Wednesday, August 31, 2022

Apologetics315 Podcast: Worldview Legacy with Joel Settecase

In this recent Apologetics315 Podcast, Brian Auten and I chat with Joel Settecase about parenting and apologetics, how we might teach young people to defend the faith using his 3-step method, worldviews and more!

You can listen to the podcast here.  

Find Joel's podcast here.

You can learn more about Joel's ministry, The Think Institute, here.

Finally, checkout Joel's book here.

Courage and Godspeed,

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Monday, August 29, 2022

What if Everyone Lived the Sexual Ethic of Jesus? by Sean McDowell


In this featured post, Dr. Sean McDowell asks the question, "What if Everyone Lived the Sexual Ethic of Jesus?"  Have you ever thought about that?  And just what is the sexual ethic of Jesus?  McDowell asks:

"...what would the world be like if people followed God’s plan to wait until marriage for sexual activity with someone of the opposite sex, stayed faithful to their spouse for life, didn’t lust after other people, and then once they get married enjoy sexual intimacy in a committed, loving, and lifelong relationship?"

Then, McDowell argues that:

“There would be no sexually transmitted diseases. No abortions. No brokenness from divorce. Every child would have a mother and a father and experience the love and acceptance each parent uniquely offers. There would be no rape, no sex abuse, no sex trafficking, pornography, and no need for a #MeToo campaign. Think of the healing and wholeness if people simply lived Jesus’ life-giving words regarding human sexuality.”

Many argue that the sexual ethic of Jesus (or the Bible) is too restrictive, but perhaps, in reality, it affords more freedom than we can imagine.  

To checkout the entire post, go here.

I would recommend Dr. McDowell's excellent debate with Matthew Vines here.

Courage and Godspeed,

Article: Is the New Testament Reliable? by Sean McDowell

Video: Sean McDowell and Matthew Vines in Conversation- What Does the Bible Say About Homosexuality?

Friday, August 26, 2022

Apologetics315 Interview: A Maximal Data Case for the Resurrection with Lydia McGrew


In our most recent interview on the Apologetics315 Podcast, Brian Auten and I chat with Lydia McGrew about:

- the minimal facts methodology for the resurrection.
- the strengths and weaknesses of the minimal facts argument.
- a short and long version of the maximal data case for the resurrection.
- and more!

I confess that I have been a long-time advocate for the minimal facts argument, but in this interview, McGrew demonstrated the superiority of the maximal facts approach for the resurrection of Jesus.  

You can listen here.

To learn more about Lydia and her work, go here.

Many thanks to Lydia for her time and wisdom!

Courage and Godspeed,

Thursday, August 25, 2022

Why is God Hidden? A Discussion with Alex O'Connor (Cosmic Skeptic) & Lukas Ruegger

Many would argue that the problem of perceived divine hiddenness is one of the most potent objections to the existence of God.  For those unfamiliar with the argument, many agree that the most formidable version is offered by philosopher J.L. Schellenberg.  It is as follows:

1. If a perfectly loving God exists, then there exists a God who is always open to a personal relationship with any finite person.

2. If there exists a God who is always open to a personal relationship with any finite person, then no finite person is ever non-resistantly in a state of non-belief in relation to the proposition that God exists.

3. If a perfectly loving God exists, then no finite person is ever non-resistantly in a state of non-belief in relation to the proposition that God exists (from 1 and 2).

4. Some finite persons are or have been non-resistantly in a state of non-belief in relation to the proposition that God exists.

5. No perfectly loving God exists (from 3 and 4).

6. If no perfectly loving God exists, then God does not exist.

7. God does not exist (from 5 and 6). 1

In the above discussion, apologist Lukas Rueggar and atheist Alex O'Connor (Cosmic Skeptic) discuss why doesn't God seem to reveal himself to people who are open and seeking him.

This was a great back and forth.  Everyone can learn from the respectful and transparent tone of this interaction.  

What do you think of the the problem of divine hiddenness?  Please share in the comments below!

Courage and Godspeed,

1. J.L. Schellenberg, The Hiddenness Argument: Philosophy’s New Challenge to Belief in God (Oxford University Press, 2015), p. 103.

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Wednesday, August 24, 2022

Bible Apologetics - A Daily Devotional

Bible Apologetics: A Daily Devotional is a website devoted to sharing daily truths with an apologetics slant. This resource consists of daily devotionals designed to encourage the Christian and challenge the skeptic on why the Bible should not only be believed, but read to help all of us with peace and joy as we travel on this journey called life.

