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Come Reason's Apologetics Notes blog will highlight various news stories or current events and seek to explore them from a thoughtful Christian perspective. Less formal and shorter than the www.comereason.org Web site articles, we hope to give readers points to reflect on concerning topics of the day.
Monday, October 15, 2018
Click below to watch the entire interview. You can get your copy of the book at Amazon here.
Monday, January 08, 2018
One of the first popular apologetics books released was Josh McDowell's Evidence That Demands a Verdict in 1972. But much has changed in the forty-five years since that initial publishing. Now, Sean McDowell has partnered with his father to release a completely updated and revised Evidence for the 21st century. In this interview, Lenny and Sean discuss how the new content and contributions from dozens of the latest scholars make this a new staple in apologetics reference books for years to come.
Tuesday, May 16, 2017
It should be no secret science plays an inordinately large role on modern culture. As I've noted before, scientific advancements have allowed human beings banish diseases that were once fatal, create new materials in the lab that outrival nature, and generally control and command their world in ways that had heretofore been thought impossible. In short, the last 150 years of scientific discovery have changed everything about how humans live and interact with their world.
Because of these great successes, societal attitudes toward science have become distorted. People place science on a pedestal, believing that if a claim is scientific, it will be unbiased and more reliable than other forms of knowledge. Science and faith are seen as foes and atheists will challenge Christians, claiming scientific facts are incrementally undermining Christian beliefs.
In reality the war between Christianity and science is a myth and the recently released Dictionary of Christianity and Science goes a long way toward helping to dispel that myth as the fraud it is. General Editors Paul Copan, Tremper Longman III, Christopher L. Reese, and Michael G. Strauss have assembled a strong collection of writings covering a wide range of topics in what would more properly be understood as a cyclopedic volume instead of a dictionary. With over 140 top scholars writing on over 450 topics, the Dictionary serves as an excellent starting point to research various topics that most Christians will face when researching or discussing these issues.
Given the breadth of the subject matter, the articles could have all been relegated to short introductory overviews and a list of additional resources at the end of each entry. But the editors wisely chose to have three different types of articles appear in the Dictionary. For the less controversial and more agreed upon topics (such as key historical figures in science or specific terms like emrpicism), an introductory article is all that's warranted. But for other entries they chose to include longer articles labeled essays that give more background, competing views, and the evidence they rely upon. The entry on "The Genesis Flood and Geology" is an example of one such essay.
Finally, there are the multiple-view discussions where different scholars who take up contrary positions are each allowed an extended article within the same entry. For example, of one were to look up the state of creationism, the user would be greeted with an introductory article on the concept of creation, an article entitled "Creation, Intelligent Design and the Courts," and four essays on creationism: one critical and one supportive of old-earth creationism and one critical and one supportive of young-earth creationism.
I'm really impressed with the level of scholarship and the wide range of topics that have been compiled in the volume. The editors included key figures like Thomas Kuhn and philosophical concepts like Inference to the Best Explanation that are not well-known outside the study of the philosophy of science. Further, articles on people like Galileo Galilei seek to strip the legendary tales of his scientific advancement and show why it would be incorrect to see his conflict with the College of Cardinals as a case of science versus religion.
There are a few drawbacks to the book. First, there is no table of contents or topical index. I suspect that is because it is marketed as a dictionary and as such will have its entries placed in alphabetical order. However, if someone looks up the aforementioned creation entry, he would be missing several other articles that focus on the topic, with multiple-view entries on the flood and on the Genesis account in the F and G areas respectively. One would then have to turn to the I section in order to read the Intelligent Design entry. And if someone doesn't know who Thomas Kuhn is and why his work is so important, it may be easy to miss this entry.
Secondly, while it cannot be avoided, the book is a product of this particular time. The articles that have the most information are those that are the most debated right now. In ten years, this volume will suffer from its age as some debates will change, others may be settled, and new discoveries will make several of the entries obsolete. I would hope an accompanying online site would be able to provide some kind of resource direction until the inevitable updated volume will be released. But these are just quibbles in an otherwise excellent product.
