Good 
Book

Regular readers of the ‘Good Book’ column will know that I occasionally include books which address the long-standing debate on ‘Science and Religion’. The issue is important, and one that we have all encountered in some shape or form: the non-Christian acquaintance who tells us that science deals with ‘fact’ and religion only with ‘values’ or ‘feelings’ or ‘opinions’; the objector who, told that God made the world, demands to know who made God; and so on. A large number of books, many of them popular or semi-popular in character, have been written in recent years addressing this topic from different perspectives. This week’s ‘Good Book’ is another such: A.E. McGrath, Dawkins’ God: Genes, Memes, and the Meaning of Life (Oxford: Blackwell, 2005).

As the book’s title indicates, it is a critique of the writings of Richard Dawkins, evolutionary biologist, Professor of the Public Understanding of Science at Oxford University, skilled populariser of scientific ideas, and one of the best-known advocates of atheistic materialism in the world. (When I was in England last year, bookshops were displaying copies of Dawkins’ latest book The God Delusion, and earlier in 2006 he presented a series on British TV in which religion was presented as ‘The Root of all Evil’. Dawkins is certainly a worthy sparring partner.) McGrath’s critique focuses particularly on Dawkins’ views on God and religion: ‘I do not propose to engage with Dawkins’ specific views on the theory of evolution, but the broader conclusions that he draws from these, particularly concerning religion and intellectual history… my concern… is supremely the critically important and immensely problematic transition from biology to theology’ (p. 11).

McGrath is well qualified to address this topic, having engaged in doctoral level research in biochemistry as well as in theology. He identifies four main lines of argument used by Dawkins to attack religious belief (p. 12): (1) ‘A Darwinian [evolutionary] world-view makes belief in God unnecessary or impossible’; (2) ‘Religion makes assertions which are grounded in faith, which represents a retreat from a rigorous, evidence-based concern for truth’; (3) ‘Religion offers an impoverished and attenuated vision of the world… In contrast, science offers a bold and brilliant vision of the universe as grand, beautiful and awe-inspiring’; (4) ‘Religion leads to evil. It is like a malignant virus, infecting human minds.’ Most of the book is taken up with addressing these issues, but there are also lively biographical and anecdotal sections. McGrath is clearly fascinated by the issues he addresses, and this comes across in his writing.

The discussion becomes somewhat technical at times, but McGrath writes clearly, and his argument could easily be grasped by your reviewer (whose highest scientific qualifications are ‘O’-levels in physics, chemistry and maths). The conclusion? Dawkins’ stature as a scientist is not in question, and his rhetorical gifts are also considerable, but he is a much less sure guide once he steps beyond his area of specialization to discuss religious ideas. His arguments on religion and the relationship between science and religion are often surprisingly crude. (This is something I myself have observed in my somewhat selective reading of Dawkins’ works: he seems to me a good example of the point that in argument it is a great mistake to underestimate your opponent.)

Why should you read this book? Read it as a model of how to engage in debate in a clear and fair manner. Read it in order to see how a leading Christian thinker integrates Christian faith and science. Read it, finally, in order to have an answer the next time someone asks you who made God!

(PES)
 


Tentmakers Equipping ‘NTraining 

TENT course is a part-time modular course specially designed to equip and prepare professionals for ministry and service in a cross-cultural context. It is organized jointly by Biblical Graduate School of Theology (BGST) and the Discipleship Training Centre (DTC).    

Classes will be held at 31 Tg Pagar Rd from 7.20-10.00pm. ‘Theology of Work’ is held at 33A Chancery Lane (DTC), 7.20-10.00pm.

Classes will be held at 31 Tg Pagar Rd from 7.20-10.00pm. ‘Theology of Work’ is held at 33A Chancery Lane (DTC), 7.20-10.00pm.

