Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Challenging Atheism

Writing for Christianity Today, William Lane Craig reports some encouraging news concerning college philosophy departments and atheism.

He writes:

Back in the 1940s and '50s, many philosophers believed that talk about God, since it is not verifiable by the five senses, is meaningless—actual nonsense. This verificationism finally collapsed, in part because philosophers realized that verificationism itself could not be verified! The collapse of verificationism was the most important philosophical event of the 20th century. Its downfall meant that philosophers were free once again to tackle traditional problems of philosophy that verificationism had suppressed. Accompanying this resurgence of interest in traditional philosophical questions came something altogether unanticipated: a renaissance of Christian philosophy.

The turning point probably came in 1967, with the publication of Alvin Plantinga's God and Other Minds: A Study of the Rational Justification of Belief in God. In Plantinga's train has followed a host of Christian philosophers, writing in scholarly journals and participating in professional conferences and publishing with the finest academic presses. The face of Anglo-American philosophy has been transformed as a result. Atheism, though perhaps still the dominant viewpoint at the American university, is a philosophy in retreat.

Read the entire article HERE.

For Further Reading:

The Dawkins Delusion by Alister McGrath

The Last Superstition by Edward Feser


rmkton said...

I find it interesting that, despite the fact that many of the new atheists (Dawkins, Hitchens, Dennett, & Harris) have written NYT best sellers, few folks I know have had their faith changed in any way by them...positively or negatively.

Now certainly I know Christians that have left the faith for reasons that the atheists discuss be it scientific (evolution), theological (hell, mostly), Biblical (unable to accept a biblical worldview), or other Christians (hypocrisy)...but it was not primarily to exposure to the new atheists that sparked their loss of faith.

I wonder why the new atheists aren't having a greater impact on society...not only with their ideas but, more importantly, with their agenda to make religion anathema? This must really annoy Dawkins especially.

Todd Pruitt said...


I would like to agree with you but I fear that the new breed of village atheists are having an impact. Given that so many professing Christians are ignorant of The Faith and not strong thinkers, the flimsy and flawed philosophy of Dawkins and the others is, I fear, having an impact.

If nothing else, the new atheism may be exposing that there are more atheists in our country than we thought. That's not a bad thing.

rmkton said...

Thanks for your prespective Todd. I don't have any data on this...just my own experience so you may be correct on that point regarding the impact. I would love to see some breakdown of any statistical data though regarding the new atheism. I don't know if Barna (or others) have done any work specifically looking at the impact of new atheism...will have to look into that.

I suspect that some of the impact may just be to embolden people who were already closet atheists anyway (to your point about exposing the atheists among us)...or perhaps people who would have called themselves agnostic...it may give them "reason" to move into the atheist camp.

Todd Pruitt said...


My evidence is primarily anecdotal.

I suspect that you are correct about the possibility that the new atheism is simply making it a bit more "acceptable" for closet atheists to declare themselves.

I met a lady a few months ago who was raised Roman Catholic. She is 60 years old. She recently read "The God Delusion" and declared to her family that she agrees with Dawkins.

She was surprised that I (a pastor) had read Dawkins' book. I gently explained to her that Dawkins is an intelligent man and seems to be a fine scientist. However, he is a dismal philosopher. I sent her a copy of "The Reason for God."

Harley A. said...

The main thrust of attack is of course our universities, so I think most college educated adults have a philosophical predisposition to accept the likes of Dawkins these days.

Most Christian youth (and non-Christian for that matter) are ill-prepared to enter the universities and deal with the anti-Christian rhetoric and sophistry they will find there. We need to be engaging them with the antithesis and helping them undersand where it comes from well before they ever get there.

If we continue sending them in as sheep among the wolves, they will continue to be ravaged - or, at best, end up timid Christians who are convinced their faith is built on questionable assumption or some unreasonable myth they must cling to.

Todd Pruitt said...

Far too many Christian parents fail to instruct their children in such a way that they have a robust faith. Therefore when they encounter atheistic teachers their uninstructed and fragile faith is shaken badly and, perhaps, irreparably.