Thursday, July 8, 2010

God is Great, God is Good

God Is Great, God Is Good: Why Believing in God Is Reasonable & Responsible

God does not exist. God doesn’t make sense, and what about evolution? Evil disproves the existence of God, or religion is just too evil. Christianity is just a myth. How does my faith in Jesus Christ affect my life? If you are a pastor or keep up with current debates in religion today you may have heard one or more of these statements. God is Great, God is Good is a great resource for understanding current naturalistic and skeptical arguments.

The book is organized in four parts. The contributors are a collage of Christian thinkers in the leading edge of their fields. The book is only 265 pages in length but is full of great evidence for a Good, Great, and yet personal God. Most of the authors do, however, affirm some form of theistic evolution. I have chosen to only draw out some highlights in this review and encourage you to read “the rest of the story.”

God Is: William L. Craig, J.P. Moreland and Paul Moser.
God Is Great: John Polkinghorne, Michael Behe, and Micahel J. Murray.
God Is Good: Chad Meister, Alister McGrath, Paul Copan, and Jerry Walls.
Why It Matters: Charles Taliaferro, Scot McKnight, Gary Habermas, and Mark Mittleberg.

Part One discusses God’s existence. Here strong arguments positing the existing of God are selected. Part Two addresses the arguments against God’s “creative design” in the world. It is a rejoinder to naturalistic, Darwinian speculations. Part Three tackles questions the goodness of God and how a perfectly loving God can coexist with heaven or hell. Part Four leaves theistic arguments and attempts to discuss Christian thought, e.g. divine revelation, Jesus Christ, Resurrection.

In the first chapter, William L. Craig dismantles the arguments of atheist Richard Dawkins (author, God Delusion) within just ten pages. Craig concisely covers the Cosmological, Moral, Teleological, and Ontological arguments all the while clearly pointing to the short-comings of Dawkins. J.P. Moreland takes up the second chapter with great arguments for man being made in the image of God (See Gen. 1:27). Moreland begins with the premise that “there are things about our makeup that are like how God is.” (pg.33) He lays out five evidences for this argument: Consciousness, Free Will, Rationality, United Selves, and Intrinsic, Equal Value and Rights.

Paul Moser begins chapter three with suggesting that “a morally robust version of theism is cognitively more resilient than contemporary critics have supposed.” (pg. 49) Here Moser seeks to reorient some presuppositions usually packed into inquiry or arguments about the existence of God. In chapter four, John Polkinghorne suggests that “the Universe points beyond itself” and that we have “a finely tuned Universe”. He also addresses atheistic scientific explanations for a Multiverse which he rightly calls a “grossly extended form of naturalism”. (pg. 71). Polkinghorne also writes about the “significant change” that has taken place in physics and our explanation of the Universe. He also states, “the theist cannot be forbidden to believe that God has chosen to interact providentially with unfolding history, with the open grain of cosmic process that modern science has discerned.” (pg. 75)

In chapters five and six Michael Behe and Michael Murray discuss evolution but from two different angles. Behe speaks of God and Evolution. Specifically about Darwinism and how it has changed, random mutation, and malaria. One of his final remarks is, “for most of history humanity could see only the beauty and elegance of the external features of life…we now see that the hidden foundation of life is even more ingenious than its visible features.” (pg. 89) Murray, on the other hand, talks about the “powerful evidence that human minds are in fact, if not exactly hard wired, at least strongly predisposed to religious beliefs and behavior.” (p.g 91) Michael Persinger conversely says that “God is an artifact of the brain.” Dawkins would say, “the irrationality of religion is a by-product of the built in irrationally mechanism in the brain.” Murray goes on to conclude that it is “acceptable for the Christian to hold that God created the world, human beings and human minds in such a way that when they are functioning properly, they form beliefs in the existence of rocks, rainbows, human minds and…God.” (g. 104)

Chapter seven, by Chad Meister, explores God, Evil and Morality. Meister begins with the problem of evil and then moves to remarks about the foundation of morality and morality as illusion. In chapter eight, Alister McGrath does an excellent job of answering the problem of religious evil. Discussing the New Atheism, clearing up the term “religion”, “God” and looks at the atheistic violence against religion as well. Mc Grath also writes of binary oppositions and the inevitability that divisions amongst groups are social constructs. In conclusion Mc Grath quotes Michael Shermer to explain the positive side of religion: “for every one of these grand tragedies there are then thousand acts of personal kindness and social good that go unreported…religion…cannot be reduced to an unambiguous good or evil.” (pg. 131)

Paul Copan takes on “Are Old Testament Laws Evil?” in the ninth chapter. Copan also takes Dawkins, Dennett, Hitchens and Harris (popular atheists) to task. Dawkins thinks that Yahweh is a moral monster forced upon culture and religion then is evil. Copan exposes the faux pas of the New Atheists which “resist the notion of Yahweh’s rightful prerogatives over humans” assume a “sexual jealousy of God” by diminishing the sacred “meaning of the marriage covenant” and says that “naturalism doesn’t have the metaphysical resources to move from valueless matter to value.” (pg. 153)

Chapter ten seems to be unique in apologetics as Jerry Walls discusses “How God Could Create Hell?” Walls suggests that “hell is created when free beings use (more accurately, abuse) the freedom God has given them not to embrace him but to reject him.” (pg. 162) Walls quotes C.S. Lewis in The Problem of Pain when he says, “the damned are, in one sense, successful, rebels to the end; that the doors of hell are locked on the inside.” (pg. 163)

Part four, and Chapter eleven starts with “Recognizing Divine Revelation” by Charles Taliaferro; Chapter twelve—“The Messiah You Never Expected” by Scot McKnight; Chapter 13—“Tracing Jesus’ Resurrection to its Earliest Eyewitness Accounts” by Gary R. Habermas and the final chapter “Why Faith In Jesus Matters” by Mark Mittleberg.

The copy I received was provided to me at no charge, by InterVarsity Press. I received a paperback edition with an introduction which distills each part of the book. There is also a postscript with Antony Flew and Gary Habermas and an Appendix consisting of “The Dawkings Confusion: Naturalism “Ad Absurdum”: A Review of Richard Dawkins’s The God Delusion.

God Is Great, God Is Good: Why Believing in God Is Reasonable & Responsible

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