Saturday, March 30, 2013

Contending for Easter: How To Turn A Skeptic Into A Believer [PART 7]



            Paul, in 1 Corinthians 15, said that “If Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain. We are even found to be misrepresenting God, because we testify about God that he raised Christ, whom he did not raise if it is true that the dead are not raised.”[1] Without a doubt, the resurrection of Jesus from the dead is the most important Christian doctrine. It should, therefore, come as no surprise that in the first Christian sermons and writings they were primarily interested in showing the truth of the resurrection of Jesus Christ. There are many arguments that can be brought forward to prove that Jesus rose from the dead, and these proofs are all interrelated, however, in this article, I would like to concentrate on one particular proof of the resurrection – the fact that the disciples actually believed that Jesus rose from the dead. That this is a proof of the resurrection may come as a surprise to some, however, it is one of the most interesting proofs of the resurrection.

            Before I lay out the argument, I would like to make some preliminary comments. First of all, due to the nature of the subject, we are not looking for a demonstration that proves with mathematical certainty that Jesus rose from the dead. When we deal with historical proofs we are looking, like a lawyer in a court case, for a probable argument that is reasonable and explains all of the evidence that we have on hand. Secondly, it is not necessary to presuppose that the Bible is inspired, inerrant, or infallible, nor that any of the miracles mentioned actually happened, I will simply assume that the New Testament does give valuable information about the disciples’ reactions to the events in question.[2]

            The argument that I am proposing can be delineated as follows:

1.      If the disciples did believe that Jesus rose from the dead, then something caused them to hold this belief.

2.      The disciples did believe that Jesus rose from the dead.

3.      Therefore something caused them to hold this belief.

4.      Either this belief (a) was caused by an intentional falsehood (a lie), (b) was caused by psychological wish fulfillment, (c) was caused by a psychological reaction based upon being incapable of dealing with the death of Jesus (such as a hallucination), or (d) was caused by a literal resurrection of Jesus from the dead.

5.      The belief was not caused by options (a), (b), or (c).

6.      Therefore, the cause of the disciple’s belief that Jesus rose from the dead is option (d) - that Jesus was actually resurrected.

The argument unfolds in two main steps: premises 1-3 and premises 4-6. The first two premises are uncontroversial, and premise 3 follows necessarily from the first two premises. Premises 4-6 form a complicated, but valid, disjunction, which means that if premises 4 and 5 are true, then the conclusion is true. The only objections that can be brought against premise 4 is that it either does not exhaust the possibilities, or that one of the possibilities cannot be considered as a possibility (for example, that the resurrection actually happening is not a viable option[3]). I am fully open to someone trying to bring another possibility to the table, and we will examine it, but all that it does is add one more possibility to the disjunction. Premise 5 is the important premise as it makes the controversial claim that the first three options are not likely candidates for the cause of the disciples’ belief that Jesus rose from the dead. If it can be shown that each of these options fail to explain the disciples’ belief, then premise 5 is true, and the conclusion follows necessarily. In order to defend premise 5 we need to show that none of the first three options could be a historically probable cause for the disciples’ belief that Jesus rose from the dead.

Each of the first three options have been treated in great detail in other works on apologetics,[4] so I will only give each point a summary treatment and point the reader to other sources. The first option is that the story of the resurrection was a lie. This theory can account for the belief, but not for the other important facts. In light of the lives and teachings of the disciples this option seems to be more impossible than the resurrection itself. The disciples constantly taught the importance of the telling the truth, and living virtuous lives,[5] and they all showed that they would rather die than deny that Jesus rose from the dead.[6] Finally, there were enough eyewitnesses around the very busy Jerusalem such that if the disciples had been lying, the lie would have been immediately revealed (especially seeing as the Pharisees wanted desperately to squelch this new belief).

