It is my conviction that theism and other forms of supernatural religion are born out of a combination of rational insight, profound experiences of a distinctive kind, and morally laudable hope… I believe that the germ of religion born from these sources needs to be refined and shaped by careful and humble reflection in open-minded discourse with others… But it is an unfortunate fact of history that the germ of this religious vision has consistently been co-opted for political and economic gain, corrupted by our more mean-spirited impulses, obscured by our blinkered and parochial thinking, and — perhaps — distorted by the kinds of impulse that Dawkins and Dennet take to be the evolutionary basis for religion itself. The results have been religious traditions that — while preserving the germ of what I might presumptuously call “true religion,” and while offering fleeting glimpses of what that germ might evolve into — are also laden with crud. ¶ And in some of the more pernicious modes of religious expression, the germ has been thrown away altogether and the crud has been lifted up. Human beings have been encouraged, indoctrinated, even coerced into the worship of rubbish.
Can the fact that there are theists who seem to be intelligent and morally sensitive be explained on the assumption that these theists are exercising their intelligence and moral sensitivity in the formation of their theistic beliefs? For Dawkins to assume that the answer is no — and for him to declare, "It must be selective stupidity!" — just because he hasn’t been able to figure out how the exercise of intelligence and moral sensitivity can generate religious belief… well, why isn’t that intellectually responsible? … For the sake of Friedrich Schleiermacher and Simone Weil and Martin Luther King, Jr., as well as too many personal friends and inspirations to name, I hope that Dawkins and the other cultured despisers of religion are wrong. I hope, in other words, that theistic religion can be, and often is, a vital constituent of a life lived with compassion and intellectual integrity. ¶ To say that the religious faith of these rare individuals springs from their intelligence and moral sensitivity is not to say they all have carefully worked out philosophical arguments demonstrating the reasonableness of theistic faith. Their intellects and compassion may operate on a more intuitive level. It’s the job of philosophers to trace out carefully the rational pathways that intuitive insight often surges through too quickly for plodding intellects to follow.
On a recent broadcast of the Infidel Guy (Sep. 16, 2008), a caller challenged Gary Habermas, the evening’s guest, to reconcile the omniscience of God with human free will. Habermas did his best to argue that there is no necessary conflict, that God knows because we freely choose, we do not so choose because God knows. For my part, I think it’s a legitimate and difficult objection. I’m not yet persuaded by either Molinist or Openness attempts to reconcile the two, much less compatabilism or the notion that it is solved by God’s being outside of time. But what followed is what struck me. Habermas took the opportunity to ask Reggie Finley, the host, whether he, as a naturalist, believed in free will. Reggie paused, then conceded that he was still trying to figure that one out. Good luck, because while free will may be problematic for the theist, it is probably a lost cause for the naturalist. For example, in his excellent and lucid work, The Significance of Free Will, Robert Kane manages to find a place for indeterminacy in matter (in quantum theory), but not for agency, the sine qua non of free will in my judgment. My point is not to wade into the deep waters of human freedom. Rather, I’m taking exception to the widespread impression that it is only the theist who must accept mysteries, antinomies, and quandaries. The truth is, all worldviews are beset by unique difficulties and internal conceptual problems. And, we remain perplexed by many mysteries that we share in common. That is to say, we’re in this together. With our amazing, but limited human faculties, the world remains puzzling to us all. In the ongoing debate about what is and is not real, it would serve us well to be mindful of the problems with which each worldview must wrestle. To that end, here are some that occur to me for both Christian theism and for Naturalism.
How can Christians live faithfully at the crossroads of the story of Scripture and postmodern culture? In Living at the Crossroads, authors Michael Goheen and Craig Bartholomew explore this question as they provide a general introduction to Christian worldview. Ideal for both students and lay readers, Living at the Crossroads lays out a brief summary of the biblical story and the most fundamental beliefs of Scripture. The book tells the story of Western culture from the classical period to postmodernity. The authors then provide an analysis of how Christians live in the tension that exists at the intersection of the biblical and cultural stories, exploring the important implications in key areas of life, such as education, scholarship, economics, politics, and church.
