International youth apologetics speaker Brett Kunkle is touring New Zealand from Saturday 18th April. We have some really great events lined up for Hamilton, Tauranga and Auckland.
Check out his schedule here.
Brett was very well received last time he was in the country, so we highly recommend you make it along to some of these!
Join Thinking Matters Tauranga as we host Brett Kunkle from Stand to Reason in April for these two special events:
Tactics in Defending the Faith Workshop – Monday 20th April
This interactive workshop is for those who sometimes find themselves intimidated in conversations about their Christian faith and values. Come and be equipped with the skills you need to confidently engage others in friendly conversation and be prepared to present Christ in an intelligent yet gracious way. Get more details here.
Who’s waiting for our kids? Preparing Christian youth for a secular world – Tuesday 21st April
How do we prepare our kids to be effective followers of Christ in an increasingly hostile world? Join us for a full day of professional development training for Christian educators and youth leaders and be equipped and inspired to prepare our kids for the challenges they will face at university and beyond. Get more details here.
We are so excited to announce our Confident Christianity Apologetics Conference on Anzac weekend in Auckland on the 24th and 25th April.
You won’t want to miss some of the great international and local speakers we have – including:
Brett Kunkle – International youth speaker
Our keynote speaker who will be speaking about the nature of truth, moral relativism and why God allows so much evil and suffering in the world.
Dr Jeff Tallon – Award winning scientist
Speaking about the role of faith in science, and the role of science in faith.
Dr Steve Kumar – Philosopher & apologist
Asking if post-modernism, relativism, pluralism, and materialism are logical and liveable worldviews.
David Riddell – International speaker & counsellor
Examining the psychological barriers that block people from responding to Christianity.
Mark Powell – Business leader & CEO of The Warehouse Group
Examining faith and its impact on our everyday lives.
Dr Matthew Flannagan – Philosopher & theologian
Examining the moral character of God as presented in the old testament.
Other speakers will also be presenting on:
- The evidence for Christianity from science, ethics, history and maths
- Common objections to the reliability of the Bible
- Apologetics in youth ministry
- How to get a confident faith
- Evidence for the resurrection of Christ
- Assisted suicide and euthanasia
The full conference schedule can be found here.
So join us and be equipped to sensitively and skilfully respond to the biggest objections that Christians encounter today – so you can live out a confident, yet gracious faith in your everyday life.
Northcote Baptist Church, 67 Eban Ave, Hillcrest, North Shore City – map here.
Friday 24th April
7:00PM – 9:30PM
Free Evening Event. No cost, no registration – just turn up!
Saturday 25th April
8:30AM – 5:00PM
Full Day Conference – Buy Tickets Here
Saturday tickets: ADULT
- Early Bird Adult Registration $59 (Available until 17th April)
- Regular Adult Registration $69
Saturday tickets: YOUTH (under 18) & STUDENT (with ID)
- Early Bird Youth $30 (Available until 17th April)
- Regular Youth Registration $40
Lunch is included on Saturday!
For more details and to register – please visit our conference page here: www.ThinkingMatters.org.nz/conference
All Saturday attendees also receive a complementary Lee Strobel documentary DVD valued at $15. Choose from one of the following on the day, subject to stock availability:
Following Stephen Meyer’s talks in NZ, a few people will be thinking more about intelligent design. What is it, and why does it matter?
The central claim of the intelligent design movement is that design is 1) empirically detectable (distinguishable from ordinary ‘natural’ processes), and 2) instantiated in the natural world.
There are different claims that fall under this idea of intelligent design. Probably most controversially, the claim is about certain aspects of biological organisms that are said to particularly clearly evince design, but other areas in which evidence of design is said to be found include cosmology, astronomy, and chemistry/biochemistry.
As such, intelligent design seems to be a scientific kind of hypothesis. Perhaps not purely scientific, if we decide, firstly that science must be constrained by methodological naturalism, and secondly that design as a kind of cause falls outside the appropriate definition of naturalism; but still dealing with the same general realm that science generally does. Perhaps ‘natural philosophy’ or ‘meta-science’ might do as a term.
