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Faith + Reason

Faith and/or Reason

Come Let Us Reason

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Come Let Us Reason is the third book in a series on modern Christian apologetics that began with the popular Passionate Conviction and Contending with Christianity’s Critics. The nineteen essays here raise classical philosophical questions in fresh ways, address contemporary challenges for the church, and will deepen the thinking of the next generation of apologists. Packed with dynamic topical discussions and informed by the latest scholarship, the book’s major sections are: Apologetics, Culture, and the Kingdom of God; The God Question; The Gospels and the Historical Jesus; Ancient Israel and Other Religions; Christian Uniqueness and the World’s Religions. Contributors include J. P. Moreland (“Four Degrees of Postmodernism”), William Lane Craig (“Objections So Bad That I Couldn’t Have Made Them Up”), Gary R. Habermas (“How to Respond When God Gives You the Silent Treatment”), Craig Keener (“Gospel Truth: The Historical Reliability of the Gospels”), and Paul Copan (“Does the Old Testament Endorse Slavery?”).

Twofold Truth

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This is a long but exceptionally eloquent and learned dialogue between a group of thoughtful friends in the late 19th century. Dr. Trevor poses the question “whether what is demonstrably true in one subject or from one point of view can be false in another or from a different standpoint?” Their dialogue bookends Trevor’s formal paper, where he argues that whatever may be the case in reality, at least within our own deliberations, “we cannot without the most gratuitous mental suicide allow the subjective co-existence of antagonistic convictions both claiming to be true at the same time”. Trevor begins by noting the severe limits of our knowledge. “The thinker rightly regards himself and his knowledge as a small islet in the immeasurable ocean of the unknown.” He unsparingly traces a history of the ecclesiastic autocracy of theological dogma until reason got its foot in the door and began an insurrection, asserting itself against the “Roman” church as the singular arbiter of truth. Nonetheless, he argues, the phenomenon of competing considerations is not just a byproduct of religious authority, but rather an inescapable aspect of being human, coming at us from many angles: “the Known and the Unknown, individual man and collective humanity, Intellect and Emotion”. Trevor therefore commends the thinker who has “double vision”, the ability to see and integrate various sources of evidence, who is always reticent and reflective, even in conviction. Though it requires treading through some rather dense prose, the discussion of these “Christian skeptics” is a feast of language and thought. At times it captures the spirit of Afterall.net better than I ever could have in my own words. ~ Nate

Moral Apologetics for Contemporary Christians

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Have Christians grown accustomed to those who defame the Church? Whether it’s a best-selling author who claims “religion poisons everything” or an atheist comedian whose punch lines aren’t hassled by the burden of proof, foes of the faith continue to declare Christianity morally deficient without much resistance. In Moral Apologetics for Contemporary Christians, Mark Coppenger mixes compelling references — from classic philosophers to modern entertainers — to reasonably push back against both harsh critics and less intense cultural relativists, contending that Christianity is morally superior to its competitors as well as true. Coppenger doesn’t avoid uncomfortable realities like the misbehavior of many Christians and false teachers, but he sets the book’s course in defense of his faith with evidence that a Christian approach to life makes people and societies flourish, while those who turn their backs on genuine Christianity are more liable to behave wickedly. ~ Book Description

Socrates in the City

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Following the extraordinary success of the New York Times bestseller Bonhoeffer, Eric Metaxas’s latest book offers inspirational and intellectually rigorous thought about the great questions surrounding us all today. The Greek philosopher Socrates famously said that "the unexamined life is not worth living." Taking this as a starting point, Eric Metaxas founded a speaking series that encouraged busy and successful professionals to attend forums and think actively about the bigger questions in life. Thus Socrates in the City: Conversations on "Life, God, and Other Small Topics" was born. This book is for the seeker in all of us, the collector of wisdom, and the person who asks "What if?" Within this collection of original essays that were first given to standing-room-only crowds in New York City are serious thinkers taking on Life, God, Evil, Redemption, and other small topics. Luminaries such as Dr. Francis Collins, Sir John Polkinghorne, Charles Colson, N.T. Wright, Os Guinness, Peter Kreeft, and Jean Bethke Elshatin have written about extraordinary topics vital to both secular and Christian thinking, such as "Making Sense Out of Suffering," "How Good Confronts Evil," and "Belief in God in an Age of Science." No question is too big — in fact, the bigger, the harder, the more complex, the better. These essays are both thought-provoking and entertaining, because nowhere is it written that finding answers to life’s biggest questions shouldn’t be exciting and even, perhaps, fun. ~ Book Description

Excellence

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We are called to excellence in all activities of life, not least in our scholarship and ministry. Outlining virtues directly related to vocation and scholarship, Andreas Köstenberger tells us there is a way to be a better person and a better scholar — without needing to sacrifice our faith at the altar of academic respectability. Here is a call to a life of virtue lived out in excellence.

