charles Darwin and in consequence, in those days, the majority of people believed in God.
He then suggested that modern-day scientists who have a belief in God should be asked why they do and he proffered reasons such as ‘they like to go to church for the music’ or ‘they have a pantheistic view of the universe’. William Crawley then countered that by citing the example of Sir John Polkinghorne, a quantum physicist [and a good one according to Richard Dawkins] who was also a Church of England vicar who according to Mr Dawkins believed ‘the whole Church of England thing’ including ‘Jesus died for our sins’. A google search will bring up lots of helpful and informative articles on Mr Polkinghorne.
Speaking of, as he phrased it, ‘decent scientists today who are religious’ Mr Dawkins stated that he found that very hard to understand and then he added ‘it’s true but it’s not common and I can only put it down to a type of compartmentalisation of the mind’.
I want to make several points about what Mr Dawkins said in this last statement.
1. He stated that ‘decent scientists today who are religious’ are ‘not common’. In my own small library of books I have the following book – ‘In six days’ subtitled ‘why fifty scientists choose to believe in [biblical] creation’. I also have a number of books available through the ministry of Answers in Genesis, run by Ken Ham B.App.Sc.,Dip.Ed. a former public school biology teacher. Their ministry website is http://www.answersingenesis.org/
Then I have ‘Science and The Bible’ and ‘The twilight of evolution’ by the late Henry M Morris B.S. Rice University, M.S., Ph.D, University of Minnesota. He was for many years president of the Institute for Creation Research whose website is http://www.icr.org/ Another book I have is ‘Scientists who believe’ subtitled ’21 tell their own stories’. One of the compilers of this book was Eric C Barrett M.Sc., University of Sheffield: Ph.D., D.Sc., University of Bristol. Amongst the contributors to the book were Dr Boris P Dotsenko (one-time head of nuclear physics, Institute of Physics, Kiev, USSR); Dr Robert Selvendran (Sri Lankan research plant biochemist); Susan Steinmetz (research meteorologist, National Environmental Satellite, Data and Information Service, Washington, D.C.) and Dr Randall J Fish (former nuclear physicist, Fermi National Acceleration Laboratory, Batavia, Illinois). Other contributors include a moon-landing astronaut and a space shuttle pilot.
2. A few years ago a Mr Hank Giesecke who was making a brief visit to Northern Ireland contacted me and I was able to arrange a church meeting for him to talk about the work of the Creation Ministry that he was involved in. It is known as The Creation Research Society and its website is http://www.creationresearch.org/about_crs.htm On their homepage we read “The Creation Research Society is a professional organization of trained scientists and interested laypersons who are firmly committed to scientific special creation. The Society was organized in 1963 by a committee of ten like-minded scientists, and has grown into an organization with worldwide membership…The CRS advocates the concept of special creation (as opposed to evolution), both of the universe and of the earth with its complexity of living forms…Members of the society include research scientists from various fields of scientific accomplishment who are committed to full belief in the Biblical record of creation and early history”.
3. In recent years there has arisen amongst many people, including scientists, a firm belief in what has come to be known as Intelligent Design. One such organisation promoting this thinking is Intelligent Design Network and their website is http://www.intelligentdesignnetwork.org/ Under the section on their website ‘Statement of Objectives’ they have a section headed ‘Definitions’. Under Intelligent Cause we read ‘A cause attributable to a mind or some form of intelligence that can manipulate matter and energy for a purpose’. Whilst this definition shies away from identifying the Intelligent Cause as ‘God’ it is clear that the given definition would fit in with many people’s understanding of ‘God’. Under Intelligent Design we read ‘An hypothesis that some natural phenomena are best explained by reference to Intelligent Causes rather than to only Material causes…Intelligent Design can also be viewed as the Science of design detection, applied to natural phenomena’. Again, in this definition, whilst commenting upon the origins of ‘natural phenomena, although it has shied away from using the term ‘supernatural’ it is clear that the given definition would fit in with many people’s understanding of divine ‘supernatural’ creation or ‘manipulation’.
In the light of the very limited research that I have set forth in these 3 points I hope that you will agree with me that for Richard Dawkins to state about ‘decent scientists today who are religious’ that they are ‘not common’ that he is in fact the one who is ‘suffering’ from a ‘delusion’ on this point.
