Books & Bibliography and Cognitive Dissonance
Craig S. Keener (Baker Academic: Nov 1, 2011), 928 pages.
Most modern prejudice against biblical miracle reports depends on David Hume's argument that uniform human experience precluded miracles. Yet current research shows that human experience is far from uniform. In fact, hundreds of millions of people today claim to have experienced miracles. New Testament scholar Craig Keener argues that it is time to rethink Hume's argument in light of the contemporary evidence available to us. This wide-ranging and meticulously researched two-volume study presents the most thorough current defense of the credibility of the miracle reports in the Gospels and Acts. Drawing on claims from a range of global cultures and taking a multidisciplinary approach to the topic, Keener suggests that many miracle accounts throughout history and from contemporary times are best explained as genuine divine acts, lending credence to the biblical miracle reports. ~ Book Description
Christopher Lane (Yale University Press: March 29, 2011), 248 pages.
The Victorian era was the first great “Age of Doubt” and a critical moment in the history of Western ideas. Leading nineteenth-century intellectuals battled the Church and struggled to absorb radical scientific discoveries that upended everything the Bible had taught them about the world. In The Age of Doubt, distinguished scholar Christopher Lane tells the fascinating story of a society under strain as virtually all aspects of life changed abruptly. In deft portraits of scientific, literary, and intellectual icons who challenged the prevailing religious orthodoxy, from Robert Chambers and Anne Brontë to Charles Darwin and Thomas H. Huxley, Lane demonstrates how they and other Victorians succeeded in turning doubt from a religious sin into an ethical necessity. The dramatic adjustment of Victorian society has echoes today as technology, science, and religion grapple with moral issues that seemed unimaginable even a decade ago. Yet the Victorians’ crisis of faith generated a far more searching engagement with religious belief than the “new atheism” that has evolved today. More profoundly than any generation before them, the Victorians came to view doubt as inseparable from belief, thought, and debate, as well as a much-needed antidote to fanaticism and unbridled certainty. By contrast, a look at today’s extremes — from the biblical literalists behind the Creation Museum to the dogmatic rigidity of Richard Dawkins’s atheism — highlights our modern-day inability to embrace doubt. ~ Product Description
David M. Holley (Wiley-Blackwell: Jan 19, 2010), 256 pages.
Philosophers typically assume that the appropriate way to reflect on God’s existence is to consider whether God is needed as a hypothesis to explain generally accepted facts. In contrast, David Holley proposes that the question of belief should be raised within the practical context of deciding on a life-orienting story, a narrative that enables us to interpret the significance of our experiences and functions as a guide to how to live. Using insights from sociology and cognitive psychology to illuminate the nature of religious beliefs, Holley shows how removing religious questions from their larger practical context distorts our thinking about them. Meaning and Mystery makes abundant use of illustrative material, including examples drawn from television shows such as Joan of Arcadia, from films such as Stranger Than Fiction, as well as from literature such as Les Misérables, Life of Pi, Flatland, and Leo Tolstoy’s A Confession. Challenging the way philosophy has traditionally approached the question of God's existence, this book will be of interest to anyone who wants to think seriously about belief in God. ~ Product Description
David Dark (Zondervan: Mar. 2009), 272 pages.
Questions make new worlds possible, asserts author Dark (The Gospel According to America), a key premise in this thought-provoking meander of reflections on, and challenges for, living an engaged life of authentic Christianity. The well-read author draws insight and inspiration from a broad range of sources—Shakespeare, Ursula Le Guin, Johnny Cash and James Joyce—in calling into question the status quo, received history and conventional theology. Dark brings to his writing the kind of energy, offbeat enthusiasm and commitment to relevance that must make his high school English classes exciting places for inquiry and exploration. That each page yokes keen observation to practical application with wisdom and compassion inclines the reader to forgive the book's bewildering organization and abstruse section headings. Questions for further conversation at the end of each chapter will be useful for groups eager to put Dark's appeals into action. The author's passion for social justice, clarity about the sacred obligation of taking nothing at face value and confidence that unsettling questions yield rich rewards for both individuals and communities is convincing and moving. ~ Publishers Weekly
John Ortberg (Zondervan: Oct. 2008), 192 pages.
