Saturday, January 29, 2011

Book Review: Who Is Jesus...Really? by Josh McDowell and Dave Sterrett

Win a Copy!: Moody Publishers has kindly provided a free copy of Who Is Jesus...Really? for Truthbomb Apologetics to give away. All you have to do to enter the random drawing is to leave a comment on this post!

Introduction- About the Books

The Coffeehouse Chronicles by Josh McDowell and Dave Sterrett with Moody Publishers, a series of three apologetics novellas, each tackling a different issue that most Christian students will struggle with during their college years. They are set in the modern day and portray real, believable students as they engage in genuine dialogue concerning three questions:
  • Is the Bible True...Really?
  • Who is Jesus...Really?
  • Did the Resurrection Happen...Really? [1]
General Reflections

Who Is Jesus...Really? by Josh McDowell and Dave Sterrett is the second book of these easily devoured novellas aimed at addressing common spiritual questions. This reader felt that McDowell and Sterrett once again succeeded in combining a great story with a persuasive array of arguments in this fictional dialogue that mostly zeroed in on the question, "Who is Jesus Christ?"

Obviously, this book would be a great resource to get into the hands of someone who has sincere questions about the identity of Jesus; however, I must confess that what I have enjoyed most about all three of these books [A Review for Did the Resurrection Happen...Really? will be up in one week from today] is the manner in which the authors write their Christian characters.

Jamal Washington, Nick and Mina realize the importance of understanding what they believe and relish in sharing it with others. These characters are not only excited to tell others about Jesus because of what He has done for them personally, but through intellectual inquiry they have tested the claims of Christ and found them to be true! The result? They are anxious to share this truth with whomever will listen and aren't afraid to be asked tough questions about their convictions. Throughout the book, I found myself thinking, "What if there were more Christians like this? What impact would this have on our culture? Our churches?"

So, while this book effectively provides answers for the sincere skeptic, it also presents very intellectually sharp role models to challenge the follower of Christ.

The Story

Nick's faith has survived the many tests from the first book and he is now actively involved in a campus ministry that encourages other believers to sincerely follow Christ in their daily lives. Jamal Washington, Dr. Peterson's assistant and former college football star, has made quite a name for himself on campus after teaching a few classes on the reliability of the New Testament in Dr. Peterson's absence. And one of Nick's close friends, Andrea, has become a confessing atheist.

After a particularly rowdy I Am Second bible study that Nick is leading, he befriends a fellow student and atheist, Brett. Brett is skeptical of Christianity and isn't even sure that a historical person by the name of Jesus Christ ever existed, but is curious. As a result, Nick invites Brett, Andrea, and a few others to meet with Jamal and Mina, a law student, to discuss some of Brett's questions about Jesus. Brett agrees and so the dialogue begins.

Meanwhile, some changes have been going on in the life of Dr. Peterson and his wife, Susan. Since the death of his sister, he has started to reconsider heaven and life after death and this leads him to investigate the question of Jesus' deity once more.

Then, Dr. Peterson announces that he is going to give a lecture entitled Did Jesus Claim to be God? What will his conclusion be?

The Core Arguments

This book was clearly written with the media titled "New Atheists" in mind. Numerous arguments that have been brought forth recently in titles such as The God Delusion by Richard Dawkins and Why God Is Not Great by Christopher Hitchens are addressed and dealt with in it's pages.

While the first book mainly focuses on the reliability of the Bible throughout, Who Is Jesus...Really? tackles a nice collection of common objections before really diving into the question of Jesus' identity. McDowell and Sterrett do a great job in the book of "clearing away the clutter" so that they question of Jesus' identity can be clearly looked at. Some of the popular objections dealt with are:
  • "Jesus Never Existed!"
  • "Religion is Evil!"
  • "We Should Embrace Science, Not God!"
  • "Christianity doesn't value human life- it disgraces women and always has."
  • "What about Christians and slavery?"
These objections are dealt with in a short, convincing manner, using rigorous logic and verifiable history. This reader fully admits that these types of arguments can never be fully answered using a few short quips; however, the authors do a great job of dealing with the core of each of the above arguments while demonstrating that there is more to the story than Hitchens, Dawkins and company would have their numerous followers believe.

Having already provided a persuasive case for the reliability of the New Testament in the first book, and then removing some possible roadblocks in the first half of the second, the authors then begin uncovering the historical Jesus.