Each devotion will show why the Christian can have confidence in the Bible and encourage your soul with fresh manna each day.

You can learn more and subscribe here.

To learn more about the author Curt Blattman, go here.

Courage and Godspeed,

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Tuesday, August 23, 2022

Featured Resource: The Worldview Bulletin


Are you looking for a great apologetics resource?  

Subscribe to The Worldview Bulletin to grow in your knowledge of the Christian worldview and your ability to defend it. Learn from world-class scholars sharing their expertise in Christian philosophy, theology, and apologetics.

The Worldview Bulletin is produced by Christian scholars Dr. Paul Copan, Dr. Paul Gould, Dr. David Baggett, Dr. Melissa Cain Travis, and Christopher Reese (ThM).

The Worldview Bulletin features:
  • Original Articles
  • Interviews
  • Guest contributions by world-class Christian scholars and apologists
  • News
  • Announcements and helpful info about new books
  • Special deals and discounts on books
  • Recommended resources
Each issue will inform, equip, and inspire you as you seek to understand and defend the Christian worldview.

In addition to the monthly newsletter, our weekly email is free. To receive the weekly email without a paid subscription, simply choose the free option on the subscription page. (Paid newsletter subscribers receive the free weekly email automatically.)

This resource has been endorsed by Christians thinkers such as J.P. Moreland, Sean McDowell, Michael Licona, John Lennox and more!

To check it out, and subscribe, go here.  When you do, you will receive The Worldview Bulletin for a year, be able to read the most recent issue, and access the full archive!

Courage and Godspeed,

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Monday, August 22, 2022

The Apostle Paul on the True Gospel vs. a Different Gospel

I am amazed that you are so quickly turning away from him who called you by the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel - not that there is another gospel, but there are some who are troubling you and want to distort the gospel of Christ.  But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to what we have preached to you, a curse be on him!  As we have said before, I now say again: If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to what you received, a curse be on him!

For am I now trying to persuade people, or God?  Or am I striving to please people?  If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a servant of Christ.  For I want you to know, brothers and sisters, that the gospel preached by me is not of human origin.  For I did not receive it from a human source and I was not taught it, but it came by a revelation of Jesus Christ.1

Courage and Godspeed,

1. Galatians 1:6-12, CSV.

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Thursday, August 18, 2022

Is "Rational Faith" an Oxymoron?


Recently, Apologetics Awareness was kind enough to share my review of Stephen T. Davis' excellent book Rational Faith.   As the tweet above shows, "Rich" responded by claiming that the idea of "rational faith" is an oxymoron.  I encouraged Rich to read the book, but alas, I was told he would not be wasting his cash.  The irony here is that Davis' entire project in the book is to demonstrate the contrary!  But is Rich right?  Is "rational faith" an oxymoron?

At this point, it would seem helpful to define just what an oxymoron is.  For simplicity purposes, an oxymoron is when one combines words that contradict one another.  Examples would include a silent scream, jumbo shrimp or plastic silverware.  You get the idea!  So, Rich is basically claiming that if one claims their faith is rational, they are guilty of a contradiction.  Faith, by definition, (according to Rich) is irrational.  Rich is, of course, not the first the person to suggest this.  The late author Mark Twain famously wrote, "Having faith is believing in something you just know ain't true.”  And famed biologist and religious critic Richard Dawkins writes "Faith is the great cop-out, the great excuse to evade the need to think and evaluate evidence. Faith is belief in spite of, even perhaps because of, the lack of evidence."  But if the truth be told, these types of claims greatly misrepresent Christianity1 from both a historical and biblical perspective.

