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5 Evil, Evolution, and God Dawkins and Theology in Dialogue Introduction In Chapters Two and Three, we began our dialogue with Dawkins by exploring his worldview. These chapters enabled us to begin to explore avenues where Dawkins’ scientific hermeneutic could be utilized by the theologian. In the last chapter, we took his outlook on evolution and particularly his meme theory, and examined how it can be applied it to religion. In doing so, it was argued that Dawkins’ evolutionary perspective of culture could be integrated into a theological project that contributes to Anselm’s classic definition of theology, ‘fides quaerens intellectum’, as it seeks to understand the origins and development of religious faith as a concept. This chapter will continue to show how bringing Dawkins’ worldview into consideration could be beneficial for theology. As we have seen in Chapter Three, Dawkins uses the existence of evil to pose a challenge to theistic belief. Consequently, this chapter will centre around this fulcrum, which we will term Dawkins’ ‘theodicy challenge’. The term ‘theodicy’, coined by the seventeenth-century philosopher Gottfried Leibniz, is a theological attempt to reconcile the existence of evil with an omnipotent/beneficent creator. We will first address the question of whether Dawkins could be considered a servant of theology, and then introduce Dawkins’ theodicy challenge, and demonstrate how it can be used as a challenge to theism (though as we will see, Dawkins does not use it to validate atheism). Dawkins as a Servant of Theology? In Chapter One, we noted that there are significant limitations when engaging in a dialogue with Dawkins. One such limitation is that Dawkins’ comprehension of theology is weak at best. He has thus been rightly criticized 173 on this point by a number of scholars. Dawkins’ misinterpretations of theology and Christianity are particularly acute given that he seeks to castigate theological themes. This is one of Dawkins’ most prominent weaknesses, as one can seriously question the legitimacy of his critiques if he does not demonstrate a solid comprehension of the topics he is critiquing. Therefore, one could easily adopt the position that Dawkins is not a worthy dialogue partner for theology, given that his treatment of theological themes is so devoid of substance. Gerard J. Hughes, for example, points to the fact that Dawkins fails to grasp the allegorical nature of aspects of the Bible.1 Hughes illustrates that when texts are read out of their context, they are more vulnerable to misinterpretations: “In some future era, even our own culture could be open to much misunderstanding. Imagine a future generation which . . . did not realize that Animal Farm is an allegorical novel, and read it as a description of some extraordinary episode in evolutionary history”.2 Hughes continues to assert how the opening chapters of Genesis can be misinterpreted in a similar fashion, to be taken as a “factual description of the stages in which the matter in the universe was organized into the cosmos as we know it”.3 There are clear examples of such misreading, for example, in Dawkins’ thoughts on the theological concept of original sin. Original sin has been the subject of much theological investigation—some of which will be discussed in this chapter—and represents interesting notions around the responsibility of humanity and the existence of suffering. Yet Dawkins highlights both his misreading of the allegorical nature of the Genesis narrative, and his ignorance of theological thinking on the issue in the following passage: Adam (who never existed) bequeathed his “sin” in his bodily semen (charming notion) to all of humanity. That sin, with which every newborn baby is hideously stained (another charming notion), was so terrible that it could be forgiven only through the blood sacrifice of a scapegoat. But no ordinary scapegoat would do. The sin of humanity was so great that the only adequate sacrificial victim was God himself.4 However, Hughes makes the very interesting assertion that Dawkins has been given encouragement to misread and misinterpret the Bible and theological tradition: “[H]e has been given considerable encouragement to do so by the way in which Christians themselves have misread the bible and in so doing have failed to see which are the truths which the biblical texts convey”.5 Many Christians have succumbed to the same misinterpretations of the Bible and 174 | Reading Richard Dawkins theology that Dawkins has. A situation has thus arisen where Dawkins and Christian apologists have been engaged in an ongoing debate that is based upon faulty premises, as...


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