Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Can Harris Habeas the Corpus Christi?

As we continue to consider Sam Harris's attempt to "demolish the intellectual and moral pretensions of Christianity" in his book Letter to a Christian Nation, we come now to a glaring flaw in his argument. Part of the problem is that Harris is confused about whom he is attacking, as should be apparent when he writes:
"Consider: every devout Muslim has the same reasons for being a Muslim that you have for being a Christian.... The Koran repeatedly declares that it is the perfect word of the creator of the universe. Muslims believe this as fully as you believe the Bible's account of itself."
Harris asks his readers why they don't lose sleep about whether to convert to Islam since they (most likely) cannot prove that Gabriel did not appear to Muhammad in his cave and give him his commission. The burden of proof, he says, is not on you to disprove it, but on them to prove it, which they cannot do. Well, since you know what it's like to be an atheist with respect to Islam, you can now hopefully understand why Harris is one with respect to Christianity, as well as all other religions that rest on an unsubstantiated and unverifiable claim to divine authority.

It is at this point that Harris's confusion becomes apparent. A typical evangelical would have a difficult time responding to this argument since his faith is largely based upon his experience of Jesus not unlike that of the Muslim (or the Mormon for that matter). But if Harris's opponent is, as he claims, someone who believes in Christianity "because it is true" (such as a confessionalist), then this argument presents no problem at all.

I believe the doctrines of Christianity because Jesus rose from the dead, not because he was visited by some angel in his secret bat-cave and then wrote a tell-all book about it later. The resurrection of Christ is something so profound that it has not only not been disproven (even by his enemies immediately afterward, or for 2000 years since), but it immediately, as in a few weeks later, began to alter the course of history.

To put it another way, Christianity, unlike Islam or any other religion, is instantly disproveable. So if Harris can habeas the corpus Christi, then he will have succeeded in his aim of destroying the Christian religion. But even if he can and does, he still will have been wrong that we believed for the same reason that Muqtada al-Sadr does.

Atheists 1, confessionalists 1, evangelicals 0.