As philosopher and theologian Kenneth Samples explains, the historic Christian view of faith is very different from the stereotypical definition represented above:

"Reason is respected, even prized, within the Christian tradition.  A powerful theological-philosophical consensus within the history of the faith has argued that the Christian religion involves knowledge, is compatible with reason, and is even the product of reason.  This agreement has often been expressed in the common statement, 'faith seeking understanding.'  Its most articulate and persuasive spokespersons through the centuries have been distinguished thinkers such as Augustine, Anselm and Thomas Aquinas."2

And what does the Bible have to say about faith?  Samples explains:

"Biblical faith isn't synonymous with wishful thinking.  The root words for faith in both the Old Testament (Hebrew) and the New Testament (Greek) mean 'trust.'  These biblical terms convey a confident reliance on someone or something.  But that trust must be placed in a credible (reasonable and/or reliable) source or object...biblical faith is never blind.  Rather, for both traditional Jews and Christians, the believer must know that the object of their trust is trustworthy.  Faith in the biblical sense is confident trust in a credible source; that source can be God, Christ, the truth, a parent or teacher, etc.  Thus, scripturally speaking, rather than being in opposition to reason, faith's very definition includes a necessary rational component...[i]n Scripture, faith involves knowledge.  For example, saving faith depends on knowing certain historical facts about Jesus's life, death and resurrection.  Christians have faith in Jesus Christ by believing h is the Messiah (God's specially anointed servant), the incarnate Son of God, and the crucified and risen Savior of the world...[t]he Christian faith is directly connected to the rational knowing process.3

Theologian Alister McGrath says it best:

"Belief in God is not irrational, but possesses its own distinct and robust rationality.  It represents a superb way of making sense of things."4

Indeed.  Rational faith is not an oxymoron at all.  A rational faith represents both the historical and biblical understanding of faith.  When one asserts otherwise, they merely demonstrate their failure to understand their intended target.  

Courage and Godspeed,

1. As a Christian, that is the type of faith I am interested in correctly understanding and communicating.  I will leave it to adherents to other faiths to defend their views.
2. Dr. Kenneth Samples, Christianity Cross-Examined: Is it Rational, Relevant and Good?, p. 60.  For those interested in learning more about the deep intellectual heritage of the Christian faith, I recommend Dr. Samples book Classic Christian Thinkers.
3. Ibid, p. 60-61.
4. Alister McGrath, "Isn't Science More Rational than Faith?, as quoted by Dr. Kenneth Samples, p. 59.

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Wednesday, August 17, 2022

Mark Galli on Jesus and the God of the Old Testament


"Jesus had a tendency of storming in and out of people's live, making implicit or explicit demands and, in general, making people feel mighty uncomfortable...This is Jesus the consuming fire, the raging storm, who seems bent on destroying everything in His path, who either shocks people into stupification (Mark 6:51) or frightens them (Mark 16:8) so that they run for their lives.  This divinity we had thought was under lock and key and confined to the Old Testament.  But to find Him roaming the pages of the Testament of love and forgiveness-well!  And yet there He swirls, a tornado touching down, lifting homes and businesses off their foundations, having only bits and pieces of the former life strewn on His path."1

Courage and Godspeed,

1. Mark Galli, Jesus Mean and Wild, p. 16-17. 

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Tuesday, August 16, 2022

Anglicans for Life - Praying for Life


Anglicans for Life is a great place to find numerous helpful resources to not only get equipped to defend your pro-life views, but also to find outstanding resources to put into the hands of others so that they can take advantage of pro-life services.  

One such resource is a short prayer guide titled "Praying for Life."  In the midst of sharing our pro-life convictions, I believe it vital that we first and foremost remember to pray about these issues.  The prayers included are as follows:

1) For children in the womb, that their parents would choose life & that abortion would become unthinkable.

2) For women and men who have been impacted by abortion, that they would find healing in Christ.

3) For the elderly and vulnerable, that they would not fall victim to assisted suicide or euthanasia, and that legislative attempts to legalize both would be stopped.

4) For children in need of adoption and parents desiring a child, that loving families would be made and that the birth mother would find peace in choosing life.

5) For the Church, that we would boldly celebrate, honor, and protect Life and proclaim Christ's victory over sin and the grave.

One more great resource offered by AFL is this "Important Life Resources" page.  

Let us join together, praying for "abortion to become unthinkable" and that the "elderly and vulnerable" would be protected.

Courage and Godspeed,

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Monday, August 15, 2022

What Can We Learn about Jesus (and the Reliability of the Gospel of Mark) from the Apostle Paul?

