Book Plunge: The Case For Miracles

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

Lee Strobel holds a special place in my heart. It was his books that really lit my fire in the area of apologetics. Not only does Strobel present great information, he also does it while introducing you to the best scholars in the field so you know where to go to next for more information. It was through him that I came across scholars like Craig Blomberg, Ravi Zacharias, Peter Kreeft, J.P. Moreland, Gary Habermas, William Lane Craig, Ben Witherington III, etc.

This book is no exception, though in some ways it is quite different. One obvious way is that it does start off with interviewing a skeptic. The interview is with Michael Shermer. While Shermer is a lot nicer and more real than many other skeptics, many of his arguments are really just as weak. As I read through the chapter, I kept thinking that if this is one of the leading faces of skepticism, then we’re in good hands.

Still, I think it’s a good change to have taken place. I would like to see in his books Strobel interviewing both sides. It’s also quite impressive to realize Strobel resisted the urge to be a debater with Shermer and just let him speak.

From there, Strobel goes on to interview other scholars. Big shock that on this topic, the first person on the list is Craig Keener. Keener wrote an epic two-volume work on miracles called Miracles. Anyone skeptical of the reality of miracles should read it. The good news is if you have read it, you will find still new stories in this one. Craig Keener has more miracles and I understand from my interactions with him that he collects them regularly now.

The next interview is with Candy Gunther Brown on prayer studies. Now I will say that these kinds of studies have never really convinced me. There are too many variables that can’t be tested and you’re dealing with a free-will agent. What is much more convincing with prayer are testimonials like the ones Brown talks about where she goes to third world countries and sees people being healed after they are prayed for in the name of Jesus.

Other interviews on topics related are J. Warner Wallace on the resurrection and Michael Strauss on the origins of the universe. Both of these are interesting and to be expected. Both are also highly enjoyable chapters.

Roger Olson was a chapter that was really convicting. The chapter was on being ashamed of the supernatural and while I don’t care for the term supernatural, the point is still there. We often pray for wisdom for doctors in operations instead of for healing. It’s as if we expect God to not do miracles. This really caused me to look at how I approach prayer.

Then there’s the chapter that could be the hardest one to read in the book. This is the chapter about what about when miracles don’t occur. Douglas Groothuis is the person interviewed for that one. His wife Becky had a disease that was killing her memory and brain function bit by bit. Sadly, Becky has since the time of publishing passed away. Groothuis is there to remind us that miracles don’t always occur and how to handle it.

If there was one chapter I would have liked, it would have been one on the philosophy of Hume. Keener touched on that some, but he’s not a philosopher. Perhaps it would have been good to have had someone like John Earman as an interview to talk about it.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Book Plunge: Proofs of God

What do I think of Matthew Levering’s book published by Baker Academic? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Levering’s book is a textbook, but reading it you wouldn’t think that. It is a book that is simple to understand putting the classical proofs of God and others in ways that can be grasped by any reader. Levering does not assume you have prior knowledge of the subject. It’s as if this could be the first time you are seriously engaging the idea and he wants to help you out.

Something else interesting is that he also has a number of writers who wrote on the opposite end. Some like Kant didn’t think the classical proofs and such worked, but they gave other arguments for God. Some just outright didn’t think arguments worked like Hume and Wittgenstein. Their thoughts are included as well.

Levering is also very fair in the main body of the work. He gives the overview of each writer and it isn’t until the concluding part of the chapter that he starts giving some of his thoughts on what was said. Of course, none of this is exhaustive. The book is around 220 pages and you have over 20 thinkers to go through so you can only devote so much time to each one.

Levering starts with the church fathers. Right at the start, I find it fascinating that atheism was not being seriously debated at this time, and yet the early church was starting to answer questions before they came along. These were serious thinkers despite what might be said about them by atheists on the internet. It doesn’t mean they were right in everything or that all their arguments were good, but they were arguments and they were trying to seriously engage.

It won’t be a shock to anyone who follows my work that my favorite portion is when we get to the medieval period. Naturally, I tend to gravitate towards Thomas Aquinas and his ways. These are the ways that I use when I do apologetics and I find them to always be misrepresented somehow when someone attempts to refute them.