Reasons for Our Hope

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In the light of the threats posed to Christianity by militant Islam, intolerant secularism, and widespread misinformation (The Da Vinci Code, the Jesus Seminar, etc.), the necessity of informed and articulate defense of the Christian faith today can hardly be contested. Reasons for Our Hope offers a sophisticated yet accessible guide to “destroying speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God, and . . . taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:5). The book’s 31 chapters are divided into four sections: 1) Apologetics Methodologies and Systems – with chapters on worldviews, the tension between faith and reason, etc. 2) Apologetics in Scripture and in History – a look at apologetics in the Old and New Testaments, early church, middle ages, the Reformation, Enlightenment, and today. 3) Apologetic Problems – issues such as the value of philosophy, dealing with skepticism, the problem of evil, miracles, the Resurrection, etc. 4) How to Use Apologetics in Engaging the World – how to engage the Cultist, Secularist, Postmodernist, Muslim, and Eastern Mystic. ~ Book Description

Mark Galli on Faith as a Gift

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There hardly seems to be a correlation between intelligence and faith or intelligence and doubt. But, of course, intellectuals are tempted to justify their habits of mind and heart by making doubt into a virtue of sound intelligence. It nearly goes without saying, but those of us who live a life of doubtless faith also try to justify our existence. The Bible touts the centrality of faith. We read such passages and are tempted to pat ourselves on the back for our faith. We’re truly biblical Christians! We’re inclined to pity those who live with doubts, wondering if they are really as committed, as Christian, as we are. And our “pastoral” attitude is sometimes, “Why don’t they just snap out of it?” Such self-justification assumes that faith is a product of will power — that our doubtless faith is a virtue we’ve developed. An honest self-examination suggests otherwise. How is it that I can look at some of the most horrific things in history and current events and not question the goodness of God? All the evidence seems to point to a natural conclusion, to which I am clearly not led. This is either psychological denial or a gift. And if a gift, then it is hardly something I can take credit for, nor something I can expect others to adopt as if it were something completely under their control.

Mind Your Faith

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The university world can be a confusing place, filled with many competing worldviews and perspectives. Beliefs and values are challenged at every turn. But Christians need not slip into the morass of easy relativism. David Horner restores sanity to the collegiate experience with this guide to thinking and flourishing as a Christian. Carefully exploring how ideas work, he gives you essential tools for thinking contextually, thinking logically and thinking worldviewishly. Here Horner meets you where faith and reason intersect and explores how to handle doubts, with an eye toward not just thinking clearly but also living faithfully. This is the book every college freshman needs to read. Don’t leave home without it. ~ Book Description

Jesus Christ and the Life of the Mind

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In The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind (1994) Mark Noll offered a bleak, even scathing, assessment of the state of evangelical thinking and scholarship. Now, nearly twenty years later, in a sequel that is more hopeful than despairing — more attuned to possibilities than to problems — Noll updates his assessment and charts a positive way forward for evangelical scholarship. Noll shows how the orthodox Christology confessed in the classic Christian creeds provides an ideal vantage point for viewing the vast domains of human learning and can enhance intellectual engagement in a variety of specific disciplines. In a substantial postscript he candidly addresses the question: How fares the “evangelical mind” today? ~ Product Description

Christian Apologetics

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The Christian worldview proposes answers to the most enduring human questions. But are those answers reliable? In this systematic text, Douglas Groothuis makes a comprehensive apologetic case for Christian theism — proceeding from a defense of objective truth to a presentation of the key arguments for God from natural theology to a case for the credibility of Jesus, the incarnation and the resurrection. Throughout, Groothuis considers alternative views and how they fare intellectually. ~ Product Description "Groothuis is a leading evangelical thinker and Christian Apologetics is a monumental result of decades of study and reflection. Breathtaking in scope, clear in style, this book is now the go-to text in the field. I know of nothing like it, and I enthusiastically recommend it to all who want to learn to give an answer for the hope that is within them." ~ J. P. Moreland

