Study Resources for Beginning Apologetics

On this page, we will offer multiple recommendations of books that are useful for the reader in first entering into the field of apologetics. These are general-resource books that either cover various topics in brief -- good for "getting your feet wet" -- or else would be helpful to the person thinking of engaging apologetics as a serious ministry. Books are grouped according to author last name, except the newest items, which are on top.

J. Warner Wallace, Cold Case Christianity

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To create a successful “gateway” apologetics book, you need, I think, three things, and all three of these are present in the case of Cold Case Christianity (CCC).

The first is a command of your material. Author J. Warner Wallace, a former atheist and cold case detective who now works for the Stand to Reason ministry, has that. Like most gateway books (like Lee Strobel’s), CCC offers a satisfying introduction to numerous critical issues in apologetics, such as the existence of Jesus, the reliability of the Gospels, and the Resurrection. Obviously, this means it does not cover the material in the same depth as something like my Shattering the Christ Myth or Licona’s The Resurrection of Jesus. It isn’t supposed to. This is something you hand to a new believer or an honestly inquiring non-believer, and it is a pleasure to see that Wallace has sifted the issues well, to the point that his bibliography includes some serious scholarly works.

Second, a gateway work needs a theme. In Lee Strobel’s case, that was the theme of an interviewing journalist. For Wallace, the theme is his past work as a cold case detective, which he uses as a framework to explain the issues and how to approach and think about them. I was naturally interested to see how this worked, given my background in corrections and that Mrs H and I enjoy the crime shows on the tube, including stuff like Cold Case Files. The answer is that it works very well, and that should be no surprise since in a way, it’s much the same approach as the “legal apologetics” theme used by authors like Simon Greenleaf. Detectives like Wallace are just at an earlier link in the chain.

Finally, a gateway work needs someone who can write coherently. Wallace certainly has this down; his prose is accessible and flows smoothly, and CCC is laid out in the same way as the popular Dummies guides, with little sidebars and illustrations to keep things interesting for the average reader. (Caveat: I happen to find such arrangements annoying, personally. But that’s my own preference – many more readers will appreciate it.)

CCC has earned a place in my bibliography of “gateway” apologetics books.

J. Warner Wallace, God's Crime Scene

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Full review by Nick Peters. Summary quote:

"Upfront, I’ll say scientific apologetics for the most part I don’t really find very interesting. I find science items quite interesting at times and I find I have questions raised when I read things about science for both sides of the atheism/theism debate, but for the most part, I just don’t get convinced. I also have a concern that we live in a scientism culture and if we marry everything to science, what will happen when the science changes? Hence, I prefer to go with metaphysics that has lasted through the years to demonstrate theism..."

"Jim’s book is written in an attractive format and for the most part it’s easy to follow. While it has a lot of pages, many of these also have illustrations so the book is not as large as it first appears. It’s written in a good chronological format that will help the reader go step by step. I suspect if one had just one issue in mind, that each chapter could be read in a stand-along fashion. Wallace also does not ignore the opposition and he does cite the people who disagree with him and includes them as expert witnesses."

Andy Bannister, The Atheist Who Didn't Exist

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Full review by Nick Peters. Summary quote:

"As I started going through Andy’s book, from the very beginning I saw that it was different. Now the content is still a good basic start for most people. You’re not going to get into the intensely heady stuff here. You will discuss the issues, but it is just a start. What makes this book so radically different and in turn one of the best that I’ve read on this kind of topic in a long time is the presentation. Bannister is quite the comedian. His humor shines throughout the book and this is one book where I had great joy whenever I saw there was a footnote. Normally, you tend to just pass those over. Do not do that with this book! You will find some of the best humor."

"That makes the content all the more memorable. Bannister deals with a lot of the soundbite arguments that we deal with in our culture such as “You are an atheist with regards to many gods. I just go one god further."

Douglas Groothuis, Christian Apologetics

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This is the latest "gateway" apologetics book to hit the market, and it doesn't look half bad. I'd like to be more specific, but the bulk of it -- in line with Groothuis' own expertise -- is philosophical in orientation, covering such issues as postmodernism and the theistic proofs. beyond that the nuts and bolts type apologetics I do is covered in only 2-3 chapters -- one written by Craig Blomberg.

Appropriate to a gateway book, there is not much depth here, but there is enough that I'd definitely put this one in the basket with Strobel's as "best in show." The one drawback for some: It's a monster in size, and therefore not easy reading. It may have been well served as 4 volumes, and it's presentation style is not that of a reference book as its size implies. Still and all, count this one as recommended.

Gleason Archer, Encyclopedia of Bible Difficulties

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If you want to engage in apologetics, it's a good idea to start your library at home with a basic book resolving alleged Bible discrepancies. Gleason Archer's Encyclopedia of Bible Difficulties is as good a volume as any of this type to start with.

Archer sometimes tries to cover too broad a topic in too little space. His article on abortion, and some of his dealings with theological issues, are good examples of this. However, where he deals with narrow topics, Archer is at his best. His expertise in OT languages is reminiscent of Robert Dick Wilson's; his credentials overall are quire impressive. Most of his explanations are plausible, although a few seem stretched; this is perhaps his law school background coming into play! His prose is highly readable and suitable for the layman. Items are naturally arranged according to books of the Bible, although there is also a handy person and subject index that is unusually detailed.

