Book Plunge: Mere Science and Christian Faith

What do I think of Greg Cootsona’s book published by IVP? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

I am not a scientist, but I am always interested in books about the intersection between science and religion. When IVP sent me this one, it was one I was eager to read. Cootsona’s book is different in some ways. It’s not so much because of content, but because of the approach.

Cootsona writes his book largely with emerging adults in mind, the kind of people we would call millennials. These are young people who have a lot of questions about science and religion. What is the relationship between the two? Is there conflict or dialogue or what?

Cootsona answers these questions and often shows information on the side about conversations that he’s had with young people and little statements that they say. People involved in youth ministry need to be reading something like this. These are the very issues that young people are dealing with and as Cootsona sadly shows at the end, many people walk away because they committed the great sin of asking questions.

Cootsona deals with questions not only about creation and evolution, but also about technology. What are the effects that it’s having on society? There is some good of course, but there is also some bad. Are we having too much screen time? Could we actually bear to put the phones down?

He also spends some time with the new atheists. For the most part, the new atheists aren’t really an issue any more, but the mind set is still there. Dawkins is still seen as being on the side of science and religion is seen as the opposite. This leaves many people wondering if they have to choose between science and religion. It doesn’t help Christians out when we tell young people that they just need to have faith and not bother with their questions.

Some of you might be wondering if in all of this if Cootsona has a high view of Scripture. He does. Cootsona upholds orthodoxy and upholds inerrancy in the book. He presents viewpoints to help people understand the questions such as evolution and the age of the Earth. It’s a snapshot in the book as it were, but in the back he provides resources for further study. Cootsona’s book is meant to be an introduction to the questions. It is not an end-all.

There is also a section on climate change and sexuality. Now I am a skeptic of the idea of climate change. I haven’t invested in the study, but I am skeptical. Still, there is good information to consider here even if I am not convinced. As for sexuality, our changing approach to sexual culture is going to need to be addressed. How do we answer questions about transgenderism and homosexuality? Is Christianity behind the times?

These questions about science and Christianity are entirely relevant today. I get many questions from Christians with doubt today. If there is any topic that seems to come up the most, it is questions about Genesis 1-11. It is amazing how many people contact me and say they’re scared that Christianity might not be true and yet they have no questions about the resurrection. It’s all about Genesis. We need better resources on this.

Youth ministers then should definitely read this book! If you’re not a scientist, that’s okay. It’s written in a style laymen can understand. Parents concerned about teenagers and college-age students should read this book. Young people themselves searching should also read it.

Cootsona has given us a good gateway book to the issue of science and Christianity. He has also sounded a clarion call that we need to be listening to the emerging adults today to know how to better reach them. We can answer all the questions we want to, but if we don’t answer the questions they’re asking, we don’t get them any closer to Jesus.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Book Plunge: Evidence Considered Chapter 23

Is there a problem with bad design? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Chapter 23 looks at work done by Jonathan Witt on the idea of bad design. I see this as a defensive work on Witt’s part. It’s not theism going on the offensive, but on the defensive. If theism is true, why do we see instances of what is thought to be bad design?

As a non-scientist and a non-IDist, there is not much for me to respond to. However, one point I do want to address is something Jelbert says about Witt’s work. Jelbert does show that Scripture speaks about creation as the work of God such as in Psalm 139, Genesis 1:31, and Romans 1:20. However, we must remember the Biblical authors are not blind. Yes. Humans are fearfully and wonderfully made, but they knew more about child mortality from experience than we do. When a child is born today, it’s generally assumed the mother will survive and that all things being equal, the child will grow up and live a natural life.

Not so for them. Many times a mother would die in childbirth and you would want to have many kids because not all of them would live long lives. The authors are not writing though to give an answer to the problem of evil, but because there is still something grand to them in creation.

Jelbert says that God’s involvement appears to be capricious. Things look to be callous and random. Events happen that do no good and bring no redemption and don’t appear to fulfill a grand plan. They do not show that God is in charge of this drama. Jelbert says Witt will fall on God’s mysteriousness again or some other divine attribute.

