New Books in Philosophy, Theology, and Apologetics

* Thinking About Christian Apologetics – James Beilby (IVP Academic, 2011)

“Most introductions to apologetics begin with the “how to” of defending the faith, diving right into the major apologetic arguments and the body of evidence. For those who want a more foundational look at this contested theological discipline, this book examines Christian apologetics in its nature, history, approaches, objections and practice. What is apologetics? How has apologetics developed? What are the basic apologetic approaches? Why should we practice apologetics? Countless Christians today are seeking a responsible way to defend and commend their faith. If you are one them, Thinking About Christian Apologetics is the place to start.”

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* Monopolizing Knowledge Ian Hutchinson (Fias Publishing, 2011)

“Can real knowledge be found other than by science? In this unique approach to understanding today’s culture wars, an MIT physicist answers emphatically yes. He shows how scientism — the view that science is all the knowledge there is — suffocates reason as well as religion. Tracing the history of scientism and its frequent confusion with science, Hutchinson explains what makes modern science so persuasive and powerful, but restricts its scope. Recognizing science’s limitations, and properly identifying what we call nature, liberates both science and non-scientific knowledge.”

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* The Moral Argument – Paul Copan and Mark D. Linville (Continuum, 2013)

“The Moral Argument offers a wide-ranging defense of the necessary connection between God and objective moral values, moral duties, proper function, and human rights. It presents several versions of the moral argument for God’s existence; a survey of the history of the argument, including the more recent work of Robert Adams, John Hare, John Rist, and others; an assessment of competing meta-ethical views that attempt to ground or explain ethics; a defense of moral knowledge; and an assessment of the Euthyphro Dilemma (and related objections) for any theistic conception of moral values. The book will examine—and find wanting— various non-theistic alternatives to ground or explain morality.”

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* Naturalism and Our Knowledge of Reality – R. Scott Smith (Ashgate, 2012)

“Philosophical naturalism is taken to be the preferred and reigning epistemology and metaphysics that underwrites many ideas and knowledge claims. But what if we cannot know reality on that basis? What if the institution of science is threatened by its reliance on naturalism? R. Scott Smith argues in a fresh way that we cannot know reality on the basis of naturalism. Moreover, the “fact-value” split has failed to serve our interests of wanting to know reality. The author provocatively argues that since we can know reality, it must be due to a non-naturalistic ontology, best explained by the fact that human knowers are made and designed by God. The book offers fresh implications for the testing of religious truth-claims, science, ethics, education, and public policy. Consequently, naturalism and the fact-value split are shown to be false, and Christian theism is shown to be true.”

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Defining Success in Apologetics

How do we know when we’ve been successful in our efforts in apologetics?  Do we judge success by whether we gave compelling and convincing arguments?  Or does it depend on the response of the person we’re sharing with?  James Beilby explains why neither of these is a good measurement for success in apologetics.

“While the quality of one’s arguments is certainly not irrelevant, this is also not the most important feature of apologetics.  After all, it is possible to give profound and logically persuasive arguments but do so in a way that is arrogant, dismissive and thoroughly un-Christlike.

Similiarly, while in one sense apologetics should be focused on the response of one’s interlocutor, it is possible to achieve a positive response through manipulation or shoddy arguments that will, upon closer inspection, fall to pieces.

Consequently, apologetics success is best understood as faithfulness to Jesus Christ.  In our apologetic endeavors, we are called to be faithful to Christ in at least three senses.

  • First, what we say should accurately represent who Jesus is, what he taught and, specifically, the good news he brought to the world.
  • Second, the way we do our apologetics should augment our arguments, not detract from them.  We must defend Christ in a way that fits with Christ’s message.
  • Finally, we must be faithful to God’s purposes in specific situations.  In some cases, apologetics appropriately and naturally leads to an offer for a person to commit her life to Christ, but in the vast majority of cases, our apologetic endeavors are a small step in a person’s long and winding journey that one hopes will culminate in relationship with Jesus Christ.”

— from Thinking About Christian Apologetics: What It Is and Why We Do It (IVP Academic, 2011), 22-23.

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Groothuis on Apologetics

“Here is the sum of the matter.  We must earnestly endeavor to know the truth of the biblical worldview and to make it known with integrity to as many people as possible with the best arguments available.  To know God in Christ means that we desire to make Christian truth available to others in the most compelling form possible.  To be created in God’s rational, moral and relational image means that our entire being should be aimed at the glorification of God in Christian witness.  A significant part of that witness is Christian apologetics.”

