Written by Dr. Todd Mangum
Thursday, 07 June 2012 00:00
Yep, you heard that right. Famous atheist Richard Dawkins actually supports the distribution of King James Bibles in every public school in Great Britain. (Find the full story here: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-18224114).
Don’t get too excited, though; his motives are more subversive than supportive. Unlike the standard premises Christians might otherwise expect — “Even though I don’t believe it’s supernaturally inspired, it still inspires good moral ethics”; or even “it’s still classic literature” — Dawkins’ thinking is more cynical. He believes that if school kids and parents actually read the Bible, they will be turned off by its violence, misogyny, and bigotry.
Besides recommending the book of my colleague, Dave Lamb, God Behaving Badly (http://www.amazon.com/God-Behaving-Badly-Testament-Sexist/dp/0830838260/) as a response to some of Dawkins barbed critiques, I see also a broader point here. It’s actually a point that Jesus observed a time or two, as well: “The sons of this age are more shrewd in relation to their own kind than the sons of light” (Luke 16:8). Dawkins audaciously believes that if atheism and biblical Christianity are put on equal footing for consideration, atheism will “win” hands down. Now, if a “son of this age” can have such foolhardy confidence in the defense of misguided falsehood, why can’t Christians have at least as much confidence in the truth?
What if we don’t have to secure for the Christian perspective an exclusive, privileged position in our society, but merely an equal opportunity for consideration? By setting the bar lower politically, we may actually, counter-intuitively raise the level higher of positive consideration.
Truthfully, this is a strategy I adopt only by concession. Would that every American desire for Christian values to be upheld as the law of the land. But as long as that is not the case, and until such time as we no longer have to say each one to his neighbor, “Know the Lord” (Jer. 31:34), it is probably counterproductive to try to mandate uniquely Christian values upon Americans against their will.
I know: the consequences of allowing “diversity of values” to be implemented in the law could be devastating. But probably no more devastating than provoking a backlash against Christian values.
I confess to a sense of unease even as I write this, because this is a means of engagement of the culture that uncomfortably yields power willingly in the effort to achieve, instead, persuasion. It’s a risky posture. But is it smarter? And also more godly, more Christlike overall? What do you think?
Todd Mangum is the Academic Dean and Professor of Theology at Biblical. He is ordained by the Southern Baptist Convention. Todd is the author of The Dispensational-Covenantal Rift, and of several articles seeking to bridge divides among Bible-believing Christians. He is married to Linda and they have three sons. See also http://www.biblical.edu/index.php/todd-mangum