Let’s notice something here. Not a single objection here is scientific. It is all theological. It is saying that if the God of the Bible existed or even the God of classical theism, He would not allow this or there is no good reason why He should allow it. How is this known? Where does Jelbert get this theological knowledge?

Something else sad about this is that this is part of the logical problem of evil that even the majority of atheist philosophers will admit has been answered. Alvin Plantinga did it decades ago with a little book called God, Freedom, and Evil. It’s important to note that one does not need to demonstrate the answer to why a certain event happened. One has to show that it is just possible that God has a good reason for allowing it. We don’t have to know what that reason is. Jelbert has the burden of proof here. It’s up to him to show that there is no good reason for this to happen.

Jelbert can call it a cop-out to say God is mysterious or something like that, but why think any of us should know all that God knows? If God is real, He has far more knowledge than we could ever have of why events are happening. Jelbert has simply said that things seem a certain way. He has to demonstrate it or else his argument fails.

Now he could go another route and say that it seems unlikely that a good God would exist and that is something else altogether, but it is no longer the hard case. If he went that route, I would reply with the Thomistic arguments, which are not addressed in the book it looks like, and of course the resurrection of Jesus, which we will get to later. I just have to answer one and it is not a deductive argument. The Thomistic arguments are deductive and thus more powerful.

I walk away from this chapter unconvinced. Jelbert has not demonstrated his theological claims. It’s interesting that in a section purported to be about science, we have more about theology instead.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Book Plunge: Evidence Considered Chapter 22

Does what’s inside a cell make a case for God? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

We return to Glenton Jelbert’s work again to see what he has to say about the inside of the cell. In this chapter, he responds to a young molecular biologist named Bill Wilberforce. Wilberforce seems especially enthralled with something in the cell called Kinesin. As readers know, I, not being a scientist, will not comment on the science, but let’s see what I think of Jelbert’s response.

Jelbert starts by saying he thinks the author is in conflict as he seems to be admiring science but also undermining it. His explanation of why he thinks this is that he says before some tools existed, scientists thought the cell was a blob of protoplasm surrounded by a thin membrane. Jelbert says this is nonsense and scientists have appreciated how complex cells are for a long time.

Unfortunately, Jelbert never tells us when this is. Was there a time when scientists thought what Wilberforce says they did? After all, we have improved microscope technology so was there a time we could not see in the cell that much and that was what we thought? Jelbert gives no indication that Wilberforce is right, but he also doesn’t show that he is. If all Wilberforce has done is make a claim, Jelbert has done the same. There’s not any reason alone to think anyone of them is right.

Jelbert also says that there is no meaningful prediction coming out of Intelligent Design that can be tested. Before this, Jelbert seems to say that the stuff Wilberforce has found was predicted by evolutionary biologists. He gives several places to look, but sadly, he gives no articles himself. I would have liked to have seen him done this.

To get back to ID, I am not convinced this is true. I believe that ID made a prediction about Junk DNA that happened to be right. I say this not as a supporter of ID, but I say it simply as one wanting to be fair with the evidence.

At a later point, Jelbert makes an admission I find troubling. He says, “Rationally, we will always search and go on searching for natural causes for any unknown, preferring to admit that we do not know than to give the non-explanation of an ill-defined supernatural being.”

I find this quite troubling. For one thing, he says that this is rational. Why? Is it a sign of rationality that someone doesn’t believe in the miraculous? Is it a sign of rationality that everything can be explained by materialistic causes?

Second, what about miracles? Sure, Jelbert doesn’t believe in them, but if he saw one in his presence, does that mean he would try to find a natural cause? Suppose it was even the favorite of an amputee growing a limb back. Will Jelbert say it is rational to find a cause?

Third, I find it hard to believe we are talking about an ill-defined being. If we went to the arguments of Classical Theism, Jews, Christians, and Muslims could all use them. This being was not ill-defined but many characteristics of Him were given.