Recently, I reviewed Stephen Davis' excellent book Rational Faith.  You can find that review here

In this work, Davis asserts that "[s]cholars sometimes say that the apostle Paul knew or cared little about the life of Jesus.  But that is not true...the life and teachings of the Lord were important to Paul."1 Davis goes on to demonstrate that using only the letters of Paul that most New Testament scholars accept, we can "piece together a credible 'life of Jesus.'"2 Davis further argues that Paul's writings actually serve to confirm "what we find in Mark, the earliest of the Gospels, and denies virtually nothing found there."3

According to Davis, here what we find in Paul's accepted letters about Jesus:

"His name was Jesus (1 Corinthians 1:1); he was a man (Romans 5:15 born of a woman (Galatians 4:4); he was Jewish, a descendant of Abraham (Galatians 3:16; 4:4) and David (Romans 1:3); he had brothers (1 Corinthians 9:5).  He was sent by God to take on human form (Romans 8:3; Philippians 2:6-11); he was poor (2 Corinthians 8:9) and humble (Philippians 2:6-11); he suffered (Romans 8:17); he was loving and compassionate (Philippians 1:8); and he lived an exemplary life (Romans 15:3, 8; 2 Corinthians 8:9; Philippians 2:6-8).

Jesus gathered disciples, including Cephas and John (Galatians 1:19; 2:9), and taught people on various religious topics (1 Thessalonians 4:2), including marriage and divorce (1 Corinthians 7:10), how those who preach the gospel should make their living (1 Corinthians 9:14), blessing those who persecute you (Romans 12:14), repaying no one evil for evil (Romans 12:17), accepting all foods as clean (Romans 14:14), and his own ultimate triumphal return (1 Thessalonians 4:15-17).  On the night Jesus was betrayed he took bread, broke it, gave thanks and said, 'This is my body that is for you.  Do this in remembrance of me.' Then he took a cup and said, 'This cup is the new covenant in my blood.  Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me' (1 Corinthians 11:23-26).

Jesus was betrayed (1 Corinthians 11:23), was crucified by 'the Jews' (1 Corinthians 1:23; 2:2; 1 Thessalonians 2:14) and was buried (1 Corinthians 15:4).  On the third day (1 Corinthians 15:4) God raised him from the dead (Romans 1:4; 4:25; 6:4; 8:34; 1 Corinthians 15:4; 2 Corinthians 4:14; Galatians 1:1; 1 Thessalonians 4:14).  He appeared to Peter, to 'the twelve,' to more than five hundred people, to James and then to all the apostles (1 Corinthians 15:5-7)...Paul insisted that Jesus would return (1 Thessalonians 4:16-17) to be revealed (1 Corinthians 1:7) and to judge all people (Romans 2:16)."4

Davis concludes by explaining what Paul's writings about Jesus tell us about the reliability of the Gospel of Mark:

"...the authentically Pauline letters were all written well before Mark, and indeed within twenty to thirty years of the death of Jesus.  Accordingly, what Paul said about the life of Jesus is much more likely to be reliable on purely historical-critical grounds than something written much later.  And this reliability confirms the accuracy of later texts like Mark that largely agree with Paul on the life of Jesus.  Mark does not appear to be myth or fable or fiction.  What we have here, then, is an impressive reason for regarding Mark as reliable."5

Courage and Godspeed,

1. Stephen T. Davis, Rational Faith: A Philosopher's Defense of Christianity, p. 58.
2. Ibid; these letters, according to Davis, include Romans, 1-2 Corinthians, Galatians, Philippians, 1 Thessalonians, Philemon.
3. Ibid.
4. Ibid.
5. Ibid. 

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Friday, August 12, 2022

Jesus of Nazareth on False Prophets


"Watch out for false prophets.  They come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves.  By their fruit you will recognize them.  Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles?  Likewise every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit.  A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit.  Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.  Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them."1

Courage and Godspeed,

1. Matthew 7:15-20; NKJV
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Wednesday, August 10, 2022

Classic Debate: Sir Anthony Buzzard and Joseph Good vs. Michael Brown and James White - Is God Triune?

This post features a classic debate between unitarians Sir Anthony Buzzard and Joseph Good vs. trinitarians Michael Brown and James White.

For those considering the deity of Christ and whether or not God is Triune, this is a great place to start.  

I would also recommend this excellent debate between Dale Tuggy and Chris Date here.  

Courage and Godspeed,

Monday, August 08, 2022

TruthB.O.M.B. Book Review: Rational Faith- A Philosopher's Defense of Christianity by Stephen T. Davis

B - Background

Stephen T. Davis is the Russell K. Pitzer Professor of Philosophy at Claremont McKenna College.  He specializes in the philosophy of religion and Christian thought and is the author or editor of fifteen books, including Encountering Evil, Christian Philosophical Theology and Disputed Issues.

