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Why Should I Believe Christianity?

Good question! I offer my answer, over eight chapters and a couple of hundred pages, in the second volume of the recently launched Christian Focus series, The Big Ten: Critical Questions Answered. The new book — ingeniously titled Why Should I Believe Christianity? — is basically an introductory exposition and defense of the biblical Christian worldview, but with some distinctive features (on which, see below). In this post, I’ll summarize the content of the book for anyone who might be interested to read it or give it to a non-Christian friend.

Why Should I Believe Christianity?Chapter 1 (“Why Believe?”) considers the general question, Why should I believe anything at all? Simply put: we should believe something if it’s true, and we generally determine whether something is true by way of reasons (which can take different forms). We should aim to have beliefs that are objectively true, rather than beliefs that are (say) comfortable, desirable, or fashionable. The chapter also briefly addresses the epistemological cul-de-sacs of relativism and skepticism.

Chapter 2 (“The Big Picture”) seeks to explain why Christianity should be evaluated as an entire worldview: as a comprehensive, integrated, self-contained, self-defining perspective on everything that exists and matters to us. I explain what a worldview is, why worldviews matter, why only one worldview can be true, and how we can apply four ‘tests’ for evaluating worldviews in order to identify that one true worldview.

Chapter 3 (“Christianity as a Worldview”) sets out a summary of the Christian worldview along familiar lines: God, creation, mankind, fall, revelation, salvation, and consummation (“the final chapter”). One of my aims here is to explain the biblical worldview in ‘ordinary’ language (as far as that’s possible!) and in a way that communicates the internal coherence of that worldview.

Chapter 4 (“God is There”) makes a case for the central tenet of the Christian worldview — the existence of the personal creator God of the Bible — based on six features of our everyday lives that we all take for granted: existence, values, morality, reason, mind, and science. I also suggest that while God’s existence can be demonstrated through reasoned arguments, such arguments aren’t necessary in order to know that God exists, because his existence is plainly evident from his creation (Romans 1:19-20).

Chapter 5 (“God is Not Silent”) contends that if a personal creator God exists then he would speak to us, and that God has in fact spoken to us through the prophetic scriptures of the Old and New Testaments. (You’ll have to get the book to find out how I make that argument!) Along the way I explain why, when it comes to divinely inspired scriptures, we should favor the Christian view over the alternative views of Judaism and Islam. I close out the chapter with an appeal to the ‘expert’ testimony of Jesus.

Chapter 6 (“God With Us”) focuses on the true identity of Jesus. Here I make a fairly traditional case for the deity of Christ, appealing primarily to his own testimony and that of his disciples, but also drawing on other confirming evidences. One feature of the argument is that it connects the incarnation with the other tenets of a Christian worldview, highlighting again its inner coherence. The chapter finishes by addressing a common objection, namely, that a divine incarnation is logically impossible and therefore can be dismissed regardless of the supposed evidence.

Chapter 7 (“Defying Death”) explains why Christians believe in the resurrection of Christ and how that essential article of the Christian faith fits into the broader biblical worldview. After dealing with some common objections to miracles, I argue that it’s reasonable to believe in the resurrection and unreasonable to accept any of the various naturalistic alternatives.

Chapter 8 (“What Now?”) ties together the various threads of argument in the preceding chapters and leaves the unbeliever with a challenge: If not Christianity, then what? There must be some worldview that corresponds to reality and makes sense of our experiences of the world. If it isn’t the Christian worldview, which worldview is it? There’s certainly a fence between Christianity and its competitors, but it isn’t one you can sit on.

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Does Christianity Really Work?

The novelty of the New Atheism lies not in the originality or rigor of its arguments against God and religion, but in the moral indignation of its advocates. Religious beliefs in general, and Christian doctrines in particular, are criticized not merely as false and irrational but as immoral and harmful. Richard Dawkins once characterized Roman Catholicism as “a disease of the mind which has a particular epidemiology similar to that of a virus.” Sam Harris has on numerous occasions expressed his concern that “fundamentalist Christianity” is hindering scientific and moral progress (which, in his mind, are much the same thing). The late Christopher Hitchens famously opined, with characteristic hyperbole, that “religion poisons everything.”