The second and third options can be treated together by simply showing that the disciples not only had no hope for the resurrection, but that they were, in fact, the first skeptics about the claim that Jesus had risen from the dead.[7] First of all, the disciples did not expect that Jesus would die. They expected him to liberate Israel from the Romans.[8] Secondly, the Gospels tell us that when Jesus was arrested the disciples went into hiding,[9] and stayed in hiding even after the crucifixion.[10] We do not see here the courageous disciples who would preach to the entire world that Jesus had risen from the dead.[11] Something caused a major transformation. Third, the disciples were not expecting Jesus to rise from the dead. Jesus had prophesied on many occasions that he would rise from the dead,[12] but the disciples, according to their own testimony, did not understand these prophecies.[13] Fourth, when the women went and told the disciples that they had seen the risen Lord, the disciples did not believe them; after all, the dead do not rise.[14] It wasn’t just the testimony of the women that was not believed, Mark tells us that two disciples saw Jesus when they were walking in the country, but the other disciples still would not believe them.[15] In fact, fifthly, when the disciples first heard that the body of Jesus was no longer in the tomb, they did not immediately think up the resurrection, rather, they became quite depressed.[16] Interestingly enough, the very first theory that one of the followers of Jesus thought of was that the body had been stolen or moved.[17]

Finally, even after they had heard the testimonies of those who had seen Jesus, and even after they had seen the empty tomb, they still did not believe that Jesus had risen from the dead. In fact, when Jesus appeared to the disciples in the room where they were hiding out, their first theory was that they were seeing a ghost, not that Jesus had risen from the dead.[18] They were so convinced that they were seeing a ghost that Jesus had to convince them that it was really him by eating food and letting them touch him.[19] Everyone is familiar with Thomas, who having not been there the first time, refused to believe even the testimony of all the other disciples and the women. It wasn’t until he saw Jesus and was challenged to put his hands in the holes in Jesus’ hands and feet that he believed that Jesus was really alive.[20] The evidence that we have in the New Testament accounts of the disciples’ reactions to the events surrounding the resurrection leads us to believe that the disciples were the very first skeptics.[21] Even when Jesus presented himself to them they preferred to believe that he was a ghost, rather than to believe that he had risen from the dead. It seems, therefore, that the second and third options are not possible explanations for the disciples’ belief that Jesus had risen from the dead. Therefore premise 5 is true.

As we noted above, if all of the possibilities are exhausted in premise four, and premise five is true, then the conclusion, that the only possible cause for the disciples’ belief, that Jesus rose from the dead, is that Jesus actually rose from the dead, follows necessarily. The very fact that the disciples went from scared and discouraged skeptics to courageous preachers of the resurrection of Christ is a fact that needs to be explained. I have advanced an argument by which I claim that the only possible explanation for this change of character and change of belief is that Jesus actually rose from the dead.



[1]1 Cor. 15:14-15. All bible quotations are from the ESV, unless otherwise noted.

[2]As I do not have the time to defend the reliability of the New Testament, I will simply assume that the reader is familiar with the relevant books on the subject. Cf. F. F. Bruce, The New Testament Documents: Are they Reliable?, 6th ed. (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing, 1981). Norman L. Geisler & William E. Nix, From God to Us: How we got our Bible, 2nd ed. (Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers, 2012). Bruce Manning Metzger, The Text of the New Testament (New York: Oxford University Press, 1964). William M. Ramsay, St. Paul: The Traveler and Roman Citizen, 15th ed., ed. Mark Wilson (Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel, 2001). Richard Bauckham, Jesus and the Eyewitnesses: The Gospels as Eyewitness Testimony (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing, 2006).

[3]To claim that the resurrection is not a viable option is to beg the question against the argument; therefore such a claim is logically fallacious.

[4]Cf. Josh McDowell, The New Evidence that Demands a Verdict (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1999), 252-253.

[5]Cf. Jn. 19:35. 1 Jn. 2:3-6. 1 Jn. 3:4-10. Tit. 1:10. Eph. 5:9. 1 Tim. 8-10. In fact, according to Rev. 21:8 and Rev. 22:15, if the disciples lied about the resurrection of Jesus, then they are condemned to everlasting hell. McDowell, 270.

[6]Cf. Acts 12:1-2. John Foxe, Fox’s Book of Martyr’s (Philadelphia, PA: Universal Book and Bible House, 1926). McDowell, 271.

[7]Though wish-fulfillment and hallucination are different theories, they are both sufficiently excluded as possibilities by the combination of the following points. Furthermore, the hallucination theory is refuted by the vast amount of recorded appearances of the resurrected Christ, including 500 people at the same time, as listed in 1 Cor. 15:3-7.

[8]Cf. Lk. 24:21. William Edgar and K. Scott Oliphint, eds., To 1500, vol. 1 of Christian Apologetics past and present: A primary Source Reader (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2009), 12.

[9]Cf. Mk. 14:50-52. Mt. 26:56.

[10]Cf. Jn. 20:19.

