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

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Theism

Debating Christian Theism

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Comprising groundbreaking dialogues by many of the most prominent scholars in Christian apologetics and the philosophy of religion, this volume offers a definitive treatment of central questions of Christian faith. The essays are ecumenical and broadly Christian, in the spirit of C.S. Lewis’s Mere Christianity, and feature lucid and up-to-date material designed to engage readers in contemporary theistic and Christian issues. Beginning with dialogues about God’s existence and the coherence of theism and then moving beyond generic theism to address significant debates over such specifically Christian doctrines as the Trinity and the resurrection of Jesus, Debating Christian Theism provides an ideal starting point for anyone seeking to understand the current debates in Christian theology. ~ Publisher’s Description

God and Evil

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The question of evil ― its origins, its justification, its solution ― has plagued humankind from the beginning. Every generation raises the question and struggles with the responses it is given. Questions about the nature of evil and how it is reconciled with the truth claims of Christianity are unavoidable; we need to be prepared to respond to such questions with great clarity and good faith.  God and Evil compiles the best thinking on all angles on the question of evil, from some of the finest scholars in religion, philosophy and apologetics, including: Gregory E. Ganssle and Yena Lee, Bruce Little, Garry DeWeese, R. Douglas Geivett, James Spiegel, Jill Graper Hernandez, Win Corduan, David Beck. With additional chapters addressing “issues in dialogue” such as hell and human origins, and a now-famous debate between evangelical philosopher William Lane Craig and atheist philosopher Michael Tooley, God and Evil provides critical engagement with recent arguments against faith and offers grounds for renewed confidence in the God who is “acquainted with grief.”

Wandering in Darkness

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Only the most naive or tendentious among us would deny the extent and intensity of suffering in the world. Can one hold, consistently with the common view of suffering in the world, that there is an omniscient, omnipotent, perfectly good God? This book argues that one can. Wandering in Darkness first presents the moral psychology and value theory within which one typical traditional theodicy, namely, that of Thomas Aquinas, is embedded. It explicates Aquinas’s account of the good for human beings, including the nature of love and union among persons. Eleonore Stump also makes use of developments in neurobiology and developmental psychology to illuminate the nature of such union. Stump then turns to an examination of narratives. In a methodological section focused on epistemological issues, the book uses recent research involving autism spectrum disorder to argue that some philosophical problems are best considered in the context of narratives. Using the methodology argued for, the book gives detailed, innovative exegeses of the stories of Job, Samson, Abraham and Isaac, and Mary of Bethany. In the context of these stories and against the backdrop of Aquinas’s other views, Stump presents Aquinas’s own theodicy, and shows that Aquinas’s theodicy gives a powerful explanation for God’s allowing suffering. She concludes by arguing that this explanation constitutes a consistent and cogent defense for the problem of suffering.

Who Made God?

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If you have been looking for a thoughtful, cogent and accessible counterpoint to the recent flurry of publications by the so-called New Atheists, you need look no further than Edgar Andrews’ Who Made God?. Rather than offering an ad hoc response to the assertions made by Richard Dawkins and the like, Dr. Andrews instead asks us to consider a different way in to the conversation to approach belief in the biblical God as a thesis in and of itself, one that is worthy of our thoughtful consideration. He asks us to apply the methodology of hypothesis to the question of God to see how it fits and, in fact, it proves to fit remarkably well. With great clarity and rousing humour, Dr. Andrews applies the thesis of God to questions like the problem of time, the nature of humanity and the question of morality and demonstrates how belief in God has both simple elegance and far-reaching explanatory power. ~ Michael Haykin

God and Stephen Hawking

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The Grand Design, by eminent scientist Stephen Hawking, is the latest blockbusting contribution to the so-called New Atheist debate, and claims that the laws of physics themselves brought the Universe into being, rather than God. In this swift and forthright reply, John Lennox, Oxford mathematician and author of ‘God’s Undertaker’, exposes the flaws in Hawking’s logic. In lively, layman’s terms, Lennox guides us through the key points in Hawking’s arguments – with clear explanations of the latest scientific and philosophical methods and theories – and demonstrates that far from disproving a Creator God, they make his existence seem all the more probable. ~ Book Description

God Behaving Badly

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God has a bad reputation. Many think of God as wrathful and angry, smiting people right and left for no apparent reason. The Old Testament in particular seems at times to portray God as capricious and malevolent, wiping out armies and nations, punishing enemies with extreme prejudice. But wait. The story is more complicated than that. Alongside troubling passages of God’s punishment and judgment are pictures of God’s love, forgiveness, goodness and slowness to anger. How do we make sense of the seeming contradiction? Can God be trusted or not? David Lamb unpacks the complexity of the Old Testament to explore the character of God. He provides historical and cultural background to shed light on problematic passages and to bring underlying themes to the fore. Without minimizing the sometimes harsh realities of the biblical record, Lamb assembles an overall portrait that gives coherence to our understanding of God in both the Old and New Testaments. ~ Product Description

