THE COLD AND LONELY TRUTH: A BOOK REVIEW
Cold and Lonely Truth: The Beckoning of God’s Reality in an Age of Rationalization. Arthur Khachatryan. Published by Arthur Khachatryan, 2010. 217pp. ISBN 978-1-4538-5087-9.
Cold and Lonely Truth, written by Arthur Khachatryan could be described as the end result of one man’s search for truth. In the preface Arthur explains the circumstances that led him to begin asking life’s important questions, and explains that this book is the result of his search. Written in somewhat of a conversational style, reminiscent of some of Ravi Zacharias’s works, this book covers a wide variety of topics ranging from the objectivity of truth to the evolution/creation debate. I will begin by giving an outline of the books main contents, followed by a consideration of the merits of the book. Finally, I will notes some important critiques about the contents and format of this book.
The book is divided into six parts, each of which looks at a different area of apologetic interest. Part one discusses the philosophical subject of truth. Is truth objective, how can we know truth, and is skepticism tenable? Part two looks at the psychological factors of religion and the question of man’s ultimate purpose. In part three the author turns to questions concerning the natural sciences. He looks at questions relating to the origin of the universe, and weighs in on questions concerning evolution and creation. Part four considers questions about faith. Part five looks at the historicity of the Bible. In this section we are introduced to the extra-biblical evidence for the life of Christ, as well as questions concerning Christ’s resurrection and other areas of historical interest for those looking at Christianity. The author finally turns to questions about God, and our experience of God. For the interested reader, the book includes a bibliography, suggestions for further reading and an appendix explaining important terms, religions, worldview, and other philosophical ideas.
Concerning the merits of this book, we should note, first of all, that this book gives us a summary explanation of some of the main areas of tension in Christian apologetics, philosophy, science and theology. Furthermore, due to the fact that the book is written in a conversational style, it is a relatively easy read, and one has the impression that we are engaging in a conversation with the author as he explains that route that he took in his search for truth. The book also contains many interesting facts and quotes from prominent philosophers, authors and scientists. As such we are not only given the author’s perspective, but we are also introduced to the views of many important thinkers.
Unfortunately, though the book may be of interest to someone who wishes to observe the results of the author’s search for truth, this book could not possibly be used as an academic resource, nor can it be considered to be a scholarly look at the domains of Christian apologetics. As we read through the book we are impressed by the following important problems. First of all, many important references are simply missing, and though the quotes are attributed to their authors, we are left without any idea as to where the quotes came from. Though this is a problem throughout the book, we are confronted with a total lack of proper referencing when we arrive in the section on the fine-tuning of the universe (p. 55-56). Though the quotes are interesting, they are useless for the interested seeker of truth, as we simply are not told were to find these quotes. Secondly, the author is overly dogmatic in many of his claims, not taking into account the real strength of some of the opposing views. For example, in looking at the question of purpose, the author is disturbed by what he sees as a logical consequence of evolution – the total lack of meaning or purpose. We are told, “The superficial things would reign supreme and we’d do well enough to live for the moment with a selfish drive for instant self-gratification, our primary goal being the delay of our inevitable doom for as long as possible to give ourselves as much time as possible. (p.33)” But, so it seems, if Atheism is true, then whether we like it or not, this would simply be the case, and we might as well get used to it. It may be a bleak picture, but, if there is no God, then it is reality, and the sooner we learn to deal with it the better. We are told further on that, if evolution and atheism are true, then “Hedonism should then be our god. (p. 33)” We are also told that if no God exists then we cannot know right from wrong. This seems to be another dogmatic assertion that does not seem to follow. Many philosophers, Aristotle included, built Godless systems in which hedonism was condemned as immoral, and philosophical contemplation was seen as man’s ultimate good. It might be argued that ultimately, God must exist for Aristotle’s system to be possible; however, it must be an argument and not a dogmatic assertion. There does not seem to be, in fact, any interaction with the claims of Aristotle. Thirdly, though the reader is impressed with the conversational style of the book, the reader is also disturbed by the seeming lack of continuity in the chapters. We get the impression that the conversation is going nowhere, jumping from one subject to another. Furthermore, there is much repetition, in each of the subdivisions, of similar claims. Moving from one paragraph to the next the reader gets the impression of déjà vu. Finally, on a whole, there are many unwarranted and rhetorical claims throughout the book.
A large part of the book is dedicated to the debate concerning evolution and creation. In light of that, I would like to point out one section that concerned this reader. At one point the author asks the question, “Can God Direct Evolution? (p. 108-109)” The author claims that it is impossible, and bases this negative claim upon two arguments, one based upon the nature of God, and one based upon purpose. The argument based upon purpose is as follows: “To say that God used a purposeless process to purposefully give rise to human beings is incoherent. Additionally, it is not logical to assume that the level of involvement by such a God would be directly tied to the value He would ascribe to specific creatures? (p. 109)” This argument seems to be guilty of the straw man fallacy. Why should we think that evolution would be purposeless, if God is using it with the intention of bringing into existence humanity? In fact, it certainly seems that the process of evolution would, indeed, be given a great deal of purpose if it was used as a tool in the hands of a creator. Whether or not the reader agrees with the author, it seems that this argument simply does not follow. The second argument is given in two forms. The first is, “If we accept theistic evolution, we must embrace an impersonal, incoherent and logically contradicting God. (p. 109)” The second is, “At best we’d be stuck with a deistic (impersonal, uninvolved God) worldview and though a God of this sort would no doubt still retain attributes of incredible intelligence and power, worship of such an impersonal God would seem a bit spurious. (p. 109)” Again, for both of these claims, the reader finds themselves asking, first of all, “Why?”. These claims simply do not seem to follow. What would make us think that if God used evolution, then he would be impersonal and uninvolved? Secondly, we want to ask, “If that is the type of God that exists, then would not the argument against theistic evolution fall to pieces?” These statements need to be proved. Complaining that if theistic evolution is true, then our God would have to be impersonal, seems to be somewhat pointless, unless we have already shown that God exists, and that he is personal and involved (not deistic), and that it follows necessarily that if God used evolution then he would be a deistic God. Neither of these latter points has been proven, therefore, the argument seems to fall apart. It seems entirely possible, that a personal, all-powerful, all-knowing, all-good God could “coherently”, and without “logical contradiction”, use evolution as the method of creating life.
There are many more things that could be said about this book, but space will not permit it. This book is a summary explanation of some of the main areas of tension in Christian apologetics. In my humble opinion, this book would be primarily of interest to people who wish to read about the author’s search for truth. However, the numerous problems that I noted affect the value of the book as an academic resource.