Inferences about the nature of the design observed quickly move into philosophical territory. But the same is probably true when dealing with anything near the foundations of science.
So, the concept that design is evinced in the natural world includes aspects of science and of philosophy. Intelligent design, however, is not theology. It comports well with some theological claims, for sure – but so does belief in scientific law, and no-one calls the work of theoretical physicists acts of theology.
Proponents of intelligent design often argue that Christians must believe in it, because the Bible says that the universe declares things about God. I disagree with them – it may be that, indeed, the universe declares things about God – but that the nature of the declaration is not scientific or empirical in quite the way that ID sees it. Reformed epistemologists such as Alvin Plantinga, for example, have spoken about design beliefs being a ‘properly basic’ response to the natural world, rather than based on what we’d think of as an evidence-based inference. His book ‘Where the conflict really lies’ is a fascinating discussion of many things relating to the ID question. There are lots of interesting theological questions over whether God provides us with ‘scientific’ evidence of his existence.
Atheistic opponents say that ID is merely theology disguised in thin pseudo-scientific garments. But I disagree with them too – ID is compatible with very many different kinds of theologies, including many non-traditional views of God/gods/spirit/aliens etc and complete agnosticism on the existence of any kind of deities. Theistic opponents argue on the other hand that it is insufficiently theological, failing to identify the designer as e.g. the God of biblical Christian theism. Given that ID doesn’t claim to be theology, the critique as often made seems misplaced. The fact that it gets flak from both atheists and theologians says to me that ID occupies a very interesting place! Along similar lines, both atheists and people with a theological bent often argue that ID is simply a ‘god of the gaps’ approach – and so both bad reasoning and bad theology! Bad reasoning for ignoring other possible natural causes, and bad theology for implying that God only acts in ‘gaps’ in the natural order’.
However, it may be (heresy as it is to suggest it) that we don’t actually live in a causally closed universe – all theists, I think, should be at least sympathetic to the possibility, and it may well be required by theism. If God, or some other mind, does genuinely intervene in nature at one or more points in history, then perhaps ordinary natural processes will not be sufficient to explain the products of such action. In some cases, the gap may be large enough, and the product of the action similar enough to what we would tend to see as ‘designed’ to legitimately infer the action of a designer. Theologically, it is perfectly coherent to say that God has multiple methods of action – sometimes He acts specially in history (e.g. at the resurrection), presumably in a way that isn’t entirely explicable in terms of physical law and the initial conditions of the universe. If He acted in that way then, then why not also in other cases? This doesn’t prevent us believing that He also upholds the universe from moment to moment, by way of the ‘ordinary’ means of physical law. It may also be, as suggested before, that God does intervene but that this is not detectable (at least definitively) by the scientific kinds of means employed by ID theorists – this seems to me to be an interesting open question.
Finally, a philosophical suggestion: the evidence for design suggested by ID arguments (spanning the gamut from cosmology to molecular biology), while not an exercise in theology per se, certainly has theological implications. The kind of mind revealed or at least implied by ID arguments (if they succeed – perhaps e.g. the arguments from cosmology do succeed, but those from biology don’t – as many theistic evolutionists seem to think) fits better with biblical Christian theism than it does with a vague kind of deism, panentheism, or such. On biblical Christian theism, we have reason to expect that God has an interest in life, and particularly in human life. On the existence of some unspecified kind of cosmic mind, we have less (if any) reason to expect the outcomes we see. The arguments offered by the intelligent design movement (whatever their merits) imply a broadly ‘personal’ God, rather than an impersonal computer somewhere out there.
Welcome to the final instalment in my series on why thinking matters greatly in the life of the Christian. In part 1 of the series, we looked at the spiritual malnourishment that Christians put themselves through to avoid the ‘lifeless endeavour’ that is theology (or, putting-God-in-a-box-ology). We learnt that the Bible creates a vital link between thinking and spiritual health. Part 2 expanded this intellectual famine out into the watching world – theologically starved Christians do not tend to provide a stimulating case for belief. And now, in part 3, we face the consequence of these two errors.