O - Overview

As a high school graduate and young Christian, Stephen T. Davis was advised by a lay leader in his church congregation, " not major in philosophy. Lots of Christian students take a class in philosophy and then lose their faith." [p. 9] Davis explains that this advice struck him as very strange:

"...I remember saying to myself that if Christianity was true-as I believed it was-Christians ought to be able to answer any questions and stand up to any objections that critics from philosophy (or anywhere else) might raise." [Ibid.]

Thankfully, Davis didn't take his lay leader's advice and would go on to earn his PhD in philosophy and spend his career as a professor of philosophy.

Rational Faith is Davis's attempt to deal with the difficulties and academic challenges he has discussed with his students over the years in the secular institutions of higher learning he has taught in.  He explains that the book is mainly for two types of people: 1) Christian academics, especially those who are located at secular universities and colleges 2) Undergraduate students and graduate students who are Christians or are considering Christianity.  The latter is Davis' primary focus.

M - Main Arguments 

Chapter 1- Is There Any Such Thing as Objective Truth?

It is Davis' conviction that "the validity of everything anyone does, in academic studies or in ordinary life, depends on objective truth." [p. 13]

Davis begins the chapter by defending objective truth against two claims that are often raised against it.  Then, he defines relativism as "the view that the truth or falsity of claims depends on who is making or evaluating them." [p. 17]  He then proceeds to raise numerous philosophical criticisms against it.

The author then turns to Christian claims regarding truth and, more specifically, Jesus's claim to be "the truth."  Davis contends that when Jesus claimed to be "the way, the truth and the life," He was claiming to be the the truth in three ways: 1) What He says is objectively true 2) What He did on our behalf is the true route to redemption and wholeness in life 3) He truly was and is the Son of God (i.e., God incarnate).

He ends the chapter by making a key point about moral relativism.  Davis argues that "If there are not objective values but only good and bad 'for you' and good and bad 'for me,' then there is no rational or trustworthy basis for defending the ideals and accomplishments like the equality of all people before the law, government as based on the consent of the people, tolerance of and civility toward those who disagree with us freedom of speech and freedom of religion.  If there are no objective values, then the only available goals are the targets of one's own desires, and the only available vehicles for convincing people are power and politics." [p.23]

Chapter 2- Why Believe in God?

Davis begins this chapter by disclosing that "the primary historical reason" that he believes in God "is doubtless the fact that my parents believed in God and taught me to do the same." [p. 29]  His family was not particularly religious, but did attend church occasionally.  This reviewer appreciated Davis' willingness to share this fact and as he rightly explains, "...many people grow up to reject opinions held by their parents...I have never encountered any convincing reason to reject belief in God." [p. Ibid] Regardless of how Davis came to believe in God, one should consider his reasons for continuing to believe.  To do otherwise is to risk falling prey to the genetic fallacy.

The author continues by further admitting that " far the most important reason why I believe in God is this: I have had experiences in my life that I naturally find myself interpreting in terms of the presence of God." [p. 30]  However, he understands that while this certainly counts as evidence for him that God exists, this doesn't qualify as evidence for the person who hasn't had these experiences.  As a result, in addition to the argument about God and morality made in chapter one (see here), Davis offers two more arguments for the existence of God.

His first argument deals with the kind of world we live in.  The author argues that there are only two possible explanations of the existence of the world: 1) The world is entirely accidental or just has no explanation 2) The world was brought into existence by some sort of creator.  His contention is "...that this world is the sort of world we would expect to exist if it were created by God." [p. 31] Intriguingly, Davis continues by suggesting, "...let's say that God's central aim in creating human beings is that as many of them as possible come freely to worship, love and obey God." [p. Ibid]  He then asks, "In order to achieve those ends, what sort of world would God create?"  The author argues that this world would have four main characteristics: 1) It would be a coherent and rational world 2) The evidence for the existence of God is ambiguous 3) There would be moral ambiguity 4) Humans would long redemption and redemption would be possible.  After hashing out each of these characteristics, he contends that this is preciously the world we find ourselves in.