[11]The Gospel of John actually implies that the disciples, even after seeing the resurrected Christ, had no thought of « going into all the world »; rather, they went fishing (Jn. 21:1-14). It took numerous resurrection appearances and specific commands from the resurrected Christ to convince the disciples to preach the Gospel.

[12]Cf. Jn. 2:18-20, 10:17-18.

[13]Cf. Jn. 2:21-22, 20:9.

[14]Cf. Mk. 16:11. Lk. 24:10-12.

[15]Cf. Mk. 16:12-13.

[16]Cf. Lk. 24:17. Jn. 20:14-15.

[17]Cf. Jn. 20:15.

[18]Cf. Lk. 24:36-37.

[19]Cf. Mk. 16:14. Lk. 24:38-43. Jn. 20:20.

[20]Cf. Jn. 20:24-28.

[21]We have only considered the probable cause of the disciple’s belief that Jesus rose from the dead. There are two other New Testament people whose change of belief seems even more miraculous than that of the disciples – Saul of Tarsus (who was a prominent Pharisee and actively killed and persecuted any Christians who wouldn’t renounce, until Jesus appeared to him - Acts 8:1-3, 9:1-6, 1 Cor. 15:8. Cf. George Lyttleton, Observations on the Conversion and Apostleship of St. Paul (London: Joseph Crukshank, 1785).), and James the brother of Jesus (who was against Jesus prior to his death, became a leader in the Jerusalem church after Jesus appeared to him, and died for his new belief –Jn. 7:5,  1 Cor. 15:7, Acts 12:1-2). The only option that accounts for the fact that Saul and James believed that Jesus rose from the dead is that Jesus actually rose from the dead.


______________________________________



The following blog posts will be released on the dates leading up to Easter 2013:
Contending for Easter: Putting It All On TheLine [PART 1]
By Tim Barnett | Sunday, March 24th

Tim Barnett (BSc, BEd) is a high school science teacher and the founder of Clear Thinking Christianity. His passion is to train Canadian Christians--both young and old--to think clearly about their Christian convictions because Christianity is worth think about. God willing, Tim will start his MA in Philosophy at Southern Evangelical Seminary this fall. Website: www.clearthinkingchristianity.com.

Contending for Easter: The Gospel Truth: Or IsIt? [PART 2]
By Tawa Anderson | Monday, March 25th

Tawa Anderson was born and raised in Edmonton, Alberta, where he earned his BA in Political Science at the U of A (1997), and his MDiv from Edmonton Baptist Seminary (2000). He served as English pastor at Edmonton Chinese Baptist Church from 2001-2008 before returning to school to earn his PhD in Philosophy, Apologetics & Worldview from the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary (Louisville, Kentucky). Tawa now serves as Assistant Professor of Philosophy at Oklahoma Baptist University (Shawnee, Oklahoma), and returns regularly to Canada to preach, teach, and visit family and friends. Person blog: www.tawapologetics.blogspot.com.

By Paul Buller | Tuesday, March 26th

Paul enjoys discussing and teaching on philosophy of science, philosophy of ethics and theology among other related topics. He is an engineer, husband and father of two. He is the author of Arguing with Friends: Keeping Your Friends and Your Convictions. Website: www.whyjesus.ca

Contending for Easter: The Unlikely Undertaker[PART 4]
By Kelly Madland | Wednesday, March 27th

Kelly Madland is a wife, mom, and community apologist who has hosted a local apologetics conference called 'Thinking Clearly About God' in Kamloops. She has been leading a bible study on campus at Thompson Rivers University in Kamloops, BC. She is also a part of the Ratio Christi Canada development team, and is looking forward to completing her Master of Arts in Christian Apologetics in 2014. Personal blog: www.thinkclearly.ca.

Contending for Easter: Come, See Where He Lay[PART 5]
By Justin Wishart | Thursday, March 28th

Justin Wishart is the general editor and blogger for Faith Beyond Belief and lives in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. He is most interested in issues surrounding Christian philosophy, particularly epistemology and early Christian thought. Justin is a husband and a father. He currently works as a mechanic and enjoys many hobbies such as camping, hiking, and creating music. Website: www.faithbeyondbelief.ca.

Contending for Easter: Seeing is Believing[PART 6]
By Stephen J. Bedard | Friday, March 29th

Stephen J. Bedard (MDiv, MTh, MA, DMin (cand.)) is the director of Hope's Reason Ministries and an instructor at Emmanuel Bible College and Tyndale University College. Website: www.hopesreason.com.