To put it bluntly– thinking matters because not thinking dishonours God and is therefore, a sin. Few professing Christians would be comfortable with the idea of bringing God’s name into disrepute, yet fewer seem to have made the connection between glorifying God (making Him look great) and engaging in the life of the mind.
A disdain for thinking in the Christian life is not merely a spiritual boo-boo, but a brazen refusal to live and love God in the way that He has prescribed. When Jesus stated that the greatest commandment is to love God with all one’s heart, soul, and mind (Matt. 22:37) he was in effect saying, “Love me with all of your being. Love me in all the ways I have created you.” Never—in Jesus’ mind or in Scripture—is there a splitting of head and heart; they are always meant to go together. 1
Christians (and humanity in general) tend to concentrate on the activity of their hearts and hands – on what they are feeling and doing. We are hard-coded doers. Value is rarely attributed to thoughts or beliefs, but rather to desires and deeds. Few think about their thinking. What I have aimed to achieve in writing these articles is not for Christians to forsake the pursuit of devoted hearts and generous hands, but for the correct paradigm to be restored. Truth enters through the gateway of the mind, is accepted, believed and treasured, and then the rest of the body follows suit, instinctively obeying. This is demonstrated with the following adage:
Head > Heart > Hands. 2
Removing or rearranging any component in this progression will cause the whole thing to collapse. Only with all three in the correct order is the Christian able to live in a way that brings glory to God’s name. The very fact that God ordained His words of eternal life to be written down in a physical book shows us that He first aims to take our minds as willing captives before wooing the rest of our being.
Just like every other sin, Christian anti-intellectualism brings shame to God’s name and is worthy of punishment. We can’t blame our lack of thinking on our culture, our brains, or just try to pretend it isn’t important. The Bible is clear and it will not alter its wording for you. The natural response here should be to mourn.
However, there is one more glaring similarity to all other sins – it is not beyond the all-encompassing reach of Jesus Christ. When Jesus died on that cross, he bore the punishment for every sin that his people had and would commit, including the sin of anti-intellectualism. I don’t know about you, but that glorious gift of grace makes me want to exercise my intellect so I can learn even a touch more about this beautiful God who saves.
1. “The Church Needs Philosophers and Philosophers Need the Church” Paul Gould, The Gospel
philosophers-need-the-church), accessed on 11 October 2014
2. This wee maxim has been borrowed from David Murray’s blog of the same name.
Welcome to the third instalment of my series – Thinking matters. If you are a newcomer to this ongoing conversation, I recommend reading here and here to catch up. Moving right along to the next reason why thinking matters. If we do not think seriously about what we believe and why we believe it, we are left with a hollow worldview. Before we delve deeper, let’s define some terms.
What is a worldview?
I searched far and wide for a good definition but alas. So, here is my best shot at what encompasses a worldview –
Worldview: the framework of presuppositions, ideas and beliefs through which an individual or group interprets reality.
To put it simply, a worldview is the personalised lens through which you see and understand the world around you. From this definition, we pick up on one really important aspect of worldview – everyone has one. Whether you are a sleek and smooth investment banker, or a member of an unreached Amazonian tribe, you interpret the world and everything you see in it through the lens of your own presuppositions.
What does it then mean if a worldview is hollow? Just as you knock on someone’s head to ensure there is indeed something inside, a close examination of a hollow worldview will reverberate emptiness. Presuppositions can be groundless and therefore lead to a false conclusion or vice versa, with hopeful beginnings leading to absurd endings. Sometimes, the starting and finishing lines of a worldview can tickle the ears and appeal to our deepest human desires, but when challenged by the harsh realities of life, they fall like a house built on sand.
Hollow examples may include:
- A naturalist is in awe at the wonder of the physical world in all of its intelligibility. The logical conclusion for worship is the Designer behind the design, but their naturalistic presuppositions closed the door on this option before the conversation even starts.
