A reader writes:
The tepid praise directed by Mohler toward Dawkins for at least taking an intellectually honest stand, and the portrayal of Armstrong as a spineless loon is rooted in a piece of scripture that was driven into me as a child:
“So, because you are lukewarm neither hot nor cold I am about to spit you out of my mouth.” Rev. 3:16
Fundamentalist Christians like Mohler are more comfortable aligning with the devil they see standing in broad daylight than the one they perceive lurking in the shadows, tempting true believers into a dalliance with uncertainty. As usual, the tempered, cautious, nuanced middle is denounced as wimpy and intellectually sloppy. But Mohler’s assault of Armstrong’s cosmology-as-therapy (“Will anyone believe this nonsense?”) is laughable.
He’s appealing to the intellect here, and yet he stands on a tradition that includes talking serpents, talking donkeys, disembodied hands, snakes-cum-staffs, people-cum-pillars of salt, man-swallowing fish, giants, angels, demons, resurrections, and ascensions. Any intellectually honest Christian must acknowledge that a literal understanding of each of these can’t meet the test of reason. I’m not attempting to denounce Mohler’s intellect, nor diminish the tradition from which he (and millions of others) find meaning in this remarkable life. I’d just like to see him show a hint of understanding that he dwells in a glass house.
Armstrong’s reduction of faith to a source of therapeutic insights about how and why life works out as it does (including horrific plagues, wars, illness, and aging) may be simplistic, but she is no simpleton. Her reduction is an attempt at a single-sentence rationale that seems far more plausible than the convoluted systems of theology that fundamentalists promulgate. But because she looks to preserve the meaning in religion while dumping the fundamentalism, she, not Dawkins, is the real enemy.
Fundamentalists don’t care about meaning, rather they must proclaim “absolute truth.” Meaning is all too feminine.
I started to read Armstrong yesterday. So far, I'm impressed. She understands how fundamentalism in many ways is the opposite of actual faith, a dysfunctional and uniquely modern fusion of rationalism and ignorance. Recovering actual belief, recovering the divine from the cacophony of human certainty and arrogance: that is our task as Christians today.