Nature Red in Tooth and Claw

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While the problem of evil remains a perennial challenge to theistic belief, little attention has been paid to the special problem of animal pain and suffering. This absence is especially conspicuous in our Darwinian era when theists are forced to confront the fact that animal pain and suffering has gone on for at least tens of millions of years, through billions of animal generations. Evil of this sort might not be especially problematic if the standard of explanations for evil employed by theists could be applied in this instance as well. But there is the central problem: all or most of the explanations for evil cited by theists seem impotent to explain the reality of animal pain and suffering through evolutionary history. Nature Red in Tooth and Claw addresses the evil of animal pain and suffering directly, scrutinizing explanations that have been offered for such evil. ~ Book Description

Good God

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This book aims to reinvigorate discussions of moral arguments for God’s existence. To open this debate, Baggett and Walls argue that God’s love and moral goodness are perfect, without defect, necessary, and recognizable. After integrating insights from the literature of both moral apologetics and theistic ethics, they defend theistic ethics against a variety of objections and, in so doing, bolster the case for the moral argument for God’s existence. It is the intention of the authors to see this aspect of natural theology resume its rightful place of prominence, by showing how a worldview predicated on the God of both classical theism and historical Christian orthodoxy has more than adequate resources to answer the Euthyphro Dilemma, speak to the problem of evil, illumine natural law, and highlight the moral significance of the incarnation and resurrection of Christ. Ultimately, the authors argue, there is principled reason to believe that morality itself provides excellent reasons to look for a transcendent source of its authority and reality, and a source that is more than an abstract principle. ~ Book Description

Craig and Moreland on the Metaphysical Impossibility of Being from Nonbeing

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Premise (1) [Whatever begins to exist has a cause.] does not state merely a physical law like the law of gravity or the laws of thermodynamics, which are valid for things within the universe. Premise (1) is not a physical principle. Rather, premise (1) is a metaphysical principle: being cannot come from nonbeing; something cannot come into existence uncased from nothing. The principle therefore applies to all of reality, and it is thus metaphysically absurd that the universe should pop into being uncaused out of nothing. This response seem quite reasonable: for on the atheistic view, there was not even the potentiality of the universe’s existence prior to the big bang, since nothing is prior to the big bang. But then how can could the universe become actual if there was not even the potentiality of its existence?

Roger Penrose On The Grand Design

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With all the hand-wringing about whether Stephen Hawking’s The Grand Design changes anything — whether “philosophy is dead” and whether M-theory promises to explain the appearance of our universe in strictly physical terms — Sir Roger Penrose speaks. Because of his stature and relationship to Hawking, he is one of the most interesting commentators, and he is none too impressed. On the September 25th broadcast of Unbelievable?, Alister McGrath is carrying on in his exceedingly unctuous way when, with wonderful British politeness, Penrose interrupts:  “I think it’s actually stronger than that. What is referred to as M-theory isn’t even a theory. It’s a collection of ideas, hopes, aspirations. … I think the book is a bit misleading in that respect. It gives you the impression that here is this new theory which is going to explain everything. It’s nothing of the sort. … I think the book suffers rather more strongly than many. It’s not an uncommon thing in popular descriptions of science to latch on to some idea, particularly things to do with string theory, which have absolutely no support from observation. They’re just nice ideas that people have tried to explore.”

Evidence for God

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There have always been challenges to belief in God as he is revealed in the Bible and each new year seems to add more questions to the doubter’s arsenal. In Evidence for God, leading apologists provide compelling arguments that address the most pressing questions of the day about God, science, Jesus, the Bible, and more, including: Is Intelligent Design really a credible explanation of the origins of our world? Did Jesus really exist? Is Jesus really the only way to God? What about those who have never heard the gospel? Is the Bible today what was originally written? What about recently publicized gospels that aren’t in the Bible? and much more. ~ Publisher’s Description

David Bentley Hart on Misunderstanding the Cosmological Argument

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To use a feeble analogy, it is rather like asserting that it is inadequate to say that light is the cause of illumination because one is then obliged to say what it is that illuminates the light, and so on ad infinitum. ¶ The most venerable metaphysical claims about God do not simply shift priority from one kind of thing (say, a teacup or the universe) to another thing that just happens to be much bigger and come much earlier (some discrete, very large gentleman who preexists teacups and universes alike). These claims start, rather, from the fairly elementary observation that nothing contingent, composite, finite, temporal, complex, and mutable can account for its own existence, and that even an infinite series of such things can never be the source or ground of its own being, but must depend on some source of actuality beyond itself. Thus, abstracting from the universal conditions of contingency, one very well may (and perhaps must) conclude that all things are sustained in being by an absolute plenitude of actuality, whose very essence is being as such: not a “supreme being,” not another thing within or alongside the universe, but the infinite act of being itself, the one eternal and transcendent source of all existence and knowledge, in which all finite being participates.

