A reader writes:
I love your blog and the service you perform for your readers by aggregating interesting tidbits from around the web each day. I do not love your forays into religious debate. This email
was particularly galling in its self-righteous tone. Your reader
complains of others 'ignoring' great thinkers of the past 2,000 years, as if St. Augustine, St. Thomas, Luther, Calvin, or Kierkegaard have not been roundly criticized for centuries for failing to solve the theodicy problem to general satisfaction. Why would Niebuhr or Lewis have attempted to answer the very same question if those first five had done a bang up job of things?
I believe that the problems you and your readers are 'debating' have much more to do with disagreement over mode of inquiry than with any real attempt to answer important questions of our origin, the problem of suffering, our ultimate end, etc. In other words, some of your readers (myself included) take issue with otherwise intelligent people who propagate the acknowledged myths of Christianity because we do not believe that, as Marcus Borg might say, the fact that a particular myth did not take place in history does not make it untrue. We insist that the only proper and intellectually honest answer to the questions religion attempts to answer is simply 'I do not know.'
In the second paragraph of your reader's email, she concedes that theology has no basis in empirical truth and yet is somehow 'true in every moment of existence.' I would counter that one might as well say, this cannot possibly be true but I feel better for believing it, so I believe it anyway. What kind of honest discussion can take place in that environment? He goes on to ask what counter to the Christian response to theodicy non-Christians would give. The answer, again, is simple: I do not know. The burden of proof, under a hypothetical mode of inquiry, lies with the one doing the hypothesizing. If one wants free reign to believe any old story, just stop pretending to be intellectually honest, drop the pretenses to intellectual inquiry, and say, I believe it because I believe it. There is no arguing with that. But don't expect to be taken seriously.
In the final paragraph your reader decries the 'pretensions of science' and asks what 'they' expect 'us' to believe. She has, somewhat ironically, missed the point of many great thinkers of the past couple millennia, many of whom were put to death by Christians who felt threatened by scientific challenges to their shamanistic hegemony. Science does not ask for belief. The scientific/hypothetical mode of inquiry asks for an open mind and the humility to say I do not know when observable data do not present an answer.