Despite a few weak arguments, of the sort that are inevitable in any book this generalized, Archer's Encyclopedia offers an excellent doorway into the realm of Biblical defense and for entry-level discussions of Bible difficulties.

Francis Beckwith and Stephen Parrish, See the Gods Fall

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If portions of See the Gods Fall seem familiar, you may be a well-read person: Much of this book is a compilation of previous works that have been published elsewhere and/or in other contexts. Not that I'm complaining. Offering a philosophical critique of four prominent views of God (Mormonism, New Age, secular humanism, and Bahai), SGF takes us on a journey of examination, beginning with a much-needed chapter on the importance of critical thinking that exposes the poor grounding of the philosophies examined -- and also takes Christian writer Dave Hunt substantially to task for his sometimes careless methods of argumentation. (Like these writers, I have respected Hunt tremendously for his work, yet have wished he would do better.)

SGF continues with a defense of the classical Christian concept of God, followed by a critique of the Mormon concept (derived from Beckwith and Parrish's larger book of the same name -- I would be remiss here if I did not note that that book has been addressed by Mormon apologists -- I do not say adequately -- and will also note that SGF offers a reply to these Mormon apologists in an appendix), the humanist view, the Baha'i view (this chapter works from Beckwith's earlier book on the subject) and of course the New Age view. These are all well done, though you may find yourself wishing for more on other views. The book closes with a series of five appendices of tangential relation to the main text -- four of which have appeared in other publications.

My one complaint is one the authors cannot help: SGF is not easy to obtain, and took several weeks for Amazon to deliver. But I happen to think it was worth the wait.

Gregory Boyd, Letters to a Skeptic

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Those of you who have unsaved loved ones who are Skeptics will be particularly touched by Letters from a Skeptic. You may also wonder - and I mean this with no disrespect intended - whether the whole situation as described is too good to be true.

Edward Boyd, father of Gregory Boyd [also author of Cynic Sage or Son of God?] hardly comes across as your typical skeptic. He is strong-willed, stubborn, intelligent, and he asks good questions; but there the resemblance to most of the skeptics we know ends, for the senior Boyd also has an open mind. He has been through the Catholic-school rigamarole, but it has not so dominated his thoughts that he is not willing to see past it. He also admits ignorance when he does not know the answer to a question. Gregory Boyd, of course, is a theological scholar, and the situation is a bit unusual as well in that the senior Boyd grants his son his expertise. I doubt that Gregory Boyd would have had similar results with, say, C. Dennis McKinsey.

Thus we recommend Boyd's book as something that will provide food for thought. It will probably not be useful as a witnessing tool in a direct sense, unless you happen to have an open-minded doubter on your prayer list.

I will also add these two caveats. First, the letters are all too human - some of the personal detail can become distracting, but are easy to overlook; harder for some readers to overlook may be some of the senior Boyd's more colorful language, though it did not bother me personally, and there are very few instances of it.

Second, Gregory Boyd in a few of the letters shows an inclination towards the dangerous ideas of open theism, and the reader will want to keep on their guard.

But do not be discouraged. Letters from a Skeptic is a highly enjoyable read with a remarkable amount of insight, and it is well worth the time to digest. It may shore up your faith even if you do not have a skeptical friend to share it with.

Michael Brown, Answering Jewish Objections to Jesus

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Vol. 1 Review: "Dee Dee Warren"

Prior to this review, I had had some exposure to anti-missionary material and modern Jewish apologetic only to become painfully aware that there is precious little of what can be called "second level apologetics" in the area of Jewish evangelism. Most of the material produced which is aimed toward a seeking Jewish person seems to be focus on just getting them into the fold, but there is very little directed toward the unique questions that the Jewish person may have which need to be answered to keep him securely in the fold. This also holds true for many a Gentile who comes to discover the reality and beauty of the Jewish roots of their faith.

Michael Brown was born and raised Jewish and became a follower of Yeshua the Messiah in his late teens. After being confronted by orthodox Jewish teachers that he would not believe in Yeshua if he only knew the Hebrew, he proceeded to learn Hebrew in college. His passion for the Jewish people really shows.

And here is a big plus: Dr.Brown states, "if you really want to understand the New Testament, you must read it against its first century Jewish background." Shhhhh, don't let the critics hear about that! He also aptly stated that "many Jewish objections to Jesus are objections to Christendom" and "in some cases, we don't believe in 'Christianity' either [meaning the non-Biblical ideas and traditions which have sprung up]."

This volume deals with General and Historical Objections. Some examples of the type of objections that are dealt with include the following (which are framed as if proceeding from the mouth of the Jewish seeker):

The fundamental problem with Christianity is that it is not Judaism. Therefore, all your so-called proofs from the Hebrew Scriptures are meaningless. They are simply your interpretations.

If Jesus is the Jewish Messiah, why don't more Jews believe in him?

What happens to Jews who do not believe in Jesus - especially those who never heard about him? What happened to my wonderful Jewish grandmother who never hurt anyone in her entire life? Is she in hell?

Christians have always hated and persecuted the Jewish people.

If Jesus is really the Messiah, why isn't there peace on earth?

