Tuesday, May 18, 2010

A Zacharias follow-up

Because there was no indication Matt had done it, I thought it would be interesting to email the link to his post answering Ravi Zacharias' "Six Questions to Ask an Atheist" to the contact address I found at the RZIM website. Monday afternoon I received this response, not from Zacharias himself, but the ministry staffer who posted the actual "Six Questions" article to the site.

Dear Martin,

Thank you for your recent email to RZIM in response to the article "Six Questions to Ask an Atheist" in our "Engaging Conversations" section of the website. I want you to know that I read the posted response in its entirety including the comments. On the whole, I found these responses to be very helpful and challenging. I am the author of this essay, and I borrowed heavily from a framework used in Brian McLaren's book "Finding Faith." I can completely understand how since you do not know me, the "tone" of this article seemed to be antagonistic rather than genuinely interested in either conversation or learning from your perspective. I assure you that nothing could be further from the truth. I am seeking to learn, just as I assume you are, and I have learned a great deal from this post and the responses.

If you would permit me some time to more carefully reflect on what has been written, I would like to respond to you. While I know that what I may write will likely end up as "public domain," I would appreciate it if we could exchange emails initially that are between the two of us. If you find something useful - either to critique or to stimulate further conversation, you are welcome to post it. But, let me do some thinking first, and then respond.

Again, thank you for sending this to me and for the very thoughtful
interaction that was presented in this post.


Margaret Manning

Speaking Team/Associate Writer

So there. I replied that I would be delighted to continue a dialogue (which I'll bring Matt in on, as he wrote the original post, of course), while assuring Margaret that I wouldn't post any of it here without securing her permission. But I thought there'd be no harm in letting you guys know there was a response, and a polite and receptive one at that. It does appear as though Margaret had not in fact field-tested Ravi's Six Questions among any actual atheists before. So hopefully there will be an eye-opening series of exchanges to come.


  1. It's good to hear this Martin. I also thought that the tone of the original questions was a bit cocky and condescending, so it's nice to hear that someone wants to correct that and engage in a more meaningful discussion.

  2. When I hear talk of open and free discussion I see a basic problem. That is that one side is based on a relationship with the real world as it can be perceived by human beings. The worldview of the other side is based on superstition and faith. The latter view gives full freedom to make things up. After centuries of trying to prove the existence of a god, many of histories finest thinkers have failed to come up with any convincing arguments. We are in the end being asked to concede that faith and inner wisdom are ways of knowing the world that are just as valid as observations that can be measured and tested. This arrogant demand is not deserving of respect, and I see no evidence that it has done anything to better human lives.

  3. It seems these people are open to discussion. I wonder how long it will take for that to change... I do not want to prejudge, but I do not think it will be too long.

  4. Nice to know that there will be more of that debate, because the first post got me worked up good.

  5. As a former believer, I can say that this type of apologetics is often presented in a purely hypothetical sense. It is not expected that anyone from the opposing side will ever respond, so I'm sure that they were surprised that someone did. As with all apologetics, the true intent is never to actually "convert" anyone, but simply to look intelligent and informed to other Christians. That's one of the dirty little secrets of Christianity: no one is ever won over by apologetic arguments.

  6. MJ, I think we are on the same page here. I have had several encounters with theists that have started out exactly like this. However, as soon as you start asking hard questions and point out holes in their arguments, they reveal their inner fanatic.
    That has made me wary of theists bearing compliments.

    Still, there's nothing hostile in the response, so let's give her the benefit of the doubt and see what she writes. Who knows, she might turn out to be one of the good guys.

  7. We here all know how this is going to end. They have an irrefutable position based on smoke. But good on you for making the attempt. I'm sure we will all enjoy the proceedings. Thanks for the heads up so I can get popcorn ready.

  8. I look forward to the continuation of this conversation....

  9. Gang, having been involved with the TV show off and on since 1999, you needn't caution me about how any future discussion is likely to turn out. However, I still appreciate Margaret's reply, and even if all that happens is she disabuses herself of the idea that atheism is any more likely to lead to a life of hopelessness and woe than not believing in elves, then that'll be some headway. You know, raising consciousness, like Dawkins says.

  10. Many of us here started as believers, and we left it when we began to question if what we thought before was true. Maybe this is Margaret's moment to realise that atheism is not scary, and the fear she must feel at leaving the faith is not warranted. Why not?

    Word verification: omens

  11. "Sounds like a nice lady."

    They're all nice. Just wrong.

    What makes me angry is when they're wrong about me. Being wrong about a transcendental god-being is one thing, but you can fucking talk to me.

  12. All that will happen IMO is that you'll turn someone whose ignorant into a liar.

    Like Comfort/Cameron, etc, the first time you say something so blatantly wrong that 'retarded' doesn't even begin to cover it, you're just ignorant of the facts.

    Once its been pointed out to you how wrong it is, why its wrong, and that you should never say it again, then the next time you say it and pretend that its correct, you're a liar.

    And maybe I should apply for Randi's million, but I predict that once they're argument has been decimated to their (e)face, they'll still use it merrily after wards, just hoping no one else will call them on it.

  13. Good luck on this, guys, but given that their original Six Questions piece was just one big logical fallacy chain (argumentum ad consequentiam) I think a large degree of skepticism is in order.

    And there ARE elves, Martin - Night and Blood both!

  14. I must chime in and say that I too, am skeptical, but I am also pleasantly surprised by the response garnered, so we shall see. I look forward to the updates, and, while I am skeptical, I do hope this is one of those rare ones where the "honest inquiries" and willingness to engage in open and honest debate with learning/consciousness raising as the goal is legitimate and not a false pretense.

    It'd be nice to see.

  15. Very nicely handled between the two of you.

  16. So... has anything happened from this private discussion?

  17. Yes, there has, actually, and I need to get back in touch with her and kick the discussion back into gear. The flow got interrupted due to my film job in June.

  18. Thanks for the reply, Martin.

    I appreciate it, and look forward to seeing what happens with this discussion.


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