John Dickson of the Centre for Public Christianity wrote an excellent piece for Easter, offering some helpful dialogue pointers for atheists. He gives useful tips on the rich intellectual tradition of Christianity:
“My first tip, then, is to gain some awareness of the church’s vast intellectual tradition. It is not enough to quip that ‘intellectual’ and ‘church’ are oxymoronic. Origen, Augustine, Philoponus, Aquinas, and the rest are giants of Western thought. Without some familiarity with these figures, or their modern equivalents … popular atheists can sound like the kid in English class, ‘Miss, Shakespeare is stupid!'”
…and offers a vital comment on the status of Young-Earth Creationism within the broader Christian Church:
“Richard Dawkins and Lawrence Krauss have done a disservice to atheism by talking as though 6-Day Creationism is the default Christian conviction. But mainstream Christianities for decades have dismissed 6-Day Creationism as a misguided (if well-intentioned) project. Major conservative institutions like Sydney’s Moore Theological College, which produces more full time ministers than any college in the country, have taught for years that Genesis 1 was never intended to be read concretely, let alone scientifically. This isn’t Christians retreating before the troubling advances of science. From the earliest centuries many of the greats of Judaism (e.g., Philo and Maimonides) and Christianity (e.g., Clement, Ambrose, and Augustine) taught that the ‘six days’ of Genesis are a literary device, not a marker of time.”
Read the whole piece on ABC’s website.
I also just came across a great article by Martin Shields on the literature genre of Genesis 1, a lecturer of Old Testament studies. He notes:
“A significant problem with modern readings of Genesis 1 lies in the dominance of scientific readings. Young-earth creationists read it as though it presents scientific information, those who believe the universe is billions of years old condemn Genesis 1 on the grounds that it conflicts with what they know from science. These groups dominate debate and both seriously misread the text!”
In addition to his notes on the literature style, Shields presents a useful “foreignised” translation of the chapter: that is, he keeps the actual expressions as close as possible to the original meanings, with no attempt to help 21st century Western readers.