I think every Christian family should have a copy of the Dictionary of Christianity and Science. Anyone who has sought to understand controversial issues on science and faith by searching on Google or looking up the topic on Wikipedia knows that getting solid information from top scholars is challenging to say the least. I've noted myself that any old fool with a modem and an opinion can post online or edit a Wikipedia entry. The Dictionary of Christianity and Science gives the Christian a strong place to start in his or her understanding of how their faith does not contradict modern scientific advancement as well as to get a deeper understanding of what science actually is and where the state of the debates lie.
Wednesday, November 02, 2016
It has become more and more obvious that Christians need to be able to answer questions about their beliefs. Students face challenges to the faith everywhere. Apologetics ministries like Come Reason have been busy training students and congregations on just how to answer objections to Christianity in a smart yet understandable way, leading to an explosion of apologetics content for the believer. It's one reason why Lee Strobel characterized today as a "golden era of apologetics."
Not only are apologetics materials increasing, so is their level of sophistication. This means most are targeted for adult or young adult audiences. But it isn't only the adults that need to defend their faith! I've received many requests from parents looking to find quality apologetics materials for their younger children. That's why I'm excited at the release of J. Warner Wallace's new book Cold Case Christianity for Kids: Investigate Jesus with a Real Detective.
In Wallace's first book, Cold Case Christianity, he drew upon his many years as a detective to demonstrate why believing in the resurrection is the most reasonable position one can take when looking at the evidence. The combination of personal anecdotes on past crime scenes with a clear argument for the truth of the resurrection made that book a best seller. This version has the basics of that book rewritten in a form young people can better understand. This includes simplifying the arguments a bit and creating a "mystery" the main characters in the book work on solving. I would place the reading level at 7th or 8th grade level, though with a bit of help, younger audiences would enjoy it, too.
There are many things to like about the book. The writing is clear and simple. The addition of characters and the puzzle of the skateboard offer continuity from chapter to chapter. There are more illustrations, definitions, and assignments so the book can be used as a homeschool text or in a family study. Further, Wallace has additional materials, including worksheets and videos for each chapter at the book's accompanying web site.
As for criticisms, the first is the material moves fast—really fast. If one were to give this to a seventh grader and asked him or her to simply read it, the student would be faced with terms such as "naturalism", "inference," and "abductive reasoning." Each term is defined in a side bar, but the student must understand the concepts behind the terms well for the arguments to be effective. I'm sure some of this was to keep the book short for modern attention spans while still offering the same solid reasoning that gives the adult's version its power. I think it's laudable to not dumb down the arguments, but a few of them may be difficult for kids to grasp without some help. It may be a quibble since I don't believe talking down to kids is the right way to go. Just know up front that your child may have some questions for you as she reads it!
In all, we need more works like this. There are very few resources Christian parents can draw upon to help build their children's faith and show the reasons for why we believe what we believe. Cold Case Christianity for Kids is an important addition to the Christian parents' arsenal. Clear, well-written, and smart, with a detective story to boot, it does an excellent job presenting Christianity as an intelligent belief.
Monday, February 01, 2016
Since Christianity's inception, it has been common for Christian faith-defenders to offer evidence supporting their belief in the risen Jesus. From Paul's testimony in 1 Corinthians 15, the claim of eyewitnesses to support the resurrection of Christ has been integral to Christianity. Many people point to the fact that Jesus's apostles died without ever recanting their belief in him as evidence of the truthfulness of their testimony.
But is this as strong a piece of evidence as we've been led to believe? How do we know the apostles were actually martyred, and does dying for one's faith prove anything other than loyalty to a belief system? These are the questions Dr. Sean McDowell takes up in his new book The Fate of the Apostles: Examining the Martyrdom Accounts of the Closest Followers of Jesus (Ashgate, 2015). In The Fate of the Apostles, McDowell traces the historical evidence for the deaths of each of the Twelve and offers an objective rubric for weighing the probability of their martyrdoms.