- The spiritual type who turns his back on evil and suffering in an attempt to rid them of their power and influence. They are quickly found out in this painful world.
- The nihilist, disillusioned by the excessive agony he sees around him, intellectually denies meaning or purpose in life, but struggles to practically live in a way consistent with his conclusion.
And probably the most common:
- The average secularite who seeks to treat others as they wish to be treated while refusing to acknowledge the source of such universal truths.
If you have read my previous two articles, you will have heard me wax repeatedly on the tendency for Christians to have their minds and actions influenced by the dominant thought trains of the day. Regarding the development of worldview, this is no different.
The harm of a hollow worldview
In a standard marketplace, goods and services are purchased with cash and if the consumer is pleased, he or she will often recommend the product to others. This increases the influence of the retailer, enabling them to spread their product through larger client bases and make more money. In an analogous way, Christianity, like any other view of reality or belief system, is competing in a global marketplace of ideas. Interpretations of reality and the meaning of life are legion and the competition is often fierce. These products are not bought with physical or digital capital, but with our allegiance
Christians stand in the midst of a world with some heavy baggage. Open them up and you will find objections of various types – intellectual, emotional, moral. Today’s idea consumers simply walk past the Christian stall, oblivious to what it has to offer. Not just oblivious, but convinced that it has nothing to offer. By not thinking seriously about what we believe and how it makes sense of the world around us, we add more fuel on an already raging fire seeking to purify the world of the Christian voice.
Towards a Christian worldview
What is the solution? How do we develop a cohesive Christian worldview that is credible, answers people’s questions, and brings honour and glory to the name of Jesus? I am in no way in a position to give exhaustive answers to these questions, but can offer a few suggestions that I am convinced are part of getting back on track.
Philosopher Douglas Groothuis proposes 8 criteria to evaluate a worldview
- Able to answer life’s big questions
- Internal logical consistency
- Factual adequacy
- Existential viability (doesn’t shy away from our everyday experience)
- Intellectual and cultural fruitfulness
- Does not make radical ad hoc readjustment
- Simple is better than unnecessarily complex.
An entire article could (and probably should) be written on the importance of each of these criteria, but for now they provide a good starting point for exposing the flaws of today’s dominant worldviews, and demonstrating the power of the Christian alternative.
There is one more thing we can do to begin to see change – we can pray. The task before us is enormous and we simply will not see success if we rely solely on our own ability and inventions (including the criteria above). When it comes to articulating the jaw-dropping panorama that is the Christian worldview, we desperately need the God at its centre to help us.
Reasonable Faith have put out a new video explaining the fine tuning argument:
Scientists have come to the shocking realization that the fundamental constants and quantities of our universe have been carefully dialed to an astonishingly precise value – a value that falls within an exceedingly narrow, life-permitting range. If any one of these numbers were altered by even a hair’s breadth, no physical, interactive life of any kind could exist anywhere. There’d be no stars, no life, no planets, no chemistry.
What is the best explanation for this fine tuning? Does chance, the physical necessity of these constants, or design best explain this phenomenon?
“We live in what may be the most anti-intellectual period in the history of Western civilization”.[i]
These words from theologian, R.C. Sproul, seem a harsh diagnosis. Anti-intellectual seems an odd adjective for the age that has seen numerous advancements in the fields of science, politics, and human rights. University attendance in New Zealand is rising with every new year, and yet here is Sproul arguing that these statistics do little to stem the tide of anti-intellectualism.
So what then is meant by anti-intellectualism? If it doesn’t mean anti-scientific (as demonstrated by the leaps of mankind in scientific understanding and technological development), and it doesn’t mean anti-academic (as demonstrated by the authoritative role tertiary education continues to play in the Western world), what does it mean?