In the past thirty years there has been a sea change in North American intellectual life regarding the role of religious commitments in academic endeavors. Driven partly by postmodernism and the fragmentation of knowledge and partly by the democratization of the academy in which different voices are celebrated, the appropriate role that religion should play is contested. Some academics insist that religion cannot and must not have a place at the academic table; others insist that religious values should drive the argument. ~ Product Description
Amy has done it again. She writes a quick read based on current questions she gathers from her discussions and presentations to today’s young people. She is a battle tested question taker in the current of scholastic ideas coming from today’s students. Some questions are hostile, some are thoughtful, and some are old objections in new clothes. Her book manages to include her encounters with people and then she offers rational, thoughtful and experientially relevant answers to the posed questions. She takes on the new hardline atheism when they say God is just a disease of the mind to be expelled so its danger does not affect our culture. Her book is easy to read and not a million pages of analytical philosophy. It is very popular and relevant. I would recommend any person from the age 18 to 30 to sit with her and pose her questions. This book is the next best thing. My recommendation to Amy is to get working on her next little but substantial book and someday these will be an anthology for this generation and the next. When Ravi Zacharias’ work is over, Amy and her collegues will continue. In summary — affordable price, easy read, substantial content, and gets at current questions youth are deep down asking but don’t know who to ask. ~ Mark J. Armstrong @ Amazon.com
This witty and learned exploration of the many views of the nature and existence of God, as expressed by the major philosophers of the Western world from the medieval period to the present day, is the last work of noted philosopher Paul Edwards. In his unique tradermark style, laced with erudition and acerbic humour, Edwards addresses how the concept of God has changed over the centuries, in large part due to the analyses of such sceptical thinkers as David Hume, Thomas Paine, Friedrich Nietzsche, and Bertrand Russell. A long-time critic of theistic arguments, Edwards demonstrates a masterful understanding of the ways in which the scientific revolution of the 17th century, the Enlightenment of the 18th century, the evolutionary materialism of the 19th century, and the rise of analytic and existentialist philosophies in the 20th century prepared the way for the growing role of atheism in the 21st century.This work is a tour-de-force – a master storyteller’s idiosyncratic evaluation of the views of dozens of Western thinkers on perennial topics in the philosophy of religion. Though not all of the philosophers discussed were non-believers or anti-religious, they can be considered to be – like Edwards himself – ‘freethinkers’. They pursued the cause of knowledge wherever their thinking led them, often to iconoclastic positions. Editor Timothy Madigan, who gave Edwards thoughtful feedback over the years on various drafts of this work and complied it for publication after Edwards’ death, has written an appreciative and informative introduction. ~ Product Description
This is the idea that people have in their heads, that somehow you can have a person who sounds very rational and can hold his own in a conversation about whether religion is silly or not. And I just disagree with that premise. If you’re defending the story I just described, you are going to come out sounding ridiculous no matter who you are and no matter how intelligent you are. We interviewed Francis Collins in the film. He’s the man who mapped the human genome, he’s a brilliant scientist. But he says some pretty cuckoo things, some things that are just factually wrong and make him look foolish. I said, “We don’t even know for sure whether Jesus lived,” and he said, “We have eyewitness accounts.” I said, “No, every scholar agrees that the gospels were written from 40 to 70 years after Jesus died.” And he said, “Well, that’s close.” That’s close to an eyewitness account? Forty years after somebody dies, 2,000 years ago? This idea that there’s somebody out there who can make a case for this and make it sound reasonable, that just doesn’t exist.
However all this may be, some might think that the resurgence of natural theology in our time is merely so much labor lost. For don’t we live in a postmodern culture in which appeals to such apologetic arguments are no longer effective? Rational arguments for the truth of theism are no longer supposed to work. Some Christians therefore advise that we should simply share our narrative and invite people to participate in it. This sort of thinking is guilty of a disastrous misdiagnosis of contemporary culture. The idea that we live in a postmodern culture is a myth. In fact, a postmodern culture is an impossibility; it would be utterly unlivable. People are not relativistic when it comes to matters of science, engineering, and technology; rather, they are relativistic and pluralistic in matters of religion and ethics. But, of course, that’s not postmodernism; that’s modernism! That’s just old-line verificationism, which held that anything you can’t prove with your five senses is a matter of personal taste. We live in a culture that remains deeply modernist.
