Why God Won’t Go Away by Alister McGrath
In his book, Why God Won’t Go Away, Alister McGrath acquaints his reader with “new atheism”, a term apparently coined in 2006. He identifies four well-known atheists (Richard Dawkins, Daniel Dennett, Sam Harris, and Christopher Hitchens) with this philosophy, telling us how it got started, what’s new about it, what characterizes it, and how we as Christians should respond to it. As we read through this book, we find that there’s about as much “new” in new atheism as there is in new age – it’s an age-old false view of creation that unrighteous men use to suppress the knowledge of Truth that our Creator has put into His creation (Romans 1:18). The common element in this view, advocated by these high profile professing atheists, is a condescending attitude toward Christianity. Much ink has been spilled by these men trying to dissuade people from believing in the One Who created all things and people. Books such as The God Delusion and The End of Faith, as if there could be a human that could live on this earth without having faith in something – even if only that the chair would hold up when sat upon. These men tend to lump all professed religions together in an effort to “prove” God cannot exist because He is full of contradictions. No matter that the Word of God reveals that man creates and worships and serves all sorts of false gods and calls some of by the name of the one true God.
Hitchens admits he is not merely unconvinced of God’s existence, but that he is more an anti-theist than an atheist. McGrath quotes a humanist chaplain from Harvard, who defines anti-theism this way: “While atheism is the lack of belief in any god, anti-theism means actively seeking out the worst aspects of faith in god and portraying them as representative of all religion. Anti-theism seeks to shame and embarrass people away from religion, browbeating them about the stupidity of belief in a bellicose god.” People whose focus is on tearing down their enemies tend to lose all sense of perspective and end up redefining who they are by their irrational inability to allow Christians to believe what they want to.
Chapter 3 is a provoking look at a history full of violence committed by professing Christians, which gives a high road of condescension to the anti-atheists. Ah, but we also get a look at the history of bloodshed at the hands of atheists – this proving what Christians know to be biblical truth: all men are capable of hideous acts. The Lord God of Heaven restrains sinful men so that very few are as bad as they might be and His Spirit leads the redeemed to desire holiness rather than the sinful desires of the flesh.
Next up, the enlightenment is still going strong, as our anti-atheists worship at the altar of human wisdom. We learn here why it is hopeless to try and argue an anti-atheist into the kingdom of God – it’s hopeless to try and argue anyone into the Kingdom of God. Men are born again, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God. We should not be tempted to argue with lost people over facts related to the gospel – they are at war with God and He alone can give a man with a heart of stone understanding and love for Him. The intellect of the anti-atheists blinds them to the Truth, and only the Author of Truth can give him sight.
Where McGrath departs from his call as a gospel minister is in the last chapter. He heralds Mother Teresa and declares his desire to emulate her. This woman is held up by many as a model Christian, but she made it clear many times that she did not even try to convert anyone to Christ; she thought God would be pleased and save as many as tried to be good Hindus, Buddhists, or whatever false religion one was following. This is not the model for any Christian. McGrath talks around the gospel and then states that he “cannot pursue this matter further here.” He does, however, make note that “Christian beliefs, like those of the New Atheism or any other worldview, ultimately lie beyond final rational proof.” Amen! And this is why worldly wisdom is foolishness and why we must trust God and be unashamed of His gospel and willing to be thought of as fools for Christ because we will not retreat from His Word. This book would have ended much better if McGrath would have spent three pages explaining the biblical answer to the anti-atheists – those enemies of God have no other place to go if they want truthful answers to their questions.