Common Sense on Ultimate Explanations

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Luke, the wunderkind over at Common Sense Atheism, continues to be a tremendously salutary voice in the online conversation about God. Recently, Luke set out to kill a sacred cow, “one of atheism’s most popular and resilient retorts”, namely: “Who designed the designer?”. This, he argues, simply is not a defeater to theistic arguments. I should add, what he offers with one hand, he takes with the other. “The problem with offering ‘God did it’ as an explanation is that such an explanation has low plausibility, is not testable, has poor consistency with background knowledge, comes from a tradition (supernaturalism) with extreme explanatory failure, lacks simplicity, offers no predictive novelty, and has poor explanatory scope.” But returning to the more common objection, Luke points out 1) that we accept unexplained explanations in science, and 2) that if every explanation must be explained to count as an explanation, we end in an infinite regress and nothing is ever explained. It is the nature of the case that some explanations must be ultimate explanations. Both of Luke’s points are well taken, and echo the responses offered by William Lane Craig and other theists to this common rejoinder. However, throughout, Luke characterizes the supposed conclusions to the natural theologian’s premises as simply: “God did it”. Luke undoubtedly knows that this is an oversimplification of such arguments when they are carefully articulated, that much like postulates in physics, their conclusions are of the form: some entity x exists with property p. We’ll give it the name y. I do not mean to nitpick, and I understand the use of shorthand, but this distinction is critical in evaluating the appropriateness of a given explanation, the very subject matter of the post. My attempt at a constructive response follows.

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”.

Regarding Haiti: An Imperative

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Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen: to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke? Is it not to share your food with the hungry and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter — when you see the naked, to clothe him, and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood? … If you do away with the yoke of oppression, with the pointing finger and malicious talk, and if you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry and satisfy the needs of the oppressed, then your light will rise in the darkness, and your night will become like the noonday. The LORD will guide you always; he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land and will strengthen your frame. You will be like a well-watered garden, like a spring whose waters never fail. Your people will rebuild the ancient ruins and will raise up the age-old foundations; you will be called Repairer of Broken Walls, Restorer of Streets with Dwellings. » Give here or here.

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.

Forever Separated Lovers

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A while back Bradley Monton invited his friend and colleague, Nicole Hassoun, to post an incipient sketch of an argument against the existence or goodness of the Christian God. The basic thrust of her concern is as follows: "Perhaps I have the story wrong, … but it seems to me that several things are true of love. First, if I love someone, I cannot believe that that person deserves eternal suffering. … Second, when someone I love is hurt, that hurts me. I could not be perfectly happy if someone I loved was suffering for eternity. I cannot even conceive of such a thing. But then it seems there is a problem. For, I could be saved while someone I love is not saved. Then I could be perfectly happy in heaven while a person I love is burning in hell. But if I love someone, I cannot even think this is possible. So I should not, if I love, believe in this kind of Christianity. It could not be right unless my love would disappear at the gates of heaven (or some such) and why, I wonder, would that be? Wouldn´t it be better if heaven had my love in it? Wouldn’t I be happier in love?" My own cursory, and incipient, response follows…

The Evidence for God

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If God exists, where can we find adequate evidence for God’s existence? In this book, Paul Moser offers a new perspective on the evidence for God that centers on a morally robust version of theism that is cognitively resilient. The resulting evidence for God is not speculative, abstract, or casual. Rather, it is morally and existentially challenging to humans, as they themselves responsively and willingly become evidence of God’s reality in receiving and reflecting God’s moral character for others. Moser calls this “personifying evidence of God,” because it requires the evidence to be personified in an intentional agent — such as a human — and thereby to be inherent evidence of an intentional agent. Contrasting this approach with skepticism, scientific naturalism, fideism, and natural theology, Moser also grapples with the potential problems of divine hiddenness, religious diversity, and vast evil. ~ Product Description

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.

