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Serpents and Doves

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The William Lane Craig (WLC) Reasonable Faith Tour is drawing to a close. Craig has been visiting different major cities across the UK over the last few weeks, debating with the academic elite for the existence of God and the historical reliability of Jesus’ resurrection.

He debated Stephen Law, lecturer in Philosophy at Heythrop College, London and editor of the magazine of the Royal Institute of Philosophy THINK on 17 October. He invited Richard Dawkins to debate ‘Is God a Delusion?’ on 25 October. Dawkins’ refusal has caused some to accuse him of cowardice, although he has made a public statement asserting that he would refuse to debate anyone who is an ‘apologist for genocide’. Bloggers in the Telegraph and The Guardian joined a throng of voices questioning Dawkins’ reason for refusal.
 
The publicity of this event has caused bloggers, journalists, tweeters and academics to respond with a flurry of publications, articles and statements; opinion is polarised and some positions are aggressively entrenched.
 
As I have watched the dialogue unfold, and have read and engaged with different positions and opinions on the matter, I have begun to appreciate the very great need for Christian leaders who are ‘as wise a serpents, but as innocent as doves’ (Matthew 10:16). I increasingly believe that our generation need these leaders in greater and greater numbers.
 
I attended the bethinking.org conference in London on 22 October where Craig encouraged us to think about our faith and prayerfully ask God that we might be able to represent Christianity as an intellectually viable option in our generation. I am pleased that young Christians are being encouraged to engage Christianity’s critics. It is very much needed.
 
But as the debate becomes increasing public and, dare I say it, political, I believe we need those that are not only intellectually capable of defending Christianity, but those that God has gifted with the wisdom to respond appropriately. We need those with an ability to meet the challenge we are given, but also to do so innocently and with integrity, aware that we represent our Lord. 
 
I will end with a question. I have been unable to answer this for myself, so perhaps you may be able to help me. I have come across Christians who feel that the advertising for the WLC Tour has been appropriate, and those that have thought it has not. Interestingly, I believe it may depend on what you think being ‘as wise as serpents, but as innocent as doves’ actually means in practice. Publicity for the WLC Tour has been a ‘responding in kind’. Dawkins publicly denounces and discredits Christianity to the point of making a mockery of our faith, and therefore the WLC Tour has been public in its criticism of Dawkins and his followers. A few years ago Ariane Sherine, who was supported by Dawkins, used bus advertising to promote the motto: “There’s probably no God. Now stop worrying and enjoy your life”. Therefore, in response to Dawkins refusal to debate WLC, the organisers used a bus to advertise the words: “There’s probably no Dawkins. Now stop worrying and enjoy 25 October at the Sheldon Theatre’. This video shows further advertising for the WLC Tour.
 
In many ways we are responding in kind and sticking up for ourselves. But I have heard some say that they thought it went a little too far. I am undecided. Perhaps we are just not used to sticking up for ourselves, and are a little shocked by the result? Should we, then, present ourselves less aggressively by flapping our innocent wings and cooing gently, perhaps?   

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