Clarifying What They Died ForMartyrdom is a heady concept. Across the theological spectrum, there are many people who give up their comfort for their beliefs. There are fewer who may subject themselves to pain or abuse because of their faith, and fewer still who die for a religious belief. But all religious traditions can probably point to someone who qualifies as a martyr for their particular faith. So, how to approach the apostles' martyrdom, if they truly were martyred, encompasses the first four chapters of the book. McDowell keenly clarifies his goal is not to show the apostles were steadfast unto death not simply in their refusal to give up Christianity, but they very specifically refused to deny seeing the risen Christ.
This is a key point and one that must be emphasized again and again to detractors who would liken the apostles' fate to suicide bombers or some other modern contrivance. There would be a difference between sincerely holding to the faith in which one was raised and groomed versus the threat of death for testifying you've seen an executed enemy of your childhood faith (and Rome) walking around. McDowell makes the point right off in his book by underscoring the distinction:
The deaths of others for their religious causes in no way undermines the evidential significance of the fate of the apostles. Second, the apostles' willingness to die for their beliefs does not demonstrate the inherent truth of the Christian message, but that the apostles really believed that Jesus had risen from the grave. The apostles could have been mistaken, but their willingness to die as martyrs establishes their unmistakable sincerity.1
Outlining the Fate of Each ApostleIn the book, McDowell spends the first four chapters outlining the nature and understanding of what martyrdom is, how it would have been understood to the first generation of Christians, and how it would fit within their newly forming belief system. He then devotes a chapter to each of the apostles, including Paul and Jesus's brother James. As would be expected, the historical evidence shrinks when lesser-known apostles such as Simon the Zealot or Matthias are considered. Still, McDowell does a great job showing that even with some apostles' fate in question, there is ample evidence of apostles who did in fact die for their testimony of the risen Jesus and there exists not a shred of evidence that any apostle recanted their belief. Given each would have been considered an eyewitness testifying on first-hand knowledge, this is impressive and does the heavy lifting in setting up the historical bedrock that the disciples did have some kind of experience that needs explaining.
ReadabilityWhile the book is written and priced for an academic audience (Amazon is offering the hardback at a pricey $118), McDowell's style is open and easily enough read to be handled by a sophisticated high school student. The footnotes throughout offer good support for his claims within the text and his openings and conclusions of each chapter gives the reader a nice, concise guide to the evidence more fully developed between them.
The Fate of the Apostles takes on a historical question that no one else to my knowledge has done in such a complete manner. McDowell has truly done us a favor in his research and publishing, investigating claims that were assumed but not demonstrated in a systematic way. We now have a go-to source that should advance the discussion for the evidence of the resurrection. For anyone interested in church history, apologetics, or the origin of Christianity, I highly recommend this book.
Thursday, August 13, 2015
Every homicide case begins as a simple death investigation. When a dead body is discovered, detectives must investigate the evidence to determine the most reasonable explanation. Did the body die naturally? Did he suffer some kind of accident? Did he commit suicide? Was he murdered? These are the four possible explanations at any death scene. Homicide detectives are concerned with only the last one.Wallace then notes that while the first three explanations require no other actor, evidence for murder means that the victim's death cannot be explained by only what investigators find "inside the room." Another actor must be involved.
Using this analogy, Wallace has once again written a highly engaging yet informative apologetics book demonstrating the reasonableness of God's existence. Like his previous Cold Case Christianity (reviewed here), each chapter opens with an anecdote of a homicide investigation and sets the stage for the concepts of the chapter. This format makes what could be somewhat difficult concepts, such as the attributes of consciousness and how they differ from materialism, much easier to digest. The liberal use of illustration (drawn by Wallace himself) and sidebars also coalesce the important information for easy digestion.
In building the case for God's existence, God's Crime Scene tackles many of the standard arguments including the fine-tuning of the universe, the origin of life, the reality of moral values and duties, the emergence of consciousness, and even the problem of evil. Each chapter offers seven or eight separate arguments or "lines of evidence" that point to that chapter's topic and each ends with the question of whether the evidence indicates there was someone "outside the room."