Christianity is just another great world religion, like Islam, Hinduism, or Buddhism. It is certainly not the true Messianic faith and the only way to find God. In fact, I find it to be the height of arrogance that Jesus claimed to be the only way to the Father. This is a small-minded conceit at its worst.

The main reason that Christians are so zealous to converts Jews to their beliefs is to legitimize their faith. The fact the Jesus' own people rejected him is a real problem for Christianity.

And many, many more. In closing, an extended quote from the book:

"For years I was told there was no validity to the Christian claim that Jesus fulfilled the Messianic prophecies of the Hebrew Scriptures. Sincere rabbis explained that after Jesus lived and died, the authors of the New Testament went back and found so-called Messianic prophecies in the Hebrew Bible and made them fit the life of Jesus perfectly, and where necessary, they adjusted the facts about Jesus' life and death to make him fit the prophecies."

"'So you see,' the rabbis explained, 'there's no truth to your claims at all. It's like a man who shot arrows at a target and then afterward painted bull's eyes around the arrows. Someone just made it seem as if Jesus hit the bull's eye of prophetic fulfillment.' Wrong! Jesus hit the bull's eye perfectly, but someone moved the target."

Vol. 2 Review: "Dee Dee Warren"

Since reading Vol. 1, I had become involved in a full all-out debate with some of these persons Brown addesses, and in so doing, have had the opportunity to "speak" personally with Dr. Michael Brown and have found him to be very gracious and helpful, which unfortunately, is not always the case in dealing with even Christian authors. I have also had the opportunity to meet many other helpful people in this area of apologetics such as Talmid Ben of the Chazak! ministry.

In preparing for this review, I also took a look at the reviews that had been posted on about this and the prior book, and oddly enough, one reviewer had stated that Dr. Brown wrote in a "peculiarly combative manner." I believe that I have come to understand what is meant by that comment by the debates that I have been having in this area. Today, many have come to believe that to be Christian or holy is be saccharine sweet and never tell anyone thatthey are wrong and never to be blunt and confident in one’s answers and beliefs. If those characteristics are "peculiarly combative" then all I can say is that we need more peculiarly combative writers in this area. I found Dr. Brown’s writing to be very clear, articulate, and direct.

Everything I mentioned in my prior review holds true here to an amplified degree. Because I am more interested in the Biblical and theological objections, I enjoyed this Volume even more. Dr. Brown deals head-on with almost every single common objection in this area and provides much documentation in the form of user-friendly endnotes, and there is a Scripture index which is always a big plus for me! I found these books to be extremely edifying even if one is never involved in the arena of Jewish apologetics as it gives a greater perspectiveof the Jewishness of our Christian faith which is an awareness that is sorely lacking among most Christians today. Even more importantly, I have noticed in my apologetics work and research that aggressive Jewish opposition is gaining momentum and a greater audience.

Ironically, the atheists and the Jewish anti-missionaries tend to "feed" off of each other in their common opposition to Christianity even though ultimately they have disparate goals, making a very strange "sleeping with the enemy" situation. And it has been commented by both Dr. Trimm and Dr. Brown that very often these anti-missionaries, when successful in causing apostasy, make a "Jew for Jesus" into a "Jew for Nothing" since many people once having stumbled into rejecting their New Testament faith devolve into atheism/agnosticism because many of the same arguments used to destroy their belief in the New Testament and Yeshua can be analogously used against Judaism.

So, I passionately believe that these sorts of works are very much needed. I am most appreciative of the amount of time that he spent on articulating the position that Ezekiel's Temple vision need not be taken as predicting a literal future Temple with literal future animal sacrifices.

Like the former work, the format of this volume is to present questions as if being asked by a Jewish person with Dr. Brown providing answers in a "conversational" manner. Some of the questions posed include:

If you claim that Jesus is God then you are guilty of making God into a man. You are an idol worshipper!

We are righteous by what we do, not by what we believe. Christianity is the religion of the creed, Judaism is the religion of the deed.

Scripture clearly tells us that “to do what is right and just is more acceptable to the Lord than sacrifice” (Prov. 21:3)

The prophets indicated clearly that God did not care for blood sacrifices. In fact, they practically repudiated the entire sacrificial system, teaching that repentance and prayer were sufficient. The Talmudic rabbis simply affirmed this biblical truth.

Even if I accept your premise that blood sacrifices are of great importance in the Torah, the fact is that our Hebrew Bible – including the Torah itself – offers other means of atonement, not just the shedding of blood.

It’s clear that you misunderstand the entire sacrificial system. Sacrifices were for unintentional sins only. Repentance was the only remedy for intentional sins.

Jews don’t believe in a divine Messiah.

Jewish people don’t need a middleman.

And many, many others, especially dealing with the idea of blood sacrifices and atonement, which is a major argument of the anti-missionary camp.

Review of Vol. 3: "Wildcat"

Michael Brown has managed to put together another "must-read" for those interested in Jewish Christian apologetics. In this 3rd volume, Brown examines exclusively Jewish objections to Messianic prophecy. Brown fell behind schedule as he originally planned to release this volume earlier than 2003, and intended in this 3rd volume to also examine objections to the New Testament and objections arising from Jewish tradition. These latter sets of objections Brown has decided to publish in a future 4th volume while focusing on Messianic prophecy in volume 3. Nevertheless, this book was well worth the wait as Brown's knowledge and scholarship on these issues proved to be very meritorious.

