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God

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

The Improbability of God

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A growing number of powerful arguments have been formulated by philosophers and logicians in recent years demonstrating that the existence of God is improbable. These arguments assume that God’s existence is possible but argue that the weight of the empirical evidence is against God’s actual existence. This unique anthology collects most of the important arguments for the improbability of God that have been published since the mid-1900s. The editors make each argument clear and accessible by providing a helpful summary. In addition, they arrange this diverse collection of arguments for the improbability of God into four thematic groups: Part 1 contains cosmological arguments based on the weight of the evidence relative to the origin of the universe; Part 2 presents teleological arguments based on the weight of the evidence relative to the order in the universe; Part 3 deals with inductive evil arguments based on the weight of the evidence relative to the widespread and horrendous evil in the world; and Part 4 contains nonbelief arguments based on the weight of the evidence relative to the widespread nonbelief or the reasonable nonbelief in the world. The list of distinguished authors includes William Rowe, Theodore Drange, Quentin Smith, Victor Stenger, J. L. Schellenberg, and Michael Martin, among others. With this new anthology as a companion to their earlier anthology, The Impossibility of God (2003), Martin and Monnier have created an indispensable resource in the philosophy of religion.

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.

In Defense of Natural Theology

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The shadow of David Hume, the eighteenth-century Scottish philosopher, has loomed large against all efforts to prove the existence of God from evidence in the natural world. Indeed from Hume’s day to ours, the vast majority of philosophical attacks against the rationality of theism have borne an unmistakable Humean aroma. The last forty years, however, have been marked by a resurgence in Christian theism among philosophers, and the time has come for a thorough reassessment of the case for natural theology. James F. Sennett and Douglas Groothuis have assembled a distinguished team of philosophers to engage the task: Terence Penelhum, Todd M. Furman, Keith Yandell, Garrett J. DeWeese, Joshua Rasmussen, James D. Madden, Robin Collins, Paul Copan, Victor Reppert, J. P. Moreland and R. Douglas Geivett. Together this team makes vigorous individual and cumulative arguments that set Hume’s attacks in fresh perspective and that offer new insights into the value of teleological, cosmological and ontological arguments for God’s existence. ~ Product Description

R. C. Sproul on Ex Lex and Euthyphro

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In the Ex Lex debate, the question was raised as to whether God’s will functioned apart from any law or outside of any law (ex lex), or whether the will of God was itself subjected to some norm of righteousness or cosmic law that God was required to follow and, therefore, His will was exercised under law (sub lego). The question was: Is God apart from law or is He under law? ¶ The church’s response to this dilemma was to say basically “a pox on both houses,” and to declare that God is neither apart from law nor under law in these respective senses. Rather, the church responded by affirming that God is both apart from law and under law, in so far as He is free from any restraints imposed upon Him by some law that exists outside of Himself. In that sense, He is apart from law and not under law. Yet at the same time, God is not arbitrary or capricious and works according to the law of His own nature. The church declared that God is a law unto Himself.

The 7th Circuit on Atheism and Freedom of Conscience

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The Supreme Court has said that a religion, for purposes of the First Amendment, is distinct from a “way of life,” even if that way of life is inspired by philosophical beliefs or other secular concerns. … A religion need not be based on a belief in the existence of a supreme being (or beings, for polytheistic faiths), … nor must it be a mainstream faith … Without venturing too far into the realm of the philosophical, we have suggested in the past that when a person sincerely holds beliefs dealing with issues of “ultimate concern” that for her occupy a “place parallel to that filled by God in traditionally religious persons,” those beliefs represent her religion. … We have already indicated that atheism may be considered, in this specialized sense, a religion. … The Supreme Court has recognized atheism as equivalent to a “religion” for purposes of the First Amendment on numerous occasions … The Establishment Clause itself says only that “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion,” but the Court understands the reference to religion to include what it often calls “nonreligion.”  … At one time it was thought that this right [referring to the right to choose one’s own creed] merely proscribed the preference of one Christian sect over another, but would not require equal respect for the conscience of the infidel, the atheist, or the adherent of a non-Christian faith such as Islam or Judaism. But when the underlying principle has been examined in the crucible of litigation, the Court has unambiguously concluded that the individual freedom of conscience protected by the First Amendment embraces the right to select any religious faith or none at all. … In keeping with this idea, the Court has adopted a broad definition of “religion” that includes non-theistic and atheistic beliefs, as well as theistic ones.