The nice thing here is Wallace approaches the existence of God as a cumulative case instead of assuming God first. This is not only a more reasonable way to approach the question of God's existence, but it has the added advantage of forcing the atheist to explain all of the facts as an integrated whole instead of piece by piece.
While most of the objections that one would hear from skeptics don't appear in the chapter itself, there is a "secondary investigations" section at the end of the book that voices the most common objections to each evidentiary point and briefly answers them. This allows the reader to have at least an idea that the objection is known, an answer exists, and gives him a direction where he can continue his own research in that direction.
The book is a great primer on arguments for the existence of God. Wallace's writing style is easy and the book could be understood in a high school or junior high Sunday school class. Instead of miring his arguments down in too much detail, Wallace relies on his "expert witnesses" to do that heavy lifting for him and simply explains their conclusions. For specifics, one much dig further into the bibliography that he has compiled chapter by chapter.
God's Crime Scene is a wonderful addition to any Christian's library. It should be read by all believers to understand the basic arguments for God's existence and why belief in God is inherently reasonable. It is persuasive for seekers and non-believers open minded enough to weigh the evidence on their own merits. It is a convicting case.
Friday, July 24, 2015
Apologetics is a Christian discipline that has come into its own over the last 30 years or so with an abundance of books already published outlining the major arguments for topics like God's existence and the historicity of the Resurrection. But in Relational Apologetics, Sherrard takes a different approach. Relational Apologetics is more focused on the method of communicating apologetics as opposed to being a compilation of arguments. (Disclaimer: I was sent the book to review but with total freedom as to the review's positive or negative tone.)
Sherrard opens the book by explaining the important role apologetics plays today. Most people are so unfamiliar with the basic concepts of truth that Christian evangelism strikes them as a foreign language. Thus, apologetics is as crucial in our evangelism efforts as being able to speak a foreign language is to overseas missionaries. It's this concern for how the Christian message is received that makes the book shine.
The book is broken into four main sections. The first, Who You Are, coaches the reader on his own character and attitude, counseling "when your lifestyle is holy, evangelism is much less awkward. It starts happening naturally" (p.30). The second section, What You Do, targets the actual interaction with others, emphasizing listening and asking questions as ways to deescalate confrontational engagements ad foster true discussion.
What You Know, the third section provides a brief outline of some of the topo objections;/questions believers will face from non-believers. While this is the most apologetic portion of the book, it isn't in-depth but uses the questions more as examples to show how to carry a conversation. The last section, Where You Go, encourages the Christian to step out of his or her comfort zone and engage others wherever they may be found. Helpfully, Sherrard includes two areas, the home and the church, that are not normally mentioned but are traditionally weak in apologetic instruction.
The reservations I have with the book are few. First, because of its introductory goal, the chapters are kept short. This limits Sherrard to give perhaps only one example of the point he's trying to develop instead of two or three different examples that the reader may face in real life. Similarly, the third section's outline of the arguments is pretty simple and the reader will need to supplement this book with some others. Sherrard did include a decent list of standard works in the back, but a list of web sites of popular apologetics organizations would have strengthened it more, too.
We are in what several apologists have referred to as the "golden age of apologetics."1 While great new apologetics arguments are being published all the time, there is a new type of book that has started to proliferate that focuses not on the argumentation, but on the communication and delivery. These books include Os Guinness' Fools Talk, Donald Johnson's How to Talk to a Skeptic, and Sean McDowell's upcoming A New Kind of Apologist. Relational Apologetics fits nicely in this group, showing the importance of not only what it is you say but how you say it in order for the message to get through. I recommend it, especially for youth groups and those who would like to know how to begin faith conversations without being flummoxed.
Reference1. See Lee Strobel's comment here or Os Guinness' comment here, both of which refer to this time as a golden age of apologetics.
Thursday, October 16, 2014
The book opens with a wonderful introduction addresses specifically to the Christian in the pew. Morrow sets the stage well as he notes that traditionally, pastors' sermons usually begin with the presupposition that the Bible is both accurate and authoritative. However, those concepts should not be so easily assumed, as the culture has become more and more secular, and therefore skeptical of those claims. In chapter one, Morrow next creates a broader foundation for his arguments by showing that faith may be built upon evidence, that the heroes of the Bible built their faith in just that way, and that we as modern Christians are also commanded to provide reasons for our own faith.