The Passionate Intellect

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Alister McGrath, one of the most prominent theologians and public intellectuals of our day, explains how Christian thinking can and must have a positive role in shaping, nourishing and safeguarding the Christian vision of reality. With this in our grasp, we have the capacity for robust intellectual and cultural engagement, confidently entering the public sphere of ideas where atheism, postmodernism and science come into play. This book explores how the great tradition of Christian theological reflection enriches faith. It deepens our appreciation of the gospel’s ability to engage with the complexities of the natural world on the one hand and human experience on the other. (2011 Christianity Today Book Award winner.) ~ Product Description

Authentic Communication

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Whether setting about to love our neighbor, to settle a dispute, to share in the suffering of others or to speak up on behalf of the marginalized, we inevitably must engage in communication. And what could be more natural, more human, than communication? But we all learn quickly enough that good communication is not always natural. There is much to learn from Scripture and from the academic study of human communication. Tim Muehlhoff and Todd Lewis are able guides, aiding us in understanding the broad field of human communication in Christian perspective. Here they offer readers a vital assessment of the power of words, perspective-taking, persuasion and conflict management — all in an effort to improve our abilities to communicate forgiveness and shape the world we live in for the good. Special attention is focused on the place of Christians as counterpublics — those who offer alternative perspectives to the dominant voices in society. ~ Product Description

After You Believe

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How do you develop a character suited for God’s Kingdom? Practice, practice, practice. That, in a nutshell, is the message of this volume on building Christian character by Wright, a prodigiously prolific Bible scholar and Anglican bishop of Durham, England. In arguing for “this new vision of virtue, which is a vision of Jesus Christ himself,” Wright carefully explores such classical exponents of character as Aristotle. He also acknowledges the existence of other notions of encouraging behavior-based rules, duty, or being “true to oneself.” Drawing on scriptures from Genesis to Revelation, Wright asserts that true transformation comes through the work of the Holy Spirit and through worship, mission, and “following Jesus.” As the habits of virtue grow, the church community will become the royal priesthood it is meant to be, anticipating (one of the author’s favorite words) God’s coming new world. A follow-up to Wright’s Simply Christian and Surprised by Hope, this solid volume will appeal to Christians who appreciate biblical interpretation that hews to tradition but incorporates an emphasis on contemporary social justice as an element of Christian virtue. ~ Publishers Weekly

Lewis’ Moral Argument for God

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In this oft discussed passage from Mere Christianity, C.S. Lewis spurns the supposed implications of a century’s worth of cultural anthropology, arguing that, in spite of surface differences, virtually all people possess an innate moral compass that is at bottom similar or the same. He begins by noting that human quarreling presupposes such a shared set of moral norms, that without a common set of “Rules of Human Nature”, quarreling would be, in effect, impossible. Lewis goes on to argue that this set of moral obligations we find in ourselves suggests a moral lawgiver. En route, he comments on the proper limits of science, on what we can infer on the basis of our own self-knowledge, and on the hypocrisy of those who claim no such common moral knowledge exists. Lewis’ essay is hardly the most rigorous moral argument for theism on offer, but it does display his knack for drawing on the everyday to illustrate his premises and his argument for a common ethic is especially worth considering in view of the conventional wisdom about the radical diversity of moral norms. The moral differences between persons and cultures is profound. Can Lewis’ argument for universal “Rules of Human Nature” be sustained? I’m particularly keen to reflect on the extent to which apparent moral differences should actually be attributed to different beliefs about reality. On this, see his thought provoking comments on the old practice of burning witches at the stake. Also note his observation that the materialistic and religious views of reality are not a bifurcation emerging out of the Enlightenment, but rather a fundamental divergence that turns up “wherever there having been thinking men”.

Beyond Opinion

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Apologist Ravi Zacharias was once sharing his faith with a Hindu when the man asked: “If the Christian faith is truly supernatural, why is it not more evident in the lives of so many Christians I know?” The question hit hard, and this book is an answer. Its purpose is to equip Christians everywhere to simultaneously defend the faith and be transformed by it into people of compassion. In addition to writing several chapters himself, Ravi Zacharias brings together many of today’s leading apologists and Christian teachers, including Alister McGrath and John Lennox, to address topics present in the very future of worldwide Christianity-from the process of spiritual transformation to the challenges posed by militant atheism and a resurgent Islam. ~ Product Description

The Decade of Atheism?