Does Christianity Really Work?William Edgar begs to differ. In his latest book Does Christianity Really Work? (the first volume in the new Christian Focus apologetics series The Big Ten) Edgar argues that the teachings and practices of biblical Christianity have been an undeniable force for good in the world, despite the serious failings of those who have professed to be followers of Christ. Furthermore, the Christian faith offers the moral and spiritual resources to overcome every trial and temptation that the world can throw at us. Edgar highlights the significant role Christianity has played in peace-making efforts around the world, in social reform through the centuries, and in the development and provision of health care. He also reflects with pastoral wisdom on more ‘existential’ issues: the quandary of unanswered prayer, the problem of those who “fall away” from the faith, and the challenges presented by “besetting sins” such as pornography use and drug addiction.

Christianity may tell a great story and make big promises, but can it actually deliver the goods in practice? Does it really work? While honest about the failures of the Christian church and the realities of life in a broken world, Edgar’s book nevertheless offers a persuasive answer in the affirmative.

Endorsements

Dr. Edgar offers to all a Christianity of logic, truth and transcendence—an ultimate balm that will both heal and protect against the harsh realities of life. He does not hesitate to confront the difficult questions that challenge our faith in times of doubt while also giving his readers a vision of a society transformed by Christian leadership. — Al Sikes, Former Chairman, FCC, and author of Culture Leads Leaders Follow

From now on, when skeptics ask, ‘Where in the world has Christianity done any good,’ we have a powerful and convincing reply in my friend, William Edgar’s newest book. Bill debunks myths and blows the dust off of little known historical facts about the impact of the Gospel in a hurting world, giving the reader a solid grasp on the positive influence of Christian principles during the darkest of times. Best of all, Does Christianity Really Work? is a guide to us as we promote
peace, joy, and justice in our broken world. For our times and all times, I highly recommend this remarkable book. — Joni Eareckson Tada, Joni and Friends International Disability Center

William Edgar addresses one of the main questions that sceptics and seekers have about Christianity—does it actually work? Looking at some issues from a positive perspective (the good that Christianity has done, and continues to do) and others from a negative (the alleged harm it is supposed to have brought), Edgar gives reasoned, evidenced and clear answers. This is a good primer for the seeker or the sceptic. — David Robertson, Pastor, St Peter’s Free Church of Scotland, Dundee, and Trustee of SOLAS, Centre for Public Christianity

The Big Ten: Critical Questions Answered

I’m delighted to announce the launch of a new apologetics series from Christian Focus Publications entitled The Big Ten: Critical Questions Answered. The goal of the series is to offer credible answers to some of the most pressing questions asked by skeptics and other non-Christians in the Western world. As the series title indicates, there are ten books planned in total, each addressing a different question. The series is being co-edited by yours truly and Greg Welty, associate professor of philosophy at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. (On a personal note, it’s a privilege to work on this project with Dr. Welty, who is not only an outstanding Christian scholar but also a dear friend.)

The books are pitched at educated, thoughtful laypersons, providing answers to the title questions that are both intellectually robust and theologically orthodox, while avoiding (where possible) Christian jargon and technical philosophical discussions. Written in a conversational style, the books are addressed to unbelievers but will also prove (we hope) to be a useful and edifying resource for believers. Indeed, our desire is that Christians will read them and think, “These would be perfect to give to my non-Christian friends and colleagues who are asking those very questions.”

The first two books in the series have just been released: Does Christianity Really Work? by William Edgar, and my own contribution, Why Should I Believe Christianity? I plan to post separately about these two volumes over the next few days.

Our goal moving forward is to see two books published each year (although the usual caveats about “the best laid plans” apply here as they do anywhere else!).

Here are ten titles in the series, with the contracted authors:

  • Does Christianity Really Work? (William Edgar)
  • Why Should I Believe Christianity? (James N. Anderson)
  • Why Is There Evil in the World (And So Much of It)? (Greg Welty)
  • Hasn’t Science Shown That We Don’t Need God? (Alistair Donald)
  • Is There Really Only One Way to God? (Daniel Strange)
  • Why Do I Personally Experience Evil and Suffering? (Mark Talbot)
  • Why Does the God of the Old Testament Seem So Violent and Hateful? (Richard P. Belcher, Jr.)
  • Why Should I Trust the Bible? (TBD)
  • How Could a Loving God Send Anyone to Hell? (TBD)
  • If Christianity Is So Good, Why Are Christians So Bad? (TBD)

Our hope and prayer is that Christ will be glorified and his kingdom extended through this series of apologetics resources.

What’s Your Worldview?

I’m pleased to announce that my new book What’s Your Worldview? is now available in paperback (from Amazon or direct from Crossway) and also in Kindle format. Here’s the publisher’s description:

How Do You View the World?What's Your Worldview?