I would like to set forth evidence for one final challenge to his ‘not common’ assertion, based on local realities here in Northern Ireland. On 10 December 2006, the Sunday Sequence programme that is presented on BBC Radio Ulster by William Crawley was devoted entirely to a debate between Richard Dawkins and Professor Andy McIntosh of the organisation ‘Truth in Science’ whose website can be accessed on http://www.truthinscience.org.uk/site/ Professor McIntosh was one of the 50 scientists who contributed to the book I mentioned earlier called ‘In six days’ and his qualifications were given as ‘He holds a B.S. with first class honours in applied mathematics from the University of Wales, a Ph.D. in the theory of combustion from the Cranfield Institute of Technology and a D.Sc. in mathematics from the University of Wales’. I make reference to my own reflections on that radio debate in the latter part of another article on our website that can be accessed here.
Two pro-creation audience contributors during that debate were local men Professor Norman Nevin and Rev Robert Beckett. Early in my Christian life I bought a very helpful little booklet called ‘Answers to Questions’ that was published by the Metropolitan Tabernacle in London. Both these local men contributed to that booklet – Professor Nevin was listed as Norman C Nevin MD. BSc. FRCP (Edin) Professor of Medical Genetics, The Queens University of Belfast and Rev Beckett was listed as Dr Robert C Beckett, Animal Geneticist, Department of Agriculture for Northern Ireland. Other contributors to the booklet included Professor Verna Wright MD. FRCP Professor of Rheumatology, University of Leeds: David Watts PhD Materials Scientist, University of Manchester and David B Gower D Sc. PhD. C Chem. FRIC, F I Biol Reader in Biochemistry, University of London. It would appear that this little booklet is still available for purchase from the Metropolitan Tabernacle Bookshop and if you go to their website on http://www.tabernaclebookshop.org/ and type in Answers to Questions in the ‘search’ box you should see details of how to order the booklet. I would recommend it to all who are ‘wrestling’ with these issues of creation and evolution.
So who’s deluding who?
In conclusion I want to focus in on the final phrase of the quotation from Mr Dawkins where he talked of belief in God being ‘a type of compartmentalisation of the MIND’. It’s very interesting that Professor Dawkins believes that the ability to believe in God has something to do with the human mind. In this he is absolutely correct in identifying ‘the battle ground’ for belief or non-belief in God as being the human ‘MIND’.
Early in the article we noted how ‘delusion’ was defined as ‘a mistaken idea, belief’ brought about through being ‘deceived, misled, beguiled’. The Bible has much to say about the one who seeks to oppose God and His truth and that of course is The Devil. In Luke chapter 8 the Lord Jesus explains to His disciples The Parable of The Sower and He says in verses 11-12 “Now the parable is this: The seed is the word of God. Those by the wayside are they that hear; then cometh the devil and taketh away the word out of their hearts, lest they should believe and be saved”. It was clear from the TV interview that Mr Dawkins has heard the truth of the Gospel but he does not believe it.
What process has the devil used to stop him from believing? We find the answer I believe in 2 Corinthians 4:3-4 where we read “But if our gospel be hidden, it is hidden to them that are lost, in whom the god of this world [the devil] hath blinded THE MINDS of them who believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them” and then in verse 6, rather appropriately seeing that we are considering a man who is opposed to the idea of biblical creation, Paul writes “For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ”.
Why do believers possess “the knowledge of the glory of God”? In 1 Corinthians 2:14 the apostle Paul explains why the natural/unregenerate man [like Richard Dawkins] does not understand God’s truth – Paul wrote “But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness unto him, neither CAN he know them because they are spiritually discerned”. Paul then goes on to talk about the ability of believers to know the mind of the Lord and he writes in verse 16 “But we have the MIND of Christ”. In Romans chapter 7 Paul outlines the struggle that he has as a believer between obeying or disobeying God and he writes in verse 25 “So then, with the MIND I myself serve the law of God”.
When appealing to the Christians in Philippi to be humble just as the Lord Jesus Christ Himself was, Paul wrote in chapter 2 verse 5 “Let this MIND be in you which was also in Christ Jesus”. When appealing to Christians to live holy lives the Apostle Peter wrote in 1 Peter 1:13-15 “Wherefore, gird up the loins of your MIND, be sober…As obedient children, not fashioning yourselves according to the former lusts in your ignorance…be ye holy in all manner of life”.
