Consider all. Test All. Hold on to the good.

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Faith + Reason

god is not Great

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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

Doubting

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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

The Dialectics of Secularization

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Two of the worlds great contemporary thinkers — theologian and churchman Joseph Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict XVI, and Jürgen Habermas, philosopher and Neo-Marxist social critic — discuss and debate aspects of secularization, and the role of reason and religion in a free society. These insightful essays are the result of a remarkable dialogue between the two men, sponsored by the Catholic Academy of Bavaria, a little over a year before Joseph Ratzinger was elected pope. Jürgen Habermas has surprised many observers with his call for “the secular society to acquire a new understanding of religious convictions”, as Florian Schuller, director of the Catholic Academy of Bavaria, describes it his foreword. Habermas discusses whether secular reason provides sufficient grounds for a democratic constitutional state. Joseph Ratzinger/Benedict XVI argues for the necessity of certain moral principles for maintaining a free state, and for the importance of genuine reason and authentic religion, rather than what he calls “pathologies of reason and religion”, in order to uphold the states moral foundations. Both men insist that proponents of secular reason and religious conviction should learn from each other, even as they differ over the particular ways that mutual learning should occur. ~ Product Description

Handing on the Faith in an Age of Disbelief

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What are the obstacles that hinder modern men, women, and children from hearing and embracing the Gospel? Are science, technology, and mass media at odds with Christianity? Are new teaching methods helping to solve the crisis in catechesis or making matters worse? How can the Church do a better job of handing on her precious patrimony to subsequent generations? To address these provocative questions, some of the great churchmen of our times, including Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, the man who would become Pope Benedict XVI, gathered in France in 1983 for two important conferences. Handing on the Faith in an Age of Disbelief brings together the four illuminating lectures presented at those meetings, along with commentaries by Pierre Eyt, Bernard Bro, O.P., Georges Bonnet, and Jacques Guillet, S.J. Also included is a candid interview with the then Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger about the pressing problems associated with teaching the faith. ~ Product Description

On Truth

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Having outlined a theory of bullshit and falsehood, Harry G. Frankfurt turns to what lies beyond them: the truth, a concept not as obvious as some might expect. Our culture’s devotion to bullshit may seem much stronger than our apparently halfhearted attachment to truth. Some people (professional thinkers) won’t even acknowledge “true” and “false” as meaningful categories, and even those who claim to love truth cause the rest of us to wonder whether they, too, aren’t simply full of it. Practically speaking, many of us deploy the truth only when absolutely necessary, often finding alternatives to be more saleable, and yet somehow civilization seems to be muddling along. But where are we headed? Is our fast and easy way with the facts actually crippling us? Or is it “all good”? Really, what’s the use of truth, anyway? With the same leavening wit and commonsense wisdom that animates his pathbreaking work On Bullshit, Frankfurt encourages us to take another look at the truth: there may be something there that is perhaps too plain to notice but for which we have a mostly unacknowledged yet deep-seated passion. His book will have sentient beings across America asking, “The truth—why didn’t I think of that?” ~ Product Description

Truth With Love

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As one who awoke to the intellectual richness and cultural depth of the Christian worldview in the mid-1970s through the writings of evangelist-apologist-activist Francis Schaeffer (1912-1984), I often worry that the next generation will fail to heed the challenge and receive the inspiration Schaeffer gave us through both his writings and his life of discipleship. Truth With Love is thus heartening because it winsomely explains both the rational and the relational apologetic of Francis Schaeffer to those who may not have otherwise heard the good news. This book is a revised doctoral dissertation, but one that succeeds in being both intellectually meaty and existentially appealing to those outside the strictly academic crowd. There are plenty of quotations and footnotes, as well as personal interviews with those who knew Schaeffer well. While such a well-documented book needs an index of names and subjects as well as a bibliography, unfortunately, it has neither. ~ Douglas Groothuis at DenverSeminary.edu.

Changing Minds

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Think about the last time you tried to change someone’s mind about something important: a voter’s political beliefs; a customer’s favorite brand; a spouse’s decorating taste. Chances are you weren’t successful in shifting that person’s beliefs in any way. In his book, Changing Minds, Harvard psychologist Howard Gardner explains what happens during the course of changing a mind – and offers ways to influence that process. Remember that we don’t change our minds overnight, it happens in gradual stages that can be powerfully influenced along the way. This book provides insights that can broaden our horizons and shape our lives.

