Tuesday, March 03, 2015

Book Review: Stealing from God: Why Atheists Need God to Make Their Case by Frank Turek

It was with great anticipation that I began reading Frank Turek’s latest book, Stealing from God: Why Atheists Need God to Make Their Case. It was just this past October I had the opportunity to hear Dr. Turek speak in Mt. Airy, MD on the topic of “Is Jesus Intolerant?” I walked away from that talk impressed with Turek’s ability to address culturally “hot button” issues with razor sharp logic coupled with winsome grace. I hoped that Turek’s book would offer more of the same and I wasn’t disappointed.

Introduction

From the very onset of the book, it is clear that Turek has the so-called “new atheists” in his crosshairs and his main contention is that “atheists are using aspects of reality to argue against God that wouldn’t exist if atheism were true. In other words, when atheists give arguments for their atheistic worldview, they are stealing from a theistic worldview to make their case. In effect, they are stealing from God in order to argue against Him.” [p. xviii]


Strengths of the Book

This reviewer found Stealing from God to be an absolute treat to read and I feel the space here inadequate to fully demonstrate the breadth and depth of topics covered in its pages.

While many apologetics books offer a positive case for the Christian faith, Turek goes a step further by aggressively attacking the very foundations that atheists claim as their own.

The author also draws upon his numerous interactions he has had in his I Don’t Have Enough Faith to be an Atheist seminars and this is a clear strength of the work. Not only do these accounts make the book very readable, but they deal with practical issues that can easily be applied to one’s personal apologetic.

Turek’s book is also very easy to read. And while some apologetic works are laborious to work through, this book is easy to read and Turek goes to great lengths to explain his numerous illustrations and explanations throughout the book. This book will benefit both the seasoned apologist and the novice.

Arguments Dealt with in the Book

The author explains that since stealing is a crime, and atheists are stealing from God to make their case, the book will use CRIMES [1] as an acrostic to demonstrate the intellectual crimes atheists are committing. Each letter in CRIMES is representative of “one or more aspects of reality that wouldn’t exist if atheism were true.” [xviii]


They are:


C = Causality

R = Reason
I = Information and Intentionality
M= Morality
E = Evil
S = Science

Turek continues by restating his contention:

It is my contention that these CRIMES not only help show that theism is true, but that the foundational assumptions of atheism make it impossible to make a sound intellectual case for atheism. If atheism is true, there’s no way to know it with any confidence. In fact, if atheism is true, there’s no way to know anything with any confidence. [xviii]
One tactic that modern atheists use is to claim that the theist must exhaustively define what they mean by “God” before a meaningful conversation can be had, so this reviewer was pleased to see Dr. Turek takes the time to do that in the Introduction. He also tackles the popular modern day atheist assertion that an atheist is someone who simply “lacks belief in God.”

In Chapter 1, Turek makes the case that God is the best explanation for the origin of the universe and anticipates the popular “god-of-the-gaps” charge and comes out swinging:

Those of us who conclude that a theistic God is the cause of the universe are not arguing from what we don’t know (a gap), but what we do know. Space, time, and matter had a beginning, we know that the cause can’t be made of space, time or matter. In fact, the conclusion that there is a spaceless, timeless, immaterial, powerful, personal first cause flows logically from the evidence itself.
If anyone is committing a fallacy, it is the atheist. Call it the ‘natural law of the gaps fallacy’- having faith that an undiscovered natural law will one day explain the beginning of the universe. [p. 4]
This reviewer was very impressed with the broad range of objections Turek was able to address in this chapter. He succeeds in taking Lawrence Krauss to task for his erroneous use of the word “nothing,” defending philosophy, addressing multi-verse theory, and shows why Richard Dawkins demonstrates that he misunderstands what theists mean by “God” by the very objections he offers.

In Chapter 2, the author argues that the laws of logic are grounded in the nature of God and that when atheists offer an argument against God or for their atheism, the atheist is stealing from God in order to argue against Him. This reader was also impressed with Turek’s arguments that materialism is self-refuting.