The bible shows clearly that the devil seeks to ‘deceive, mislead and beguile’ the MINDS of people. We read in Revelation 12:9 “And the great dragon was cast out, that old serpent called the Devil and Satan, who DECEIVED the whole world; he was cast out into the earth”. Setting forth the various meanings of ‘deceive’ Vine’s Expository Dictionary says on page 151 of the New Testament section ‘to deceive by leading [to mislead] into error. In John 7:12 the Lord Himself was even falsely accused of deceiving people and Vine’s comments on this particular usage are ‘leadeth astray’ [misleads].
According to God’s truth, the bible, the devil clearly ‘deceives’ and ‘misleads’ people. He also seeks to ‘beguile’ them for Paul wrote to the Christians in Corinth in 2 Corinthians 11:3 “But I fear, lest by any means, as the serpent beguiled Eve [again how appropriate that this is a reference to God’s creation] through his subtlety, so your MINDS should be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ”.
In a book called ‘Satan: His personality, power and overthrow’ E M Bounds writes [p 98-99] ‘He [Satan] has access to the MINDS of men…He readily snatches away from the MIND the truth which is superficially received. He also blinds the MINDS of them, which believe not, and obstructs the light of saving truth. His process of…blinding the MIND to the beauties and light of salvation is a very common one with him”.
Finally, on the role of Satan giving ‘delusion’ to unbelievers, I can do no better than cite this quotation from “Satan Cast Out” by Frederick S Leahy where he writes on page 33 under “The Strategy of the Enemy” – “from the outset we observe Satan as wholly arrogant. He offers man an alien wisdom in place of the wisdom of God, or, if it suits him better, twists and distorts it. He is a thorough-going rationalist, submitting the laws of God to the judgment of the creature’s reason. He cynically seeks to repudiate the genuineness of the righteous man’s faith. He makes grandiose claims, which are completely fictitious. He is the ‘father of lies’. And behind this fabrication of sophistry [unsound reasoning] and pretension, he wages constant warfare against God, His creation and His Church’.
I have to confess that as I read this ‘strategy’ of Satan that Frederick Leahy clearly articulated I could reluctantly envisage the Lord Himself saying to Richard Dawkins, just as He did to another group of disbelieving men whilst He was here on earth – “Ye are of your father the devil…and he abode not in the truth” [John 8:44]. The biblical reality is that all unregenerate unbelievers are in “the snare of the devil…taken captive by him at his will” [2 Timothy 2:26]. The devil just could not countenance the idea of being subservient in power and knowledge to a higher authority, intelligence and power, namely God. He became puffed up with pride and the ‘devil’s disciples’ are prone to that same sinful fault It was identified specifically by Paul when dealing with the matter of those qualified to be elders when he wrote “An elder must be…not a novice, lest being lifted up with pride he fall into the condemnation of the devil” [1 Timothy 3:2&6].
One particular sentence by Frederick Leahy seemed to capture perfectly the approach of Richard Dawkins to the whole question of the existence of God. Mr Leahy wrote, as I quoted above “He [the devil] is a thorough-going rationalist, submitting the laws of God to the judgment of the creature’s reason”. That sums up for me Richard Dawkins’ approach to the reality or otherwise of God and mirrors what Paul wrote in Romans 1 of people who “professing themselves to be wise, they became fools…[they] exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshipped and served the creature more than the creator” [verses 22&25]. And how do Mr Dawkins and others of like MIND do all this – through “vain babblings and propositions of science, falsely so-called” [1 Timothy 6:20].
In the light of all this, it is clear, from a biblical perspective, that the one who is ‘suffering’ from ‘delusion’ is the unbelieving Richard Dawkins and not as he alleges, God-fearing believers. The Apostle Paul wrote in Romans 12:2 “And be not conformed to this world, but be ye transformed by the renewing of your MIND, that ye may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God”.
Although he would think it a futile exercise, God’s people should pray for God to work in the heart and understanding of Mr Dawkins and graciously grant to him a renewal of his MIND and “repentance to the acknowledging of the truth” [2 Timothy 2:25].
Cecil Andrews – ‘Take Heed’ Ministries – 23 February 2007