Sproul argues that anti-intellectualism is defined as the general distaste of, and aversion to, acute reasoning and solid logic in developing good answers to big questions.[ii] We live in a society today where a particular argument is deemed truthful not because it is true, and has shown to be so through logic and reasoning, but rather because it is helpful. You can choose your various beliefs and convictions from here and there, like a greedy and uncomprehending child running for the Pick N’ Mix. Little do you know that the more you grab, the less sense the final package will make (and the sorer your tummy will be). No serious thought of any kind is put into distinguishing between views of reality that make sense and those that don’t and can’t. The sovereign self reigns supreme. You call the shots on what is true or false often with blaring contradictions. That is anti-intellectualism.
As mentioned in my last article, the Church has allowed itself to be enticed by this way of thinking (or rather lack of thinking), resulting in a body of believers that looks identical to the world. One of the first things to go down the gurgler when the Church falls into this mire is a biblical view of Christian spiritual growth.
What is spiritual growth?
This is a huge question with a vast number of key biblical texts that need to be considered in order to even begin formulating a definition. Due to the nature of this forum, I will only consider one and try to let the text do the talking for me. Consider Paul’s Epistle to the Romans, looking specifically at chapter 12, verses 1 and 2:
“I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.”
In these two verses, we have been graciously given an overview of what the Christian life should look like. Paul appeals to the Roman church to completely devote their lives to God in worship. On what grounds? Because this is the path to acceptance and favour with God? Because then He will love us? No. Paul appeals to them on the basis of God’s mercy, clearly expounded from chapter 1 through 11 of Romans.
- The depraved and sinful state of man, and the just punishment he faces in hell (chapters 1-3)
- The love that God demonstrates in dying for sinners, and the realisation that He loved the same before time itself and will never, ever, let them go (chapters 3-11)
- The brain and heart melting statement that God “justifies the ungodly” (chapter 4).
All of these truths and many more sing out of the pages of Romans, providing the reader with a glimpse into life as it truly is.
The point is this – Paul spends 11 chapters stating truths upon which he will build his calls to live and grow in Christian discipleship (expounded in chapters 12-16). Rather than thinking like the world does, with its countless man-centred ideologies, we are commanded to have our minds continuously renewed with the truths of the gospel; truths that couldn’t be more against the current of modern thought. In other words, Christian discipleship and growth is made possible when we believe the right things/ have correct theology. When we believe, and consequently cherish, the truths of Christianity, our whole lives are transformed. And because I can’t help myself, here are a few other references that make the same point (Matt 22:37, 2 Cor 3:18, Eph 1:15-22, 3:14-20, 2 Peter 3:18).
A false dichotomy is often drawn at this point by many Christians. They see the study and pursuit of good theology as “necessarily lifeless, spiritually draining, and prone to head-knowledge without heartfelt passion”.[iii] A distinction is drawn between theology and devotion; head and heart; being a Pharisee or being a devoted disciple of Christ. The problem with this view is simple – the Bible is silent on it. In fact, God’s Word speaks overwhelmingly in the opposite direction – theology (literally, the knowledge of God) is to be at the core of the Christian life. R.C. Sproul responds to the objection in a way that few people can:
“Christianity is an intellectual faith. This does not mean that it flirts with intellectualism or restricts sainthood to an elite group of gnostic eggheads. But though the Word of God is not limited to intellectuals, its content is addressed to the mind. There is a primacy of the intellect in the Christian life as well as a primacy of the heart… The primacy of the intellect is with respect to order. The primacy of the heart is with respect to importance.”
To conclude, thinking matters. The answers we have (or don’t have) to big questions can tell us a lot about the health of our Christian walks. As demonstrated above, the Bible clearly places the utmost importance on believing the right things before we do the right things. In fact, the things we do (loving our neighbours through acts of mercy, being good at our jobs, stewarding our gifts well) are made right only through the things we believe (that none of those things can save us, but we do them out of gratitude for God’s grace in saving us). If we as the Church allow ourselves to be swayed by the dominant thought patterns of today’s culture, rather than having our minds shaped by the Word of God, then we stunt our spiritual growth and miss out on the intellectually fulfilling and passionate faith that our Father desires for us.