Brown, who had converted to Christianity in 1971, took it upon himself to thoroughly study the issues after being challenged by Jewish authorities. For some time now, Brown has actively engaged in debates with prominent rabbis and anti-missionaries and is familiar with common Jewish objections to Jesus Christ, including objections to Messianic prophecy. In this volume, Brown establishes the Messianic nature of various Old Testament shadows, types, and prophecies both from the proper reading of the Hebrew and in many cases provides the reader with traditional Jewish sources that corroborate the Christian understanding of the Messianic prophecies. Meanwhile, Brown systematically dismantles prominent objections to the Messianic prophecies.

Brown starts off with an examination of various concepts and passages in the Torah (first 5 books of the OT) that point to Jesus Christ including discussions of Abraham's near sacrifice of his son Isaac in Genesis 22, the life of the patriarch Joseph, Yom Kippur, Deuteronomy 18:9-22, and Genesis 49:10. Next, an interesting objection is answered that claims that it is unnecessary, according to the OT, to "believe in the Messiah." A section on Isaiah 7:14 and then one on Isaiah 9:6 then precede a baker's dozen of answers to common objections to the 53rd chapter of Isaiah.

Brown then contributes 3 sections to Daniel 9:24-27. One aspect of Brown's treatment of these verses that I particularly enjoyed and appreciated is that he does not get too dogmatic as to the actual divisions of the 70 weeks, with the exception that the futurist position seems to be rejected. Since there exists a variety of interpretations for how the weeks should be divided, this seems to be a good move on Brown's part. The key point that Brown makes is that the timetable for when the Messiah would arrive is clearly foretold in the prophecy and that it must have occurred before the destruction of the Temple in 70 A.D. Brown then contributes one section in answering objections to Psalm 2:12, then a section on Psalm 16, and then a couple of sections on Psalm 22.

Next, there is a section answering the question as to how Christian authors could apply certain psalms to the life of Christ when the subject of those psalms in some cases is attributed with sin and imperfection. Next, a section on Psalm 40 is discussed followed by a section on Psalm 45:6-7. A section on Psalm 110 comes next followed by a section on Haggai 2 and the significance of the fact that the prophet records that the 2nd temple(the one in which Jesus entered) would be more glorious than the 1st. A section on Zechariah 12:10 then concludes Brown's treatment of various Old Testament Messianic passages. However, Brown continues with sections that answer general Jewish allegations that Jesus did not fulfill any Messianic prophecies, or at least none of the "provable" Messianic prophecies, that modern Christian scholars reject Messianic prophecy, that the Messiah was to be a reigning king instead of a despised, rejected, and crucified figure, that the Messiah had to rebuild the Temple, and an interesting passage on false prophets in Zechariah 13:1-6 that some Jews apparently claim foretells of Jesus in a dubious way. It turns out that this latter point is based on a faulty translation found in the KJV.

Brown then discusses the objection that nowhere, despite the words of Paul, does the OT predict that the Messiah would be resurrected on the 3rd day. Finally, one last objection is dealt with that Mohammad is just as easy to find in the OT since the Christian "prooftexts" are as badly ripped out of context as those put forward by Muslim apologists

To conclude, I highly recommend this book which provides scholarly answers to common objections to Messianic prophecy. This book should serve as a great prelude to the greater project that Michael Brown and his colleagues are currently constructing called the Messianic Bible.

Vincent Carroll and David Shiflett, Christianity on Trial

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To whom do we attribute the accomplishments of Western Civilization? For several decades, the view among post-modern intellectual elites and their followers in the general culture have considered this a question that shouldn't even be asked. In their minds, the "achievements" of the West have been the oppression and impoverishment of people of color (who were all peaceful egalitarian folk, of course), along with environmental destruction. And often these charges are laid at the door of Christianity, with its alleged intolerance, racism, and sexism.

Carroll and Shiflett's book is the perfect antidote to these charges. The authors demonstrate that despotic tyranny, slavery, racism, and environmental destruction have been practiced all around the world for most of history. Only in the West, however, did humanity begin to rise up against these behaviors. And it was Christians, and often only Christians, that led the charge against them. They describe the commonest, broad charges against Christianity and turn them back on critics. In the process they document some of the intemperance that passes for journalism, and the peculiar ignorance of history found in the works of critics.

If the writings of sociopolitical pundits, essayists and commentators are any indication, it has been my observation that since September 11th, the post-modern paradigm is beginning to crack. On that day, the Western world was reminded that large parts of the globe have not risen above barbarism and tyranny. There seems to be a renewed realization that what West has achieved in terms of egalitarianism, human rights, technological advancement, and freedom is, in fact, quite remarkable and unique.

So, that brings us back to the original question; to whom do we attribute the accomplishments of Western Civilization? The standard line of modernist secularists is that it was the Enlightenment skeptics who broke the shackles of Christianity's dark age thinking, and brought about scientific discovery and the equality of all people.