What if the most important word is the one in the middle? We often think of doubt as the opposite of faith, but could it actually strengthen our relationship with God? According to John Ortberg, best-selling author and pastor, the very nature of faith requires the presence of uncertainty. In this refreshingly candid look at a life of faith, he traces the line between belief and unbelief: less a dividing line between hostile camps than a razor's edge that runs through every soul. His findings point us toward the relief of being totally honest. Questions can expand our understanding, uncertainty can lead to trust, and honest faith can produce outrageous hope. Written from Ortberg's own struggle with faith and doubt, this book will challenge, comfort, and inspire you with the truth that God wants all of us — including our doubts.
J.P. Moreland and Klaus Issler (IVP Books: Sep 2008), 230 pages.
In Search of a Confident Faith is an excellent comprehensive apologetic for establishing trust in God "for real." I wanted to review this book due to my own interest in Christians becoming confident in their faith. The book reaffirms the Christian faith as one of propositional knowledge confirmed through personal experience; but does so at a very accessible level. Moreland and Issler address many helpful points concerning the influence of Western culture in creating doubt in Christians' faith. First, the authors address the misuse of the term "faith" in today's culture as a "blind leap" or as in place of reason. The term historically entailed a much richer meaning of trust and confidence, which crucially required the proper exercise of reason, evidence, and knowledge. Second, they describe the essential role of knowledge in the Christian faith; through a look at the Biblical view of knowledge, through breaking down the concept of knowledge, and through addressing our plausibility structures (explained more thoroughly later). Third, the authors attend to intellectual and emotional doubts: both through logical arguments and then through practical steps in handling these doubts. Fourth, Moreland and Issler handle doubt caused by low expectations of God's intervention into a believer's life and make practical suggestions for increasing trust in God. Their writing systematically and carefully treats each area without losing interest or bogging down in terminology. ~ Mary Jo Sharp @ Amazon.com
Robert Burton (St. Martin's Press: Feb 5, 2008), 272 pages.
You recognize when you know something for certain, right? You "know" the sky is blue, or that the traffic light had turned green, or where you were on the morning of September 11, 2001 — you know these things, well, because you just do. In On Being Certain, neurologist Robert Burton challenges the notions of how we think about what we know. He shows that the feeling of certainty we have when we "know" something comes from sources beyond our control and knowledge. In fact, certainty is a mental sensation, rather than evidence of fact. Because this "feeling of knowing" seems like confirmation of knowledge, we tend to think of it as a product of reason. But an increasing body of evidence suggests that feelings such as certainty stem from primitive areas of the brain, and are independent of active, conscious reflection and reasoning. The feeling of knowing happens to us; we cannot make it happen. Bringing together cutting edge neuroscience, experimental data, and fascinating anecdotes, Robert Burton explores the inconsistent and sometimes paradoxical relationship between our thoughts and what we actually know. Provocative and groundbreaking, On Being Certain, will challenge what you know (or think you know) about the mind, knowledge, and reason. ~ Product Description
Alister E. McGrath (IVP Books: Jan 20, 2007), 155 pages.
We live in a culture that doubts everything as a matter of principle. In such an environment, how can even faith be immune to doubt? Can I really trust in the gospel? Does God really love me? Can I really be of any use to God? We are taught to doubt but commanded to believe. Somehow we think that admitting to doubt is tantamount to insulting God. But doubt is not a sign of spiritual weakness — rather it's an indication of spiritual growing pains. Alister McGrath, no stranger to a faith born of doubt, here offers good news to doubters: your faith can grow, and strengthen as it grows. It needs to take root in your experience of God, it needs to take in the nourishment of instruction in the words and ways of God, it needs to be stretched into greater obedience to the commands and calling of God — but it can grow beyond doubt into a thriving relationship. ~ Product Description
Anthony Kenny (Continuum: Jun 15, 2005), 232 pages.