Contending for Easter: How To Turn A Skeptic Into A Believer [PART 7]
By David Haines | Saturday, March 30th

David Haines was born and raised in Ontario, Canada. He holds a BTh from Covington Theological Seminary and an MA in Philosophy from Southern Evangelical Seminary. He is currently pursuing a PhD in Philosophy at University Laval. Personal blog is: www.philosopherdhaines.blogspot.ca. Website: www.associationaxiome.ca.

By Jojo Ruba | Sunday, March 31st

Jojo Ruba is committed to equipping Christians to be good ambassadors for Christ. He does this as a youth pastor with Faith Builder International Church in Calgary as well as a public speaker and executive director of Faith Beyond Belief. His experiences speaking at public forums, university debates and in Christian settings have helped him understand how we can better communicate the truth of the gospel. Through Faith Beyond Belief, Jojo shares solid tools to help Christians engage their culture with compassion but without compromise. Website: www.faithbeyondbelief.ca



                                                               


Thursday, March 28, 2013

BOOK REVIEW OF CHRISTIAN APOLOGETICS PAST AND PRESENT, VOL. 2


Christian Apologetics: Past & Present, a Primary Source Reader, vol. 2: from 1500. William Edgar & K. Scott Oliphint, eds. Crossway Books, 2011. 745 pp. $55.00 USD. ISBN 978-1-58134-907-8.

            This book is part 2 of a 2 volume set that proposes to introduce the reader to primary source texts, from all eras of Christian thought, that are related to Christian Apologetics. The editors, William Edgar and K. Scott Oliphint, are both professors of apologetics at Westminster Theological Seminary. The purpose of this second volume is to introduce the reader to apologetic writings, written by a number of prominent Christian theologians, dating from the 1500s, essentially the beginning of the reformation, to the present day. The book begins with Martin Luther, and concludes with some of the more recent writings of William Lane Craig, Francis Collins and others.

The book is divided into four parts, namely, the Reformation and post-reformation era, the modern era, the post-modern era and contemporary apologetics. The book seems to be designed for use as a textbook in a course dealing with the history of apologetics. As such, each one of the primary sources is followed by a number of suggested questions designed to help the student get more out of the section. The editors introduce each of the four periods of that are outlined in this book, each of the authors, and each of the primary sources, with short biographical and informational sections. Each section finishes by what is called a follow-up section, which seeks to mention some of the authors that, though important, did not earn a chapter in the book. The book is complete with a relatively complete General index, listing important names and subjects, and a scripture index. This book is almost twice the size of the first volume, in spite of the fact that it only covers the last 500 years, compared to a whopping 1500 year covered in the first volume.

            The first part of the book opens up with excerpts from Martin Luther’s Concerning Christian Liberty, John Calvin’s Institutes, Robert Bellarmine’s The Mind’s Ascent to God by the Ladder of Created Things, and John Owen’s Dissertation of Divine Justice. The conclusion for this summary gives honorable mention to Francisco Suarez, Pierre Du Moulin, Francis Turretin, and Juan Luis Vives.

            The second part of the book, dealing with modernity, gives us excerpts from Pascal’s Pensées, Joseph Butler’s Analogy of Religion, Jonathan Edward’s Miscellanies, William Paley’s Natural Theology, and Friedrich Schleiermacher’s On Religion. Honorable mention is given to Hugo Grotius, Herbert of Cherbury, Robert Boyle, John Locke, Isaac Newton, Matthew Tindal, Thomas Sherlock, John Leland, George Berkeley, William Warburton, Leibniz, Pierre Bayle,  and a number of other interesting authors. The period that is known as the modern age was a lively time in which the foundations of modern science were founded, and scientific and technological discoveries were constantly happening. These discoveries, coupled with the influence of the late scholastics and the Cartesian philosophers, made for a period of history that was both optimistic about man’s natural capacities, and suspicious of all claims to authority, including religious authority. It is unfortunate that Descartes is not quoted as, without out doubt, he is the most influential catholic philosopher of the modern period, and his works were written with the purpose of defending Christianity. One of the most well-known expositions of the ontological argument, for example, is found in his writings.