Charles Townes on the Reality of Intelligent Design

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I do believe in both a creation and a continuous effect on this universe and our lives, that God has a continuing influence — certainly his laws guide how the universe was built. But the Bible’s description of creation occurring over a week’s time is just an analogy, as I see it. The Jews couldn’t know very much at that time about the lifetime of the universe or how old it was. They were visualizing it as best they could and I think they did remarkably well, but it’s just an analogy. … People are misusing the term intelligent design to think that everything is frozen by that one act of creation and that there’s no evolution, no changes. It’s totally illogical in my view. Intelligent design, as one sees it from a scientific point of view, seems to be quite real. This is a very special universe: it’s remarkable that it came out just this way. If the laws of physics weren’t just the way they are, we couldn’t be here at all. The sun couldn’t be there, the laws of gravity and nuclear laws and magnetic theory, quantum mechanics, and so on have to be just the way they are for us to be here.

The Unknown God: Agnostic Essays

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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

David Bentley Hart on God and Natural Disasters

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As a Christian, I cannot imagine any answer to the question of evil likely to satisfy an unbeliever; I can note, though, that — for all its urgency — Voltaire’s version of the question is not in any proper sense “theological.” The God of Voltaire’s poem is a particular kind of “deist” God, who has shaped and ordered the world just as it now is, in accord with his exact intentions, and who presides over all its eventualities austerely attentive to a precise equilibrium between felicity and morality. Not that reckless Christians have not occasionally spoken in such terms; but this is not the Christian God.

Atheism Library’s 101+ Top Books

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The following is a mirror of the reading list found at Nowscape. It is a diverse collection, recommended by critics of religion and of Christianity in particular. Short reviews or annotations for each selection are available at Nowscape, though obstructed by at least 101 advertisements. While the original list has no explicit structure, the books listed fall into several roughly grouped categories: the reliablity and moral acceptability of the Bible, histories of transgressions committed in the name of religion, philosophical critiques of theism, stories of loss of faith, exposés on theocratic aspirations (especially the religious right in the United States), and psychological reductions of religious belief. The list includes some authors with impeccable scholarly credentials, like Bertrand Russell, and many other lesser knowns. Now several years old, the list lacks some of the most notable and recent contributions to the case for atheism. For a more current list, see The Secular Web’s “Featured Books”. ~ Afterall

Antony Flew Finds Evidence Leads to “God”

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The recent conversion to deism of well-known atheist Antony Flew has been widely reported. As he tells the story, his recent considerations of apparent design in the universe, and in particular of the complexity of DNA, have led him to believe in the existence of a God who is at least intelligent and powerful. The best account of Flew’s new perspective can be found in an interview with Gary Habermas in the upcoming issue of Philosophia Christi. The interview is available online on Biola University’s website. Richard Carrier has also corresponded with Flew about his recent thinking and commented on it at The Secular Web. One could conclude that Flew’s story illustrates the persuasiveness of current arguments for the existence of God from design even to a person who one can assume was predisposed against them. One of the best details of the story, however, is the collegiality it reveals between Flew and the late CS Lewis as well as with the Christian philosopher Gary Habermas. Understandably, Flew has been somewhat circumspect in his comments so far, pointing instead to the forthcoming edition of his seminal work, God and Philosophy.

Thinking About God

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Greg Ganssle has produced the most fun and readable introduction to philosophy of religion I have ever encountered. His target audience runs from high school seniors to introductory college students, and I can say that I have enjoyed teaching an introductory philosophy course using this book. He presents the issues in a clear-headed way while drawing readers in with fun examples and humor. After arguing for the value of thinking through philosophical questions in a reasonable way, Ganssle argues for open-mindedness in the sense of not being so sure of your views that you are not open to reason, but he also dismisses the idea that we must be neutral or that we must not make exclusive truth claims. Open-mindedness does not require having no views in those ways. I especially like seeing this in a book designed for younger students unfamiliar enough with philosophy to need some kind of way of heading off the simplistic kind of relativism that many students of philosophy find themselves stumbling over. The main body of the work considers philosophical arguments for and against the existence of God. ~ Parableman @ Amazon.com

David Quammen on Darwin’s Agnosticism

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Charles Darwin was shy and meticulous, a wealthy landowner with close friends among the Anglican clergy. He had a gentle, unassuming manner, a strong need for privacy, and an extraordinary commitment to intellectual honesty. As an undergraduate at Cambridge, he had studied halfheartedly toward becoming a clergyman himself, before he discovered his real vocation as a scientist. Later, having established a good but conventional reputation in natural history, he spent 22 years secretly gathering evidence and pondering arguments—both for and against his theory—because he didn’t want to flame out in a burst of unpersuasive notoriety. He may have delayed, too, because of his anxiety about announcing a theory that seemed to challenge conventional religious beliefs—in particular, the Christian beliefs of his wife, Emma. Darwin himself quietly renounced Christianity during his middle age, and later described himself as an agnostic. He continued to believe in a distant, impersonal deity of some sort, a greater entity that had set the universe and its laws into motion, but not in a personal God who had chosen humanity as a specially favored species. Darwin avoided flaunting his lack of religious faith, at least partly in deference to Emma. And she prayed for his soul.

