Wednesday, December 21, 2011

All-consuming factuality

Well. A Christian, a conservative Christian, writing about an atheist (Hitchens), and he's not stupid. Go figure.

In The Atheists and the Savior, Christian William Murchison respectfully reflects on Christopher Hitchens' death, and uses it as a springboard to discuss the declining political position of Christianity. Christianity, according to Murchison, has "facilitated the atheist movement ... by downplaying ... its own truth claims while up-playing its social conscience and good works. This leaves the impression ... that faith in Christ, while possibly a good idea, is just a good, modern-style choice -- take it or leave it." Murchison laments that Christians avoid "the over-arching, all-consuming factuality of [their] faith." He recommends that Christians instead would have been better served by "insisting, insisting, insisting on the factuality" of their faith.

Murchison is, as I said, not stupid. He does not admire Hitchens, and he understandably gives more weight to Hitchens' more abrasive personality traits, but he avoids insult, misrepresentation and canard. We must also admire Murchison because he looks to himself, not the stars, for the faults of his religion. Murchison is not entirely consistent — he both asserts the factuality of Christianity and calls it a "mystery" — but he identifies the primary fault of Christianity: its factuality.

Where Murchison goes wrong, of course, is his exhortation about what to do about the factuality of Christianity. In the sense that Murchison uses the word, factuality is not something to be insisted upon, at least not at first. Factuality is something to be proven; we can insist on factuality only after it has been proven. And Christianity's main flaw is not the refusal to insist on its factuality; its main flaw is its inability to prove its factuality. Yes, "either the Son of God came among us or he didn't." Insist as much as you like, but until you prove it, until you present rationally convincing evidence, at the very best you can call belief in the resurrection a choice; at worst, I can call it an irrational delusion.

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