— Douglas Groothuis in Christian Apologetics: A Comprehensive Case for Biblical Faith, 44.

 

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Interview with Jim Spiegel – Part One

It’s a pleasure to welcome Jim Spiegel to Cloud of Witnesses to answer some questions about his recently released book, The Making of an Atheist.

I will post the second half of the interview tomorrow, and as mentioned last week, I will collect a few follow-up questions from these posts for Jim to respond to.  So, we welcome your questions related to the book or the interview.  In addition, everyone who posts a question will be entered into a drawing for a free copy of The Making of an Atheist.

* * * *

Chris Reese: What prompted you to write The Making of an Atheist?

Jim Spiegel: As I’ve followed the new atheist movement and Christian apologists’ responses to atheists’ arguments, I’ve been dismayed at the lack of attention to the moral-psychological roots of disbelief. Since this is so heavily emphasized by the biblical writers, I thought someone needed to address it. Also, I wanted to confirm an intuition shared by many Christians who read the new atheists—that their books are more the product of anger and bitterness than an even-handed, dispassionate look at the facts.

CR: What has the response been so far to the book and website?

JS: The response has been largely positive. In fact, I have never received so many encouraging notes from strangers who wrote to thank me for writing the book. But there have been some negative responses as well from some atheists and agnostics who insist that their rejection of God has been purely an intellectual matter.

CR: Many atheists will be offended at the thesis of your book. What would you say to an atheist like this who claims he grew up in a basically normal home and is a decent person, but just doesn’t feel there’s good evidence to believe in God?

JS: I would note that growing up in a basically normal home doesn’t preclude moral rebellion. And regarding those who insist that they are morally “decent,” I would be curious as to what they mean by this. Before I was a Christian there were many things that I considered to be morally permissible—from sexual promiscuity to resentment and certain forms of revenge—which I now recognize to be immoral and even distorting of one’s perception of reality. The fact that a person passes his or her own test for moral decency is hardly reliable as a gauge for their actual virtue.

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The Making of an Atheist

The website for Christian philosopher James Spiegel’s newest book, The Making of an Atheist, is now up here.  I had the pleasure of editing this volume and I believe it will be a helpful resource – and probably a source of some controversy.  Part of Spiegel’s aim is to make the case that

atheistic rejection of God is precipitated by immoral indulgences, usually combined with some deep psychological disturbances, such as a broken relationship with one’s father. I also show how atheists suffer from what I call “paradigm-induced blindness,” as their worldview inhibits their ability to recognize the reality of God manifest in creation.

For those in the Reformed tradition – especially in terms of Reformed or presuppositional apologetics – this analysis will sound familiar.  For those who adopt a more evidential-oriented apologetics, this viewpoint may feel foreign or uncomfortable.  However, most of us who are steeped in the evidential tradition have probably not taken non-rational factors seriously enough in dealing with disbelief.  I came away from the book much more convinced that the will and psychological dispositions play as important a role in choosing to believe or disbelieve as rational factors.

The book doesn’t officially release for a couple of more weeks, but I would be interested in hearing responses and reviews from those who read it.

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The Top 15 Apologetics Books

Michael Patton shares his list at Parchment and Pen.  Here are the top five:

5. The God Who is There, Francis Schaeffer

Schaeffer’s works could all be put on this list, but this particular work is representative of a timeless defense from a timeless scholar.

4. Faith Has its Reasons, Rob Bowman and Kenneth Boa

The best book for one who’s desire it is to understand not only what apologetics is, but how it is to be done. The authors give a great overview of all the different Christian apologetic methods asking the question “How are we to defend the faith?” They then discuss and defend Presuppositionalism, Fideism, Evidentialism, and Classical approaches to the defense of the faith. For the young, aspiring apologist, this is the first book that should be read.

3. The Resurrection of the Son of God, N. T. Wright

Simply put, this is the most comprehensive work on the resurrection of Christ ever produced. Whatever you think of N. T. Wright, there is no debate that this is an immensely valuable contribution to the Christian witness.

2. The Case for the Resurrection of Jesus, Habermas and Licona

Simply a must have for everyone. The resurrection of Christ is the central issue of Christianity. If Christ rose from the grave, Christianity is true; if he did not, it is false. Everyone needs to have a good defense of the resurrection and this work represents the best of the popular options. Get it!

1. Mere Christianity, C. S. Lewis

How can I do justice to what might be the most significant and influential apologetic work in all of Christianity? All I can say is that if you have not read Mere Christianity, shame on you.

What other good apologetics and philosophy books are you guys reading these days? 

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