As I wrap this up, I think what Jelbert is missing is this drives many people to theism not because of irreducible complexity, but because of wonder. People see what looks like a little factory in the cell and it leaves them in awe. Thinking it is irreducibly complex does not make them think of a creator so much as just thinking that the thing itself exists and is working towards an end. (This is in fact the classical argument from design.) When atheists argue for something natural and seek to remove God, many people see this as a way to remove the wonder. I am not an expert in the sciences, but many times something I see talked about in the sciences does leave me with a strong sense of wonder that makes me think that God is a brilliant mind behind all of it. Whether He did it through an evolutionary process or not doesn’t matter. Either way God is awesome with His creation.

We will continue later.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Deeper Waters Podcast 6/9/2018: Tremper Longman

What’s coming up? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Noah’s Ark is often one of the most popular stories of the Bible. It’s one that we grow up hearing. The story seems simple enough. The world is full of evil people. God has had enough. He sends a flood and everyone dies except the good people, Noah and his family. As children, we don’t ask many questions.

Nowadays, we do. Not only are we asking questions, people around us are asking questions. Christians might know this story well, but so do our skeptical friends, and they don’t believe it. After all, they want to talk about the scientific data behind the story. They want to know if the whole world was flooded and how does that mesh with science?

Meanwhile, we realize that Israel was going through their own trials at the time and living in the midst of pagan cultures. These cultures also had flood stories. Maybe Israel just copied them and applied it to YHWH. Maybe it’s all just a myth. How should we approach the story?

To discuss this, we need someone who knows the Old Testament very well. We also need someone who knows the cultures surrounding Israel very well. We also need someone who will be able to tell us if we even need to bother to address the scientific concerns or not. Fortunately, The Lost World of the Flood is with us now. It is by John Walton and Tremper Longman, and the latter will be my guest this Saturday.

So who is he?

According to his bio:

Dr. Tremper Longman III (B.A. Ohio Wesleyan University; M.Div. Westminster Theological Seminary; M.Phil. and Ph.D. Yale University) is Distinguished Scholar and Professor Emeritus of Biblical Studies at Westmont College.  He has written over 30 books including commentaries on Genesis, Job, Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Songs, Jeremiah, Lamentations, Daniel, and Nahum. His most recent books are The Fear of the Lord is Wisdom: A Theological Introduction to Wisdom Literature in Israel and Lost World of the Flood (with John Walton). His books have been translated into seventeen different languages. In addition, as a Hebrew scholar, he is one of the main translators of the popular New Living Translation of the Bible and has served as a consultant on other popular translations of the Bible including the Message, the New Century Version, the Holman Standard Bible, and the Common Bible. He has also edited and contributed to a number of Study Bibles and Bible Dictionaries, most recently the Baker Illustrated Bible Dictionary (2013). Tremper and Alice currently reside in Alexandria, VA and  have three sons (Tremper IV, Timothy, Andrew) and four granddaughters (Gabrielle, Mia, Ava, and Emerson).  For exercise, he enjoys playing squash.

I hope you’ll be listening to this interview. We’ll be talking about the book and how we moderns should approach the flood narrative today. I hope it will be of great help to you in your apologetics endeavors. Please go on iTunes also and leave a positive review of the Deeper Waters Podcast.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

 

36 Arguments For The Existence of God — A Work of Fiction: Appendix

How do the arguments stand? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Okay. I kind of cheated. I saw that all the arguments are in the appendix and that’s why I ordered the book from the library so I decided to skip the novel since I have many other books waiting to be read and get to the meat of the issue. How does Rebecca Goldstein handle the arguments?

Goldstein lists 36 arguments. I have been in apologetics for nearly 20 years and some of these arguments I have never before seen used. Many are left out, such as the arguments of Thomas Aquinas and the argument from the resurrection of Jesus.

Let’s start with the first argument she deals with, the Cosmological Argument. The first premise she has listed in the argument is “Everything that exists must have a cause.” When seeing that, it’s hard to not think about Edward Feser’s epic takedown of this kind of nonsense. Note Feser also includes “What caused God?” as a dumb objection.

Feser rightly points out that no prominent defender of the Cosmological argument in history has ever said the argument is that everything has a cause. Maybe your local pastor who doesn’t know the argument well might say that, but it is not said by serious philosophers. How did Goldstein make such a basic mistake?

