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.

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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.

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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.)

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The Morality of the New Atheism

When it comes to ethical theory, the apologists for the New Atheism are utilitarians almost to a man, if not actually to a man. They endorse some version of the “principle of utility”: what is morally right is what results in the greatest happiness for the greatest number of people.

So what makes people happy? As it turns out, studies consistently show a correlation between religiosity and happiness. (Go here for one recent example.) Religious people typically enjoy happier, more contented, more satisfying lives than non-religious people in comparable circumstances. Yet the New Atheists, by publishing books scathingly critical of religion, are attempting (one assumes) to persuade people to abandon religion. So if the aforementioned studies are reliable, the polemics of the New Atheists — if successful — will most likely reduce the net happiness of the human race. Thus, according to their own ethical theory, they are morally wrong to write and publish their anti-religion tracts.

One might reply that the New Atheists write against religion because they’re firmly convinced that religious beliefs are false, and it’s more important to believe what is true than to believe what makes one happy. This is surely correct, but we should note that this response constitutes a de facto rejection of utilitarian ethics. According to the principle of utility, what’s morally right depends only on what makes us happy, and that principle must apply to our beliefs just as it does to any other aspect of our lives. If certain beliefs increase overall human happiness then we should act so as to promote those beliefs, regardless of whether they happen to be true or false. Rather than opposing what they deride as religious mythology, the New Atheists ought to follow Plato in championing the “noble lie”.

Another possible response would be to argue that although the beliefs of religious folk may well make them happier, those same beliefs make life miserable for everyone else (not least the New Atheists). But as we all know, the non-religious constitute a minority of the world population. Wouldn’t it be morally preferable, on utilitarian principles, for this minority to suffer some relatively minor irritations for the sake of the happiness of the majority? Whatever historical atrocities committed by religious fanatics one might drag up at this point, it would be hard to make a credible case that the total unhappiness represented by these outlying cases outweighs the total happiness enjoyed by the vast number of religious believers in the world as a consequence of their religious convictions. We might also note that the prime targets of religious extremists are usually adherents of other religious traditions, not atheists and agnostics. (The prime targets of secularist extremists, on the other hand, are invariably religious believers, as 20th-century history and current world affairs illustrate only too well.)

So the problem remains. By their own moral lights, wouldn’t the New Atheists do better to suffer in silence?

In fact, they could do even better than that: they could get themselves some religion. Who knows? We might even see them crack a smile or two.

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Love the Lord with Heart and Mind

Last year, Steve Hays and I put together an e-book of interviews with a number of Christian scholars about how they came to faith in Christ and how they deal with various intellectual challenges to the Christian faith. (The project was Steve’s brainchild and he flattered me into assisting him by inviting me to contribute to it; I agreed on condition that he also answer his own questions!) Anyway, we’ve just uploaded a revised edition of the book. This version adds answers recently received from Craig Keener.

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Responses to The God Delusion

A friend who teaches philosophy emailed me this week and asked whether I’d be interested in collaborating on a book-length, point-by-point response to The God Delusion. He thinks (as I do) that Dawkins’ case against theism is philosophically inept, but he wondered whether a response would be worthwhile because (i) The God Delusion is a New York Times bestseller and (ii) one of his colleagues had expressed concern over several reports of people “losing their faith” after reading the book.

In reply, I told him that while it would be a fun project, in terms of impact it probably wouldn’t add anything to the numerous critical reviews and other responses already available. In any case, these reports of people being ‘deconverted’ by The God Delusion arguably tell us more about those people than about the impact of this one book. Call me cynical, but my suspicion is that most of these were deconversions waiting to happen. Dawkins’ book was merely the final rhetorical shove over the precipice.

I suppose what surprises me most about these Dawkins-destroyed-my-faith stories is that in this day and age it takes practically no effort — at most, a few minutes with a good search engine — to turn up several scholarly responses to The God Delusion (reviews, articles, books, etc.) that should at least give a rational person significant pause before ordering his certificate of debaptism. However, I was also surprised to discover (after a few minutes with a good search engine) that no one has yet gathered links to these responses together in one place.

This post is designed to fill that gap. Consider it a one-stop shop for all your Dawkins-defusing needs. If you know of any (respectable) responses not listed below, please let me know and I’ll considering adding them.

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Documentary Proof of the Divine Authorship of the Bible

Uncovered today in a dusty packing box, an archaeological find that must surely rival the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls in its implications for biblical scholarship:

A Reader's Hebrew Bible (front)

Reader's Hebrew Bible (back)

Note the authentic surname-comma-first-name format used to indicate the author of the text (a standard convention during the period documents such as these were produced).

Apologetic arguments for the divine inspiration of Scripture will never be the same again.

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How Would a Spiritual Resurrection Play in Athens?

Critics of orthodox Christianity sometimes argue that the apostle Paul (perhaps with many other early Christians) didn’t believe in a physical, bodily resurrection of Jesus, but held instead to a “spiritual” resurrection. (Richard Carrier and Antony Flew would be two prominent examples of such critics.) This “spiritual” resurrection would have been understood not as a disembodied persistence of Jesus’ immaterial soul, but rather as the post-crucifixion Jesus receiving a brand new, ethereal, super-powered body that transcended physical limitations. Whatever this view involves, at a minimum it has to be compatible with the suggestion that Jesus’ corpse remained buried and eventually decomposed. The cash-value of such a claim is obvious enough: if one of the most significant figures in the early Church didn’t believe that Jesus was raised bodily from the grave, then modern believers in a physical resurrection are barking up the wrong tree entirely. Furthermore, one of the central planks in the traditional evidentialist case for orthodox Christianity is undermined.

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Faith’s Reasons for Believing

The following is the unexpurgated version of a review of Robert L. Reymond’s Faith’s Reasons for Believing (Mentor/Christian Focus, 2008) published in Themelios 33:2 (September 2008). (The published version had to be trimmed to around 1000 words.)

Question: What do you get if you cross Gordon Clark’s apologetic with Cornelius Van Til’s apologetic and sprinkle it liberally (so to speak) with J. Gresham Machen’s historical evidences? Answer: Something like the case for the Christian faith recommended by Robert Reymond in Faith’s Reasons for Believing.

The subtitle gives a fair impression of its purpose and tone: “An Apologetic Antidote to Mindless Christianity (and to Thoughtless Atheism)”. Reymond’s goal is to counter not only the attacks of “militant atheists” like Richard Dawkins and Sam Harris, but also the “mindless Christianity” of believers who are unable or unwilling to offer any reasons for the faith they profess.

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