Through a fictional debate featuring Jamal Washington and a lecture given by Dr. Peterson, McDowell and Sterrett address the following issues pertaining to the historic Christ:
  • The earliest sources we have for Jesus' life
  • How early does the testimony of the resurrection appear?
  • David Hume and the Impossibility of Miracles
  • How early did the belief Jesus was God appear?
  • Who Did Jesus Believe Himself to Be?
This reader was impressed with the documentation and scholarly quotes provided to sustain the pillars of the arguments presented and also was once again pleased to see that this work was fresh and new.

Not only are academic arguments attended to in Who Is Jesus...Really?, but throughout the authors seem to call upon their own observations to make numerous valid points. An example of this is when Nick's friend Jessica, a fellow believer, shares the following observation:

"You know, the very name of Jesus seems to bother people. It makes them uncomfortable, or angry, or both. So many of the girls try to change the subject when He comes up. It seems like you can talk about Buddha, Muhammad, or Confucius all day and people don't get upset, but mention Jesus and it's all over. Why don't the others offend people the way Jesus does?" [p. 71]

While I admit that this is far from qualifying as a formal argument, it certainly seems to have a ring of truth to it.

Conclusion

Who is Jesus...Really? is like it's predecessor in the fact that it is packed full of easy to understand, well researched answers to many popular objections heard on college campuses and internet chat rooms. Whether dealing with the New Atheists or the fallacious claims of Dan Brown, this little book packs a powerful punch!

Moreover, this book differs from it's predecessor in that it deals with a wider array of objections that attend to various topics. A consequence of this is perhaps the book may seem to jump around in the beginning, as one of the characters even admits, but regardless this reader is confident in saying that the book more than adequately answers the question Who is Jesus...Really?

If you or someone your know is interested in exploring the historical record as it pertains to Jesus Christ, this little book is a informative, entertaining place to start!

Courage and Godspeed,
Chad


Resource:
1. http://www.theworldsbiggestcoffeehouse.com/book-series/series-overview/

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Book Review: Is the Bible True...Really? by Josh McDowell and Dave Sterrett

Win a Copy!: Moody Publishers has kindly provided a free copy of Is the Bible True...Really? for Truthbomb Apologetics to give away. All you have to do to enter the random drawing is to leave a comment on this post!

The drawing is opened until Friday, January 28, 2011.

Introduction- About the Books

The Coffeehouse Chronicles by Josh McDowell and Dave Sterrett with Moody Publishers is a series of three apologetics novellas, each tackling a different issue that most Christian students will struggle with during their college years. They are set in the modern day and portray real, believable students as they engage in genuine dialogue concerning three questions:
  • Is the Bible True...Really?
  • Who is Jesus...Really?
  • Did the Resurrection Happen...Really? [1]
General Reflections

Is the Bible True...Really? by Josh McDowell and Dave Sterrett is a unique apologetic resource because this short book succeeds in weaving an excellent, fast-paced fictional dialogue around a vast assortment of sound apologetic arguments for the reliability of scripture. Furthermore, this reader found the characters in the story, regardless of their worldview, to be accurately presented and likable. No matter what one's convictions may be, readers will have no problem finding a character that they can relate to.

This reader also appreciated how the life of the mind and the role it plays in the Christian faith was spotlighted throughout the book. Not only are skeptical arguments dissected throughout, but Christians are also repeatedly challenged to understand what they believe and why they believe it.

The Story

Nick, a freshmen at Opal University, is sitting in his Religious Studies Class listening to his Professor, a well-known skeptic, present a lecture on the reliability of the New Testament. Suddenly, Nick begins to feel very uncomfortable about the material Dr. Peterson is presenting and he [Nick] is unprepared for what he is hearing. The content of his Professor's lecture certainly doesn't match-up with what Nick was taught by his Pastor growing up.

Dr. William Peterson, a renowned expert on ancient textual criticism, states:

"Here are the facts that leading scholars all across the country agree upon. We don't even have the words that these fundamentalist Christians tell us God inerrantly inspired. That's right. All we have are words copied by scribes- sometimes correctly but certainly not always. We have error-ridden copies that are centuries removed from the originals and different from them in thousands of ways" [p. 10].

Nick, like many well meaning Christians, decides that he must set the record straight and take a stand for Jesus. During class he declares, "That's not true! How dare you question God's Word...I accept it as the Word of God by faith!...Also, the Bible says, 'All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness so that everyone will always be prepared to give an answer'...I experience the presence of Jesus in my life everyday..." [p. 11-12].

The professor, himself a former evangelical Christian, is patient with Nick and challenges him to give evidence that would contradict the professor's claims. Nick is unable to do so and so begins a personal struggle in Nick's life that his faith may or may not withstand.