The Cosmos as a Work of Art

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I will sketch an argument that if we follow St. Augustine in seeing the cosmos —i.e., the sum total of all created existence—as a work of art, then we have good reason to be sceptical of the judgment that there are gratuitous evils.  I will do so by stating several features of works of art each of which, when transferred to the case of the cosmos, makes it difficult to conclude that any evil we see is gratuitous.  However this account does not undercut the religious claims that from the goodness of things in the universe we can tell something about God’s goodness.  Paradoxically, evil does not give a strong argument against the existence of God, but good might give a strong argument in favor of it.

Agents Under Fire

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Philosophical naturalism is frequently advocated as the only doctrine that a scientifically informed intellectual of our time can possibly consider. Angus Menuge has shown, however, that a wide range of powerful considerations can be brought forward against this philosophy. Menuge provides a close examination of leading naturalists such as Dawkins, Dennett and Churchland, and draws upon a wide range of critics from C. S. Lewis to Michael Behe, to provide what is arguably the most comprehensive critique of naturalism yet to appear. People who are interested in the Argument from Reason should be especially interested in Menuge’s disucssion. A must read for naturalists and for their opponents. ~ Victor Reppert

Intelligent Discussion of Intelligent Design

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With yet another volume bearing his name, Debating Design (422 p.), one has to wonder if William Dembski ever sleeps. His recent publications also include Uncommon Descent (366 p.), Signs of Intelligence (224 p.), and The Design Revolution (330 p.). But, especially in light of Antony Flew’s recent comments about the force of arguments from Design, his latest project may win an audience his previous works missed. Bearing the weighty imprint of Cambridge University Press and co-edited with Michael Ruse, Debating Design hosts a discussion between leading advocates and critics of Intelligent Design. William, nice work. And get some sleep.

The Twilight of Atheism

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In this bold and provocative new book, the author of In the Beginning and The Reenchantment of Nature challenges the widely held assumption that the world is becoming more secular and demonstrates why atheism cannot provide the moral and intellectual guidance essential for coping with the complexities of modern life. Atheism is one of the most important movements in modern Western culture. For the last two hundred years, it seemed to be on the verge of eliminating religion as an outmoded and dangerous superstition. Recent years, however, have witnessed the decline of disbelief and a rise in religious devotion throughout the world. In The Twilight of Atheism, the distinguished historian and theologian Alister McGrath examines what went wrong with the atheist dream and explains why religion and faith are destined to play a central role in the twenty-first century. The Twilight of Atheism will unsettle believers and nonbelievers alike. A powerful rebuttal of the philosophy that, for better and for worse, has exerted tremendous influence on Western history, it carries major implications for the future of both religion and unbelief in our society. ~ Publisher’s Description

Atheist Universe

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In this work, essentially an update of Mills’s Atheist Universe: Why God Didn’t Have a Thing To Do with It (2004), he surveys a variety of topics, including intelligent design and the origin of the universe, as well as conducts what appears to be a mock interview with himself. While some of Mills’s arguments are logically sound, his antagonistic way of presenting them grows tiresome. For example, he avers that agnostics choose agnosticism over atheism primarily owing to a lack of “guts,” failing to support that assertion with anything other than his own opinion. In addition, he calls all Christian fundamentalists naive and suggests that all public schools are “miserable.” But perhaps his most egregious mischaracterization is his description of atheism as a positive philosophy. Most scholars would agree that atheism is not a philosophy, but a factual premise based on logical conjecture. In fact, atheism addresses only one question: does God exist? In light of the various philosophical worldviews — e.g., humanism, secular Judaism — by which atheists can choose to live their lives, Mills’s suggestion that atheism per se is a positive philosophy is unsubstantiated. Not recommended. ~ Brad S. Matthies, Butler University

The Divine Lawmaker

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John Foster presents a clear and powerful discussion of a range of topics relating to our understanding of the universe: induction, laws of nature, and the existence of God. He begins by developing a solution to the problem of induction — a solution that involves the postulation of laws of nature, as forms of natural necessity. He then offers a radically new account of the nature of such laws and the distinctive kind of necessity they involve. Finally, he uses this account as the basis for an argument for the existence of God as the creator of the laws and the universe they govern. The Divine Lawmaker is bold and original in its approach, and rich in argument. ~ Product Description • "John Foster… uses his philosophical background to analyze the question of the rationality of belief in God as a causal agent for nature’s regularities… Foster is writing for the philosophically literate; The Divine Lawmaker will appeal to the specialist and professional philosopher of science or religion…" ~ Science & Theology News

God?