In direct contrast to recent philosophical quarrels about the existence and nature of God, and human relationships with the divine, Kenny, a former Roman Catholic Priest and Master of Balliol College, Oxford, asks a few simple and startling questions: Is it possible, as humans, to prove the existence of God? Are such efforts merely exercises in painting God with an anthropomorphic image? In this collection of essays written over the last 15 years, Kenny describes how limited literal descriptions of God are, given the limits of theology and philosophy, and compares the efforts of poets working within agnosticism, Arthur Hugh Clough and Matthew Arnold. His final essays compare the thought of John Henry Newman with that of Leslie Stephen and explore the work of Ludwig Wittgenstein on the mind. ~ Book News
Gregory A. Boyd, Edward K. Boyd (FaithWorks: March 25, 2004), 192 pages.
Edward Boyd's agnosticism rested "not ... too much on any positive position ... but rather on a host of negative ones" about Christianity. In an attempt to address these negative issues, his son Greg, a professor of theology, asked his father, a strong-willed, highly intelligent, and stubborn 70-year-old, to enter into a correspondence in which "all of their cards would be laid on the table." Greg would give his father the opportunity to raise all his objections to the veracity of Christianity, and Greg would "answer these objections as well as give positive grounds for holding to the Christian faith." Three years and more than 30 letters later, Letters from a Skeptic was published and Edward Boyd came to accept Christ. During his journey, he and his son hash through such topics as why the world is so full of suffering; why an all-powerful God needs prayer; how you can believe in someone who rose from the dead; and how another man's death can pardon others. Despite their brutal honesty, both men exhibit respect and love toward one another as they address these volatile subjects.
Daniel Taylor (IVP Books: January 2000), 158 pages.
Do you resent the smugness of closed-minded skepticism on the one hand but feel equally uncomfortable with the smugness of closed-minded Christianity on the other? If so, then The Myth of Certainty is for you. Daniel Taylor suggests a path to committed faith that is both consistent with the tradition of Christian orthodoxy and sensitive to the pluralism, complexity and relativism of our age. The case for the questioning Christian is made with both incisive analysis and lively storytelling. Brief fictional interludes provide an alternate way of exploring topics at hand and vividly depict the real-life dilemmas reflective Christians often face. Taylor affirms a call to throw off the paralysis of uncertainty and to risk commitment to God without forfeiting the God-given gift of an inquiring mind. Throughout he demonstrates clearly how much the world and the church need question askers. ~ Product Description
Lesslie Newbigin (Eerdmans: Mar 30, 1995), 110 pages.
Looking to end the divisive conflict tht has raged between Christians who attack each other either as "liberals" or as "fundamentalists", Newbigin gives a historical account of the roots of this conflict in order to begin laying the foundation for a middle ground that will benefit the Christian faith as a whole and allow Christians to unitedly proclaim the gospel in a pluralistic world. "A masterful demonstration of the bankruptcy of secularism and all forms of Christian accommodation to it." ~ Books and Culture "This is an important book for pastors and teachers serving in church settings where the temptation to soften the scandal of the cross is present or where the good news, for all its outward acceptance, is thought (deep down) to be a source of embarrassment.... The book is beautifully written, a powerful statement of faith in God, whose incarnation has changed the nature of human life forever and whose call to the church cannot be altered by the temptation to believe that the human being is the center of the universe." ~ Princeton Seminary Bulletin
Basil Mitchell (Oxford University Press: February 16, 1995), 184 pages.
Faith and Criticism addresses a central problem in the church today — the tension between traditionalists and progressives. Traditionalists want above all to hold fast to traditional foundations in belief and ensure that nothing of value is lost, even at the risk of a clash with "modern knowledge." Progressives are concerned above all to proclaim a faith that is credible today, even at the risk of sacrificing some elements of traditional doctrine. They are often locked in uncomprehending conflict. Basil Mitchell argues that, not only in theology but in any other serious intellectual pursuit, faith and criticism are interdependent. A tradition which is not open to criticism will eventually ossify; and without faith in some established tradition criticism has nothing to fasten upon. This interdependence of faith and criticism has implications for society at large. Religious education can be Christian without ceasing to be critical, and a liberal society can espouse Christian values. ~ Product Description