But the authors show that this cannot be maintained. The Roman world and the rest of pagan Europe knew nothing of universal equality. It was introduced to Rome by the Apostle Paul, who declared that "There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male or female". So, when in 1776 Thomas Jefferson wrote the Declaration of Independence, he could write words such as "we hold these truths to be self evident, that all men are created equal" and, as the authors put it, "expect his readers not to laugh out loud" (as they would have been in most places and times). Christian presuppositions by Wilberforce led to the downfall of slavery, among them that the Dominion Mandate of Genesis 1:28 did NOT extend to fellow humans. It is also pointed out that pagan philosophers, like Aristotle, regarded some people as natural slaves, and "Enlightenment" philosophers hostile to Christianity such as Hume and Voltaire believed in inferiority of dark-skinned people. Darwinism added to the problem. Moreover, and a shock to skeptics, statements such as "Things have come to a pretty pass when religion is allowed to invade public life" were used by the 19th Century UK Prime Minister Lord Melbourne to support the status quo of slavery. Doesn't this sound like something comfortable in the mouth of an ACLU representative?

And then there is the question of science. It was Christianity that broke through the ancient pagan beliefs of repeating historical cycles (thus believing that progress was possible) and animism (which allowed natural objects to be scrutinized and studied). And as any good student of the history of science knows, it was practicing Christians like Galileo, Copernicus, and Newton that laid much of the foundations of modern Science. And even with the black mark of Galileo, the church still was the leading supporter of astronomy for the first two-thirds of the second millenium, both in social and financial terms. The authors, in line with many historians of science, point out that the basis of modern science depends on the assumption that the universe was made by a rational Creator. An orderly universe makes sense only if it were designed and created by an orderly Creator (cf. 1 Corinthians 14:33). But if polytheism or atheism were true, there is no way to deduce that the universe is, or should be, orderly. The Dominion Mandate gives us permission to investigate creation, unlike animism or pantheism, systems which teach that the creation itself is divine. Since God is sovereign, He was free to create as He pleased. So where the Bible is silent, the only way to find out how His creation works is to investigate, not rely on human-created philosophies, as did the ancient Greeks.

The book does have good material on the Galileo matter, citing the science historian John Heilbron, 'Galileo's heresy, according to the standard distinction used by the Holy Office, was "inquisitorial" rather than "theological".' Heilbron's book "The Sun in the Church: Cathedrals as Solar Observatories" shows that Church-supported astronomers used the cathedrals themselves as solar observatories, which doesn't make much sense if the Church was anti-science. These meridiane were 'reverse sundials', or giant pinhole cameras where the sun's image was projected from a hole in a window in the cathedral's lantern onto a meridian line. Analyzing the sun's motion further weakened the Ptolemaic model, yet this research was well supported.

The authors also use Jeffrey Burton Russell's "Inventing the Flat Earth: Columbus and Modern Historians", a well-documented piece that demolishes the charge that the church taught a flat earth. Rather, this was a totally baseless myth fostered by 19th century writers with a huge anti-Christian axe to grind.

The book also points out that the Christian worldview inspired developments essential to the rise of modern scientific method: the logical thought patterns of the medieval Scholastic philosophers; the little-known but extensive inventiveness and mechanical ingenuity fostered by the monasteries. This does not mean they were right about everything, but the Middle Ages are often falsely dismissed as the "Dark Ages," despite a genuine industrial revolution, including inventions of water and wind power, labor-saving heavy ploughs, and ingenious architectural devices, such as flying buttresses.

The authors also rightly point out the error of trying to paint the Nazis as Christian, and document the stridently anti-Nazi statements by the Confessing Church and Pope Pius XII and their work in saving lives. In this section it would be better if some quotes were more thoroughly documented. They are in line with Justice Jackson's opening address at the Nuremberg Trials, e.g. 'The Nazi Party always was predominantly anti-Christian in its ideology', and 'carried out a systematic and relentless repression of all Christian sects and churches.' It is also consistent with the enormous amount of documentation by American Prosecutor, General William Donovan, that the Nazis also planned to systematically destroy Christianity. (This is now being published online at Rutgers Journal of Law and Religion.)

The book also counters much environmentalist blather by pointing out that Christianity has had a positive effect on the environment, while pagan and communist countries have often had baneful effects. Indeed, the Dominion Mandate is often savaged, because it records God commanding Man to have dominion over the Earth. However, the Hebrew word for dominion is radah, and 1 Kings 4:24-25 says that Solomon's radah resulted in peace, safety and 'each man under his own vine and fig tree'. So the type of radah must be decided by context. Since this was spoken by God into an Edenic situation, before the Fall, it is especially hard to imagine any sort of destructive or ruthless implication to them.

After this book, it may be fairly said that those who try to portray Christian history as one long period of tyranny and superstition have not the first clue what they are talking about. This is especially important to keep in mind when reading the ravings of John Shelby Spong and his ilk.

-Brent Hardaway and Jonathan Sarfati

Paul Chamberlain, Can We Be Good Without God?

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If you have read anything by Peter Kreeft and enjoyed it, especially his Socratic dialogue books, "The Unaborted Socrates", "Between Heaven And Hell" and "The Best Things In Life", then you will also enjoy Paul Chamberlain's (Ph.D, Assistant Professor of philosophy and religious studies at Trinity Western University in Langley British Columbia) Can We Be Good Without God?