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The question of whether or not God exists is endlessly fascinating and profoundly important. Now two articulate spokesmen —one a Christian, the other an atheist — duel over God’s existence in a lively and illuminating battle of ideas. In God?, William Lane Craig and Walter Sinnott-Armstrong bring to the printed page two debates they held before live audiences, preserving all the wit, clarity, and immediacy of their public exchanges. With none of the opaque discourse of academic logicians and divinity-school theologians, the authors make claims and comebacks that cut with precision. Their arguments are sharp and humorous, as each philosopher strikes quickly to the heart of his opponent’s case. For example, Craig claims that we must believe in God in order to explain objective moral values, such as why rape is wrong. Sinnott-Armstrong responds that what makes rape wrong is the harm to victims of rape, so rape is immoral even if there is no God. By assuming a traditional concept of God in their discussion, the authors ensure that they are truly addressing each other’s viewpoints and engaging in a disagreement over a unified issue. The book is composed of six chapters that alternate between Craig and Sinnott-Armstrong, so that each separate point can be discussed as it arises. Ideal for courses in the philosophy of religion and introduction to philosophy, this lively and direct dialogue will stimulate students and anyone interested in the existence of God, regardless of whether or not they believe in God. ~ Product Description

Kai Nielsen on the Impossibility of Evidence for God

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We are no better off with the stars in the heavens spelling out GOD EXISTS than with their spelling out PROCRASTINATION DRINKS MELANCHOLY. We know that something has shaken our world, but we know not what; we we know — or think we know, how could we tell which it was in such a circumstance? — that we heard a voice coming out of the sky and we know — or again think that we know — that the stars rearranged themselves right before our eyes and on several occasions to spell out GOD EXISTS. But are we wiser by observing this about what “God” refers to or what a pure disembodied spirit transcendent to the universe is or could be? At most we might think that maybe thsoe religious people have something — something we know not what — going for them. But we also might think it was some kind of big trick or some mass delusion. The point is that we wouldn’t know what to think.

C. Stephen Evans on the Appeal of Kenosis

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The first and most powerful source of the appeal of a kenotic theory is the great religious power and meaning that is intrinsic to the idea of a God who sacrifices and suffers with and on behalf of his creatures. If I am caught up in terrible suffering it is one thing to be assured of the love and kindness of another person. It is quite another thing for that other person to give the assurance by entering into my situation and suffering with me or even for me. A God who empties himself out of love for human beings, who recklessly as it were gives up divine privileges to endure all the hard realities of human life, is a God whose love is credible and inspires love in return.

Anthony Kenny on Humility and Agnosticism

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Humility is a virtue which concerns one’s assessment of one’s own merits and defects in comparison with others. The virtues, as Aristotle taught us, concern particular passions; they assist reason to control these passions. The relevant passion in this quarter is the raging tempest of self-love: our inclination to overvalue our own gifts, overesteem our own opinions and place excessive importance on getting our own way. Humility is the virtue that counteracts this prejudice. It does so not by making the judgment that one’s own gifts are lesser than others, or that one’s own opinions are falser than others — for that, as St Thomas says, would often lead to falsehood. It does so, rather, by making the presumption that others’ talents are greater, others’ opinions more likely to be right. Like all presumptions, the presumption of humility is rebuttable; it may be that for a particular purpose one’s own gifts are more adapted than those of one’s neighbours; on a particular topic it may be that one is right and one’s neighbour wrong. But only by approaching each conflict of interest and opinion with this presumption can one hope to escape the myopia that magnifies everything to do with oneself by comparison with everything to do with others.

Douglas Adams on the Anthropic Principle

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Imagine a puddle waking up one morning and thinking, ‘This is an interesting world I find myself in — an interesting hole I find myself in — fits me rather neatly, doesn’t it? In fact it fits me staggeringly well, must have been made to have me in it!’ This is such a powerful idea that as the sun rises in the sky and the air heats up and as, gradually, the puddle gets smaller and smaller, it’s still frantically hanging on to the notion that everything’s going to be alright, because this world was meant to have him in it, was built to have him in it; so the moment he disappears catches him rather by surprise.

The Argument From Design

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I understand by an argument from design one which argues from some general pattern of order in the universe or provision for the needs of conscious beings to a God responsible for these phenomena. An argument from a general pattern of order I shall call a teleological argument. In the definition of ‘teleological argument’ I emphasize the words ‘general pattern’; I shall not count an argument to the existence of God from some particular pattern of order manifested on a unique occasion as a teleological argument.