            The third part of this book introduces us to the writings of a number of influential thinkers in the 19th and 20th centuries. These centuries saw the publication of a plethora of theological and apologetics works. The selection that we are given include Soren Kierkegaard’s The Instant, Abraham Kuyper’s Lectures on Calvinism, James Orr’s The Christian View of God and the World, B. B. Warfield’s Introduction to Francis R. Beattie’s Apologetics, Chesterton’s Orthodoxy, J. Gresham Machen’s well known Christianity and Liberalism, Cornelius Van Til’s The Defense of the Faith, C. S. Lewis’s Mere Christianity, the catholic theologian Hans Urs von Balthasar’s Eludications, and Test Everything, Lesslie Newbigin’s The Gospel in a Pluralist Society, and Francis Schaeffer’s Death in the City.

            The fourth part of this book gives us a small selection of some contemporary apologists, including selections from Alvin Plantinga’s Warranted Christian Belief, Merold Westphal’s Suspicion and Faith: The Religious Uses of Modern Atheism, Os Guinness’s Time for Truth, the catholic, Jean-Luc Marion’s God without Being, William Lane Craig’s Reasonable Faith, and Francis Collins’, The Language of God. The contemporary selection surprisingly includes nothing by Norman Geisler, Gary Habermas, Paul Copan, Chuck Colson, and a number of other prominent Christian Apologists.

            Though there are some surprising inclusions, and exclusions, the book is a very useful introduction to the works of apologetics that have been published in the last 500 years. It would have been possible to publish a single volume for each of the four sections, and even necessary, if one wished to include all of the important works of apologetics that were written in this short period. As such, the editors have done a wonderful job at giving us a wide variety of apologetics works. As with the first volume there is a noted emphasis on biblical and historical apologetics, and a distinct reformed flavour. Both volumes of this series will be useful in a class concerning the history of apologetics, and a welcome addition to any professors, pastors or lay-man’s library.

THE ESCAPE OF REASON FROM REASON – A BOOK REVIEW


Escape from Reason. Francis A. Schaeffer. InterVarsity Press, 1974. 96 pp. ISBN 0-87784-538-7.

Francis Schaeffer has been widely recognized as one of the twentieth century’s greatest Christian apologists.  In his book Escape from Reason, Schaeffer proposes to help the reader to interact, on a more meaningful level, with the current culture. Why? “We must realize that we are facing a rapidly changing historical situation, and if we are going to talk to people about the gospel we need to know what is the present ebb and flow of thought-forms. Unless we do this the unchangeable principles of Christianity will fall on deaf ears. And if we are going to reach the intellectuals and the workers, both groups right outside our middle-class churches, then we shall need to do a great deal of heart-searching as to how we may speak what is eternal into a changing historical situation.”[1] In order to help the reader to properly understand his current cultural situation, Schaeffer proposes to explain why people think the way they do today, and how we got to this point. Unless we understand the cause, we will be unable to know the effect fully. Schaeffer proposes, as a starting point, that the entire contemporary situation finds its starting place in a number of doctrines that he claims were proposed by Thomas Aquinas, namely: a distinction between nature and grace, and a partial fall of humanity by which humans retained some form of autonomy from their creator.[2] “What is wrong? Again, it goes back to Thomas Aquinas’s insufficient view of the Fall which gives certain things an autonomous structure. When nature is made autonomous it soon ends up by devouring God, grace, freedom and eventually man.”[3]

Schaeffer proposes that from this starting point we can follow the history of human philosophy and theology and give an explanation of contemporary thought, and how to approach it. He traces a line through the renaissance, the reformation, the development of science, Kant, Hegel, Kierkegaard, contemporary existentialism, into contemporary culture. In his analysis of culture he considers the different domains of science, philosophy, and, primarily, the arts.

            The most important contributions of this book are Schaeffer's intriguing analysis of contemporary culture and society, and how Christians need to approach it. Furthermore, Schaeffer shows how the work of the existentialist philosophers such as Sartre and Heidegger have influenced our society, and indeed the Christian church, more than what most people realize. One of the conclusions that the reader will inevitably draw, after reading this book, is that, in order to be able to successfully present the gospel, we need to truly understand our culture, however, in order to truly understand this culture, we need to understand the ideas that drive it. If we don't understand our culture, then, when we preach the gospel, those who hear it won't understand it; it will be like trying to speak english to someone who does not understand english. 