Once the foundation is established, Morrow moves into the question of the historicity of Jesus and the historical nature of the Gospels themselves. The former topic is key as the "Jesus as myth" movement many atheists propose seems to be gaining ground today, particularly via spurious Internet sources. Chapters 4 through 6 focus on the collection of texts that make up our New Testament, first showing that the Gospel accounts were chosen neither frivolously nor, as books like The Da Vinci Code would assert, to advance a certain political agenda. Morrow discusses the problem of forgeries that were identified and then shows why the biblical gospels cannot be considered forgeries themselves. H ends this section by showing why the modern New Testament text itself is a reliable copy of what the original authors wrote.
Once the biblical texts are confirmed accurate, the next question would be do they match with reality? While we may have the original texts, that doesn't mean they tell the truth or are giving us real knowledge. Morrow now answers these objections in the next three chapters, which deal with claims of Biblical contradictions, the claim that the Bible is unscientific, and the charge that the Bible is prejudiced or backwards compared to our modern morality. The last two chapters are reserved for issues focused on Christian application of the scriptures.
Overall, the book offers some really great tools to help the reader not only understand but implement the content. Chapters are short and the content is broken up by subheadings every page or two, creating bite-sized ideas that are easy to take in. There are not a lot of illustrations, however every chapter is summarized at its end with its "three big ideas", tips for how you can explain the main points of the chapter within a conversation, as well as a couple of resources that allows the student to dig deeper into that chapter's topic.
One key point is that there are three appendixes at the back of the books, which could really be three additional chapters. While not really fitting into the main scheme of questions that challenge the Bible's authority, they still touch on key issues that help establish the Bible as the authoritative word of God. While the writing style is conversational and friendly, each chapter is properly sourced, with the footnotes found at the back of the book.
As Morrow notes in his last appendix, today's youth are not taking the Bible as seriously as previous generations. Because of the growing secularization of the culture, the anti-institutional attitudes that pervade the younger generation, and the increasing onslaught of skeptics and atheists, Christian kids today have more confusion about the authority of Scripture than ever before. Questioning the Bible: 11 Major Challenges to the Bible's Authority goes a long way in quelling those doubts and reestablishing why trust in the Bible is a rational position to take. Morrow has given the church a gift in this book. I recommend it highly for youth groups, personal study, or simply general edification. You may be surprised—it could even answer questions you didn't know you had.
Wednesday, May 21, 2014
Murray lays out his goal in Grand Central Question early. Following Ravi Zacharias, he defines a worldview as an overarching belief system that must cogently answer the four questions of 1) Why do we exist, 2) Is there a purpose to human life, 3) What accounts for the human condition, and 4) Is there something better than what we now experience. These four questions make up Murray's rubric to weigh the three primary worldviews above and see how they compare to the Christian position.
He does a fine job of confronting secular humanism, providing many quotes and comments from leading proponents such as Dawkins, Singer, Hawking and others. He also pulls from the different Humanist Manifesto statements, which serve as the closest thing to humanism's scripture since Darwin's Origin of Species. Next, Murray turns his gaze eastward. While he talks about Eastern views such as Hinduism, Buddhism, and other pantheistic faiths, his primary focus is on the Western understanding of these belief systems, and thus he covers New Age spirituality and even Scientology in his critique. The last area, and the one most well-developed, is the section on Islam. This is natural as Murray is a former Muslim himself and he holds key insights into both the Muslim and Christian understanding of reality.
Murray's background is that of a lawyer, and it shows through in his exploration of idea as well as seeking out the motives of holding those ideas. The real power of the book, though, is not in the detached arguments for or against a position, but in Murray's emphasis on the human cost in holding to or changing one's belief. Even in the first chapter, he tells of visiting a Muslim man who may be dying, but while Christianity appealed to him, he was deeply concerned with losing his children and their respect. This is truly where apologetics meets evangelism. Sometimes, one can get caught up in all the arguments and counter-arguments and forget that there are real, flesh and blood human beings who will really suffer if they were to leave their current religion to follow Christ. Murray continues to remind us that even in the 21st century counting all things as loss for the sake of Christ can be very difficult, as the loss may be extreme.
