Sunday, June 22, 2008

Reasonable Faith

I just finished reading the book Reasonable Faith: Christian Truth and Apologetics written by William Lane Craig. It's not a particularly new work, the original copyright date was 1984 - it's been revised and updated a few times since then. Since my atheist friends put a few intellectual stones in my shoe regarding my faith some time ago, I've been navigating my way around the world of Christian Apologetics. I've read a good bit, and have a lot more reading to do. I stumbled upon Craig both by word of mouth from some other friends and had read about him and his organization (named Reasonable Faith as well) at numerous places online. The word is that this guy is supposed to be one of the heavy hitters in the world of Christian Apologetics and this book is his landmark work.

One thing I can say about him is that if you're the kind (like me) who can be a bit turned off by the 'pop debates' that have been out there between Christians and Atheists (I'm thinking in the vein of D'Souza vs. Hitchens here) and are looking for a bit more respectful interaction, deeper subject matter, and less mud slinging, I'd suggest reading or listening to debates Craig has had with numerous atheists. IMHO, he and his opponents are usually on a higher playing field the pop debaters I've seen. Unsurprisingly, this book was the same in this sense.

I've talked to people (both Christian and atheist) who are turned off by authors like Lee Strobel and Josh McDowell. I've read some stuff Strobel has written and haven't read anything by McDowell. I would guess that the people I've talked to are turned off by this type of author and style of writing because of its lowest common denominator approach. Put simply, books by these types of apologists are usually written for the layman. Because of this, many arguments being put forth are simply not as sophisticated as they are in other circles and shortcuts are often taken for the author to get where he's going. To be clear, I think these types of books and authors have their place and are not worthless. But, if you're craving is for something more in depth where arguments on both sides are developed more thoroughly and with more academic rigor, they are probably not for you.

So, Reasonable Faith... what kind of apologetic work is this? It's the other kind. The kind where the academic depth, rigor and thoroughness leads to the book not being the best kind for reading late at night when you're tired. This is usually when I read the most, late at night, after the kids are in bed, and because of the nature of this work, I found myself having to reread sections many times, just because the text requires such focus and attention.

The book was very good, although like I said it is the kind of thing that I wasn't able to just read casually right before bed when I was already very tired. After reading a book like this, I can honestly not understand the accusation I've heard leveled at Christians many a time that they are irrational for even thinking Christianity could possibly be true as if they have no good reason at all to think it was. It is fair to disagree with some of Craig's (and other Christian's) conclusions, but it is simply not fair to assert that Christians have no epistemic integrity at all when it comes to them thinking Christianity as true.

There were a few issues raised by skeptics on this blog (or in one case, on the blog of one of the commenters here) that are specifically addressed in Reasonable Faith. I'll list those that came to mind here.


An assertion that an "infinite regression doesn't need an end" (or in other words, an actual infinity is possible).
You say god doesn't need a cause, well I reply infinite regression doesn't need an end(as in the universe was created by a big bang, and that was created by another big bang, etc-NO God neccesssary).

The impossibility of this assertion is demonstrated in Chapter 3: The Existence of God.


A question regarding claims Jesus made about himself.
What if Jesus actually said I [like] ham [while sitting in] the Sun [and the eating] of cod and someone just accidentally thought He said, "I am the son of God."

Chapter 6 of this book, The Historical Reliability of the New Testament, renders this view unreasonable. Chapter 7, The Self Understanding of Jesus provides more support to show that the view is incorrect.


This question is sufficiently addressed in the 8th chapter, The Resurrection of Jesus. I say 'sufficiently' because the specific question is not addressed. Specifically, the author argues for why to believe the resurrection of Christ actually occurred. This line of reasoning often finds itself engrossed the context of why Christ's contemporaries, the founders of the Christian Church believed it to be true. The short answer to the question is that Christ was resurrected from the dead. The chapter goes into the details of why we ought to think this actually happened.


A chapter I personally found to be quite interesting was the 2nd chapter, The Absurdity of Life Without God. More than anything I would say I was drawn in by the title of it. I'd never considered the notion of applying the word 'absurd' as a description of life if God did not exist. This is available freely as a pdf here.

Friday, June 6, 2008

Christians playing chess

An atheist commenter on how the New Atheists are playing chess and Christians are playing checkers.

You see here's how it works. A Christian will say that they will debate the issue using nothing more than reason and logic. With lots of confidence they'll step into the circle.

There is a back and forth but eventually they end up retreating to the land of no logic where certain things don't need to be explained and gullibility is a virtue. Often times they don't get there until they embarrass themselves. The analogy "it's like playing chess with someone who thinks you're playing checkers is a good one."

It makes you wonder why they just don't stay in the land of faith and leave it at that.

I'm sure there are more than these out there, but here are a few resources from some Christians who seem to be quite comfortable and good at taking the likes of Dawkins in his own lofty 'chess playing' venue.

I've blogged on it before, but I'll mention it again. Vox Day, in his book The Irrational Atheist, handily squashes the central argument Dawkins makes in The God Delusion.

Greg Koukl, of the organization Stand to Reason, does a fine job in exploiting the impotence of Dawkins' argument as well.

From the article...

Even if we grant (4) [Dawkins' premise - "The most ingenious and powerful explanation is Darwinian evolution by natural selection. The appearance of design is an illusion."] – a highly controversial point, given the amount of contrary evidence – Dawkins only succeeds in showing that the design argument fails. It’s entirely possible that other arguments succeed. Since there is nothing in Richard Dawkins’s line of reasoning that contributes to his conclusion, the central argument of his book is irrational.