If this is the first objection also, we have to wonder how seriously one should take Goldstein on the others since this is a basic mistake. It leaves one considering that Goldstein has never read any serious work on the cosmological argument. If she has, that could be even worse because she badly misunderstood whatever it is she read.

Many arguments from this point on are scientific and I have no wish to look at those as I am not a scientist, or they are arguments that I would never use and have not seen anyone else use. The next one I want to look at is the argument from miracles. However, to really look at that, I have to leapfrog ahead to another argument. That’s the argument from holy books.

Of course, it is a fallacious argument to assume that the book can only be the Word of God if God exists. but I am interested instead in dealing with the flaw in her look at flaws in the argument. The second one has her saying that all the books contradict, which they do. Goldstein says that one has to have arrogant provincialism to believe that the documents held sacred by the clan one was born in are true and the others false.

Apparently, it never occurs to her that one could, I don’t know, look for evidence that one of the books is true and make a decision based on evidence. If one is convinced the book is true, it is not arrogance to accept it. It would be arrogance rather to not accept it.

So when we return to miracles, Goldstein sees a similar problem. Miracles are used for any number of religions. How do we know any of them are true?

Technically, Christianity is the one that is founded on a miracle, the resurrection of Jesus. Muhammad does no miracles in the Koran. Miracles would not fit in Hinduism or Buddhism. Miracles could be added in later traditions, but they are not foundational.

Goldstein also says a miracle is a violation of the laws of nature. She does not tell where this comes from. Certainly, some people describe it this way, but not all.

Finally, she of course appeals to Hume. Hume’s argument has been critiqued several times over. One of the best critiques is by the agnostic Earman in his book Hume’s Abject Failure. For my own purposes, Hume was arguing in a circle. How does he know that a miracle has never occurred? Hume mainly relied on his own elite companions who like him did not believe in miracles, but he has no basis to demonstrate that no miracle has ever occurred.

The next argument is the argument from morality. Once again, as if on schedule, Goldstein trots out Euthyphro. Does God have a good reason for what He does? If He does, then we can use that same reasoning for ourselves. If He doesn’t, then His choices are arbitrary. It never occurs to Goldstein to define goodness itself. After all, if she doesn’t, she will have to live with the dilemma herself. Is something good because it benefits society, or does it benefit society because it is good? I have dealt with this elsewhere.

Naturally, there’s also criticism of the God of the Old Testament. As expected, there is no interaction with the scholarly work in this field or looking at life in an ANE culture. No doubt, Goldstein would not want creationists who never study evolution critiquing that, but I guess she gets a free pass.

These are the only ones I really want to look at. Most of the others are outside of my area of expertise or are just weak. It’s a shame to see so many atheists praising a work like this. On the other hand, it also shows us that the atheists are not becoming informed on these matters and likely just believing something because it argues what they want to believe.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Book Plunge: 36 Arguments For The Existence of God — A Work of Fiction –Part 1

What do I think of Rebecca Goldstein’s book published by Pantheon Books? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

When I read through Steven Pinker’s Enlightenment Now, he referred to this book as a book to deal with the arguments for God. I decided I’d order it to see what it was like. I have started it and really I don’t see how this book deals with the arguments for God thus far.

The book deals with an atheist celebrity of sorts who studies the psychology of religion named Cass Seltzer. The problem I have though is that I really can’t find anything likable about this character. I don’t see any real personality and he seems rather bland. I don’t think the book thus far has dealt with the existence of God at all, but even as a novel I find it boring.

This isn’t because of ideological differences. As a story, I could actually enjoy The Da Vinci Code. The history in it is awful, but the story isn’t that bad. (Don’t go see the movie. The movie was terrible!) I think the Foundation series by Isaac Asimov is some wonderful science fiction. I enjoyed reading Huxley’s Brave New World as well as Orwell’s 1984 and Animal Farm. I have strong ideological differences with all those authors, but the stories weren’t bad.