A Little Primer on Humble Apologetics

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A Little Primer of Humble Apologetics is just that: a beginner’s instruction book on the subject of Christian apologetics; a subject many of us find frightening. As the author, James Sire, points out, we Christians are all called to some extent to be arguers or contenders for our faith, to be prepared at all times to be able to give a reason for the hope that we have found in Jesus Christ. (I Peter 3: 15-16) This primer tells how to defend the faith intelligently, with integrity and humility. Sire contends, in six short but tightly-packed chapters, that Christians can and should learn apologetic arguments through reading the Gospels and through the example and instruction of the early apostles Peter, Stephen, and Paul. Chapter one looks at what nine key Scripture passages say about presenting the gospel, and arrives at a guiding definition for those who hope to defend their faith. ~ Christian Book Previews

New Dictionary of Christian Apologetics

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The New Dictionary of Christian Apologetics is a must-have resource for professors and students, pastors and laypersons — in short, for any Christian who wishes to understand or develop a rational explanation of the Christian faith in the context of today’s complex and ever-changing world. Packed with hundreds of articles that cover the key topics, historic figures and contemporary global issues relating to the study and practice of Christian apologetics, this handy one-volume resource will make an invaluable addition to any Christian library. Editors Gavin McGrath and W. C. Campbell-Jack, with consulting editor C. Stephen Evans, have divided the dictionary into two parts: Part one offers a series of introductory essays that set the framework for the dictionary. These essays examine the practice and importance of Christian apologetics in light of theological, historical and cultural concerns. Part two builds on these essays to present numerous alphabetized articles on individuals, ideas, movements and disciplines that are vital to a rational explanation of the Christian faith. Both essays and articles are written by leading Christian philosophers and theologians. Together, they form an indispensable resource for Christians living in today’s pluralistic age.

Ben Witherington III on the Magi

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Anyone who has ever studied the sculpture and art of the ancient Near East will at some juncture have run across a particular common household statue of a man. The man, with head inclined towards the heavens, has his eyes wide open and a look of wonder on his face. Both before, during, and after Jesus’ day, all societies were agricultural, and thus they were all dependent on the heavens, on rain and sun, in order to live at all. Of course, this is true of us as well, but as the majority of us have become increasingly less tethered to the soil we have tended to forget this fact. It is no wonder that persons in this days constantly consulted the heavens, the stars in their motions and configurations, the movement of the planets and of special astral events like comets, in order to discern when would be an opportune time to plow or allow the land to lie fallow, plan or pluck up. Indeed, one can read the Farmer’s Almanac even to this day and get a sense of how closely prognostication is linked to an agrarian society like that of Jesus. ¶ Astrologers, or Magi as they are called in our text (from which we get the word magic), were stargazers. They were not kings, but they were most definitely consultants to kings. The Magi constantly looked to the stars for help, for hope, for knowledge of the future, for truth. They did not believe the stars were inanimate matter; they believed they were likely to be supernatural beings — the heavenly hosts or angels. This is hardly surprising, since they saw them moving around in orderly patterns with the seasons of the year.

The Principle of Sufficient Reason

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The Principle of Sufficient Reason (PSR) says that all contingent facts must have explanation. In this volume, the first on the topic in the English language in nearly half a century, Alexander Pruss examines the substantive philosophical issues raised by the Principle Reason. Discussing various forms of the PSR and selected historical episodes, from Parmenides, Leibnez, and Hume, Pruss defends the claim that every true contingent proposition must have an explanation against major objections, including Hume’s imaginability argument and Peter van Inwagen’s argument that the PSR entails modal fatalism. Pruss also provides a number of positive arguments for the PSR, based on considerations as different as the metaphysics of existence, counterfactuals and modality, negative explanations, and the everyday applicability of the PSR. Moreover, Pruss shows how the PSR would advance the discussion in a number of disparate fields, including meta-ethics and the philosophy of mathematics.

Simply Christian

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Why do we expect justice? Why do we crave spirituality? Why are we attracted to beauty? Why are relationships often so painful? And how will the world be made right? These are not simply perennial questions all generations must struggle with, but, according to N. T. Wright, are the very echoes of a voice we dimly perceive but deeply long to hear. In fact, these questions take us to the heart of who God is and what He wants from us. For two thousand years, Christianity has claimed to solve these mysteries, and this renowned biblical scholar and Anglican bishop shows that it still can today. Not since C. S. Lewis’s classic summary of the faith, Mere Christianity, has such a wise and thorough scholar taken the time to explain to anyone who wants to know what Christianity really is and how it is practiced. Wright makes the case for Christian faith from the ground up, assuming that the reader has no knowledge of (and perhaps even some aversion to) religion in general and Christianity in particular. Simply Christian walks the reader through the Christian faith step by step and question by question. With simple yet exciting and accessible prose, Wright challenges skeptics by offering explanations for even the toughest doubt-filled dilemmas, leaving believers with a reason for renewed faith. For anyone who wants to travel beyond the controversies that can obscure what the Christian faith really stands for, this simple book is the perfect vehicle for that journey. ~ Product Description

