Calling Randal Rauser: why won’t you answer some simple questions?
Professor Randal Rauser, systematic theologian and self-confessed “progressive evangelical Christian”, has been tossing his toys for the past few days after discovering that some people believe that only the biblical worldview offers a foundation for rationality, that atheism is caused by willful rebellion against God, and that rebellion against God is wicked.
You can read all about it in ‘Is “biblical Christianity” the only rational worldview? (And is atheism wicked?)’ and pick up the pieces from there.
But what I particularly want to do here is call out Randal to answer three questions I’ve already put to him, and which he has summarily ignored.
The story so far
Hoping to illustrate how unbelief cannot be necessarily sinful, Randal formulated a story about “Dr Z” (presumably a different fellow to the rather callous fellow in Borderlands) who loses his faith after seeing a great deal of atrocity. He asked what we should say to this fellow given his situation and his new agnosticism. I thought to myself, “Hrmm, sounds like Job was in a worse situation than Dr Z. After all, his whole family was brutally slaughtered. So what did he say?” Thus I replied:
Randal, in your contrived scenario with Dr Z, I believe a sinless and correct response would be:
“You speak as one of the foolish men would speak. Shall we receive good from God, and shall we not receive evil?” [cf Job 2:10 —DBT]
But perhaps you don’t believe that the fool says in his heart, “There is no God”? [cf Psalm 14:1 —DBT]
I think this is a reasonable response. After all, Job’s wife wasn’t even suggesting that Job deny God’s existence; only that he deny his goodness. That seems like a lesser denial to me, though of course both are pretty bad. But Job rebukes her as foolish, rightly noting that God is free to give and take as he pleases.
My jaw dropped to the floor when I read that one. This guy makes Job’s comforters look like rank amateurs. Dr. Z, his shirt still soaked with the blood of the eight year old he labored to save, is a foolish man?
Well, yeah. I’m not impressed by the attempt to divert attention from the actual issue by appealing to the emotion of the situation, because I dare say Job was in a more wretched emotional state—yet managed to “not sin with his lips”. If God is the grounds for all goodness and rationality, then of course denying him—in any situation—is foolish. (Maybe Randal denies that God must be the grounds for all goodness and rationality, but that seems a patently anti-Christian position for a so-called Christian to take.)
However, Randal proved very evasive about his position, so it’s hard to know for sure. To try to clarify where he stands, I asked him:
1. Do you deny that we have an obligation to believe in God? For example, do you deny that the gospel is a command as well as an invitation; that disobeying God’s commands is sinful; or that God will judge unbelief as sin?
2. Do you deny that it is “the fool” who says in his heart, “There is no God”?
3. Do you deny that a considered disbelief in God is immoral and irrational?
You seem to be saying that provided one has what he thinks is a good excuse for rejecting the source of goodness and rationality, one is not rejecting goodness and rationality (ie, one is not being evil and irrational). That seems like an obvious contradiction. If God is indeed the source of these things, how could there even be a good reason for rejecting him?
So far, no reply. Randal has made some comments on my tone; but not on my content. Curiously, while condemning the tone of his interlocutors, he likened one of them to Edward Norton in American History X—ie, a Nazi skinhead who brutally kills blacks. Nice one Randal. Irenic of you.
Still, you have the chance to set the record straight. You’re welcome to reply here, or of course to create a new post on your own blog.