From there we go to the Reformers and then closer and closer until we get to the modern era. The latest we get to is Barth. I tended to think that as far as the arguments went, they lost much of their caliber after the ones from Aquinas and when later writers looked back and tried to respond, they tended to misrepresent the argument. How many times do I see atheists today trying to make arguments about the origin of the universe and thinking they have refuted Aquinas in the process?

I understand Levering wanted to keep the book reasonably small and readable, but I do hope there will come an updated version sometime with more time spent on more of the philosophers and seeing people after Barth. If not that, then perhaps we could do a sequel on modern proofs of God to see what people are saying and then give a brief look at arguments from the past. Another option would be a book contrasting proofs of God in the past with those of today.

Levering’s book is still a great one to read, especially when the only criticisms I can really come up with or asking if there’s a way even more can be put in. This will be a new book I will refer to when people ask me for evidences of God. If they want to focus on Aquinas, by all means choose Feser, but if you want overview of everyone, Levering is a great place to go to.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Book Plunge: How To Be An Atheist

What do I think of Mitch Stokes’s book published by Crossway? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Many atheists have long said it is time to move past religion. We need to be people of reason and evidence. (As if in all the history of religion no one ever thought about those) Once we don’t act so gullible and accept these religious beliefs, we will instead find some beliefs that stand up to scrutiny. We will see science bringing us into a brave new world.

Or will we?

Now to be fair, not all atheists have fallen for the myth of scientism, but a good deal have. They will not fall for the beliefs put out by religious people. (Although speaking historically, they will be gullible with regard to the existence of Jesus and believe the Christ myth theory wholeheartedly quite often) They believe in following the evidence where it leads.

Stokes challenges that and he does that by suggesting the atheists apply their skepticism and standards to the science they love so much. The book is divided into two parts. Those are science and morality. In the first, Stokes looks at claims related to science and asks if it can really deliver the goods that we are often promised it will.

Now no doubt, we owe much good to science, but the problem with scientism is that it says all good is owed to science and only science can tell us the truth. Stokes relies largely on Hume pointing out that by scientific standards, you can’t detect basic ideas like even causality. You do not see cause taking place. You assume some connection that cannot be detected.

For instance, you see a brick fly through a window. You see the brick shattering the window and think that that means that the brick shattered the window. That makes sense, but does it follow? We could point out that Hume said that a stone falling when dropped 1,000 times does not mean that it is going to fall when dropped the next time. The same applies for the brick and the window.

Science can tell us about events that happen and can give us some functional truth, but can we know it’s ultimately true? We could all be brains in a vat after all. In fact, science does not give us ultimate and absolute knowledge as it can be overturned at any time. Sometimes, this is much harder to do as Stokes points out, looking at the work of Kuhn mainly.

In the end, it looks like science doesn’t deliver the good of absolute truth. In the end, the atheist needs to frankly say he doesn’t know Unfortunately, this also means for him that science cannot disprove God. Yes. It could be that new atheists proudly proclaiming the death of God with science are just wrong.

What about morality? Stokes starts off by dealing with the supposed claim that we are saying that atheists cannot be good people. Not at all. What is said is that this goodness is often assumed to be a given in the universe. Yet how can we detect goodness? How can we have a standard of it? Stokes points out that Harris regularly just begs the question in arguing for his theory. I did wish Stokes had quoted Ruse’s review here, but that did not happen.

To get to the point, in the end, Stokes argues that atheism doesn’t really have a coherent theory of morality yet and it will ultimately boil down to nihilism. Therefore, to be a consistent atheist, you will need to be doubtful of knowledge and need to be a moral nihilist.

Or could it be atheists just aren’t really being consistent? Of course, we could say none of us are fully consistent, but we need to ask more if it is the case that our beliefs are not consistent or if we are not consistent with them? There is a world of difference.

Stokes’s book is written on a lay-level, though it could be a little bit deep at times. Still, it does give food for thought and is something worth thinking about. I would like to see one coming out sometime on historical claims as well.

In Christ,
Nick Peters