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Willard to Dawkins: Put Up or Shut Up!

23 March 2009

Dallas Willard has seen fit to take on Richard Dawkins on Dawkins’ own turf – the dismissal of God via Darwinism – and the polemical result is surprising.  (I don’t want to trivialize some really important criticisms, but it’s funny to read Willard obliquely referring to an Oxford-class professor as a “redneck.”)

The essence of Willard’s argument is this:  even if we grant Dawkins’ conclusion that life could have arisen from inorganic species – in probabilistic terms, without “interference” from a Mind – that is something quite different from saying that it must have happened.  Willard then accuses Dawkins of scientific romanticism and circular reasoning.

The essay is not easy reading, but it’s worth the effort, re-reading again and again if necessary until it becomes clear.  Willard is no ostrich; he grants what must be granted.  But neither is he willing to be snowed.  This essay is, at its root, a calling-out:  instead of, or before, “testing” his theories against the masses of naive lay readers that buy books on or in the airport terminal bookstores, Willard says, Dawkins should test his reasoning under the withering lamps of scientific peer review, where his sloppiness will be exposed for what it is.  Willard’s unmistakable message is:  put up or shut up!


BTW, perhaps that’s my whole mission here in “Kingdom Matters:”  to encourage all of us to take on more difficult material than we’re accustomed to taking on.  It’s not a matter of elitism; it’s simply a matter of understanding that laziness in any form (intellectual, athletic, spiritual) causes atrophy, which spirals into weakness and incapacity.  If there’s anything the church needs more than clear, muscular thinking, I don’t know what it would be.  Many, many forms of vice, apostasy, and arrogance flow from – and are reinforced by – poor, flabby thinking.

Many of us fathers, for example, get agitated by our sons when they don’t embrace the physical disciplines that would lead to athletic excellence.  Why do we spend so much time on that, and yet we don’t require of our fellow adults the intellectual and spiritual disciplines that would lead to clear thinking about the most important things in the world?  Not all intellectual activity leads to questions about angels dancing on pinheads.  Poor thinking about Daniel and Revelation and other apocalyptic literature in our canon gives rise to unfortunate geopolitics; poor thinking about Jesus’ teaching leads to caricatures of practical Christian living.  

It’s all of a piece.  We’ve got to be more rigorous!


2 Comments leave one →
  1. Bryan Reeves permalink
    23 March 2009 7:17 pm

    “These Jews 41 were more open-minded 42 than those in Thessalonica, 43 for they eagerly 44 received 45 the message, examining 46 the scriptures carefully every day 47 to see if these things were so.”
    Amen, qb, amen!

  2. 24 March 2009 11:24 am


    Robert Bolt’s memorable “A Man for All Seasons” has Thomas More say to his daughter Meg: “God made the angels to show Him splendor, as He made animals for innocence and plants for their simplicity. But Man He made to serve Him wittily, in the tangle of his mind.”

    Not bad for a socialist and agnostic! Unlike that “redneck” Dawkins.


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