Nick decides to turn to his former youth pastor for guidance and answers to the questions that are now beginning to plague him. However, much to his surprise, he finds that the youth pastor can offer him nothing but slogans and assurance that "all you need to have is faith." Meanwhile, Dr. Peterson seems to have real answers to real questions and even befriends Nick and his girlfriend!

By a few "chance" meetings, Nick befriends some tough minded followers of Jesus Christ who are about to demonstrate that perhaps Nick has only been hearing one side of the story.

The Core Arguments

McDowell and Sterrett do a great job in this book addressing many of the arguments that have been made popular on university campuses around the United States. Examples are as follows:
  • Did Christianity Borrow from Pagan Mythology?
  • What about the Zeitgeist video on youtube?
  • When was the Old Testament and New Testament "put together?"
  • What about Bart Ehrman and Misquoting Jesus?
  • What about the "mistakes" in the Bible?
  • What about the other gospels?
This reader was pleasantly surprised to find these topics dealt with in an in-depth, fair-minded manner.

When I began reading this book, I was skeptical that the arguments therein would simply be repackaged arguments from McDowell's prior apologetic works; however, this is not the case. I was delighted to find that McDowell and Sterrett obviously have made it a point to interact with some of the best scholars in New Testament criticism today, past and present, throughout the text. Names such as William Lane Craig, Daniel Wallace, Bruce Metzger and John Warwick Montgomery as just some of the names that are referenced. Further, the arguments of New Testament Scholar Bart Ehrman are accurately presented and soundly dealt with.

Conclusion

As mentioned before, this brief text succeeds in addressing numerous popular arguments made by the so-called Internet skeptics, as well as arguments put forth by many popular works today, such as the works of Robert Price and Bart Ehrman, who's arguments have persuaded many university students to doubt, or even give up, their Christian beliefs.

Those who would benefit from reading this book are:
  • College students who want to bolster their faith or who may be doubting.
  • Anyone who has questions about the reliability of Scripture and how we got our Bible today.
  • Those troubled by the skeptical claims of Bart Ehrman, the Jesus Seminar, or Internet skeptics
  • Anyone who enjoys a fun investigative story
Is the Bible True...Really? by Josh McDowell and Dave Sterrett is a treasure chest full of remarkably concise, easy-to-understand arguments for the reliability of Scripture. Regardless if you are a seeking skeptic, seasoned apologist, or a new believer, I strongly encourage you to read this book and be challenged.

Courage and Godspeed,
Chad

Resource:
1. http://www.theworldsbiggestcoffeehouse.com/book-series/series-overview/


Note to Readers: We will be reviewing the next two books in this series and giving one of each away in the coming weeks so keep watching the blog for reviews and details! We appreciate your readership!

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Article: Are Christians Biased in their Reasoning?


Today's featured article comes from Stand to Reason and deals with the topic of bias.
The article is titled Are Christians Biased in their Reasoning?
They write:

"And, of course, non-believers will claim that theists are already predisposed (biased) toward a theistic conclusion before they even look at the evidence! They will tell us that because we already believe that there IS a God, we are too biased to examine the evidence fairly. Well, let’s be clear about something. As a believing Christian, I certainly have a point of view, no doubt about it. But is it possible for me to examine a particular set of evidences fairly? Of course it is! Don’t be fooled into thinking that you, as a Christian, are the only person with a point of view. Each and every one of us has a point of view from which we look and examine the world. Yet each of us has the capacity to judge the evidence fairly if our point of view does not ELIMINATE certain forms of evidence from consideration before we even begin. After all, juries are formed everyday in our legal system. People who hold a variety of viewpoints are assembled to make life and death decisions in court cases because the attorneys and judges are convinced that in spite of their views, they will be able to judge the evidence fairly. And that is exactly what happens everyday in courtrooms across America. Bias has nothing to do with holding a point of view. Bias occurs when your viewpoint eliminates certain forms of evidence and evidential conclusions before you even begin the investigation.
"
To checkout the entire article, click here.

Courage and Godspeed,
Chad

Wednesday, January 05, 2011

Sunday, January 02, 2011

Article: If You Cannot Scientifically Prove Your Belief, Is It Meaningless? by Paul Copan


In this featured article, philosopher Paul Copan addresses the questions:
  • What is science?
  • How should Christians respond to scientism?
  • Are God and science really opposed to each other?
You can check it out here.

This article provides the reader with a mature look at the relationship between science and Christianity.


Courage and Godspeed,

Chad