Davis' calls his second argument "the generic cosmological argument" and it is patterned after arguments made by "Aguinas, Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz and Samuel Clarke." [p. 33]  It is as follows:

1. If the existence of the universe can be explained, then God exists.
2. Everything can be explained.
3. The universe is a thing.
4. Therefore, the universe can be explained.
5. Therefore God exists

After clarifying his terms, the author defends each of the premises and this was perhaps my favorite part of the book.  In regard to Premise (2), Davis explains that this " a version of a principle that philosophers call the 'principle of sufficient reason' (PSR)." [p. 34]  As he explains, "There are many versions of the PSR; I will interpret it to mean simply this: Everything that exists has a reason for its existence.  That is, if something x exists, there must be a reason or explanation why x exists." [p. Ibid] What follows is perhaps the most concise defense of the PSR that this reviewer has read. And while Davis freely concedes that "[d]efenders of the PSR usually admit that the PSR cannot by proved, since it constitutes one of the basic axioms of rational thought against which all other claims or statements are measured" [p. 35], he concludes that " some sense we cannot help but accept the PSR and have no good reason to think it nonetheless false, it is pointless to suggest that we take seriously the possibility that it is false." [p. 43]  This reader agrees.

He concludes the chapter by sharing thoughts on our need for God and how one can find God.

Chapter 3- Is the Bible's Picture of Jesus Reliable?

Davis' main goal in this chapter is to argue that the Gospels in the New Testament are reliable.  And while he confesses that he does not hold that the Bible is inerrant, he does affirm that "the Bible is infallible, where I understand this to mean something like 'does not mislead us in matters that are crucially related to Christian faith and practice.'" [p. 67]  The author's main reason for resisting inerrancy is due to his conviction that "[t]he Bible contains discrepancies and inconsistencies that I am not able to harmonize sensibly." [p. 50]  This reader would have appreciated some examples of these so called "discrepancies and inconsistencies," however, I understand that this was not Davis' focus in this particular work.  Regardless, Davis holds to "a robust view of biblical reliability." [p. Ibid.]

After listing and responding to some common arguments offered by New Testament (NT) critics, the author makes his case for the reliability of the NT documents.  Perhaps the most impressive argument the author made dealt with the Apostle Paul's writings on Jesus.  He convincingly demonstrates that a "broad outline" of the life of Jesus can be pieced together using "...references in the seven letters that most NT scholars accept as authentically Pauline (Romans, 1-2 Corinthians, Galatians, Philippians, 1 Thessalonians, Philemon)." [p. 58]  

He concludes the chapter by arguing that the Jesus presented in the NT documents explains best why He was crucified and His resurrection best explains the rise of the church.

Chapter 4- Was Jesus Raised from the Dead?

In this chapter, Davis strives to provide a "quick and brief" case for the resurrection of Jesus and from the outset, he makes it clear that he will "argue from reason and evidence alone, not from authority." [p. 68]  
This reviewer appreciated how the author took the time to explain what a worldview is and how it impacts the way we interpret the evidence for Jesus' resurrection from the dead.  As Davis notes, "[a] worldview is a set of fundamental beliefs about how the world is.  Everybody has a worldview.  It is like a pair of glasses or spectacles through which you see the world and that allows you to interpret what you see." [p. 69]   He then proceeds to solidify exactly what he means by the worldviews of naturalism and supernaturalism.

Davis' case for the resurrection leans heavily on the evidence for the empty tomb and the post-mortem appearances.  Most of the arguments presented will not be new to the reader familiar with common arguments in favor of both, however, this reader did appreciate how Davis took the time to deal with the common objection of so-called discrepancies in the gospel accounts.  He contends that
"[m]ost of the discrepancies are quite easy to harmonize," but also argues that the discrepancies themselves testify in a sort of backhanded way to the truth of the the basic point." [p. 77]  He writes, "They show that the Christian claim was not a made-up story, memorized and repeated verbatim by the early witnesses, like an alibi story that criminals might invent.  The New Testament claim that Jesus was alive and had appeared to certain people clearly came from different believers or communities of believers and was written down at different times.  That is evidence of the truth of what they say." [Ibid.]

I was also gratified to see that the author saw fit to draw upon the work of Oxford philosopher Richard Swinburne and his argument that the resurrection of Jesus and the incarnation support each other.

Davis ends the chapter by offering his own version of the "minimal facts" argument commonly used by apologists such as Mike Licona and Gary Habermas.

He concludes that "[t]he best way to account for these facts is to affirm that Jesus really was raised by God from the dead.  In other words, there is a patch of first-century history that makes perfect sense from a Christian perspective but from no other." [p. 80]

Chapter 5- Does Evolution Disprove Christianity?