Chamberlain looks at the classical apologetical argument for the existence of God, "The Moral Argument". The characters of Ted (a Christian), Graham (an atheist), Francine (a moral relativist), William (an evolutionist) and Ian (a secular humanist) come together by secret invitation to meet for coffee, refreshments and to hash out the basis of morality. The reader as well as the characters haven't the faintest idea of who invited them until the end of the book.

With unswerving commitment to the truth, Ted cuts through the fallacies of each of the worldviews held by the others. Not only does Chamberlain obliterate the "secular sacred moral cows" in this book, held by our postmodern culture, but he builds a strong case for the one and only basis for morality-God. If you have ever carried your argument only so far, this book will assist you past that point and bring you to the logical conclusion of the particular worldview that you may have uncritically and unwittingly accepted.

For example, some say that the basis of morality is ourselves. Even many Christians uncritically fall for this subtly flawed but prevalent foundation of morality. It can be found in the (mis)use of expressions like "Live and let live" and "Do unto others as you would have them do to you". A great deal of natural law theory and the passing of the laws of the land are based on this presumption.

But is this a good foundation? As Ted points out, this commits one of the common fallacies of argument - begging the question. It simply assumes what it is suppose to be proving. Ask yourself, simply because something violates human nature (i.e. slavery) is it for that reason immoral? What do you say to the person who disagrees with that position? Simply coughing up that this person would be a joke is only a personal reaction; "After all what one person find incredible another sees as perfectly acceptable," says Ted. And it would help to remember that some have constructed moral viewpoints on this basis that do indeed..."disregard this assumption. The fact that their actions have violated human nature has not been a problem for them." Adolf Hitler is a good consequential example of this as it is later on pointed out.

There needs to be something a lot more solid for ones' basis of morality. Ultimately, Ted argues that God is the reference point of morality with the use of the "Euthyphro" argument. The question is asked, is something good because God commands it is or God commands it because it is good? For those Christians versed in this argument, they will see the through this question to where the answer really lies. For those not versed, well...I guess you will have to buy the book!

My sole reservation: While it is obvious that the intent of this book is not simply fictitious storytelling, by the time I got to the end of the book, I thought I had just finished a half-hour prime time situation comedy -- as if the great questions of life are answered by the end of the show and all is hunky dory. It ends that fast. While the book is great on philosophic morality, I personally don't think Chamberlain ought to go into writing any novels -- nor do I think this book ought to be viewed as portraying real life. It is food for thought and should be read as such.

-Brandon Blake

Charles Colson, How Now Shall We Live?

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C.S. Lewis and Francis Schaeffer, perhaps more so than anyone else, exerted considerable influence among evangelicals to develop a theology and critique of contemporary culture. In my opinion, they often were on target in seeing where Western culture and society were going, but at the time of their writing, they didn’t quite have the hard data to make their case as strong as they could have now.

Now, Charles Colson, along with co-writer Nancy Pearcey, have updated their main lines of argument in a style that is highly readable, stimulating, and, as with any Colson book, littered with many interesting anecdotes. The conclusion - Christianity is the wordview which best explains four key questions that cluster around the discussion of humanity’s existence - 1)Where did we come from? 2) What has gone wrong with the world? 3) What can be done to fix it? and 4) How should we live in light of the previous answers?

The authors begin with a highly readable yet well-done summary of the "Intelligent Design: arguments put forth by Michael Behe, William Dembski, and others. This is followed by a detailed analysis of competing worldviews, with forceful argument that many of the attempts to right what has gone wrong with the world (primarily through some form of social engineering) have failed - and will always fail - because they are based on a faulty understanding of humanity and its nature.

As with any book of this size, probably no one will agree with every word, but it nonetheless belongs in every Christian’s library.

-Brent Hardaway

Paul Copan, When God Goes to Starbucks

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Paul Copan is someone I regard as one of the most useful authors on apologetics today, and he occupies himself quite profitably with books that might be described as "grab bags" of issues and questions. When God Goes to Starbucks is one of this set; though thematically tied to the title essentially as questions (posed as "slogans") you may hear in discussion at a coffee house, realistically, the questions are also ones you'll deal with just about anywhere.

Sizable chunks of the book are devoted to matters related to homosexuality, miracles, Biblical wars and "atrocities", and - the end times. (On this last, Copan's answers seem a bit preterist-friendly, but are also friendly to the dispensational view.) The balance is devoted to more philosophical questions like "Is It Okay to Lie to the Nazis?" I recommend it heartily.

Paul Copan, True for You, But Not for Me

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One of my favorite areas in Christian apologetics deals with morality. Part of the reason for this is because of how relevant morality is to everyday life, from what goes on in our own personal lives regarding ethical questions. But morality is also relevant to our evangelism. Some of the reasons people give for not making a committment to Christ is not because of the historical evidences but because of moral objections.

What are these moral objections? Basically they can be wrapped up in one word that is so ingrained in our society--relativism. Yet relativism doesn't settle for encroaching just into morality; it encroaches into every arena of our lives, religion not withstanding. "Christianity is true for you, but not for me" -- hence religious pluralism. Paul Copan's fiesty little book of hard hitting, slam dunking material, is a must for anyone who wants to begin developing a Christian mindset that goes against the status quo of secular society's most cherished sacred cow as well as provide some great defenses against some strong objections to Christianity.