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Radio talk show host Hugh Hewitt concluded 2009 by broadcasting a debate about God between polemicists Michael Shermer and Gregory Koukl, thereby bidding adieu to what he called “The Decade of the New Atheists”. It was indeed a remarkable cultural phenomenon how four atheologians in particular rose to prominence by selling scads of books: Sam Harris with The End of Faith  (2004), Christopher Hitchens with god is not Great (2007), Daniel Dennet with Breaking the Spell (2006), and, of course, Richard Dawkins with The God Delusion (2006). But just as noteworthy, perhaps, is the cavalcade of able critics who rose to these challenges to Christian theism. As with the cottage industry of criticism that accompanied Dan Brown’s and then Ron Howard’s The Davinci Code, these broadsides served as provocation for countless apologists. Of course, none of them were remotely as successful as their atheistic rivals in terms of sales. One wonders whether they will slip into oblivion just as Hume survives in philosophy readers, while most of his contemporaneous critics do not. Whatever happens, the swift and mostly scholarly response to this one decade’s worth of the perennial barrage on Christian theism leaves it an open question whether, in the final analysis, it was the atheists or their counterparts who owned the aughts. Consider the following list an opportunity to judge this contest of ideas for yourself.

C. Michael Patton on Teaching Something To Believe In

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What are “people crying out for”? I don’t think it is too difficult to answer. Lewis Sperry Chafer, founder of Dallas Theological Seminary, used to end each class with this admonition: “Men, give them something to believe.” That is what people are crying out for: Something to believe. Truth. Not only this, but an understanding of the truth that they have ownership in. It is a stimulation of their minds, so that their hearts can be satisfied. It is teaching. Real teaching. Biblical teaching. Theologically and historically sound teaching. Teaching that relieves the scandal of their own minds which, in most cases I am afraid to say, have never really had a chance to believe. Like really believe. Not simply because of emotional persuasion. Not simply because they have a deep down feeling. Not because their parents or pastor believe this or that. But because they have seen for themselves, and now they know.

Speaking the Truth in Love

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To speak the truth, or what seems to be truth to us, is not a very hard thing, provided we do not care what harm we do by it, or whom we hurt by it. This kind of “truth-telling” has been always common. Such truth-tellers call themselves plain, blunt men, who say what they think, and do not care who objects to it. A man who has a good deal of self-reliance and not much sympathy, can get a reputation for courage by this way of speaking the truth. But the difficulty about it is, that truth thus spoken does not convince or convert men; it only offends them. It is apt to seem unjust; and injustice is not truth. ¶ Some persons think that unless truth is thus hard and disagreeable it cannot be pure. Civility toward error seems to them treason to the truth. Truth to their mind is a whip with which to lash men, a club with which to knock them down. They regard it as an irritant adapted to arouse sluggish consciences.

Jonah Golberg on Avatar

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Cameron wrote Avatar, says Podhoretz, “not to be controversial, but quite the opposite: He was making something he thought would be most pleasing to the greatest number of people.” What would have been controversial is if — somehow — Cameron had made a movie in which the good guys accepted Jesus Christ into their hearts. Of course, that sounds outlandish and absurd, but that’s the point, isn’t it? We live in an age in which it’s the norm to speak glowingly of spirituality but derisively of traditional religion. If the Na’Vi were Roman Catholics, there would be boycotts and protests. Make the oversized Smurfs Rousseauian noble savages and everyone nods along, save for a few cranky right-wingers. I’m certainly one of those cranky right-wingers, though I probably enjoyed the movie as cinematic escapism as much as the next guy. But what I find interesting about the film is how what is “pleasing to the most people” is so unapologetically religious.

Matthew Lee Anderson on Being Intellectual Heirs

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Fitzgerald’s framing of the developments obscures the fact that a generation of evangelical Christians paved the way for younger evangelicals like us to value the life of the mind. Noll’s book was published in 1994, well after the renaissance in philosophy was underway (which was based on the work of Alvin Plantinga and others). While this renaissance has yet to be replicated in every discipline, as someone close to the world of evangelical higher education, it is clear to me that we younger evangelicals are the heirs, and not the founders, of a renewed tradition of evangelical intellectualism.