The Defense of the Faith is Van Til’s book about the subject for which he is most famous, presuppositional apologetics. I know many Christians wish to be able to defend their faith and to be “prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope” that they have (I Peter 3:15). … “Presuppositional” means that the argument for the truth of the claims of Scripture focuses on the presuppositions, or assumptions, of non-Christian thought, and it is founded on and proceeds according to the presuppositions of Biblical, Christian thought. The most foundational idea of non-Christian thought is the idea of human autonomy. According to the Bible, the unbeliever’s heart is naturally at war with God after the fall. God has revealed that He is the Creator, and that man, whether he wants to or not, must always ultimately face the fact the he is the creature, and is responsible to and dependent on God. He knows that this is true. However, after the fall, the unbeliever does not want to be responsible to or dependent on God. He suppresses the truth that he knows in unrighteousness (Rom. 1:21). He wants to determine for himself the significance and purpose of his life. He makes his own mind the ultimate criterion for all interpretation and for all activity. The claims of God are not satisfactory to him, so he rejects them. The mind of the creature sits in judgment over its Creator. Thus all human reasoning and interpretation is inescapably and fundamentally ethical by nature. Van Til’s argument is that a truly Biblical apologetic must confront the unbeliever at this very point. … ~ B.C. Richards at Amazon.com
For about two decades John W. Loftus was a devout evangelical Christian, an ordained minister of the Church of Christ, and an ardent apologist for Christianity. With three degrees in philosophy, theology, and philosophy of religion he was adept at using rational argumentation to defend the faith. But over the years, as he ministered to various congregations and taught at Christian colleges, doubts about the credibility of key Christian tenets began to creep into his thinking. By the late 1990s he experienced a full-blown crisis of faith, brought on by emotional upheavals in his personal life as well as the gathering weight of the doubts he had long entertained. In this honest appraisal of his journey from believer to atheist, Loftus carefully explains the experiences and the reasoning process that led him to reject religious belief. The bulk of the book is his "cumulative case" against Christianity. Here he lays out the philosophical, scientific, and historical reasons that can be raised against Christian belief. From the implications of religious diversity, the authority of faith vs. reason, and the problem of evil, to the contradictions between the Bible and the scientific worldview, the conflicts between traditional dogma and historical evidence, and much more, Loftus covers a great deal of intellectual terrain. For every issue he succinctly summarizes the various points of view and provides references for further reading. In conclusion, he describes the implications of life without belief in God, some liberating, some sobering. This frank critique of Christian belief from a former insider will interest freethinkers as well as anyone with doubts about the claims of religion.
Three questions motivate this book’s account of evidence for the existence of God. First, if God’s existence is hidden, why suppose He exists at all? Second, if God exists, why is He hidden, particularly if God seeks to communicate with people? Third, what are the implications of divine hiddenness for philosophy, theology, and religion’s supposed knowledge of God? This book answers these questions on the basis of a new account of evidence and knowledge of divine reality that challenges skepticism about God’s existence. The central thesis is that we should expect evidence of divine reality to be purposively available to humans, that is, available only in a manner suitable to divine purposes in self-revelation. This lesson generates a seismic shift in our understanding of evidence and knowledge of divine reality. The result is a needed reorienting of religious epistemology to accommodate the character and purposes of an authoritative, perfectly loving God. An interview with Moser is available on the Evangelical Philosophical Society blog.
In this engaging narrative, James Choung weaves a tale of a search for a Christianity worth believing in. Disillusioned believer Caleb and hostile skeptic Anna wrestle with the plausibility of the Christian story in a world of pain and suffering. They ask each other tough questions about what Jesus really came to do and what Christianity is supposed to be about. Along the way, they have some surprising realizations that real Christianity is far bigger than anything they ever heard in church. And the conversion that comes is not one that either of them expects. Join Caleb and Anna on their spiritual journeys as they probe Christianity from inside and out. Get past the old cliches and simplistic formulas. And discover a new way of understanding and presenting the Christian faith that really matters in a broken world. ~ Product Description
What did C. S. Lewis think about truth, goodness and beauty? Fifteen essays explore three major philosophical themes from the writings of Lewis: Truth, Goodness and Beauty. This volume provides a comprehensive overview of Lewis’s philosophical reflections on arguments for Christianity, the character of God, theodicy, moral goodness, heaven and hell, a theory of literature, and the place of the imagination. Contributors include Victor Reppert, Dave Horner, Peter Kreeft, Russell Howell, and Michael Peterson. “There are three things that will never die: truth, goodness, and beauty. These are the three things we all need, and need absolutely. Our minds want not only some truth and some falsehood, but all truth, without limit. Our wills want not only some good and some evil, but all good, without limit. Our desires, imaginations, feelings or hearts want not just some beauty and some ugliness, but all beauty, without limit.” ~ Peter Kreeft, chp. 1
