Saturday, August 27, 2011

A mixed bag ...

... James Wood on The New Atheism | Books | The Guardian. (Hat tip, Lee Lowe.)

The opening phrase is problematic: "In the last 10 years or so, the rise of American evangelicalism and the menace of Islamist fundamentalism ..." American evangelicalism has been on the rise for a good deal longer than 10 years and to imply that it is somehow equivalent to Islamic fundamentalism is ignorant. In fact, the only thing Wood seems to know about evangelicalism is what he's read in the papers. Evangelical Christianity is not, in fact, "characterised by scriptural literalism." Scriptural literalists are a very small minority of Christians.
On the other hand, Wood is quite right that "it would be more interesting to examine what might be called the practice of propositional beliefs." A literalist approach to doctrine can be just as constricting as a literalist approach to scripture.
As for whether "the resurrection happened or it didn't," I once saw John Polkinghorne (who knows a good deal more about physics than Richard Dawkins does) explain by means of quantum mechanics and chaos that the resurrection would by no means violate the nature of the physical universe as we currently understand. Polkinghorne was very careful to make plain that this did not constitute a proof that the resurrection happened, only a refutation of the proposition that it could not have happened.

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