God Is Great, God Is Good

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The days have passed when the goodness of God — indeed, the reality of God itself — could reasonably be called a consensus opinion. God’s reputation has come under considerable review in recent days, with some going so far as to say that it’s not we who’ve made a mess of things. Instead whatever it is we call God is to blame. But is such an opinion really a fair assessment? In this magisterial collection, the contemporary complaints against belief in God are addressed with intellectual passion and rigor by some of the most astute theological and philosophical minds of the day: J. P. Moreland, Paul Moser, John Polkinghorne, Michael Behe, Michael J. Murray, Alister McGrath, Paul Copan, Jerry Walls, Charles Taliaferro, Scot McKnight, Gary Habermas, Mark Mittelberg, Chad Meister, and William Lane Craig. Includes an interview by Gary Habermas with noted convert to theism Antony Flew, and a direct critical response to Richard Dawkins’s God Delusion by Alvin Plantinga, God Is Great, God Is Good offers convincing and compelling reassurance that though the world has changed, God has not.

Faith and Its Critics: A Conversation

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Heralded as the exponents of a "new atheism," critics of religion are highly visible in today’s media, and include the household names of Richard Dawkins, Daniel Dennett and Sam Harris. David Fergusson explains their work in its historical perspective, drawing comparisons with earlier forms of atheism. Responding to the critics through conversations on the credibility of religious belief, Darwinism, morality, fundamentalism, and our approach to reading sacred texts, he establishes a compelling case for the practical and theoretical validity of faith in the contemporary world. An invitation to engage in a rich dialogue, Faith and Its Critics supports an informed and constructive exchange of ideas rather than a contest between two sides of the debate. Fergusson encourages faith communities to undertake patient engagement with their critics, to acknowledge the place for change and development in their self-understanding whilst resisting the reductive explanations of the new atheism. ~ Product Description

50 Voices of Disbelief: Why We Are Atheists

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Fifty Voices of Disbelief: Why We Are Atheists presents a collection of original essays drawn from an international group of prominent voices in the fields of academia, science, literature, media and politics who offer carefully considered statements of why they are atheists. Features a truly international cast of contributors, ranging from public intellectuals such as Peter Singer, Susan Blackmore, and A.C. Grayling, novelists, such as Joe Haldeman, and heavyweight philosophers of religion, including Graham Oppy and Michael Tooley. Contributions range from rigorous philosophical arguments to highly personal, even whimsical, accounts of how each of these notable thinkers have come to reject religion in their lives. Likely to have broad appeal given the current public fascination with religious issues and the reception of such books as The God Delusion and The End of Faith. ~ Product Description

This Incredible Need to Believe

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Kristeva delivers a focused and insightful discussion of religious belief. With material culled from various interviews, articles and lectures, the book is less a unified argument than a sprawling analysis of religion in major psychological and philosophical literature (e.g., Freud, Arendt, Winnicot), fiction (e.g., Proust) and in private life (Kristeva makes wonderful use of Saint Teresa of Avila’s writings) underscored by her claim that sharable knowledge of the inner religious experience is possible and could develop into an important field of discourse. Kristeva provides neither an attack on nor a support of religious belief; her interest is in drawing other disciplines into the discussion. She uses psychoanalytic techniques to comprehend religious experience, the clash of religions, notions of genius, theories of suffering and sexuality and the debt modern humanism owes to Christianity’s emphasis on self-questioning. Compelling and remarkable for its staunch unwillingness to take sides, this book sets forth Kristeva’s most sustained treatment of religion in a format that will interest both scholars and anyone looking for an accessible introduction to her methods and preoccupations. ~ Publishers Weekly

Michael Ruse on the New Atheists

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Let me say that I believe the new atheists do the side of science a grave disservice. I will defend to the death the right of them to say what they do — as one who is English-born one of the things I admire most about the USA is the First Amendment. But I think first that these people do a disservice to scholarship. Their treatment of the religious viewpoint is pathetic to the point of non-being. Richard Dawkins in The God Delusion would fail any introductory philosophy of religion course. Proudly he criticizes that whereof he knows nothing. As I have said elsewhere, for the first time in my life, I felt sorry for the ontological argument. If we criticized gene theory with as little knowledge as Dawkins has of religion and philosophy, he would be rightly indignant. (He was just this when, thirty years ago, Mary Midgeley went after the selfish gene concept without the slightest knowledge of genetics.) Conversely, I am indignant at the poor quality of the argumentation in Dawkins, Dennett, Hitchens, and all of the others in that group.