Influential Australian Christian Stands with the Atheists

Dr. John Dickson, a professing Christian and a scholar in ancient history (particularly the history surrounding Christ), recently appeared on the Australian TV show Q & A. (The transcript and video are available at this link.) Sadly, Dr. Dickson didn’t go on the show to defend the accuracy of the history in the Bible. What Dickson apparently wanted to do was show his support for much of the mission of the New Atheists. That’s right—an influential Australian Christian was seen on national TV standing with the atheists.

Now, Dr. Dickson has a degree in theology from Moore Theological College (Sydney) and a PhD in ancient history from Macquarie University (Sydney). He teaches a course on the historical Jesus for the Department of Jewish Studies at the University of Sydney. He’s written a number of books, one of which is titled Investigating Jesus. Another of his books, The Christ Files: How Historians Know What They Know, is about Christ and was made into a major television documentary. Dr. Dickson is a codirector of the Australian Centre for Public Christianity, which promotes discussion about social, ethical, and religious issues.

Dr. Dickson was on a panel on the Q & A program with a number of others, including Dr. Lawrence Krauss. I recently wrote an article about Dr. Krauss’s accusation that teaching biblical creation to our children is a form of “child abuse.”

Dr. Dickson wholeheartedly agreed with Lawrence Krauss’s points throughout the discussion on creation (except for the accusation of “child abuse”), at one point saying that the discussion between him and Krauss would be an “agree fest.” At one point, Krauss made his usual fallacious claims that evolutionary ideas are tied to operational science, and that teaching creation is “child abuse.” Dickson responded to Krauss:

I agree but for one thing that I think lowers the tone. On the science I totally agree and you’ll find that most mainstream Christians are very comfortable with science and with all of the discoveries of science, including the 13.72 billion years ago there was a bang and evolution by natural selection. This is standard. When you go to theological college you are taught how to read Genesis 1 and it’s quite clear that Genesis 1 is written in a style that is most unlike the historical prose we know from other parts of the Bible. The style is not quite poetry but it’s more in the direction of poetry. It uses number symbolism in a way that would blow your mind. The artistry of it is clear. Now, this is not Christians in the modern world scared of evolution or the findings of science and so changing what they think of the Bible. . . . So I think whatever science discovers and can truly demonstrate, I sign up for. Absolutely.”

This is an issue that we’re seeing more and more from Christian leaders and scholars—they are lifting evolutionary ideas above the authority of God’s Word and using evolutionary belief and millions of years to reinterpret God’s Word. Here, Dr. Dickson not only affirms much of what Krauss has said, but he attempts to discredit the historical value of Genesis in favor of evolutionary ideas.

In the course of the discussion, Dickson made his compromise on Genesis clear: “I’ve got plenty of friends who are six day creationists and I’m going to get some love mail after this for sure. But, look, you know, I have great relationships with them, I just think they are wrong. Wrong on the science. Wrong on the Bible.”

While Dickson correctly tells Krauss that calling the teaching of creation “child abuse” is unnecessary, he then makes an incredible remark to Krauss—he says that Christians like him can be the “friend” of the New Atheism:

JOHN DICKSON: But what you should be doing, Lawrence—what you should be doing—here’s a tactic—hand them over to us. People like the Centre for Public Christianity, where I work, who are trying to educate not only the general public but also the Christian public on biblical scholarship and scientific scholarship. To call it child abuse, I just think, is all wrong.

TONY JONES: When you say “Hand them over to us”, do you mean the people who are teaching these things should actually be handed over to you for re-education?

JOHN DICKSON: Yeah, look, we have this little prison out the back. No, look, I just mean we could be the friend—we could be the friend to the new atheism and have the effect you want. I think all you are doing is firming up the opposition.

Now, there is a very big problem with Dr. Dickson’s statements: the mission of Christians and the mission of atheists are contradictory. You see, Krauss wants to explain the world without God, while Dickson, as a professing Christian, should want to explain the world using God’s Word. But instead, Dickson has offered to take up the mission of the atheists and use his organization to “educate” Christians and non-Christians on how evolution fits with the Bible.

From the context, I believe Dickson is saying that Christians (like those of us at AiG) who take Genesis as literal history, are actually a stumbling block to atheists.  But those (like Dickson) who are prepared to accept the secular ideas of evolution and millions of years, can be a friend to the atheists as they have so much in common—but somehow supposedly use this to try to convert the atheists to Christianity.

Actually, from my experience, I believe the atheists just love such compromise. They really see such an effort by Christians as just adding God to their secular naturalistic beliefs—and the atheists consider that totally unnecessary! Actually, atheists have said that such compromisers are really a help to their atheism.  For instance, consider the words of  Dr. Eugenie Scott, an atheist, who heads up the anti-creationist organization NCSE. Back in September 2000, in her opening statement at the American Association for the Advancement of Science Conference titled “The Teaching of Evolution in U.S. Schools: Where Politics, Religion, and Science Converge,” she said the following:

You can’t win this by scientific arguments . . . our best allies were members of the mainstream clergy . . . . The clergy went to school board meetings and said, evolution is okay with us . . . they didn’t want the kids getting biblical literalism five days a week either, which meant they’d have to straighten them out on the weekends.

In a fundraising letter a couple of years ago, Dr. Scott made a statement similar to the one she has made before on her website about how she seeks to recruit religious people to help her atheist group: “Find common ground with religious communities and ally with them to promote the understanding of evolution.”

Really, Krauss in my opinion probably sees Dickson’s position as helping and affirming his atheism. I can’t imagine standing before God and giving an account of such compromise with the atheists!

Sadly, this sort of compromise is becoming more prevalent in the church. We as believers must stand firmly on the authority of God’s Word from the very first verse. I urge you to learn the Scriptures and be equipped with answers to the secular attacks on God’s Word of this age. When your pastors and other church leaders make any statements of compromise with secular ideas about Genesis, you can firmly challenge your leaders to stand boldly on the authority of Scripture and stop helping the secularists.

Thanks for stopping by and thanks for praying,

Ken

Editor’s note: We have since come across a web posting by Dr. Dickson that was conciliatory towards biblical creationists. He expressed regret that in the program he was not “a little more gracious to my 6-Day Creationist brothers and sisters. Only afterwards – outside the pressured environment – did I think that I probably hurt people I care for and will spend eternity with in God’s kingdom.”

While in his post he added that “I do think Genesis 1 is better read in a non-concrete way and I do believe the science is overwhelmingly in favour of an old earth,” it was good to read that he admitted that “there are better ways of airing my disagreement than the way I did.” (http://www.biblesociety.org.au/news/social-media-wrap-of-john-dickson-on-qa#.USSsngk6xvw.facebook)