This post is a continuation of my dialogue with chapter three which is entitled “Arguments for God’s Existence.” The first post on chapter three can be found immediately below this one.
When Dawkins turns to the argument from personal experience and the argument from Scripture he lands his punches a little closer to where I live. I say that because, while I do not put much stock in the classical arguments for the existence of God, I do put a lot of stock in the personal testimonies of people of faith, in my own experience, and in Scripture.
Dawkins completely discounts the testimony of anyone who claims to have had a vision of God or an angel or who claims to have heard the voice of God. He puts such people in the same category as those who think they have seen a pink elephant. If most of us, even people of faith, were to tell the truth about it, we would confess to our own skepticism at such claims. If someone came to me tomorrow and said, “I saw Jesus this morning and he told me to come see you,” I’d have my doubts. Let me be clear: I would not doubt that the good Lord led that person to come see me; what I would doubt is that he had literally “seen” Jesus. When someone claims to have seen the face of Jesus in a picture of a bowl of spaghetti, I doubt it. But if someone says that she has been praying about something and has had a strong sense of divine leadership to pursue a certain direction in life, I take that seriously. I’m not quite sure where the line lies for me between an irrational claim and a statement of sincere faith born out of legitimate experience, but such a line does exist.
And I don’t mean to say that Jesus could not appear to someone if he wanted to do so. It’s just that all the Christians that I’ve ever known who have their wits about them but who still possess what Dawkins would consider an irrational faith not only in the existence of God but in God’s personal intervention in their lives have not claimed such an experience. But they still have a strong sense of God’s presence. So do I.
I think that what Dawkins lacks is the ability to trust. Oh, I know he trusts in science and in logic and in verifiable facts. And, as I said in a earlier post, I’m not saying that religious claims should not be submitted to rigorous, even scientific examination. Still, your own brain and your own skill and your own cleverness will only get you so far. My personal experience, which Dawkins would judge irrational, is that, as I have lived my life out of a stance of as much trust as I can, with the help of the Holy Spirit (there I go again), I have sensed God’s help, direction, and presence. Somewhere along the way I took a leap of faith. Maybe I’m still in the air, but it’s worked so far.
I’ll respond on Friday to what Dawkins has to say about the argument from Scripture.