Why Good Arguments Often Fail

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You gave it your best shot. You made the best case you knew how, and your friend still wasn’t persuaded to follow Christ. Why is it that solid, rational arguments for the Christian faith often fail? For over fifty years James Sire, noted author and public defender of the Christian faith, has asked himself that question. Sometimes, of course, the arguments themselves just aren’t that good. How can we make them better? Sometimes the problem has to do with us and not the arguments. Our arrogance, aggressiveness or cleverness gets in the way, or we misread our audience. Sometimes the problem lies with the hearers. Their worldview or moral blindness keeps them from hearing and understanding the truth. With wisdom borne of both formal and informal experience, Sire grapples with these issues and offers practical insight into making a more persuasive case for Christ. Includes an annotated bibliography of resources for framing effective arguments. ~ Product Description

Francis S. Collins on C. S. Lewis’ Moral Argument

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I had never really seriously considered the evidence for and against belief. … Did I not consider myself a scientist? Does a scientist draw conclusions without considering the data? Could there be a more important question in all of human existence than “Is there a God?” And yet there I found myself, with a combination of willful blindness and something that could only be properly described as arrogance, having avoided any serious consideration that God might be a real possibility. Suddenly all my arguments seemed very thin, and I had the sensation that the ice under my feet was cracking.

A Natural and Supernatural Conversion

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My conversion was in two parts: a natural part and a supernatural part. Here is the natural part: first, over a period of two years my hatred toward Christianity eroded due to my philosophical inquiries. Rest assured, I take the logical process of philosophy very seriously, and I am impatient with anyone who is not a rigorous and trained thinker. Reason is the tool men use to determine if their statements about reality are valid: there is no other. Those who do not or cannot reason are little better than slaves, because their lives are controlled by the ideas of other men, ideas they have not examined. To my surprise and alarm, I found that, step by step, logic drove me to conclusions no modern philosophy shared, but only this ancient and (as I saw it then) corrupt and superstitious foolery called the Church. Each time I followed the argument fearlessly where it lead, it kept leading me, one remorseless rational step at a time, to a position the Church had been maintaining for more than a thousand years. That haunted me.

The End of Faith

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Sam Harris cranks out blunt, hard-hitting chapters to make his case for why faith itself is the most dangerous element of modern life. And if the devil’s in the details, then you’ll find Satan waiting at the back of the book in the very substantial notes section where Harris saves his more esoteric discussions to avoid sidetracking the urgency of his message. Interestingly, Harris is not just focused on debunking religious faith, though he makes his compelling arguments with verve and intellectual clarity. The End of Faith is also a bit of a philosophical Swiss Army knife. Once he has presented his arguments on why, in an age of Weapons of Mass Destruction, belief is now a hazard of great proportions, he focuses on proposing alternate approaches to the mysteries of life. Harris recognizes the truth of the human condition, that we fear death, and we often crave “something more” we cannot easily define, and which is not met by accumulating more material possessions. But by attempting to provide the cure for the ills it defines, the book bites off a bit more than it can comfortably chew in its modest page count (however the rich Bibliography provides more than enough background for an intrigued reader to follow up for months on any particular strand of the author’ musings.) Harris’ heart is not as much in the latter chapters, though, but in presenting his main premise. Simply stated, any belief system that speaks with assurance about the hereafter has the potential to place far less value on the here and now. And thus the corollary — when death is simply a door translating us from one existence to another, it loses its sting and finality. Harris pointedly asks us to consider that those who do not fear death for themselves, and who also revere ancient scriptures instructing them to mete it out generously to others, may soon have these weapons in their own hands. If thoughts along the same line haunt you, this is your book. ~ Ed Dobeas

A History of Apologetics

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Making the case for the Christian faith — apologetics — has always been part of the Church’s mission. Yet Christians sometimes have had different approaches to defending the faith, responding to the needs of their respective times and framing their arguments to address the particular issues of their day. Cardinal Avery Dulles’s A History of Apologetics provides a masterful overview of Christian apologetics, from its beginning in the New Testament through the Middle Ages and on to the present resurgence of apologetics among Catholics and Protestants. Dulles shows how Christian apologists have at times both criticized and drawn from their intellectual surroundings to present the reasonableness of Christian belief. Written by one of American Catholicism’s leading theologians, A History of Apologetics also examines apologetics in the 20th and early 21st centuries including its decline among Catholics following Vatican II and its recent revival, as well as the contributions of contemporary Evangelical Protestant apologists. Dulles also considers the growing Catholic-Protestant convergence in apologetics. No student of apologetics and contemporary theology should be without this superb and masterful work. ~ Publisher’s Description

Evidence and Faith

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Emphasizing shifting views of faith and the nature of evidence, Taliaferro has written a dynamic narrative history of philosophical reflection on religion from the 17th century to the present, with an emphasis on shifting views of faith and the nature of evidence. The book begins with the movement called Cambridge Platonism, which formed a bridge between the ancient and medieval worlds and early modern philosophy. While the book provides an overview of different movements in philosophy, it also offers a detailed exposition and reflection on key arguments, and the scope is broad from Descartes to contemporary feminist philosophy of religion.

