Summary: An examination of faith based on Psalm 46 with reference to The God Delusion by Richard Dawkins.

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August 26, 2007 Proper 16C

The Rev. M. Anthony Seel, Jr.

St. Andrew’s Anglican Church

Psalm 46

The God Delusion?

On Monday and op-ed piece appeared in USA Today by Tom Krattenmaker titled "Secularists, what happened to the open mind?" Krattenmaker is a member of USA Today’s Board of Contributers whose specialty is "religion in public life."

Krattenmaker asks a number of questions in his essay, including "Why when it comes to matters of religion, do secularists so frequently leave their critical thinking at the door?"

In his op-ed article, Krattenmaker quotes a religion scholar and writer who is also an atheist. Georgetown University Jacques Berlinerblau questions, "Can an atheist or agnostic discuss any aspect of religion for more than 30 seconds without referring to religious people as imbeciles, extremists, mental deficiences, fascists, enemies of the common good… conjure men (or) irrationalists?"

It’s a timely question and three purveyors of this trend are mentioned in the article: Christopher Hitchens, Sam Harris and Richard Dawkins - all atheists. Last year, Dawkins’ work, The God Delusion was published. There are currently 500,000 copies in print. This week it stands at #27 on the New York Times nonfiction Bestsellers List. It’s been on that list for 47 weeks. Curiously, Dawkins’ book is not on the USA Today combined list of 150 fiction and nonfiction works. It was on the list for 30 weeks and the highest it climbed was #27.

The reviewer in the New York Review of Books devalues Dawkins’ project due to his "smug tone" and "occasionally sloppy logic" and accuses Dawkins of "shirking the intellectual hard work." Yet, with even its many deficiencies, Dawkins’ work appears to be the most substantial effort from the Dawkins, Harris, Hitchens troika.

After all, Richard Dawkins is a preeminent evolutionary biologist, Sam Harris is a writer, and Christopher Hitchens is a journalist/writer. They’re all smart guys, all best-selling authors, but only Dawkins is a world class scientist.

This morning, I will juxtapose Psalm 46 with The God Delusion by Richard Dawkins.

v.1 God is our refuge and strength, a very present help it trouble.

Psalm 46 is best known for Martin Luther’s use of it in "A Mighty Fortress is our God." Luther’s famous hymn has been translated into "almost every known language," and it has been called the "Battle Hymn of the Reformation." In the four stanzas of the hymn, Luther interprets his own experience through the lens of the psalm.

The psalm was written about God’s delivering Israel from severe trials, but we can’t pinpoint the exact date it was written. It appears to describe a time when Jerusalem was under siege by enemy armies. In verse 1, the psalmist tells us that God is the refuge and strength of His people. Luther clung to this truth and trusted that Jesus his Savior and Lord was his refuge and strength during those times when he encountered difficult stretches.

At times during the Reformation, Luther understood that he was under siege, and he also trusted God to be his "very present help in trouble." Martin Luther knew God’s presence and help personally; it is what sustained him throughout the Reformation.

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