The major problem of this book is that the starting point for his cultural analysis is factually wrong. He repeats his starting point on numerous occasions; namely, that Aquinas's distinction between nature and grace is the source of a dichotomy that has been influencing and destroying culture ever since. Regardless of his wrong interpretation of Aquinas, and his naming of Aquinas as the source of all the trouble, I do think that his diagnostic of culture is, in the main points, mostly right. It is a book worth reading for its diagnosis of culture, but not for its philosophical insights into the ancient and medieval philosophers. On the other hand, his critiques of Kierkegaard and Heidegger are a little bit more interesting, as he shows how these contemporary philosophers have had an enormous influence on our current society.

It is necessary to respond to his constantly repeated claim that "nature destroys grace", which shows up, in one form or another, throughout the book, as well as to his claim whereby he attributes a distinction between nature and grace to Aquinas, and  the claim that Aquinas only allows for a "partial fall", allowing for human autonomy from God. These claims are simply false as anyone who is familiar with Aquinas would know. Aquinas claims, to the contrary, that the entire human nature is corrupted, but that the fall did not erase all traces of rationality, etc. To make such a claim would be to contradict Rom. 1:19-20 and Rom. 2:15. A good book on this subject, which will correct the erroneous claims of Schaeffer, is "Aquinas, Calvin & Contemporary Protestant Thought" by Arvin Vos.

In relation to his claim that Aquinas only proposes a partial fall Schaeffer constantly claims that the "biblical doctrine" of the fall implies a total fall, and he constantly claims that a biblical theology is uninfluenced by any type of philosophy. Both of these later claims are naive and simply false. Most reformation theologians were either nominalists, such as Luther, or Platonist, in their philosophy, and these philosophical views, which were quite popular at that time, influenced their theology. Furthermore, the only truly "biblical theology" is the words of the Bible itself properly interpreted; however as many modern philosophers have noted, as soon as we begin the process of explaining and interpreting the Bible, we do so in the light of the categories that we accept about the world. That is, the Bible is interpreted in light of how we define certain terms, and these terms are not defined in the Bible. I always cringe whenever I hear someone claim, "That's just what the Bible teaches!", as they are arrogantly claiming some sort of insight that is over and above that of every other human since the apostle's finished writing the New Testament. There is only one proper interpretation for every part of scripture, however, human limitations and sinfulness should keep us from the pretentious and dogmatic claim that our theology is 100% truth. Schaeffer’s claim that nature destroys grace is humorous, because there was a common saying in the medieval age: "Grace perfects Nature".

All in all, I agree with his analysis of culture, but was greatly discouraged by his analysis of philosophy and theology. When I finished the book, the first thought that crossed my mind was, "how in the world did Schaeffer gain as much popularity as a Christian apologist as C. S. Lewis?" In fact, one can find, in C. S . Lewis, almost every insight that Schaeffer is credited with, however, with a more profound analysis of philosophical and theological trends. In my humble opinion, one would be better off reading C. S. Lewis than Schaeffer.


[1]Francis Schaeffer, Escape From Reason (1968; repr., Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1974), 93.

[2]Cf. 9, 11, 13, 16, 19, 23-24, 28, 32, 37, 38, 39-40, 51, 75.

[3]Cf. 39-40.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Contending for Easter: A series about the Resurrection of Jesus


We are coming up to the time of the year when we celebrate the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Easter celebrations seem to have lost their focus, however, and the great majority of Canadians spend more time celebrating chocolate eggs and some strangely evolved bunny who leaves these chocolate eggs all over the place. Beginning tomorrow (Sunday, March 24) and running through Easter Sunday (March 31), I will be linking a series of blog articles from the recently formed, Canadian Apologetics Coalition - a group of apologetics-minded Canadian bloggers who are defending the Christian faith through conferences and blog posts. Each day, this week, I will update this post in order to provide links to the relevant article. On Saturday, March the 30th, I will be publishing my own post as my contribution to the series.

The following blog posts will be released on the dates leading up to Easter 2013:


Contending for Easter: Putting It All On The Line 
By Tim Barnett | Sunday, March 24th

Tim Barnett (BSc, BEd) is a high school science teacher and the founder of Clear Thinking Christianity. His passion is to train Canadian Christians--both young and old--to think clearly about their Christian convictions because Christianity is worth think about. God willing, Tim will start his MA in Philosophy at Southern Evangelical Seminary this fall. Website: Clear Thinking Christianity

Contending for Easter: The Gospel Truth: Or Is It? 
By Tawa Anderson | Monday, March 25th

