Friday, April 13, 2012

Pell V Dawkins on #QandA - An Insider's Response (Part 3)

I’ve focussed my last two posts regarding the debate on "Q and A" (here and here) on Professor Richard Dawkins more than Cardinal George Pell. For this final post I would like to suggest where I would have answered differently to Pell on a couple of points.

Can an atheist go to heaven?
At one point, Cardinal Pell was asked this question. Pell firstly tried to avoid the question, and then once pressed answered “Certainly”. I would like to suggest, firstly, that I would not have avoided this question myself as it provided a great opportunity for Pell to share a positive message about Christianity. Secondly, I would suggest that I agree with his answer, but I would want to qualify it. Admittedly, Pell wasn’t given the opportunity to do so, but neither did he press for one either. The way I would answer this question I’ve summarised as “optimistic exclusivism” – that is, I believe it is only possible to be saved by Jesus Christ (hence the ‘exclusivism’), but the way to Jesus Christ is open to methods I cannot even dream of (hence the ‘optimism’). I’ve written more extensively on here, so I’ll refer you there and leave it at that for now. Except to say, I'm even optimistic enough to hope that I will see Richard Dawkins himself there. I'm not sure who would be the most surprised, though!

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Pell V Dawkins on #QandA - An Insider's Response (Part 2)

During a meeting this morning my wife and I exchanged a brief conversation between ourselves. It went a little something like this…
Adam: “I really need to go to the toilet.”Megan: “You should have gone beforehand”Adam: (With a smug smile because I knew that’s exactly what my wife would say) “You’re so predictable.”Megan: (With lightening quick wit) “So are you.”
I’ll return to this momentarily.

Richard Dawkins writes the following in The God Delusion
The sin of Adam and Eve is thought to have passed down the male line – transmitted in the semen according to Augustine. What kind of ethical philosophy is it that condemns every child, even before it is born, to inherit the sin of a remote ancestor? Augustine, by the way, who rightly regarded himself as something of a personal authority on sin, was responsible for coining the phrase ‘original sin’. Before him it was known as ‘ancestral sin’. Augustine’s pronouncements and debates epitomize, for me, the unhealthy preoccupation of early Christian theologians with sin. They could have devoted their pages and their sermons to extolling the sky splashed with stars, or mountains and green forests, seas and dawn choruses. These are occasionally mentioned, but the Christian focus is overwhelmingly on sin sin sin sin sin sin sin.[1]

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Pell V Dawkins on #QandA - An Insider's Response (Part 1)

Earlier this year Dr Ken Collins of Asbury Theological Seminary was in Sydney for the Booth College Summer Seminar. He suggested there (and I was dubious of the claim at the time) that he’d never heard of a debate between an atheist and a Christian being “won” by the atheist. In the light of that, perhaps Monday night’s episode of “Q and A” was groundbreaking. But then, no one really “won”. To suggest that anyone actually “wins” in these things is an erroneous assumption.

I had the privilege of sitting in the studio audience for the “debate” between Cardinal George Pell and Professor Richard Dawkins aired on ABC Australia’s program “Q and A”. I want to share some thoughts on the night as someone who was present in the room.

Sermon: Matthew 13:1

I love questions. Many here would be aware that I’m working on a PhD in theology. I’ve also been a teacher of theology, worship, and critica...