I can’t say the same about Goldstein. What is disappointing though is that this book is meant to deal with arguments for God, but it really doesn’t seem to do that at all. The first chapter is about something called the argument from the improbable self. It’s along the lines apparently of asking how I came to be me where I am. Seltzer starts thinking in the piece about existence and yet doesn’t appear to do anything. It’s as if he’s on the verge of something and then stops. (To be fair, the appendix I see does deal with more of the arguments so that will be interesting to see. I don’t expect much though since she says for the cosmological argument that the first premise is “Everything that exists must have a cause.” No great thinker in academia ever has ever defended such a notion for this argument.)

As the story goes on, various arguments seem to be dealt with, but it’s really hard to see how they are. If all that really deals with the arguments is the appendix, this book could have been much shorter. All we see is Seltzer attending scientific meetings and interacting with some women in his life. None of this really shows an atheist taking seriously the arguments.

I am thinking then at this point that I might not be able to write much anything more about this until we do get to the appendix, which is a shame. The story as it is is just rather boring and I don’t have any connection to the characters whatsoever. If things change, I will let you know out there, but if they don’t, then we will just deal with the theistic arguments in the appendix when I get there.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Book Plunge: Atheism On Trial

What do I think of Louis Markos’s book published by Harvest House? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Markos’s book is an interesting read. He writes as a philosopher with a pastor’s heart. He clearly has a great love for many of the literary classics that have been shaping our culture. This work is a look at how many of those from the past dealt with the atheism that we see today. It’s nothing new. It has already been answered every time. There may be some different arguments, but many of them have the same kind of presuppositions.

The pastoral side of the work is that Markos wants to take us beyond just the God of the Philosophers. I do think that the arguments of classical theism that get you to the God of the Philosophers are just fine. I try to establish classical theism before I establish Christian theism. Still, there is something unique about Christian theism.

Markos rightly points out the importance of miracles for a Christian worldview and finds arguments against them wanting. He also has a section on the good, the true, and the beautiful. I find this to be an important distinction to make because too many of us don’t know the point of those ideas. Many people today might not have even heard of that saying.

There are also responses to such things as the problem of pain. This really came about in the Enlightenment time and one of the chief events talked about in Voltaire’s Candide is the earthquake in Lisbon, Portugal that murdered a large number of people. Evil is probably the most understandable argument against theism, but logically, it no longer works. It can still be used as an emotional or existential argument.

If there were some things I would change, one is that Markos decided to not have notes in order to make things friendly for the layman, but instead included a brief summation of each chapter in the back of the book that did include where to find the information. I would have preferred the notes. Notes have not been a problem in books for laymen. Consider the Case books by Lee Strobel for example. They have been filled with notes and yet they are incredibly reader-friendly.

I also notice that Markos really likes his Plato and so he has a lot to say about empiricism. I do not think empiricism was properly defined since I consider myself a classical empiricist in the Aristotelian-Thomistic tradition. I do realize that there are many who are atheists who consider themselves empiricists, but empiricism does not rule out the immaterial realm at all. (Note that I do not say supernatural realm as I don’t use that term.)

Markos also has arguments against evolution. As a Thomist again, I have no problem with evolution and as a non-scientist, I tend to stay out of it. I would not be bothered at all if I found irrefutable proof that evolution is true nor would I if I found the same that it is false. It does not affect my arguments for theism or my understanding of Genesis one iota.

I still do think that this will be an enjoyable read for many people. Atheism has been with us longer than we realize and in every age, it has been refuted. There is nothing new under the sun.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Book Plunge: Saving Truth

What do I think of Abdu Murray’s new book published by Zondervan? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Murray is writing about a situation that I have thought for a long time has plagued the church. It is that we live in a post-truth society. Nowadays, the truth doesn’t even matter. How someone feels about a claim matters or how well it serves an end-game is what matters.

This isn’t the fault of the world alone. The church is also to blame. The church determines truths based on feelings just as much as the world does. I wish I had a dollar for every time I heard about doing something as you “feel led.”

There’s also the fact that Christians can just as easily spread false information. Last night, I had to deal with a family member who shared a news story that I could tell in less than a minute was false. Going further, I found that the website also held to the idea that 9-11 is an inside job. Yep. Real reliable source there.

I get greatly bothered when I see something like this happen. We have the job of trying to convince people that Jesus rose from the dead, a fact that they cannot check the veracity of immediately, but we will so easily share stories that can be easily seen as fake? Doesn’t that damage our witness of the Gospel?

