Strange Bedfellows

Some people have strange bedfellows.

Today I read (thanks to Suzanne for reminding me of what I first saw yesterday) first that Justin Taylor and Al Mohler, conservative Christians, are taking up common cause with President Ahmadinejad of Iran against a woman with a young child who has chosen to serve in the armed forces. Now I would not encourage a woman to leave her child in this way, but I would uphold her right to do so if she chooses to. The strange thing about it, however, is the way that Taylor and Mohler are agreeing with someone one might expect to be their sworn enemy, who is certainly the sworn enemy of their country. But perhaps Ahmadinejad’s vision of a patriarchal theocracy, and expectation of the imminent return of the Hidden Mahdi, are not really so different from Taylor’s and Mohler’s patriarchal and possibly theocratic vision, and perhaps their expectation of the imminent return of Christ. It is no accident that their religion and Ahmadinejad’s are both described, mainly by their enemies, as “fundamentalist”.

Meanwhile Henry Neufeld has posted (all at once) a new series reviewing Richard Dawkins’ book The God Delusion (due out in paperback in May, but already well discounted in hardback). I have not read the book so will not comment on it myself. But Henry reveals an even stranger set of bedfellows than Mohler and Ahmadinejad. Henry notes that

Dawkins sees two possibilities–religion of all related varieties on the one side, and atheism on the other. He downplays moderation of all types.

Later he quotes Dawkins:

The teachings of ‘moderate’ religion, though not extremist in themselves, are an open invitation to extremism.

and continues:

One of the most common arguments I face from fundamentalists and also some conservatives is the “slippery slope” argument. If you give anything away, it’s only the first step to giving everything away. But this is a fallacious argument because it has built in the assumption that the correct position will result from choosing one of the extremes. Perhaps the position in the middle is the most correct, and in that case we would have a “slippery slope” on either side.

See also my own recent criticism of the “slippery slope” argument. The new point which Henry makes is that Dawkins is using exactly the same type of fallacious argument as do the fundamentalist Christians against the possibility of the kind of moderate position which (in general terms) Henry and I share. The same Al Mohler who wrote favourably of Ahmadinejad had just a few days earlier railed against a Christian speaker (the same one whose view of the atonement I discussed recently) who dared to question the fundamentalists’ preferred model of the atonement. Mohler tellingly ended his post:

We are left with an unavoidable choice. We must stand with the Apostle Paul … Or, we must stand with Dr. John and Mr. Fraser … On this question there is no middle ground.

“No middle ground” seems to be Mohler’s refrain, and it also seems to be Dawkins’. No doubt it is also Ahmadinejad’s. For all of them, either you agree with them completely, or you are completely in error and your opinions do not even deserve proper respect. Dawkins, it seems to me, should be also be called a fundamentalist.

Meanwhile I want to stand with Henry and others to defend the middle ground of Christian faith, based on the Bible but moderate, intelligent, not dogmatic and open to the surrounding culture, from the attacks of fundamentalists of all varieties.

0 thoughts on “Strange Bedfellows

  1. I of course agree with you on that matter of excluding the middle ground. I really perceived The God Delusion as an attack on moderation, sometimes even more than an attack on theism.

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