Davis begins this chapter by conceding that "the question of evolution and religion is controversial, to say the least." [p. 81]  He then proceeds to rightly explain that "evolution can mean various things" and then offers four different definitions.  The author continues by explaining that his "aim in this chapter is to argue that it is rationally possible to be a Christian who finds the religious truth in Scripture-a Christian, that is, of a fairly orthodox and traditional persuasion-and still affirm evolution." [p.83-84]

Davis asserts that their exist at least five available options when it comes to the question of evolution and religion- young earth creationism, old earth creation, intelligent design, theistic evolution or atheistic evolution.

The author then argues that "the evidence in favor of evolution, and in favor of the claim that evolution over time produces new species, seems to me to be powerful." [p. 86]  Generally, I found Davis's assessment of each of the views mostly charitable; however, I confess that some missteps were made. For example, when discussing intelligent design (ID), Davis claims that "[a]ll the ID defenders are theists..." [p. 87]  While a popular assertion, this is demonstrably false.  Agnostic David Berlinski and atheist Bradley Monton are two examples of non-theists who defend ID.

Overall, this chapter offers a fair overview of each of the positions mentioned above and while Davis himself identifies as a theistic evolutionist, he concedes that there are indeed problems with evolutionary theory and points out that "...evolutionists sometimes tell 'just-so' stories that are not strongly supported by the fossil record." [p. 92]  It should be noted that Davis does briefly discuss how one can accept evolution and the biblical account of creation, but no hard and fast answers are offered here.

Chapter 6- Can Cognitive Science Explain Religion?

The author begins this chapter by reporting that..."[i]t is not often that new topics and debates emerge in the philosophy of religion.  But one such subject of study arises from the cognitive science of religion (CSR), which is a loosely organized group of cognitive psychologists, neuroscientists, evolutionary biologists and others who are interested in the phenomenon of religion." [p. 101]  These thinkers, according to Davis, believe that religion is merely natural.  That is, they believe humans have a natural inclination toward believing in the supernatural and these beliefs are purely adaptive in an evolutionary sense.  He then proceeds to assess whether or not religion is indeed natural.

What follows is a much broader look at the question than this reader has seen elsewhere that is informative and thoughtful.  Ultimately, the author concludes "...[t]he tendency of human beings to believe in some sort of God, gods or supernatural beings can to a great extent by explained along cognitive or evolutionary lines...I do not believe any such explanation can be complete without adding the point that God created us with a certain need and desire for fellowship with God." [p. 120]

Chapter 7- Is Christianity Unique?

Davis takes aim at the "foremost religious pluralist in recent times," [p.  125]  Professor John Hick.  He successfully argues that "pluralism is not the right way to look at the problem of religious diversity." [p. 126]  He then goes on to argue for the uniqueness of Christianity based upon history, the notion of grace and person of Jesus Christ.  He rejects the notion that "Christianity and the other religions are on an epistemic or evidential par." [p. 138]

Chapter 8- Do Evil and Suffering Show that God Does Not Exist?

I believe most would agree that one of the most powerful arguments against the existence of a theistic God is the so-called problem of evil.  Davis concedes as much and explains the problem rather forthrightly:

"The problem of evil is probably the foremost intellectual difficulty that theists face.  If God is all-powerful, all-knowing and perfectly good, why is there so much undeserved and needless suffering?Surely, if God is all-powerful, God has the ability to prevent needless suffering.  And surely, if God is perfectly good, God would not want there to be needless suffering.  Since, as it clearly seems, there is needless suffering, either God is not all-powerful or is not perfectly good, or else does not exist." [p. 140]

Following in the footsteps of philosopher Alvin Plantinga, Davis begins by clarifying the difference between a theodicy and defense.  Then, Davis moves into offering his own theodicy based upon what he identifies as God's three great aims in creation.  These aims are:

1. God wanted to create a world that contained the greatest possible balance of moral and natural good over moral and natural evil.
2. God wanted to do so given a world in which human beings free to say yes or no to God, to obey or disobey God, to love or to hate God.
3. This entails that God wanted a world in which as many human beings as possible would freely say yes to God and accept God's salvation.