Charles Taliaferro on the Cambridge Platonists

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I kept thinking of the ancient Roman pictures of the keeper of doorways, Janus, the god of beginnings. He has two faces, one looking to the past, the other to the future… The Cambridge Platonists occupy an important middle ground in the history of ideas. They understood the power of modern science… and yet they worked in allegiance with an important Platonic philosophical and religious heritage spanning ancient, medieval, and Renaissance philosophy. They forged an extraordinary synthesis designed to incorporate modern science while retaining what they believed to be the best of Greek and Hebrew wisdom. Like Janus, the Cambridge Platonists invite us to adopt that double vision of looking both to the past and to the future… Some artists, scientists, and religious practitioners complain that philosophy of art, science, and religion utilize misleading pictures of the way art, science, and religion are actually practiced. For better or for worse, the Cambridge Platonists were philosophers of religion and, at the same time, committed to the practice of religion. They practiced the very thing they were studying and philosophically reflecting on, and in that respect the Cambridge Platonists were like artists or scientists working out a philosophy of art or science. They also thereby raise questions about the roles of detachment and religious commitment in the course of philosophical inquiry.

Nature as Reason

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This noteworthy book develops a new theory of the natural law that takes its orientation from the account of the natural law developed by Thomas Aquinas, as interpreted and supplemented in the context of scholastic theology in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries. Though this history might seem irrelevant to twenty-first-century life, Jean Porter shows that the scholastic approach to the natural law still has much to contribute to the contemporary discussion of Christian ethics. Aquinas and his interlocutors provide a way of thinking about the natural law that is distinctively theological while at the same time remaining open to other intellectual perspectives, including those of science. In the course of her work, Porter examines the scholastics’ assumptions and beliefs about nature, Aquinas’s account of happiness, and the overarching claim that reason can generate moral norms. Ultimately, Porter argues that a Thomistic theory of the natural law is well suited to provide a starting point for developing a more nuanced account of the relationship between specific beliefs and practices. While Aquinas’s approach to the natural law may not provide a system of ethical norms that is both universally compelling and detailed enough to be practical, it does offer something that is arguably more valuable — namely, a way of reflecting theologically on the phenomenon of human morality. ~ Product Description

Without a Doubt

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It can be difficult to answer questions about the Christian faith-even for Christians who regularly read their Bibles and attend church. What can they say to a skeptic who questions Christian doctrine or truth claims? What about young Christians who want answers to their tough questions? Without a Doubt covers questions on everything from the doctrine of the incarnation to religious pluralism, from evolution to moral relativism, with rational answers for even the most stubborn skeptic. Chapters contain charts, relevant biblical texts, and outlines to help readers grasp key ideas relevant to proclaiming the gospel to an unbeliever or discussing doctrine with another Christian. ~ Product Description

Why I Am a Christian

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In a time when many Christian authors recommend the claims of Christian faith by descriptions of faith encounters and invitations to “dance with the mystery,” Stott, author of many foundational apologetic works, offers a clear and compelling account of the theological basis for his own belief. He begins by explaining the sense of God’s own pursuit of him, providing illustrations from the lives of famous Christians with similar experiences. He continues with a logical examination of the claims and character of Jesus as seen in Scripture. The last section discusses the nature and needs of human beings, explaining how those needs are fully met through the life, death and resurrection of Jesus. The book concludes with a simple invitation for the reader to respond to the claims of Christ personally, offering a sample prayer. For some readers, the book will seem overly structured, since Stott frequently reviews the logical points of each section. For those accustomed to arguments conducted by way of emotive stories, his reliance on logic may feel a bit dry. But readers of a more analytical temperament will find a compelling discussion of the claims of Christ in a remarkably readable, brief form. It’s the sort of book that Christians who need a more reasoned, thoughtful approach to their faith will read and then pass along to skeptical friends. ~ Publishers Weekly

Hard Questions, Real Answers

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Craig has outdone himself with this book. Much of his earlier writing contains the same concise logic and strong argumentation, but "Hard Questions, Real Answers" accomplishes this in language anyone can understand. Perhaps this is the book’s greatest strength, it does not sacrifice intellectual reasoning and Craig’s ability to analyze problems from a variety of perspectives, for popular approval. I mean, it is one thing to write on the relationship of God to Time or to defend the physical resurrection of Jesus; but it is another to tackle the most complex and volatile social issues from a standpoint that is both Christian and scholarly. Also, this book does not deal merely with ‘Christian’ problems. The chapters probe the depths of the modern human struggle. The chapter on failure is extremely poignant and insightful in its analysis of how one should react to and come back from personal disappointments and tragedies. ~ David J Davis