“Christians seldom realize that much of the moral consideration for others which is apparently promoted by both the Old and New Testaments, was originally intended to apply only to a narrow defined in-group. ‘Love thy neighbor’ didn’t mean what we now think it means. It meant only ‘Love another Jew.'” -Richard Dawkins
You see friends, what you have here is one of the world’s foremost anti-theists, what Becky Garrison describes in her book as “the new atheists.” Richard Dawkins not only believes there is no God, he thinks religious faith is dangerous and a threat to our society. In this quote he is explaining the meaning behind a Biblical text he doesn’t believe in in the first place. In critical thinking, we call this a straw man argument. Tell an audience what your opponent is saying, then argue against what you say he said, not against the actual saying or teaching. Dawkins may be a genius in his field, but he isn’t qualified to teach beginners’ into to Bible. If you don’t mind, let me take a crack at it.
In Luke 10:25-37 we find the story of the good Samaritan. One person in Jesus’ audience asks the question “Who is my neighbor,” perhaps hoping to get off easy on the “Love your neighbor” command. The whole purpose of the Good Samaritan story is to show that it’s not about Jew, or Samaritan, religious leader or regular guy, it doesn’t matter. Any person we meet that needs something we can possibly offer is our neighbor. Dawkins has heard the command, maybe even heard the Good Samaritan story, or at least the gist of it, but has never read those verses. Or perhaps the meaning eluded him. At any rate, he is not a reliable source to be teaching others the meaning of scripture. There is of course another possibility.
We are warned in the scriptures to beware of wolves coming in sheep’s clothing (Matt 7:15). Richard Dawkins appears to be concerned for the welfare of humanity, and makes a genuine plea to consider the logic and reason of science before following God in a blind faith. He has the appearance of helping us to understand the meaning of scripture that we may have innocently misunderstood all this time. The reality could be (I’m just throwing out possibilities here) that he is purposefully being deceptive, knowing the actual verses and meaning of this story, or that he is deceived by the father of all lies, and is just a pawn in his hand.
Don’t ever take anyone’s word on what the Bible says. Read it yourself. Listen to sermons and good Bible teaching, read your books, read your favorite blogger, but never just take someone’s word at face value about the meaning of scripture without using the Bible to bear out what has been taught as the truth. You’ve read Dawkins interpretation of this command and mine. Now look at Luke 10 and be your own judge of which has rightly divided (handled) the word of truth. If John Piper wanders away from the teaching of the Bible, quit listening to him. If the Internet Monk takes one more step and falls off the deep end, we should be able to tell by reading the scripture if there is Biblical basis for his teaching. We should all spend enough time in the word that we know hooey when we smell it.