[i] R.C. Sproul, Burning Hearts are not Nourished by Empty Heads, Christianity Today, Sept. 3, 1982
[iii] Trevin Wax, Why You Should Love God With Your Mind, The Gospel Coalition, http://thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/trevinwax/2007/08/29/why-you-should-love-god-with-your-mind/, accessed on 1 August, 2014
The world is changing. I feel it in my fingers. I feel it in my toes.
Anti-intellectualism is sweeping through Western civilization and there is no high ground, no safe haven from the rushing tides. Constant technological advance is making modern life easier and more convenient every day, and while there are definite benefits to this, there is also a clear downside.
Shaking the lucky-8 ball of Google whenever a question arises has taken the effort out of thinking, and the ease with which modern people can get the answers has actually been demonstrated to have a negative impact on intellectual health. Even universities, the institutions of knowledge and learning are not free from this unstoppable force, albeit in a different way. While culture at large falls prey to not thinking hard about much at all, many academics have fallen prey to only thinking one way, blind and deaf to the cogent and coherent alternatives of opponents.
As with most cultural contagions that ravish the Western mind, the Church also falls victim, despite our allegiance to Another Land. I have seen this most notably in the following ways:
- A separation between theology and piety (what you believe and how you live)
- Redefining childlike faith as childish faith
- A disdain for the past and the history of the Church
- An over-emphasis on being led subjectively and directly by the Holy Spirit, to the neglect of his promised means of grace (the Word preached)
- The belief that doctrine divides (an example being the existence of denominations)
I don’t sound the alarm as a concerned scholar, sitting in my ivory tower and nodding at all your indiscretions, but rather, as Mark Noll put it, a “wounded lover” of the intellectual gold mine that is Christianity. Apart from missing out on having your mind absolutely blown by the truths that the Bible teaches, an aversion to thinking in the Christian life is actually a sin. The command to love the Lord our God with all our hearts does not stop there, but is a call to devote every fibre of our beings to the pursuit of grace and knowledge, given to us through Jesus Christ. Attempting to love God without knowledge of Him is tantamount to attempting to love your partner or spouse while avoiding learning any of their hobbies, joys or deepest fears.
The way I see it, anti-intellectualism in Christians will result in three things:
- Stunted spiritual growth
- A hollow worldview
- Robbing God of glory that is all His.
I pray that you will join me as over my following few articles, I attempt to delve into these consequences, demonstrating not only the harm they are causing us, but also the joy and satisfaction that we are missing out on.
This high quality Australian produced resource has been launched in New Zealand and Thinking Matters is proud to partner with the producers – Olive Tree Media – to promote it throughout the country.
This ten-episode DVD series follows Australian pastor and host, Karl Faase as he travels the world and interviews over 30 leading authors and speakers about the top “belief blockers” of our time. It is designed for both a wide audience and church groups, intending to attract both Christian and non-Christian viewers equally.
Contributors include John Lennox, Os Guinness, Richard Swinburne, Michael Ramsden, Amy Orr-Ewing and John Dickson – along with many others.
The ten half-hour episodes include the following topics:
- Suffering: Presents both an intellectual and personal response to the issues posed by the existence of suffering.
- The Bible: Looks at whether what the Bible contains is historically accurate and can be trusted.
- Supernatural: Explores belief in the supernatural and looks at a specific case where it seems that supernatural intervention is undeniable.
- Religious Violence: Explores whether Christianity, as a religious worldview, causes wars, atrocities and genocides. How does the Church respond to this charge?
- Exclusive Faith: Christianity’s claim that Jesus is the only way to God is viewed as arrogant, intolerant and a significant blocker to personal belief. In this episode, guests give plausible reasons for the Christian worldview.
- Church Abuse: Abuse scandals, particularly in relation to children, have rocked the Church, leaving it open to the charge of hypocrisy.
- Science & God: Eminent and experienced scientists explain how and why they can have scientific credentials from the world’s leading universities, as well as having a Christian faith.
- Homosexuality: In this episode we look at the Biblical view on homosexuality and what is the Christian response in the current social environment.