In Chapter 3, Dr. Turek drew upon the recent words of Dr. Stephen Meyer [2] to argue that the message or code found in DNA is best explained by a messenger or programmer i.e. a mind. He writes:

[Stephen] Meyer shows in Signature in the Cell that no physical or chemical reaction mandates the arrangement of the genetic letters along the spine of your DNA. Physics and chemistry don’t determine the order of those genetic letters any more than physics and chemistry determine the order of the English letters in this sentence. Minds determine messages and codes; natural forces do not. [p. 58]
The author also calls upon Meyer’s work in Darwin’s Doubt to demonstrate that the information found in DNA cannot be explained on the neo-Darwinian paradigm nor can the new life-forms we see in the Cambrian Explosion be accounted for by mutation and natural selection.

Turek ends this chapter by calling upon the words of Aristotle and Thomas Aquinas to contend that the universe is ordered and goal-directed and that the best explanation of these facts is a mind behind it all. Moreover, the atheists are left in the precarious position of arguing that nature is not goal-directed, yet assuming when doing science that nature is consistently goal directed!

In Chapter 4, this reviewer was interested to see how the author would handle the issue of morality. After all, arguments such as the cosmological argument and the argument from information are based upon scientific evidence and philosophical argument, but the moral argument gets personal!

Turek begins the chapter by contending that objective moral values indeed exist and that God is necessary to ground them. He then continues by taking Sam Harris and his book The Moral Landscape to task and points out Harris’ key mistake in assessing the objective morality:

Why does a moral law exist at all, and why does it have authority over us...The Moral Landscape give us no answer. It’s a nearly three-hundred-page long example of the most common mistake made by those who think objective morality can exist without God. Harris seems to think that because we can know objective morality (epistemology), that explains why objective morality exists in the first place (ontology). [p. 100]
The author continues by arguing that evolution cannot explain morality, dealing with the infamous “Euthyphro dilemma,” and contending that for atheists to offer a moral objection against God, they need God to do it.

In Chapter 5, Dr. Turek begins by defining just what evil is and then proceeds by arguing that if atheism is true, all behaviors are merely a matter of preference. He further argues that if evil actually does exist, the existence of evil actually establishes the existence of God.

This reader especially liked the author’s response to the so-called “God is Moral Monster” argument. He argues that when examining such accounts as God’s order to kill the Canaanites, one must STOP and investigate the context of the passage. Turek writes:

In fact, STOP is an acronym I suggest you use to discover the proper meaning of any biblical text. It represents the following four questions: 
S-Situation?- What’s the historical situation?
T-Type?- What’s the type of literature?
O-Object?- Who is the object of the text?
P-Prescription?- Is this passage prescriptive for us today or merely descriptive of an historical event? [p. 123-124]
He then breaks down the Canaanite passages using the STOP method and this proves to be extremely instructive and helpful.

He continues the chapter by explaining how evil affects the life of the believer and by addressing gratuitous evil.

In Chapter 6, the author argues that atheism is actually opposed to science and that there are limits to what science can and cannot tell us. He further offers a summary of Chapters 1-6.

In Chapter 7, Turek offers his “Four-Point Case for Mere Christianity.” It is as follows:

  1. Does Truth Exist?
  2. Does God Exist?
  3. Are Miracles possible?
  4. Is the New Testament historically reliable?

This reviewer found the author’s case to be fair-minded and well argued.

In the Concluding Chapter, the author summarizes why he believes atheism is incoherent. He continues by exalting the person of Jesus Christ and giving one of most concise defenses of hell this reader has come across. I have shared that previously here.

Conclusion

Stealing from God: Why Atheists Need God to make their Case
 is the best book I’ve read since J. Warner Wallace’s Cold-Case Christianity. Turek packs its pages with stories from his own exchanges with atheists and not only demonstrates why we have good reasons to believe Christianity is true, but he positively shows that the new atheists have failed to make their case and if they succeeded, they would have needed God to do it!

I highly recommend this book to anyone that wants to investigate the claims of Christianity or to the atheist who is brave enough to have their worldview challenged.


Courage and Godspeed,

Chad

Footnotes:

1. For those interested in seeing Dr. Turek present his CRIMES in a debate setting, see here.
2. Author of Signature in the Cell and Darwin's Doubt.

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