The first, written by Tim Stanley, says that Dawkins is either a “fool” or a “coward” for not taking the stage with Craig in a debate about God. Stanley proceeds to call Craig an “excellent speaker” with a “witty, deliberate style that often makes his opponents look (and probably feel) a little ridiculous.”
Therefore, everyone just presumed that Dawkins refused to debate Craig because he’s scared. He is, after all, only human (or a talking monkey, depending on your point of view).
But Dawkins is a proud man (or arrogant chimp), and the accusation of cowardice probably ate at him from within. Finally, on Thursday, he gave a proper excuse for his no show to The Guardian. Its intellectual emptiness says so much about his particular brand of atheism.
To call Dawkins scared of debating anyone is completely absurd in the first place, especially considering any notion that Dawkins was or is quaking in his boots about the possibility of debating a professional obscurantist like William Lane Craig. Please.
“But why take the lives of innocent children? The terrible totality of the destruction was undoubtedly related to the prohibition of assimilation to pagan nations on Israel‘s part. In commanding complete destruction of the Canaanites, the Lord says, ‘You shall not intermarry with them, giving your daughters to their sons, or taking their daughters for your sons, for they would turn away your sons from following me, to serve other gods’ (Deut 7.3-4). … God knew that if these Canaanite children were allowed to live, they would spell the undoing of Israel. … Moreover, if we believe, as I do, that God’s grace is extended to those who die in infancy or as small children, the death of these children was actually their salvation. We are so wedded to an earthly, naturalistic perspective that we forget that those who die are happy to quit this earth for heaven’s incomparable joy. Therefore, God does these children no wrong in taking their lives.”
Dawkins in response:
Do not plead that I have taken these revolting words out of context. What context could possibly justify them?
Here is Stanley:
Actually, the context is called “Christian apologetics”, and it’s been around for centuries. It’s the attempt by scholars to present a rational basis for belief in God. … Craig’s purpose in writing this piece is to unravel the paradox of a moral Bible that also includes lashings of apparently random violence. Craig stresses that these passages of the Bible are difficult for us to read because we are not of the age in which they are written – they are just as alien to us as Beowulf or the Iliad. That’s because Christian society has been shaped by the rules of life outlined in the New Testament, not in the section of The Bible in which this massacre occurs. Far from using this passage to celebrate the slaughter of heathen, Craig is making the point that the revelation of God’s justice has changed over time. The horrors of the Old Testament have been rendered unnecessary by Christ’s ultimate sacrifice. That’s why the idiots who protest the funerals of gay soldiers or blow up abortion clinics aren’t just cruel, they’re bad theologians.
Bad theologians? Really? How is the God (or gods) of the New Testament an improvement on the Old Testament deity? In the Old Testament, we see Yahweh, through his arbitrarily chosen race of people, wreaking havoc on various tribes (men, women, children and even livestock) in Israel’s quest to conquer the Promised Land.
Dawkins, then, does not refuse to debate Craig out of cowardice or fear but out of contempt for Craig’s failure to denounce the corrosive morality of the Old Testament. Dawkins simply does have enough respect for the man to share a stage with him, and I think that’s clear if one reads Dawkin’s entire column.
In the New Testament, Jesus, operating under the veil of peace and goodwill, actually introduces a more ruthless form of justice than Yahweh ever did. God in the Old Testament seems satisfied with merely killing innocents in the physical world and going about his business. By the time we get to the New Testament, God, we learn, will not just demand utter servitude while people are alive, but he will demand it for all eternity in heaven, or else, they will face the fire forever.
I ask again, how is this system of justice an improvement over the Old Testament? God has went from a completely carnal system (killing people as a means to conquer territory) to a spiritual judgment for non-believers, a punishment that never ends. And, of course, it is not until the New Testament that we get a more robust picture of the idea of sheol, a place of darkness or, by new Testament standards, a place of never-ending torment. So, God’s justice, while it may have changed from the Old Testament to the New, actually got more brutal and more severe by many large degrees.
Craig also claims in his article that we should not feel remorse for the children who died in the Old Testament because they were bound for heaven upon their death. But here, Craig is reading New Testament and later Christian doctrine back onto the Old Testament text because there is scant little in the OT to suggest an afterlife or a system of eternal rewards or punishments (exceptions being, perhaps, Daniel 12:2 and Psalms 16:10-11).
Of course, if God’s idea of justice did change, as is suggested based on the differences between the Old and New testament, that would also rip holes in the doctrine that God is unchanging, as goes the common church mantra: “God is the same yesterday, today and forever.”