It’s a big question. And how you answer is one of the most important things about you.

Not sure what you’d say? Join James Anderson on an interactive journey of discovery aimed at helping you understand and evaluate the options when it comes to identifying your worldview. Cast in the mold of a classic “Choose Your Own Adventure” story, What’s Your Worldview? will guide you toward finding intellectually satisfying answers to life’s biggest questions—equipping you to think carefully about not only what you believe but why you believe it and how it impacts the rest of your life.

Mike Kruger had some very kind things to say about it on his blog.

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Geerhardus Vos’ Reformed Dogmatics

Most readers of this blog will know that I’m a big fan of the brilliant Reformed apologist Cornelius Van Til. (Proof: I drink coffee out of one of these.) Most readers of Van Til will know that he was a big fan of the brilliant Reformed biblical theologian Geerhardus Vos, who was one of his professors at Princeton Seminary. Van Til described Vos as “the greatest pedagogue I ever sat under.”

I’m not sure whether the big-fan-of relation is transitive, but it seems more than fitting to pass on word from Phil Gons that Logos are planning a full English translation of Vos’ Gereformeerde Dogmatiek. However, the project is contingent on there being sufficient interest. Go here for more information, including how to pre-order at a locked-in low price.

Interview with Christ the Center

I was recently interviewed for the Christ the Center program by the good folk at Reformed Forum, and they’ve just posted the audio on their website. I’ve enjoyed and benefited from listening to a number of their podcasts over the last couple of years, so I was honored to be invited to contribute to one of them. Among other things we discussed presuppositional apologetics, John Frame’s perspectivalism, and my book on theological paradox.

The Infidel Delusion

My friends over at Triablogue have written a 250-page response to The Christian Delusion (which they’ve naturally entitled The Infidel Delusion). I’ve only had time to scan through it today, but it looks to be a pretty devastating rebuttal of a book praised by atheist philosopher Michael Martin as “arguably the best critique of the Christian faith the world has ever known” (a commendation I won’t contest).

The Christian Delusion purports to do to Christianity what The God Delusion did to theism. Well, if that was the ambition, apparently it’s a stunning success — but not in quite the way its authors think. It makes a lot of noise and kicks up a lot of dust, but once it’s spent the Christian worldview has nary a scratch. In fact, the contest between Team Loftus and Team Hays rather reminds me of the following classic scene from Raiders of the Lost Ark:

Anyway, I commend The Infidel Delusion to you, dear reader, and you can make your own evaluation. It will make for an informative and entertaining read, and unlike the book it rebuts, The Infidel Delusion won’t cost you a penny.

Presuppositionalism and Frame’s Epistemology

P&R Publishing have kindly granted me permission to make available on my website the essay I contributed to the festschrift in honor of John Frame: “Presuppositionalism and Frame’s Epistemology,” in Speaking the Truth in Love: The Theology of John M. Frame, ed. John J. Hughes (P&R, 2009), 431-459.

The essay didn’t turn out quite the way I’d hoped — you know how ideas always seem better in your head before they make it onto paper — but after looking over it again I’ve concluded it’s not as bad as I thought when I submitted it! It’s basically a defense of Frame’s epistemology and presuppositionalism, with some concrete apologetic application.

Anyway, the festschrift is packed full of insightful and stimulating material, both from Dr. Frame and from the other 36 (count ’em) contributors. If you don’t have a copy, get one. P&R Publishing have generously offered a 50% discount (yes, really) on the price of the book for any readers of this blog who order before March 31, either via their website or by telephone (1-800-631-0094), and use the discount code ANATH. (If you post this info elsewhere, please link back to here.)

Three Christmas Mysteries

Ministry & Leadership (formerly Reformed Quarterly) is the very nicely produced quarterly magazine of Reformed Theological Seminary. Some readers of this blog — perhaps even both of you — may be interested to know I contributed a short article entitled “Three Christmas Mysteries” to the Winter 2009 issue.

Ministry & Leadership gives a great overview of the mission and ministry of RTS. If you can see the value of the seminary’s work in training and equipping people for Bible-based gospel ministry, please consider making an online gift to support that work.

How to Write a Theological Paper

John Frame and P&R Publishing have kindly granted me permission to post Professor Frame’s ‘How to Write a Theological Paper’ on my website. This short article appears as Appendix F in The Doctrine of the Knowledge of God (P&R, 1987). It should be required reading for every seminary student!

The article makes a few references to other sections of DKG, and is best read in the context of the whole book, but it can still be read as a standalone article to great profit.