The book is an easy read and not too long, weighing in at 244 pages plus notes. Murray's anecdotes and examples prove to be good illustrations of conversational apologetics in practice, giving his readers a more clear view of the different aspects sharing ones' faith make take. Murray provides comparison tables to counter some of the Muslim claims of biblical corruption or that Jesus taught something different than Paul. He also takes the last two chapters to make the concept of the trinity and the idea of Christ's incarnation accessible, especially to a Muslim mind.
In all, I think Grand Central Question is an important work. There is no debate that we live in a post-Christian society. That means our apologetics cannot begin with the Bible, but must begin further back at the level of primary assumptions on how the world works. Abdu Murray has done a great job of helping the reader lay that foundation in conversational contexts. I find it a fine addition to the thoughtful Christian's library.
Wednesday, July 10, 2013
Cold-Case Christianity is at once accessible; each chapter begins with an anecdote drawn from Wallace's 23 year law enforcement career, and then uses that example to show how one discerns the truth from the facts at hand. The chapters are short and only deal with one topic at a time, which is perfect for a 21st century audience more accustomed to Twitter than treaties. Each point is reinforced in a sidebar and the illustrations make it that much easier to grasp.
Wallace builds his case by using the first ten chapters explaining how rules of evidence work, then in the last half he turns his attention to the New Testament and applies these rules as strictly as he would to any homicide case. Not only are his results convincing, but the journey is fun, which is not an adjective normally used in describing apologetics books.
Because Wallace also holds a seminary degree and has served as a youth pastor, his application of the material hits all the right notes: there are no theological gaffaws. His apologetic approach is sound and he has familiarized himself with the leaders in the field to know how to put forth the most current and convincing arguments.
Cold-Case Christianity is simply a joy to read and it would be one of the first titles I would recommend to individuals or small groups who haven't had a lot of exposure to the arguments in defense of the Christian faith. I'd also suggest that seasoned defenders read the book so they can learn how to better communicate the truths of the Gospel in a compelling way. As the culture continues to make the false dichotomy of faith versus reason, this book stands to show how one can use reason and evidence to support one's faith.
The detective has found the evidence to show that each of us can be freed from the guilt of our sin. Why wouldn't you grab it?
Friday, February 01, 2013
Have you ever struggled in a conversation to make your Christian views known? Have you ever been tongue-tied when someone objects to belief in God because of the problem of evil or the exclusive claims of Christianity? Don’t be too hard on yourself. It can be difficult getting across all the aspects of a worldview as rich as Christianity, especially when you may not have had much training or practice.
However, there is a great book that can help you be an effective communicator when those providential opportunities to discuss your faith arise. The God Conversation, written by J.P. Moreland and Tim Muehlhoff, is a compact, easy to read collection of illustrations and stories that you can use to communicate the reasons for your faith in an effective way.
The authors note that illustrations are one of the prime ways important concepts have been passed on throughout history. It is the main method Jesus used in His teaching. And these stories remain memorable to both the sharer and the hearer.
The book has eleven chapters covering five major themes: the problem of evil, competing religious claims, the fact of the resurrection, morality and ethics, and the creation/evolution question. Each area looks at many of the common objections offered today and provides an illustration of why the Christian view makes sense. By using clear examples where most people would agree, the effectiveness of the stories is easily seen. But Moreland and Muhlhoff go beyond just the illustration as they provide the reader with extended discussion ideas and further develop the arguments.
I highly recommend The God Conversation, but not just for the evangelist or apologist. Facebook and social media today have made these kinds of interactions almost inevitable for every Christian who takes his or her faith seriously. By using stories such as these, you will find such engagements to be less contentious and more productive. And you may even learn a little bit more about your own faith in the process.
In Online Dialogs, Asking Questions is Crucial!
Top Ten Neglected books for Apologist
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