Murray also writes about our misunderstanding of freedom. We think by freedom that there is a certain something that has no hold on us. That is true to an extent, but it like saying being literate means that you can decipher symbols in an alphabet. Yes, you can, but you need to able to do more. You read so you can learn much more that there is to learn. You read so that you can be a better person.

In the same way, you are free not to pursue whatever you want to do, but you are free so that you can pursue the good, the true, and the beautiful. You are free to live for something greater than yourself. Freedom is not about you get to do whatever you want, but you are free to do as you should.

Murray also talks about issues of human dignity, what does it mean to be a human? Do we treat human beings as objects more in this day and age? What about issues of abortion?

Issues of sex and gender are definitely on the stage. Murray begins this chapter with a question a woman asked in an open forum about Christianity and homosexuality. It dominates the landscape in this chapter as Murray keeps thinking about it. Murray deals with the purpose of sexuality and questions relating to transgenderism as well. What does it mean to be a man or a woman?

Murray also deals with questions of science and of pluralism. Both of these are issues that strike our epistemology. Science is seen today as the only way to truth. Pluralism is seen as rude and exclusive.

There are many issues discussed in Murray’s book. Each of them in itself is worthy of a book-length work. Murray’s book is a good look at these topics and often shared from the perspective of an ex-Muslim who had to realize that truth mattered more than anything else.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Book Plunge: In Defense of the Gospels

What do I think of John Stewart’s book published by Intelligent Faith Press? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

John Stewart is a lawyer who works with Ratio Christi and has written a book on defending the Gospels. Stewart goes through several questions very thoroughly and point by point. He also introduces you to many methodologies and explains why he accepts the answers that he accepts.

He starts off with asking when the Gospels were written. He establishes reasons for His dates but points out that often even on the worst case scenario of a date, the date could still be within the lifetime of the eyewitnesses. He points out that this is important and compares this to other works of history as well.

Stewart goes on to use similar methodologies on other questions such as if the Gospels are anonymous or if they’ve been changed or if they’re biased. Many of the objections dealt with are the ones that most people will encounter when they engage with internet atheists. If you are often involved or know someone who is involved with those debates and wants an extra resource, this would be a good one.

The work is also short and easy to understand without using technical language. It can be read in a short time and would be ideal for college students on campuses. No doubt, this is because of years that Stewart has spent with Ratio Christi.

There’s also a brief section on Jesus Mythicism in one of the chapters. This will be helpful for those who regularly encounter this crazy idea that seems to keep popping up its head. While the material there is basic, it is enough to help you out with the average mythicist.

I also like the argument dealing with the question of if the Gospels are anonymous. This is a common one that shows up on the internet, but it is one I do not see professional scholars dealing with, mainly because most scholars don’t use “The Gospels are anonymous” as a reason to think that they are automatically untrustworthy. Stewart rightly points out that it does help us if we can have good reasons to name an eyewitness behind a Gospel, but it is not a necessity to know if the Gospel is reliable or not.

If there were some criticisms I would give, the first one is that the book does need an editor. There would occasionally be seen typos that were distracting. One in particular was to hear about how to respond to Bark Ehrman. This is a slip of the keyboard of course, but it can damage one’s reputation.

I also would have liked to have seen a lot more specifics on ideas that have been overturned in the past 100 years about the Gospels due to archaeology. Mythicism was addressed, but that has never been a reigning theory among scholars. There have been very few isolated individuals who have held that position, although the number today could be greater due to the rise of the internet and the fast spread of false information.

Still, there is much to commend in Stewart’s book. It is a good opening defense one can have in the case of the Gospels and the author does make sure to focus there. He does have a short section on the Pauline epistles, but that is not what the book is about so he does rightly stick with the Gospels. I recommend this one for your college student, especially one who wants to better defend the Gospels.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

 

Book Plunge: Enlightenment Now Conclusion

How shall we conclude Enlightenment Now? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Starting at around p. 420, Pinker goes into theistic morality and says it has two flaws. The first is that there’s no evidence God exists. This certainly would deal with theistic morality, but his case is weak. He relies on his wife in her work Thirty-Six Arguments For The Existence of God: A Work of Fiction. Call me a masochist, but I have ordered it from the library anyway.