In this apologia for Christian faith, Keller mines material from literary classics, philosophy, anthropology and a multitude of other disciplines to make an intellectually compelling case for God. Written for skeptics and the believers who love them, the book draws on the author’s encounters as founding pastor of New York’s booming Redeemer Presbyterian Church. One of Keller’s most provocative arguments is that all doubts, however skeptical and cynical they may seem, are really a set of alternate beliefs. Drawing on sources as diverse as 19th-century author Robert Louis Stevenson and contemporary New Testament theologian N.T. Wright, Keller attempts to deconstruct everyone he finds in his way, from the evolutionary psychologist Richard Dawkins to popular author Dan Brown. The first, shorter part of the book looks at popular arguments against God’s existence, while the second builds on general arguments for God to culminate in a sharp focus on the redemptive work of God in Christ. Keller’s condensed summaries of arguments for and against theism make the scope of the book overwhelming at times. Nonetheless, it should serve both as testimony to the author’s encyclopedic learning and as a compelling overview of the current debate on faith for those who doubt and for those who want to re-evaluate what they believe, and why. ~ Publishers Weekly
A faith without some doubts is like a human body without any antibodies in it. People who blithely go through life too busy or indifferent to ask hard questions about why they believe as they do will find themselves defenseless against either the experience of tragedy or the probing questions of a smart skeptic. A person’s faith can collapse almost overnight if she has failed over the years to listen patiently to her own doubts, which should only be discarded after long reflection. ¶ Believers should acknowledge and wrestle with doubts — not only their own but their friends’ and neighbors’. It is no longer sufficient to hold beliefs just because you inherited them. Only if you struggle long and hard with objections to your faith will you be able to provide the grounds for your beliefs to skeptics, including yourself, that are plausible rather than ridiculous or offensive. And, just as important for our current situation, such a process will lead you, even after you come to a position of strong faith, to respect and understand those who doubt.
An Apology for Apologetics argues that a vigorous apologetics is a vital component of any sound effort at interreligious dialogue. Griffiths shows that a spirited defense of each religious tradition must be made by people who are both committed to their “truth” and open to serious criticisms by members of other faith traditions. He demonstrates why and how such a recognition of the necessity of interreligious apologetics (the “NOIA principle”) runs counter to the underlying presuppositions of many proponents of interreligious dialogue. Griffiths raises the specter of an unacceptable price that will be paid if the apologetic enterprise is abandoned. Religious traditions, he shows convincingly, will face relegation to the realm of purely private opinion and religious people will be denied the minimum plausibility they need to engage in public discourse. He argues ultimately that if basic doctrines cannot be defended against alien claims, religious tradition cannot survive. This book will without a doubt stimulate the debate it seeks to introduce: it unapologetically issues a challenge to teacup ecumenists and lazy pluralists. An Apology for Apologetics is for all who are seriously concerned with their own religious communities. It shows how to think about (and communicate with) those whose practices and convictions seem to differ significantly from one’s own.
Loving Wisdom is a book that’s difficult to summarize, and I gather that was intentional. In groundbeaking fashion, Christian apologist and philosopher Paul Copan has written an extraordinarily wide-ranging book that’s exhaustive enough to serve as a textbook on many subjects within apologetics and philosophy of religion, but concise enough to serve as “a kind of launching pad” to further exploration. This is one of the densest books I’ve ever read — dense in ideas not words! The author can cover a remarkable amount of ground in a relatively few pages. Coming to it as a layman, I found it readable and accessible — even when comprehension of difficult concepts proved elusive. Although a serious and scholarly treatment of serious topics, Loving Wisdom is never ponderous, mainly because Copan’s writing is suffused with good humor and wit. What also comes through is his charitable and fair treatment of opposing viewpoints.
Edward John Carnell (1919-1967) was an ordained Baptist minister, who also served as President of Fuller Theological Seminary from 1954-1959, and then as professor of Apologetics. The keyword to Carnell’s approach is "systematic coherence." He sought to find "a successful union of the ideal and empirical worlds," and notes that "every man is a philosopher of a sort, and must pass judgment upon the whole course of reality. But the only proof he can offer, both for his system of philosophy and for the actions which flow from it, is systematic coherence … It is this framework that the Christian offers proof for his system: it sticks together … God is absolute consistency. And the will of God has been revealed in Holy Writ." As presented by Carnell, "Three problems wait for the philosopher’s solution. First, truth, must be located. Secondly, a rational universe must be plotted. Finally, these two must be so united that they will provide a basis for trust in personal immortality." "Having no perfect system of thought while we walk by faith and not by sight, the Christian suggests that a rational man settle for that system which is attended by the fewest difficulties." However, he further says that "Logic can be the means by which the Spirit leads a man into faith, but it is the Spirit, not logic, which finally seals the faith to the heart." He admits that "This is not a formal demonstration of God’s existence: it is simply proof by coherence. The existence of God is the self-consistent hypothesis that the mind must entertain when it views all of the evidence which experience provides." Philosophical approaches to Christian apologetics are somewhat "out of fashion" these days (cf. Josh McDowell, Lee Stroebel); but Carnell was an important figure on the scene, and a worthy contrast to Gordon Clark, Cornelius Van Til, etc.
