Thursday, November 16, 2006

Letter to a Christian Nation

At Borders again, and this slim volume catches my attention. Sam Harris, a Stanford grad and a Phd. student in neuroscience wrote a best seller in 2005 titled The End of Faith in which he sets forth his atheistic beliefs and calls for the end of religious faith, since in his opinion it is the antithesis of logic, and the cause of many of the ills of modern society. I had never heard of either that book or its author.

But his new effort, Letter to a Christian Nation, is an attempt by Mr. Harris to "demolish the intellectual and moral pretensions of Christianity."

As a believing Christian who came to that belief through rational thought, and who applies logic and reason to every aspect of his life, I purchased the book to see if Mr. Harris has a coherent argument.

He does not.

His book if filled with errors in fact and logic which are too numerous to review in this blog, but I am tempted to draft my own Letter to Sam Harris to refute his argument point by point.

Suffice it to say that one of his many fallacious arguments is that acceptance of Darwin's Theory of Evolution, or some variant thereof, is inconsistent with Christianity.

It is not, and here are three well respected scientists, with Phds. from Harvard, the University of North Carolina, and Stanford respectively who make just that rational, logical, and reasoned argument.

Dr. Francis S. Collins (Phd. University of North Carolina, M.D. Yale)





Dr. Owen Gingerich of Harvard




Dr. Joan Roughgarden of Stanford

Evolution of Christian Faith: Reflections of an Evolutionary Biologist

I hasten to add that, despite the numerous errors in logic contained in his slim little volume (91 pages in a 6 inch by 9 inch book), Mr. Harris has succeeded dramatically where I have not. Not yet at least ! His new book is ranked #19 on the Amazon book sales chart.

So, the game is on, dear blog reader.

I want comments, comments, comments on this subject. Do you agree with Mr. Harris that Christianity is inconsistent with reason, or do you agree with me, that the Christian faith is best discovered by the rigorous application of reason ?

13 comments:

Jason said...

I applaud your desire to do this, and may the God of reason and logic give you all you need to accomplish this!

I have read a fair amount of Francis Schaeffer, and appreciate the rationality of Christianity and its teachings. I am not so skilled in logic to always note the logical fallacies, so I hope that you can step in and speak boldly and with authority.

On the Amazon ranking - I bet that most of the people driving sales are just letting Mr. Harris "preach to the choir".

Michael Patrick Leahy said...

Jason,

Thanks for your comment.

Why don't you give my your thoughts on the following quote from Harris:

"It is therefore not an exaggeration to say that if the city of New York were suddenly replaced by a ball of fire, some significant percentage of the American population would see a silver lining in the subsequent mushroom cloud, as it would suggest to them that the best thing that was ever going to happen was about to happen: the return of Christ."

page xii

Jaime H. said...

Thank you for your comment on my blog. Unfortunately, since I haven't read any of the books you've posted about here, I can't comment on them. But if I do pick them up, I will let you know what I think of them.

Michael Patrick Leahy said...

Jaime,

You can get a summary of the Sam Harris thesis at http://www.samharris.org

Kell said...

I think faith and experience go hand in hand. With the right experience, you will have a relationship with God. I guess that's as simply as I can state it.

In regards to my writing - I write professionally for video, speeches, media, etc... and write on the blog for the sheer joy of writing.

Jerome said...

Thanks for posting on my blog. Your salvation conversion sounds similar to that of a friend of mine. He is a biology professor and one time evolutionist. Through the study of biology he came to the realization that only God could have created the universe. His is a fascinating story.

On the Amazon ranking, it means very little. Certainly he's selling a few books but converting the sales ranking to "books sold" is impossible.

And if you're writing in the Christian market, you need to check out Terry Whalin's blog at www.terrywhalin.blogspot.com. He has a lot of insight from the publishing world. (There's a link to his blog on mine.)

Come visit my blog again in anytime.

Jerome said...

Michael, I'm responding to your post on my blog. First, I doubt I'll pick-up a copy of this book for the same reason I didn't buy Bill Clinton's book. Why would I want to give either of these men some of my money? Secondly, Christianity doesn't need me to defend it. The gospel message can defend itself and as Christians, we are called to spread the good news. Sometimes as Christians we spend way too much time debating Christianty--even among ourselves (Calvinism v. Armenianism)--and I get caught up in this myself. But if we expend those energies telling others about Christ, then we are actually making a difference.

I do, however, applaud your passion about this issue but this debate isn't for me. Have you though about witnessing to Sam Harris instead of trying to debate him?

Now to your question about an agent. I had an agent at one time. It didn't work out. I contracted The Election and my second book (releasing June 2007) without an agent. I realize that isn't for everyone and I may sign up with agent again in the future. Even though you're writing commercially, I would still suggest Terry Whalin's website and blog. He has a plethera of information about the writing industry including tips on finding an agent.

Hope this helps.

Jerome

Michael Patrick Leahy said...

Jerome,

I don't envision a debate with Sam Harris in my response per se.

I do think a response correcting his errors, however, is appropriate.

lisa said...

Regarding the two questions at the end, can I say "no" to both?

Michael Patrick Leahy said...

Lisa,

An intriguing response.

Please elaborate. How do you see the role of reason in Christian faith ?

Describe your disagreement with my point of view.

Anonymous said...

Mike,
St. Francis of Assisi said, we should witness always and speak only when necessary. Mr. Harris may be highly educated and logical, but I don't believe engaging him on his "own turf" will change his heart a wit. It would become a contest of who is more logical and right. No one wins those arguments. Only God himself could win that one. It is our lives and how we live them that speaks most effectively. Kindness, forgiveness, mercy and a giving spirit toward those we find difficult to even tolerate is the best way to honor God and to capture hearts. Jesus tells us to love our enemies and to pray for those who persecute us. God's way is totally illogical. You can't explain it.

C.S. Lewis wrote, "I believe in Christianity as I believe that the sun has risen; not only because I see it, but because by it, I see everything else."

All I know is this: I know the love of God. I pray someday Mr. Harris will, as C.S. Lewis did, be able to see and know the love of God as it is illuminated in those of us who believe. Jesus is the only "Sun" but we are His candles.
God Bless Karen

Austin Bob said...

It's interesting ... Proverbs both commands us to answer a fool according to his folly (that he may not be wise in his own sight - 26:5) and warns us against such (that we may not fall into his error - 26:4). I find it interesting that the danger of falling into the fool's error comes first.

I pray that in your answer you will not cede the high ground of empiricist assumptions at the outset. As Van Til says (paraphrased from memory in his Intro to Systematic Theology), Man needs more than information to acknowledge God ... He needs God Himself to interpret that information for him.

Austin Bob said...

I find it interesting that Proverbs both commands us to answer a fool according to his folly (lest he be wise in his own eyes - 26:5) and warns us against such (lest we fall into the same error - 26:4). Furthermore, I think it is significant that the warning precedes the command.

I pray that as you answer this fool, you will not cede the high ground of empiricist assumptions at the outset. Van Til reminds us (in his Intro to Systematic Theology) that man needs more than true information ... he needs the true interpretation of that information that only God (in the person of the Holy Spirit) can provide. If we start (philosophically) with "In the beginning, God ..." then whatever follows will rest on a firm foundation. If we assume erroniously that "Before the beginning, logic ..." we will have lost the battle before it is engaged.

I look forward to reading your drafts and will try to comment further when I have had the time to do so.