Tawa Anderson was born and raised in Edmonton, Alberta, where he earned his BA in Political Science at the U of A (1997), and his MDiv from Edmonton Baptist Seminary (2000). He served as English pastor at Edmonton Chinese Baptist Church from 2001-2008 before returning to school to earn his PhD in Philosophy, Apologetics & Worldview from the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary (Louisville, Kentucky). Tawa now serves as Assistant Professor of Philosophy at Oklahoma Baptist University (Shawnee, Oklahoma), and returns regularly to Canada to preach, teach, and visit family and friends. Personal blog: Tawapologetics

Contending for Easter: They Sought To Kill Him, But Did They Succeed? 
By Paul Buller | Tuesday, March 26th

Paul enjoys discussing and teaching on philosophy of science, philosophy of ethics and theology among other related topics. He is an engineer, husband and father of two. He is the author of Arguing with Friends: Keeping Your Friends and Your Convictions. Website: Why Jesus?

Contending for Easter: The Unlikely Undertaker 
By Kelly Madland | Wednesday, March 27th

Kelly Madland is a wife, mom, and community apologist who has hosted a local apologetics conference called 'Thinking Clearly About God' in Kamloops. She has been leading a bible study on campus at Thompson Rivers University in Kamloops, BC. She is also a part of the Ratio Christi Canada development team, and is looking forward to completing her Master of Arts in Christian Apologetics in 2014. Personal blog: Think Clearly

Contending for Easter: Come, See Where He Lay  
By Justin Wishart | Thursday, March 28th

Justin Wishart is the general editor and blogger for Faith Beyond Belief and lives in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. He is most interested in issues surrounding Christian philosophy, particularly epistemology and early Christian thought. Justin is a husband and a father. He currently works as a mechanic and enjoys many hobbies such as camping, hiking, and creating music. Website: Faith Beyond Belief

Contending for Easter: Seeing is Believing 
By Stephen J. Bedard | Friday, March 29th  

Stephen J. Bedard (MDiv, MTh, MA, DMin (cand.)) is the director of Hope's Reason Ministries and an instructor at Emmanuel Bible College and Tyndale University College. Website: Hope's Reason

Contending for Easter: How To Turn A Skeptic Into A Believer  

By David Haines | Saturday, March 30th
David Haines was born and raised in Ontario, Canada. He holds a BTh from Covington Theological Seminary and an MA in Philosophy from Southern Evangelical Seminary. He is currently pursuing a PhD in Philosophy at University Laval. Personal blog is: David Haines Philosophy Website: Association Axiome

Contending for Easter: Why Canadians Still Need Easter 
By Jojo Ruba | Sunday, March 31st

Jojo Ruba is committed to equipping Christians to be good ambassadors for Christ. He does this as a youth pastor with Faith Builder International Church in Calgary as well as a public speaker and executive director of Faith Beyond Belief. His experiences speaking at public forums, university debates and in Christian settings have helped him understand how we can better communicate the truth of the gospel. Through Faith Beyond Belief, Jojo shares solid tools to help Christians engage their culture with compassion but without compromise. Website: Faith Beyond Belief

Monday, March 4, 2013

A REVIEW OF GOD AND EVIL


God and Evil: The case for God in a world filled with pain. Chad Meister and James K. Dew Jr., eds. Downer’s Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2013. 360 pp. $20.00. ISBN 978-1-8308-3784-7

            The problem of evil, as Peter Kreeft mentioned in his book touching on this very problem, is the only good argument that can be brought against the existence of God.[1] As such, it is a problem that deserves the attention of every Christian thinker, and it is a problem that has been given the attention of almost every great Christian thinker throughout the history of the church. This book is an interesting and unique addition to the long list of writings that already address the problem of evil in that it compiles the work of a number of contemporary Christian thinkers into one volume. Chad Meister and James K. Dew Jr. have worked together to edit and compile 19 different essays, and the transcript of a debate between William Lane Craig and Michael Tooley, all of which prone different approaches to the problem of evil. The proposed purpose of this book is “to provide reasonable answers to these kinds of questions [questions concerning evil and God] and to present various ways evangelical Christians have wrestled with the issues.”[2] The various essays are divided into four different groups. The first group looks at the different kinds of evil that are considered by the problem of evil, and suggest responses to these particular problems. Part two considers two different manners of approaching the problem of evil, with articles that offer either defenses or theodicies. Part three considers different subjects that interact with the problem of evil and God. Finally, part four puts gives different perspectives on different ways of approaching the problem of evil. The Craig-Tooley debate is in the appendix.

