There are two kinds of atheism. The first scientific, the latter moral. Both kinds share a common thread, man sitting in judgment over whether God is in the right.
My neighbor two houses down was recently listening to a podcast in which William Lane Craig was being reacted to. There was a video clip of this Christian apologist with a more formally academic and philosophical type bend being asked about the first eleven chapters of Genesis. And Craig was explaining that he does not believe this first part of Genesis should be taken as literally true.
JP tells me the striking thing the podcast reactors pointed out was Craig’s tone. He seemed to be trying to appease atheists who cite the first eleven chapters of Genesis as why they cannot take anything in the Bible seriously.
Now I would remark that from my vantage point this kind of scientific atheism is not as prevalent these days. Ten to fifteen years ago, internet debates with militant rhetoricians possessed by an evangelistic fervor for disbelief in God were a weekly or monthly occurrence. Now we are more beset by social justice warriors and critical theory proponents.
But since we are on the topic, now is a good time to stop and point out that there are at least two kinds of atheists.
I call the first kind the scientific atheist. In this camp belong those who lead with the claim that modern Science has debunked the claims of the Bible, therefore we must reject the Bible and God as backward and outdated.
The second kind of atheist I would call the moral atheist. And in this category are those who charge that the God of the Bible is a villain, and that those who believe in God and the Bible are oppressed and oppressive by virtue of their faith.
Equipping to Defend
The question JP asks therefore is this:
‘Which kind of atheism do we need to spend more of our time and energy equipping our kids to defend against?’
In answer, I would say that we should deal with both kinds of atheism – scientific and moral – in equal measure by getting at the root. Whether the objections to the existence of God are primarily scientific or moral, the core presumption is the same. Namely, man sits in supreme judgment over the Creator determining whether the ways of the Most High are right.
By all means, we should teach our children to think critically about scientific truth claims, and to ferret out whether and where arguments are on shaky ground or else wholly unsubstantiated except by force of will and cleverness of rhetoric.
Just so, teaching our children that God does not submit to some higher standard of right than himself is comprehensively indispensable.
But from this latter root come all sort of more pernicious and subtle challenges to Christian life and thought. And whether we always recognize the same as atheistic, the sentiment has a great deal in common with the ambition which got Lucifer and a third of the angels evicted from Heaven.
If we can teach our children to think rightly about God and themselves in terms of position and who has preeminence and authority, then we will take most of the challenge out of dealing with whatever kind of atheist they encounter in life.
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