Professor David Eller Responds to Randal Rauser

Below is Eller's response to what Professor Rauser said in this post about chapter one in The Christian Delusion
This is David Eller, author of the chapter on the culture(s) of Christanity(ies). As an obvious amateur reviewer, Randal Rauser can perhaps be forgiven for his lack of knowledge of several subjects in the review.

1. Honest theist philosophers have admitted that the "arguments" for god(s) are inconclusive at best and futile at worst. I am talking here about the familiar arguments like the ontological argument or the cosmological argument or the teological (argument from design) and so on. See the first chapter of my "Natural Atheism" book on "The 12 Steps to Atheism" on all of these arguments. Take the definitely non-atheistic philosopher Immanuel Kant, who showed explicitly over 200 years ago that the ontological argument fails because "being" is not a quality but rather the precondition of all qualities. In his "Critique of Pure Reason" he authoritatively demonstrated that all "rational" arguments for religion end in contradiction and deadlock. That is obviously why modern theologians like Swinburne and Plantinga are always trying to come up with new arguments and why theists ultimately fall back on "faith"--since no argument proves their point and they want to hold their point anyhow.

2. Rauser is clearly unfamiliar with the abundant literature on the history of missionization and conversion efforts. He pokes fun at my reference to "cunning" missionaries, but from the earliest Jesuits to the most recent missions, professional converters (not all, but the informed ones) have had a very clear notion of what they are doing, what works, and how to implement their plans. As I illustrate in the chapter, missionization studies increasing use the ideas and methods of anthropology--and I would say MISUSE those ideas and methods--in pursuit of their religious cause. If Rauser or other readers would make themselves acquainted with this history and this current work, they would find that my analysis is entirely correct, because I am not making any original statement but merely summarizing the knowledge on the question.

3. Rauser also willfully fails to see the implications of my cultural argument. No one, not even Rauser and certainly not the missionary theorists that I quote in the chapter, rejects the suggestion that religion, including Christianity, is cultural. If Rauser and others are not familiar with the official concept of "inculturation" as promulgated by the Catholic Church as well as Protestant proselytizers, they really should learn about it. The idea is to use and absorb the local culture in order to spread the Christian message. Therefore, my fundamental point, that religion saturates culture and that culture saturates religion, is absolutely correct.

If we accept, then, that Christianity is cultural too, the only real question is, Is Christianity cultural ONLY? If theists accept the idea that their religion is cultural, then it is their burden to prove that it is something MORE than culture. Beyond a doubt, Christianity emerged in the first place as a historically and socially contingent movement in the context of late ancient Judaism and the Roman occupation. Over the years and around the globe, Christianity has changed to fit its local circumstances; that's why there is no such thing as "real" Christianity but rather many (and often incompatible) Christianities. If the "periphery" of Christianity--all the little flourishes and details--is cultural, and it indisputably is, then what is to convince us that the "core" of Christianity is not just cultural too? In other words, I hold that Christianity (and every other religion) is cultural through and through--that it holds no "truth" but merely cultural thinking. Like the anecdote about the religion that believes the world stands on a turtle, and that turtle on another turtle, with "turtles all the way down," so I assert, and see no argument to disprove, that Christianity is "cultural all the way down."

David Eller