             Due to the nature of this book (a compilation of 19 articles and a debate transcript) I will not be interacting, in this book review, with the views expressed by each of the authors. As far as the organization and purpose of the book is concerned, this book is impeccable. The editors effectively presented a number of contemporary approaches to the problem of evil, and organized them appropriately. The book includes articles by some of the most important contemporary evangelical thinkers, including Gregory Ganssle, Garry DeWeese, R. Douglas Geivett, Paul Copan, Gary Habermas, William Lane Craig and William Dembski. The book contains a table of contents, an index of proper names, and an index of subjects which makes this a book a great reference tool for further research, as well as a great choice for required reading in a course on Christian apologetics or the problem of evil. The only possible drawbacks, which is probably not any fault of the editors, is that some very important contemporary views on the problem of evil, such as those advanced by  Alvin Plantinga and John Hick, were not represented (though they are mentioned in some of the articles), although we are introduced to Augustinian and Irenaean theodicies, we are not introduced to Aquinas’s answer to the problem of evil (though, as with Plantinga and Hick, Aquinas is mentioned in passing) and some of the articles that were included in the book seemed to be weak and difficult to follow. Even with these critiques the book is still one of the most complete books concerning contemporary evangelical views of the problem of evil and related subjects that can be found.

            The book begins with an interesting article by Gregory E. Ganssle and Yena Lee that gives an interesting response to the evidential problems of evil posited by Rowe and Draper. Ganssle and Lee base their critique upon what is called skeptical theism, and arguments about probability. James K. Dew Jr. gives an analysis, exposition and refutation of the main, and most well-known, logical arguments from evil against the existence of God. Bruce Little presents some interesting critiques of the way that the Greater good theodicies attempt to resolve the problem of evil, and attempts to outline a more appropriate way of explaining evil that is able to take gratuitous evil into consideration. This is followed up by an article by Garry DeWeese in which he presents an argument that attempts to explain natural evil in the same way that the free-will defense explains moral evil. He calls it the Free-Process defense and founds it upon the concept of a dynamic world and the phenomenon of chaos systems. We are then introduced to the different solutions to the problem of evil that have been advanced by Augustine, Irenaeus and Leibniz. Paul Copan addresses, in two chapters, the related problems of where moral evil came from, and original sin. The next couple of articles in this third section all address issues that create what we might call the personal problem of evil.[3] They include articles touching on the hiddenness of God (C. S. Lewis notes this uncomfortable reality in A Grief Observed, when he says that “But go to Him when your need is desperate, when all other help is vain, and what do you find? A door slammed in your face, and a sound of bolting and double bolting on the inside. After that, silence. You may as well turn away. The longer you wait, the more emphatic the silence will become.”[4]), Prayer and evil, and the psychological problem of evil in light of the death and resurrection of Jesus. The section is completed with a number of interesting articles touching on how other worldviews deal with the problem of evil, how the New Atheists deal (or don’t deal) with the problem of evil, and how the fact that we recognize the reality of evil is actually a good reason to think that God exists.

            The final section contains two articles that discuss, from two different perspectives (Craig presents an argument for a form of exclusivism, Blanchette and Walls argue for a form of Inclusivism) the question of Hell (and eternal punishment) and how it contributes to the problem of evil, and the question of evolution in its relation to the problem of evil. William Dembski argues that evolution does not help answer the problem of evil, and Karl W. Giberson and Francis S. Collins argue that it does. This section is followed up the by transcript of the Craig-Tooley debate which includes a summary analysis of Tooley’s own argument against the existence of God from the evidential problem of evil.

            All things considered this book is a wonderful addition to the library of any contemporary apologist, pastor and philosopher. Furthermore this book provides material that could be used in any number of introductory courses, including a course on the problem of evil, or Christian apologetics.


[1]Peter Kreeft, Making Sense Out of Suffering (Ann Arbor, MI : Servant Books, 1986), 30.

[2]Chad Meister and James K. Dew Jr., eds. God and Evil: The case for God in a world filled with pain (Downer’s Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2013), 9.

[3]C. S. Lewis, The Problem of Pain (1940; repr., New York: HarperCollins, 2000), preface. Though he doesn’t use these exact terms, Lewis, in his preface, distinguishes between the intellectual problem of evil, which he will be answering, and the problem of evil when it is experienced by the individual person.

[4]C. S. Lewis, A Grief Observed (1961; repr., New York : HarperCollins, 2000), 6.