Book Plunge: Apologetics for the 21st Century

What do I think of Louis Markos’s book? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.

For all interested, yes, I am going to be continuing my reviews of some Christ-myth literature, both pro and con, but I’m also busy reading several other books now so I plan on reviewing those as I finish them, so I should have plenty to keep me busy. This also includes a comment posted earlier this week by a Robert G. Price. I have it on my Kindle and when I finish the reading I need to do first on there I plan to get started and write a response. For now, let’s move on to Markos’s book.

Markos’s book is divided into two parts. The first part is looking at major names that have been influences in the world of Christian apologetics. The second part is looking at an apologetic case for the existence of God, the resurrection of Jesus, and the reliability of Scripture, as well as looking at questions about the Da Vinci Code, the new atheists, ID, and the conversion of Antony Flew to theism.

The first part of the book is without a doubt the better part. If you’re familiar with apologetics, you’ll still get something out of this, particularly on the parts about C.S. Lewis. If Darwin made it possible to be an intellectually fulfilled atheist, then in Markos’s view, Lewis made it possible to be an intellectually fulfilled Christians.

Not that Lewis was without his influences. Although a whole chapter isn’t on him, J.R.R. Tolkien would be among this group. There is a chapter devoted to Chesterton, who is a man more apologists, and in fact everyone for that matter, should be aware of. Chesterton’s writings are brilliant and some of his fictional works are quite entertaining. I can still recall my former roommate before I got married borrowing my copy of the Complete Father Brown Mysteries and planning to read a little bit before going to sleep one night. He had a bone to pick with me the next morning because he didn’t get to sleep until about 1:45 A.M. or so due to having to finish three of the mysteries.

Part Two will give some good information to people who are learning apologetics, though if you’ve read a lot of literature, you probably won’t find much new here, but that’s okay. Writing has to be done on different levels. While I do prefer the first part, I find Markos’s style here is down-to-earth and easy for all to grasp.

What are some areas I’d improve on?

The first is that I would have liked to have seen some citations. Markos does have a bibliography to be sure and he does recommend books and tell you who some big names are in the field, but that could be improved simply by having notes of some kind so you can see where these arguments that you’re getting come from.

Second, I would have preferred to have references made not to apologists so much as scholars. Some of the apologists cited are scholars in the field. The reason is that too often if you’re in debate and you cite someone and you say they’re an apologist, an atheist will be more prone to dismiss them.

Third, there were some claims that I think are incorrect. For instance, on page 168 we’re told that a whole generation is not enough time for a resurrection myth to form let alone a few years, but this is false. There have been people who have had myths made about them in fact the very moment that they died. This has even happened in the ancient world. What the real claim being referenced is is that there’s not enough time for a myth to totally replace the true account. That one I stand by.

Finally, I think there can be a danger of casting one’s net too wide. I understand wanting to have a comprehensive case, but I think too many apologists think they have to make an argument on history, philosophy, science, and everything else out there. I find it better to be more specialized in fact and rely on other members of the body to make arguments where you’re lacking. For instance, I avoid debating science as science. Evolutionary theory doesn’t matter a bit to me to my interpretation of Genesis or the reality of the resurrection.

I would have liked to have seen more in the first part overall. The first part was for me the most engaging of all. The second part is still a just fine introduction, though if you have read widely already, you will not find much that is new. Still, if you’re someone who is just getting started in learning about a defense of the Christian faith, this would be a fine gateway.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Book Plunge: The Trace of God

What do I think of Joseph Hinman’s book “The Trace of God?” Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.

When I write a review, I make it a goal to tell you what I think about a book, but in the case of Hinman’s, I’m not really sure. His argument is based on religious experience as giving one a warrant for belief in the existence of God. He admits at the end that by that point, he has probably already lost most Christian apologists, although he does think his methodology will work for apologetics.

I say I’m not really sure because I can certainly say I came to the work skeptical. I happen to be a Thomistic empiricist after all who doesn’t want to place too much stock in experience. After all, there is too much misuse of experiences in churches today and let’s not forget the Mormons that go around convinced the BOM is true because of a burning in the bosom. I don’t even like it when William Lane Craig uses his fifth way.

But Hinman from what I gather is talking about something different. He is talking about a major event that can often be unexpected and is often life transforming and positive. In fact, according to Hinman, it’s hard to find studies that seriously involve negative impacts of religious experiences.

Hinman’s goal in this book is also not to prove the existence of God. His is instead to say that the believer is within his epistemic rights to believe in God’s existence because of a religious experience. His data is gathered from qualified scientific studies in the field by experts from all levels and he interacts with those who are critics of the argument from religious experience, namely someone like Proudfood.

Throughout, he will also interact with other slogans thrown out by atheists such as the classical one of “Extraordinary Claims Require Extraordinary Evidence.” This leads to something amusing. It could be that Hinman’s work in my eyes is more valuable for the side arguments that come along the way than I see it being for the argument from religious experience.

But that could be because I’m a skeptic when it comes to many of those things likely from seeing the abuse in the church by people, something I’m sure Hinman is quite familiar with. Throw in also that I’m someone diagnosed with Aspergers for whom deep experiences like that just don’t really make sense.

Yet I can say that while I am not fully convinced by Hinman’s case, I can certainly say he leaves plenty to think about, and if that is his goal then he can consider it a success. I am not saying that this is an argument I would use, but that is because I am not a scientist in the field and don’t use arguments that I don’t really study that much. I prefer to use the Thomistic arguments that I have studied and the argument for the resurrection of Jesus.

If you are of a different mindset and are interested in studying religious experiences, I think Hinman’s book will give you something to think about. I cannot say how it is compared to others seeing this is a field I do not read on, but I can certainly say it is well-researched and makes a strong case. If it can leave a skeptic like myself at least somewhat open to the possibility of the argument, that is something to consider.

In Christ,
Nick Peters