Pinker says these claims also often lead to different gods and different Scriptures and different miracles. That is because there is a limit to metaphysics. Metaphysics can show you that some being like God exists. Metaphysics cannot show you how He has revealed Himself. Reason alone can only tell you so much. A man can sit in an armchair all day with nothing but reason and he will never learn historical claims about Alexander the Great.

Pinker then repeats about Scriptures and how they’re human products. (Obviously, everyone in the Middle Ages believed they fell from the sky) There is no interaction with any historical scholarship on this matter. So what about other arguments for God?

The cosmological and ontological arguments are logically invalid. Evidence or demonstration of this? Not a bit. That’s all that’s said. Design was refuted by Darwin. Again, not a bit. Even granting Darwinism, design classically has been about things working towards an end and not internal make-up. He also comes up with some ludicrous escape hatch such as people saying the resurrection was too cosmically important for God to allow to be empirically verified. (In meeting with Mike Licona yesterday, I asked him if he had ever read such a bizarre statement and he had not.)

He goes on to say many theistic beliefs came about as explanations of the weather and other such phenomena. No evidence is given of this. He also says that God of the Gaps is always there for Christians. As one who does not use scientific apologetics, I find this incredibly weak. In the Middle Ages, it was the Christians filling in the gaps and they never once thought they were putting God out of a job. They were thinking more about how God did things. The whole mindset assumes God cannot act through secondary instrumental means.

Naturally, something is said about theodicy. There is no recognizing that the logical problem of evil has been defeated and this to the satisfaction of atheistic philosophers. That is not to say there is not a problem of evil advanced by them, but it is not the logical problem. Pinker does not seem aware of any of this.

He speaks also about fine-tuning. I am not an advocate of it, but his replies are quite lacking. He says we are in a universe we can live in not because it was tuned for life, but because we exist it shows it is that kind of universe. Well, yes. That’s the question. Why is it that kind of universe and not another? This is the sharpshooter fallacy on Pinker’s part.

The multiverse is also brought forward as an explanation. I find it bizarre to say you will answer the question of how one universe got here by saying that you know how a potentially infinite number got here. Imagine a police officer investigating a homicide with one dead body in one place. Another officer comes to him and says he’s solved it. The answer is there are 500 altogether in another place. That would not explain the one. If you cannot explain one, how would you explain 500?

We also don’t have access, but notice an atheist will want to go this either way. If we could access these and find they had life, “Well see. Life is nothing really special. God doesn’t exist.” If they do not, we will be told “Well see. Life is a fluke thing. God doesn’t exist.” This is one reason I find this approach so problematic. The objections are not really scientific but theological. It’s saying that if God designed a universe, He would make it full of life for some reason that is unknown. How is this known?

There is some material on consciousness as well. There is no interaction with Near-Death Experiences. It is as if Pinker did not really do any research, except perhaps reading people who already agree with him.

Of course, Pinker brings up the Euthyphro dilemma in talking about theism. The second problem with the morality to him is Euthyphro. He says the main benefit theistic morality has is its enforcement. It does have that, but I think it’s main benefit it has is it provides a grounding.

I have written before on Euthyphro and the problem applies just as much to the skeptic. Is behavior good because society says it is or does society say it is because it is good? Is behavior good because it benefits mankind or does it benefit mankind because it is good? Pinker needs some grounding for goodness. It’s not there. How is it that this universe that is supposedly an accident has these standards of goodness?

Pinker also talks about the nones. The problem is he equates all nones with agnostics or atheists. That’s a simplistic way of looking at them. The Nones are an incredibly difficult group to pin down. More can be found here and here. Much more in-depth is the work by Bradley Wright.

As we conclude Pinker’s book, I walk away disappointed. On the plus side, there is a lot of good material in the middle. It is material that is fine with either worldview for the most part. It is the claims he makes in parts 1 and 3 that are the most problematic. We’ll see what we find when the book he recommended on the existence of God comes in at the library.

In Christ,
Nick Peters