~ Steven H. Propp @ Amazon.com
In September 1980 Charles Malik gave a powerful talk on the need for evangelicals to reclaim the mind, and to reclaim the universities. It was published that year in a brief book called The Two Tasks. A century after his birth, a number of Christian scholars, including his son, commemorates Malik and his stirring address. Thus this book. Seven Christian thinkers, including Peter Kreeft and William Lane Craig, remind us of the crucial importance of what Charles Malik said on that September day. And it was indeed a vital message. I have pulled from my shelves that quite thin volume (a mere 37 pages) and reread that incisive message. Malik rightly said that the “greatest danger besetting American Evangelical Christianity is the danger of anti-intellectualism.” He also said that the most urgent need is “not only to win souls but to save minds”. He correctly noted that the universities are the real battle ground today, and we need to see Christ exalted there as much as anywhere else. ~ William Muehlenberg at Amazon.com
These highly engaging personal essays capture the marvelous diversity to be found among atheists, providing a portrait that will surprise most readers. Many of the authors, for example, express great affection for particular religious traditions, even as they explain why they cannot, in good conscience, embrace them. None of the contributors dismiss religious belief as stupid or primitive, and several even express regret that they cannot, or can no longer, believe. Perhaps more important, in these reflective pieces, they offer fresh insight into some of the oldest and most difficult problems facing the human mind and spirit. For instance, if God is dead, is everything permitted? Philosophers Without Gods demonstrates convincingly, with arguments that date back to Plato, that morality is independent of the existence of God. Indeed, every writer in this volume adamantly affirms the objectivity of right and wrong. Moreover, they contend that secular life can provide rewards as great and as rich as religious life. A naturalistic understanding of the human condition presents a set of challenges — to pursue our goals without illusions, to act morally without hope of reward — challenges that can impart a lasting value to finite and fragile human lives.
But it is interesting that the same thing happens to you when you have to give some warrant for trusting in “reason”. I noted your citation of LaPlace in your book and am glad you brought him up here. LaPlace believed he was not in need of the God hypothesis, just like you, but you should also know he held this position as a firm believer in celestial and terrestrial mechanics. He was a causal determinist, meaning that he believed that every element of the universe in the present was “the effect of its past and the cause of its future.”
When I said that Jesus is good for the world because he is the life of the world, you just tossed this away. You said, “You cannot possibly ‘know’ this. Nor can you present any evidence for it.” Actually, I believe I can present evidence for what I know. But evidence comes to us like food, and that is why we say grace over it. And we are supposed to eat it, not push it around on the plate – and if we don’t give thanks, it never tastes right. But here is some evidence for you, in no particular order. The engineering that went into ankles. The taste of beer. That Jesus rose from the dead on the third day, just like he said. A woman’s neck. Bees fooling around in the flower bed. The ability of acorns to manufacture enormous oaks out of stuff they find in the air and dirt. Forgiveness of sin. Storms out of the North, the kind with lightning. Joyous laughter (diaphragm spasms to the atheistic materialist). The ocean at night with a full moon. Delta blues. The peacock that lives in my yard. Sunrise, in color. Baptizing babies. The pleasure of sneezing. Eye contact. Having your feet removed from the miry clay, and established forever on the rock. You may say none of this tastes right to you. But suppose you were to bow your head and say grace over all of it. Try it that way.
Hitchens, one of our great political pugilists, delivers the best of the recent rash of atheist manifestos. The same contrarian spirit that makes him delightful reading as a political commentator, even (or especially) when he’s completely wrong, makes him an entertaining huckster prosecutor once he has God placed in the dock. And can he turn a phrase!: "monotheistic religion is a plagiarism of a plagiarism of a hearsay of a hearsay, of an illusion of an illusion, extending all the way back to a fabrication of a few nonevents." Hitchens’s one-liners
bear the marks of considerable sparring practice with believers. Yet few believers will recognize themselves as Hitchens associates all of them for all time with the worst of history’s theocratic and inquisitional moments. All the same, this is salutary reading as a means of culling believers’ weaker arguments: that faith offers comfort (false comfort is none at all), or has provided a historical hedge against fascism (it mostly hasn’t), or that "Eastern" religions are
better (nope). The book’s real strength is Hitchens’s on-the-ground glimpses of religion’s worst face in various war zones and isolated despotic regimes. But its weakness is its almost fanatical insistence that religion poisons "everything," which tips over into barely disguised misanthropy. ~ Publisher’s Weekly