The End of Christianity

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Theodicy attempts to resolve how a good God and evil world can coexist. The neo-atheist view in this debate has dominated recent bestseller lists through books like The God Delusion (Richard Dawkins), God Is Not Great (Christopher Hitchens), and The End of Faith (Samuel Harris). And their popularity illuminates a changing mental environment wherein people are asking harder questions about divine goodness. Surprisingly, these books please intelligent design champion William Dembski, because “They would be unnecessary if Christianity were not again a live issue.” Entering the conversation, Dembski’s provocative The End of Christianity embraces the challenge to formulate a theodicy that is both faithful to Christian orthodoxy and credible to the new mental environment. He writes to make peace with three claims: (1) God by wisdom created the world out of nothing. (2) God exercises particular providence in the world. (3) All evil in the world ultimately traces back to human sin. In the process, Dembski brings the reader to a fresh understanding of what “the end (result) of Christianity” really means: the radical realignment of our thinking so that we see God’s goodness in creation despite the distorting effects of sin in our hearts and evil in the world.

Atheism: A Brief Insight

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Is a life without religion one without values or purpose? Julian Baggini emphatically says no. He sets out to dispel the myths surrounding atheism and to show how it can be both a meaningful and moral choice. He directly confronts the failure of officially atheist states in the twentieth century, and presents an intellectual case for atheism that rests as much on reasoned and positive arguments for its truth as on negative arguments against religion. Julian Baggini is editor of Philosopher’s Magazine and the author of several books on philosophy. He has also written for a variety of newspapers and journals, including the Guardian, the Independent, and New Humanist. ~ Synopsis

A Story of Natural Evil and the Suffering of Animals

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In more recent philosophical expressions of the Problem of Evil, the argument is carefully articulated to ensure that the evil under consideration is unquestionably gratuitous. That is, while there is suffering for which the theist can posit some possibly redemptive or soul-making purpose, there is also suffering for which it is nigh impossible to imagine any greater good being served. Specifically, attention has turned to natural evil, and to the suffering of animals in particular. For example, William Rowe’s widely discussed argument imagines a fawn, alone in the woods, engulfed by a raging forest fire, suffering for days before dying. How could a good and powerful God, if he existed, allow this kind of suffering, which is immeasurable every day? On the other hand, when I watch tens of thousands of wildebeest and zebra attempting to cross the Mara River as they finish their annual migration across the Serengeti, many of them violently ripped to pieces in the attempt by basks of writhing crocodiles, it is not obvious to me that this militates against the existence of God.1 I am awed and quickened by the spectacle. Though I naturally root for the antelope, I see tragic beauty in this contest for survival, red in tooth and claw. I’m not altogether sure that a world of harmless bunnies, tribbles and parakeets… a world without riptides, sandstorms, cliffs and fires, would better bespeak a great and beneficent creator. Indeed, I wonder whether a world whose magnificence is due in part to its being as wild and untamed as ours is not itself a justification for the peril and pain entailed therein. But, when I say that I am not sure, that is the truth. I am by no means unsympathetic to the suffering of animals. My heart is rent when I watch PETA’s documentaries exposing our oftentimes callous and cruel treatment of animals bred for human consumption. It is egregious to kick a dog, to string up a cat. Furthermore, we have the biblical vision of heaven which portrays a time and place when the lion lies down with the lamb, implying perhaps that the current, ravenous state of nature is not the way it’s supposed to be. Considering the abundance of animal suffering, it has always struck me as a bit unfortunate that the examples offered by Rowe, Tooley, and others in these arguments are usually abstract, when they needn’t be.2 So, as I continue to reflect on what we should infer from a natural world that is as violent as it is breathtakingly beautiful, I offer the following contribution. It is a riveting account from the journal of a close friend, Dace Starkweather, who experienced the very real, fiery devastation of Pike National Forest3, and bore witness to the woodland creatures and free range cattle that suffered there. I don’t think anyone has ever questioned whether Rowe’s example is paralleled in the real world, but this vivid, real-life account makes the question of apparently pointless natural evil all the more poignant.

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.

Disturbing Divine Behavior

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How should we understand biblical texts where God is depicted as acting irrationally, violently, or destructively? If we distance ourselves from disturbing portrayals of God, how should we understand the authority of Scripture? How does the often wrathful God portrayed in the Old Testament relate to the God of love proclaimed in the New Testament? Is that contrast even accurate? Disturbing Divine Behavior addresses these perennially vexing questions for the student of the Bible. Eric A. Seibert calls for an engaged and discerning reading of the Old Testament that distinguishes the particular literary and theological goals achieved through narrative characterizations of God from the rich understanding of the divine to which the Old Testament as a whole points. Providing illuminating reflections on theological reading as well, this book will be a welcome resource for any readers who puzzle over disturbing representations of God in the Bible. ~ Synopsis