In Part I, Copan looks at the myth of relativism by answering some basic questions about truth. Is there such a thing as objective truth? Can something be true for you but not for me? Is it arrogant to believe that our belief system is true? Part II takes us into the area of morality--the real existence of moral truth. That is the fact that morality is not culturally conditioned or a mere matter of individual preference.

Part III takes a look at religious pluralism--the assertion that all faiths lead to salvation. Part IV examines the claims of Christ in the light of world religions and Part V addresses the enduring question about the unevangelized: What about those who have never heard of Christ? Are they inevitably condemned? Each section comes with study questions for groups or individuals and there are footnotes which add explanatory or advanced material which often cite sources helpful for further reading.

This book is so good I have to provide an example. Paul Copan provides a excellent concise answer to the question that some of the resident atheists on the AOL message boards like to throw around--"If you grew up in India you'd be a Hindu." Has it ever occurred to some of these guys that just because one grows up in India it doesn't necessarily FOLLOW that they would become a Hindu? This line of reasoning doesn't obstruct us from evaluating one system as superior to others, much like we do with politics!? Just because there have been many political systems and we could have grown up in an alternate, inferior system (i.e. Nazism) doesn't mean we are arrogant for believing one is simply better.

Also the pluralist has to apply this to know the old saying, "What's good for the goose is good for the gander." Pluralism isn't big in the rest of the world (look at Islam), but if the pluralist had been born in such places as Madagascar he probably wouldn't be a pluralist. Does it follow that he SHOULDN'T be a pluralist? Or that his pluralist beliefs are produced in him by an unreliable belief-producing process? Why should the religious pluralist think his view is less arbitrary or conditioned than the exclusivist?

This stuff is easy reading and easy to understand. If you have encounter anyone who is relavtivist in your evangelism (as I am sure you will) or even in day to day contact with unbelievers, this book is a little power house for taking the wind out of their sails.

-Brandon Blake

Winfried Corduan, Reasonable Faith

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There's no sense in denying it: This book will inevitably be compared to the work of the same title by William Lane Craig. The fact that all but two of the chapter cover the same topical ground won't help either. (Only Chapters 12 and 13 are to some extent unique.)

This is not to say that we have a case of mirror images here: Corduan's work has an identity and a mission-method of its own, and is much easier to read and comprehend that Craig's volume. It also has a bit more of a "real-life" feel, as it uses real-time vignettes to exemplify and explain problems and their solutions; Corduan also provides study and discussion questions. It is definitely a more "hands-on" book than Carig's is - which for advanced students, spells its very weakness, since it does this at the space-expense of further practical information.

In short, this work is true to the Sunday School Board that published it. It is just what we might expect had someone tried to turn Craig's book into something that could be used for Sunday School classes. I'm not suggesting, obviously, that this is what Corduan did - after all, the similarity comes out of the fact that the issues are basically the same wherever you go! This should be taken, rather, as an expression of the ideal function for this book. It is an excellent way to introduce your Sunday school to the principles of "reasonable faith". It will succeed in its mission.

William Lane Craig, Reasonable Faith

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Since every picture is taken from a specific angle, here is 'my' picture of Philosopher William Lane Craig's new third edition of his most distinguished book Reasonable Faith: Christian Truth and Apologetics. Since Craig's new ministry website ( offers what is new in the third edition of this book compared to the second edition, this review will just proceed forth as if this is the first edition of this book to be released to the public.

Introduction: Craig offers a working definition of the term 'apologetics' and states why there is a need specifically for it within the Christian context. He argues that Christian apologetics play three vital roles. First, they have the ability to shape our post-Christian culture. Second, they have the ability to strengthen those who are already convinced of the truthfulness of the gospel of Jesus of Nazareth. Third, they have the ability to help in the process of sharing the good news with non-followers of Jesus. Ending this section, Craig explains the two different types of apologetics: offensive and defensive. Offensive apologetics seeks to present a positive case for Christian truth claims. Defensive apologetics seeks to nullify objections to those claims. Craig claims that his book Reasonable Faith: Christian Truth and Apologetics falls under the category of 'offensive' apologetics but he states that he hopes to write a book in the near future defending the claims of this work and objections brought against it.

How Do I Know Christianity Is True?: Craig deals with the question of Christian epistemology. More specifically, he asks the question: how does one 'know' that Christianity is true against other truth claims found within other religious contexts? After discussing a couple of key thinkers of the past and how they worked through the issues of faith and reason and how they interact, he distinguishes between 'knowing' Christianity to be true and 'showing' Christianity to be true. Ultimately, Craig argues that we know Christianity to be true by the self-authenticating witness of the Holy Spirit. In other words, our knowing Christianity to be true is not based upon arguments and evidence but by the work of the Holy Spirit. To thoughtful readers, this might appear to be 'too subjective' at first glance but Craig addresses several objections to this type of epistemology. Regarding showing Christianity to be true, Craig argues it is here where arguments and evidence come into play when considering the truth-hood or false-hood of various religious truth claims.

