"If it happens that the authority of Sacred Scripture is set in opposition to clear and certain reasoning," said Saint Augustine, "this must mean that the person who interprets Scripture does not understand it correctly. It is not the meaning of Scripture which is opposed to the truth but the meaning which he has wanted to give to it." Augustine's point allows Christians to take advantage of scientific and social advances without surrendering the ultimate authority of revelation. The Christian intellectual tradition, in other words, enables believers to negotiate just about anything short of the critical contention of the faith, that Jesus is Lord and salvation is on offer through belief in him. Still, there are many Christians who hew to a literal interpretation of Scripture, and say with sincerity and conviction that any one who does not accept Jesus as his personal savior will be cast into the fires of hell.
Ah, say the atheists, see, we told you exclusivist faiths like Christianity are forces for evil. So let's get rid of faith, replace it with rationality and science, and all shall be well, or at least vastly better. But the atheist solution has its own problems. In "Letter to a Christian Nation," Harris likens himself to an abolitionist and religion to slavery, but who is to say that a wholly scientific world would not itself soon produce dogma and strife over the findings, interpretations and applications of experiments and research? It is possible, even probable, that science would become a kind of religion, with creeds and convictions and arguments over the nature of reality. Labs would replace cathedrals, brain scans holy books. It would be different, but would it necessarily be better?
Wednesday, April 04, 2007
Meacham: Is God Real?
John Meacham in NEWSWEEK: