Thursday 31 July 2014

Dawkins and the Dog

I guess it's a testimony to something, either good or bad, when the supporters of Richard Dawkins can still support him after his crassness of the other day. See, for instance, the comments BTL on this article.

But why would the rational, logical, scientific souls that these people presumably think they are not do what I would do if - well, here's an example. Luis Suarez. When he got in trouble for racistly abusing Patrice Evra, I marginally defended him. The sort of defence you wouldn't like your brief to use in court. I didn't think he is, deep down, a racist. My belief is that he is fundamentally an idiot. I think he's a fantastic player. But he's an idiot. Nothing he has done since has changed my view.

You'll note that I have separated out two elements of Suarez's character there, approved of one but not the other.  I guess it must be a tribal character - one that I can't hold to that degree - that would have seen Suarez as a brilliant player and, because he was a Liverpool player, therefore innocent.

And yet that seems to be what the CiF'ers are doing with Dawkins. They are backing him up in an illustration that is vile and - as it happens - illogical and that he has no right to make - because they agree with him on something totally different.

It's like they've too much vested in him to allow him to fail. They whitewash his wrongness. How could you not divide one set of discourse - atheism - which is a perfectly respectable position to hold, from another which is outrageous - and not see you can hold one but be wrong about the other?  It's not like anyone's claiming he's perfect, is it? So it must merely be tribalism. Which, as Ukraine shows us, is one of those inherited traits that might have been useful in our evolutionary past but it's a right pain now. 
A bit, some might claim,  like religion.

But then I remember this from Matt 15:

A Canaanite woman from that area came and cried out, “Have mercy on me, Lord, Son of David! My daughter is horribly demon-possessed!”
But he did not answer her a word. Then his disciples came and begged him, “Send her away, because she keeps on crying out after us.”
So he answered, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.”
But she came and bowed down before him and said, “Lord, help me!”
“It is not right to take the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs,” he said.
“Yes, Lord,” she replied, “but even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters’ table.”
Then Jesus answered her, “Woman, your faith is great! Let what you want be done for you.” And her daughter was healed from that hour.

So first up I don't know whether Matthew thought calling a foreign woman was a dog was reasonable or not. He offers it with no comment. He isn't interested in the comment, I suspect, so much as the answer and Jesus's response to that. He is interested in Jesus, the Jewish Messiah, opening his mission up to the nations.

But it sticks for me. Is this Jesus doing a Dawkins?  Or, rather, does this cause me as a Christian to do the same thing the Dawkinsites on CiF did?

See, I can pretend that what Jesus said wasn't offensive - that the word he used meant "puppies" or "lap dogs" or something. That he was teasing. But I don't believe he was.

Or I can pretend he was trying - in his omniscience - to provoke just that response. But I don't believe his earthly omniscience was all that, to be honest. I reckon the Incarnation meant he had exactly the amount of brain that would fit in his skull.

Or I can believe this. That Jesus - perfect God and perfect human - was a perfect 1st Century Jewish man, not a 21st century imagination of what he was like. I believe he therefore thought gay sex an abomination, couldn't even conceive of female disciples, and thought Gentiles, compared to Jews, were dogs.

But that doesn't mean we have to agree with him on any of those things. The woman's retort changes his view. The Jewish Messiah is open to the world. Who says Jesus didn't have to learn?

You may say I'm a heretic. But I don't think I am the only one.


  1. I've the view that Dawkins has set out to destroy the credibility of science and is alienating other fellow travelers while doing so. He is the equivalent of what Rowan Williams was as ABC - fumbling in the dark as the battery of his torch has expired and he's forgotten how to buy another.

    But I've heard that he can be quite a nice person when he's not anti-everything that smacks of humanities, theology or religion. Is it true that he doesn't talk to philosopher's? as they confuse his thinking.

  2. I'm so used to soldiers in the culture wars brutally pointing out the failings of the other lot while using every improbable semantic trick to get their own pantheon off the hook that for a second I was actually astonished by your last paragraph, even though it is of course obvious. (I'm also glad I've now mostly weaned myself off the futile shouting below the line on comment is free, though I enjoyed it for quite a while...)

  3. I wrote about the dog episode on my blog a few years ago in response to an article in CiF My point really was that this refusal echoed his earlier reluctance to turn water into wine at Cana. There is a theme of progress in His mission but He needs prompts, usually from women, to go from one level to the next.

  4. You are not the only heretic, if such we are. Jesus insulted the Syrophoenician woman, and then her sarcastic logic made him change his mind, and he healed her daughter.


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