- The Church: There is a public perception that the Christian Church is dying. We talk with leaders who are seeing the Church grow and they give their perspective on the future of the Church.
- Towards Belief: In the end, there is still a step of faith to be taken. This episode looks back over the personal stories of some of the guests and seeks to clarify that choice.
For a more in-depth outline of each episode, drill down on each from this page.
Thinking Matters Involvement
This series will become a long term strategic resource for Thinking Matters as we seek to equip the New Zealand Church with accessible and high quality training to help us make a sincere and clear defence for the Christian worldview.
We envision the resource being used in several ways:
Community Outreach Events
We would like to see churches promoting screenings of the series throughout their communities – to see people becoming more open to the Gospel through them.
Do you want to run an event at your church for your community? Talk to us for help and advice with promotion.
Home Groups / Small Groups
We would like to see Church leadership and discipleship programs promote this resource within churches for use in home-groups and small-group discipleship.
Do you have a home-group who might be interested in viewing this? Talk to us for advice.
Curriculum Development & Christian Schools
We would like to see individual episodes being used as components in wider curriculum and training programs in apologetics and worldview subjects at theological colleges and Christian schools.
Are you associated with training, a tertiary institute or a Christian school? Review individual episodes here for suitability of use within your curriculum.
You can purchase the full set for $59.95 (free freight) from Life Resources in Christchurch, or rent or buy for download individual episodes directly from the Towards Belief website here.
The full DVD set also comes with an 80-page Discussion Guide – and key quotes for each episode can also be downloaded from here.
One of the most frustrating things about new atheists is their use of slogans, rather than arguments, to convince people to listen to them. This book comprehensively shows how their position is not reasonable and rational simply because they say so. Nor can they make Christianity irrational by fiat.
True Reason starts by documenting some of the major arguments used by new atheists like Dawkins and Harris, and assesses them for the qualities new atheism claims to embody: reason, logic, rationality, scientific investigation and so on. This is an inspired way to open the book. It is humorous, because it hold Dawkins’ and Harris’ own arguments (even their own words) up to the bar they themselves have set, and shows how comically short they fall; but it is also serious, because from the very outset it leaves no room for doubt that the image of intelligent, carefully-researched opposition to religion which they project is a pure sham.
Subsequent chapters step us progressively through the various ways in which metaphysical naturalism—the foundational assumption of new atheism—undermines itself; before moving us into various new atheist critiques of Christianity itself, to show how and why these fail, and what the truth of the matter actually is. Each chapter is an essay by an individual apologist, and each is strong in its own right—however, because they are separate papers arranged topically, occasionally I felt like the book meandered a little and repeated itself unnecessarily. This is not a serious drawback, especially if you just want to brush up on one or two topics instead of reading it beginning to end; but it’s worth mentioning for people who are looking for something more systematic.
Perhaps because I like systematic approaches so much, David Wood’s chapter on the explanatory emptiness of naturalism (chapter 8) particularly stood out to me. I found it noteworthy because it dissects all of the ways in which naturalism fails to justify the scientific enterprise itself, starting with the existence of the universe, and moving very logically all the way through to the existence of consciousness. It was an excellent summary of the major arguments against naturalism, and lucidly demonstrated the staggering cumulative case new atheists have to overcome to even lay any claim on rationality whatsoever (let alone gain a monopoly!)
However, the whole book is a powerful summary of the major arguments against the new atheist worldview; the major ways in which they misrepresent or falsely attack Christianity; and several of the more powerful arguments for the truth of the Christian worldview. It is an excellent book for Christians who are new to apologetics and want a single primer that will offer well-rounded instruction on all the issues they’re likely to face against atheists. But it will be equally helpful to experienced apologists who want a quick-reference manual to keep on hand for future debates. Although I would not strictly endorse everything in it (for instance, I think Matt Flannagan overstates the case against taking the extermination of the Canaanites literally), it is an exceptional resource for understanding how irrational and implausible new atheism is compared to Christianity.
Cross-posted from my blog.
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