  • Biblical Basis for Tentmaking
    Mission -  Jun 12, 19, 26, Jul 3

  • Theology of Work - Jul 17, 24, 31

  • Religions of Asia - Aug 7, 14, 21

  • Understanding Culture - Sep 4, 11, 18

  • Tentmaking & Ethical Issues - Sep 25, Oct 2, 9

  • Personal Ministry Skills - Oct 16, 23, 20

  • Coping with Stress - Nov 6, 13, 20

  • Country/People Profile Studies - Jul 10, Nov 2  

Visit our website for course details & fees. For registration, please call Admin office on 6227-6815 or e-mail us at tent@bgst.edu.sg   
  

NEWS BITS

  1. Courses commencing after this week.

  • The Psalms through the History of the Church (OT214/CH370, 3 credits), Guest Lecturer: Prof James Houston. This intensive course covers 8 double-lecture sessions on Apr 4, 5, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 16 at 4 Bishan St 13 (Room 308), time: 7.15-10.15pm.

  • *Greek Homiletics (BG252, 1.5 credits), starting Sat, Apr 7, 2.00-3.30pm (Room 308), at 4 Bishan St 13. Lecturer: Dr Quek Swee Hwa.

  • Romans: The Gospel According to Paul (NT311, 1.5 credits, video), starting Sat, Apr 7, 4.00-5.30pm at 4 Bishan St 13 (Room 308). Lecturer: Dr Quek Swee Hwa.

  • Hosea & Amos (OT366, 1.5 credits), starting Tue, Apr 17, 7.30-9.45pm. Lecturer: Dr Philip Satterthwaite.

  • Culture Research (ME257, 3 credits, video), starting Tue, Apr 17, 7.15-10.15pm. Lecturer: Dr Miriam Adeney/Dr Ng Peh Cheng.

  • *Better Speech for Leadership & Ministry (AT231, 1.5 credits), starting Wed, Apr 18 (new date), 7.30-10.00pm. Lecturer: Rev Ng Seng Chuan.

  • *Counselling Skills: Pre-Marital Counselling (CO232, 1.5 credits), starting Thu, May 3, 7.15-10.15pm. Lecturer: Mr Song Cheng Hock.

*Courses marked with an asterisk are not offered on audit basis. Visit our website for the course descriptions. Registration is open for all courses. You can register on-line or send us an e-mail at bgst@pacific.net.sg

  1. New Admission. Grad Dip.CS
    Mr Choo Yew Ting worships at the Shalom Baptist Chapel. After several years of working in the industrial and engineering field, he is now serving the Lord as a Teacher in the Baptist Student Care Centre.
     

  2. GARAGE SALES  
    In preparation for the BGST Open House, we are clearing one of the rooms which is currently housing a wide range of items previously donated to BGST. We are selling these items at very attractive prices. There will also be a corner of freebies (whilst stock lasts).

    Dates
    : 2 to 5 April 2007 (Monday-Thursday)
    Time: 11am - 3pm
    Venue: 31 Tanjong Pagar Road

How you can help:

  • come & buy somthing

  • tell your friends who are working in the Tg Pagar vicinity about this sale

  • volunteer your help to man the "Garage Sale" corner

Chapel Notes

Last week’s (March 21) chapel speaker was Dr Wong Lea Choung, consultant radiation oncologist, NUH, and a member of Adam Rd Presbyterian Centre. He spoke on Isaiah 6:8, speaking about his early life and medical training, and focusing particularly on the cancer support ministry in which he is now engaged.

Chapel speaker on April 4 will be Rev Peter Chng.

 A Blessed Birthday to…

Mr Rupert Tsang  2/4
Mdm Alizys Soon  3/4
Ms Lee Wai Ying  3/4
Ms Soo Hsi En  3/4
Ms Lydia Chua  3/4
Ms Genevieve Goh  5/4
Mr David Lim  6/4
Ms Ng Geok Har  7/4
Mrs Emily Wan  8/4
Ms Aileen Goh  8/4

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Last update : Thursday, March 29, 2007  
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