As anyone familiar with the literature on the problem of evil (POE) should be willing to concede, it can be difficult to fully address in a single chapter.  However, this reader was impressed with Davis' sensitivity to the issue and his humility.  He concedes that "...the problem of evil can best be solved given theological assumptions that Christians are prepared to make and non-believers are not" [p. 141], all the while admitting the limitations the believer experiences in completely dealing with the problem:

"Christians believe that God has good reasons for allowing evil to exist.  Christians do not always claim to know what those reasons are, but they trust in God nonetheless." [p. 145]

And least readers fear that Davis is merely offering a type of "skeptical theism" here, he actually argues that epistemic limitations are exactly what the inquirer should expect when considering the POE:

"...the fact that there are mysteries in theodicy and truths beyond our ken is not a last-ditch attempt to save a Christian theology from criticism but rather exactly what that theology should lead us to expect." [p. 146]

Chapter 9- Can We Be Happy Apart from God?

In this final chapter, the author argues that "...human beings have needs they desperately want to be met and questions they desperately want to be answered.  These are some of our deepest longings as human beings...I want to argue that people should be properly related to God because I think that God can meet those needs and provide those answers." [p. 152]  Davis then proceeds to offer 5 questions or longings that are more satisfactorily answered, should Christian theism be true.   


The book concludes with a rich discussion about what we should make of religious conversions, the distinction between private and public evidence and what it means to follow Jesus Christ.  

B - Bottomline 

It is not often that one stumbles upon a philosopher who is capable of making their writing precise and lucid, while maintaining its readability, but Stephen T. Davis is just such a thinker.  Simply put, this volume is a delightful and informative read.  And it is this reviewer's conviction that Davis succeeds in demonstrating that faith in the Christian God is indeed rational.  Further, philosophers and apologists would do well in modeling Davis' humble defense of his convictions.  As C. Stephen Evans wrote in his review of the work, "Davis is fair to the critics of Christianity and careful not to claim more than his arguments warrant."  

Whether you are a committed believer or an inquiring skeptic, I believe this book will both encourage and challenge you to think deeply about the important matters therein.

You can get your copy here.

Many thanks to IVP for the review copy.  

Courage and Godspeed,

Thursday, August 04, 2022

Podcast: Stephen Meyer - One God or Many Universes?


In this featured podcast, best-selling author and speaker Dr. Stephen C. Meyer considers the idea of the multi-verse and cosmic fine-tuning.  

You can listen to his full explanation here.

Learn more about Meyer's latest book, The Return of the God Hypothesis here.

And you can listen to our interview with Dr. Meyer here.  

Courage and Godspeed,

Monday, August 01, 2022

Dr. Rick Cornish on Miracles, Science and God


"Science is great, but the scientific method is simply the wrong criterion for judging miracles.  By their nature as unique, one-time events, they don't lend themselves to observability, repeatability and predictability.  So they shouldn't be evaluated by those standards.  We don't give a math test to students in an English class and then flunk them in English for failing the math test!  The test or criterion must fit the situation, and applying the scientific method to miracles doesn't fit.

In one sense, miracles are not completely unscientific.  As the work of an intelligent cause, their effects can be observed.  We look at the product of a someone rather than a something and conclude that it was designed, not the result of chance.  The principle can be noted in the Mt. Rushmore illustration.  Think how unreasonable it would be to explain the faces of Rushmore as the result of natural forces when they display obvious evidence pointing to an intelligent cause.  Likewise, when we evaluate events like healing a blind man or Christ's resurrection, a supernatural cause is fully rational, but a naturalistic one makes no sense.

Miracles and the phenomena studied by science are two different categories.  Therefore, if we we ask, 'Are miracles scientific?' meaning discoverable by scientific methods, the answer is 'no.'  Miracles are unique, non-uniform events, endowed with purpose by God.  Science, however, strives to understand events that are governed by non-purposeful, natural law.  Miracles, by definition, are exceptions to those laws.  Thus miracles and the events investigated by science require separate explanations.  

Falling outside the realm of science does not render miracles false.  They are simply not a source of scientific knowledge as found through scientific procedures.  Even though miracles are not scientific as defined by science, belief in them is reasonable and they can still not be true.  To think otherwise exposes a bias that is itself not based on science, but on philosophical assumptions.  And because science cannot prove those assumptions, consistency would exclude the scientist from adhering to his own position."1

Courage and Godspeed,

1. Dr. Rick Cornish, 5 Minute Apologist: Maximum Truth in Minimum Time, p. 244-245.

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