The Absurdity of Life Without God: Craig simply offers what the title of the chapter seems to imply: a universe with no God behind it is a universe with ultimately no meaning. In other words, if there is no God, human life becomes directly and indirectly unlivable. But, if the Jewish/Christian worldview is true, it provides "the two conditions necessary for a meaningful, valuable, and purposeful life for man: God and immorality…If God does not exist, then life is futile. If the God of the Bible does exist, then life is meaningful. Only the second of these two alternatives enables us to live happily and consistently." (p.86)

The Existence of God: Part One and Part Two: Craig simply offers various sophisticated and well-argued arguments for the existence of the Jewish/Christian God. All these arguments are updated in light of new philosophical and scientific knowledge. Craig is right when he says that "the conventional wisdom is that it's impossible to "prove" the existence of God and that, therefore, if we are going to believe in God, we must "take it by faith" that God exists. But the last half century has witnessed a remarkable resurgence of interest in natural theology, that branch of theology that seeks to provide warrant for belief in God's existence apart from the resources of authoritative, propositional revelation. Today, in contrast to just a generation ago, natural theology is a vibrant field of study." (p.93) Craig works through various arguments in this chapter: ontological, cosmological, teleological, moral, etc. The catch is that he puts new philosophical and scientific knowledge into these arguments and even deals with a ton of objections against them. Again, two chapters are devoted to this particular section in the book so Craig obviously thinks it is an important issue to discuss.

The Problem of Historical Knowledge: Craig deals with the question regarding past events: how can we really 'know' what happened in the past? It is often assumed that human beings cannot really know with any real certainty what happened in the past because of the belief that all history is written from a particular perspective. In other words, it is believed that there is no such thing as an objective recording of past, historical events. The charge is that everyone is too bias to record real, actual events without any spin. Craig directly deals with these charges and offers the hope that even though we cannot have 100 percent accuracy in this area we can still know with a good deal of certainty what actually probably happened in the past. More specifically, Craig argues that the biblical narratives, once tested, are overall a good telling of what actually happened in the biblical past. In the end, historical relativism gets smashed to pieces under the hammer of Craig's argumentation.

The Problem of Miracles: Craig specifically deals with the concept of the miraculous intervention of the Jewish/Christian God within history. He states that "before we can examine the evidence to see whether the Creator God of the universe has revealed himself in some special way in the world in order to offer us the promise of immorality so necessary for meaningful existence now, we must deal with the problem of whether such divine action is possible in the first place. And if it is, how can it be identified? That is to say, we are confronted with the problem of miracles." (p.247) Craig ends this section by arguing that the deistic presupposition "against miracles survives in theology only as a hangover from an earlier Deistic age and ought now to be once for all abandoned." (p.278)

The Self-Understanding of Jesus: Craig argues that Jesus of Nazareth was the Son of God, God in the flesh. He asks the specific question: who exactly to Jesus of Nazareth claim to be? According to Craig, this question is very important for "the Christian religion stands or falls with the person of Jesus Christ. Judaism could survive without Moses, Buddhism without Buddha, Islam without Mohammed but Christianity could not survive without Christ. This is because unlike most other world religions, Christianity is belief in a person, a genuine historical individual-but at the same time a special individual, whom the church regards as not only human, but divine." (p.287) In the end, Craig argues that "explicit use of Christological titles like Messiah, the Son of God, and especially the Son of Man, combined with implicit Christological claims made through his teaching and behavior indicates a radical self-understanding on the part of Jesus of Nazareth." (p.327)

The Resurrection of Jesus: Craig asks the question: was Jesus of Nazareth really raised from the dead by God and if so, what exactly does it mean? More specifically, he states that "God and immorality: those were the two conditions we saw to be necessary if man is to have a meaningful existence. I have argued that God exists, and now we have come at length to the second consideration, immorality. Against the dark background of modern man's despair, the Christian proclamation of the resurrection is a bright light of hope. The earliest Christians saw Jesus' resurrection as both the vindication of his personal claims and the harbinger of our own resurrection to eternal life. If Jesus rose from the dead, then his claims are vindicated and our Christian hope is sure; if Jesus did not rise, our faith is futile and we fall back into despair. How credible, then, is the New Testament witness to the resurrection of Jesus?" (p.333) After working through a lot of historical and textual evidence, Craig ends by stating that "in conclusion, therefore, three great, independently established facts-the empty tomb, the resurrection appearances, and the origin of the Christian faith-all point to the same marvelous conclusion: that God raised Jesus from the dead…Given the religio-historical context in which this event occurred, the significance of Jesus' resurrection is clear: it is the divine vindication of Jesus' radical personal claims." (p.399)

Conclusion: The Ultimate Apologetic: Craig ends his book by offering what he believes to be the most effective apologetic for the Christian faith: a life lived out by aggressively loving God and loving others. He ends by stating that "more often than not, it is who you are rather than what you say that will bring an unbeliever to Christ. This, then, is the ultimate apologetic. For the ultimate apologetic is-your life." (p.407)

My personal take: Craig's book is by far the best Christian apologetic book one could possibly find on the market today for it covers a bunch of the core questions relevant to examining the truthfulness of Christianity all in one book. And now, this wonderful book is updated for a third time by Craig offering new philosophical, historical, and scientific knowledge where needed and even dealing with a host of old objections from new faces and from new places.

The only two beefs I have with Craig is that he did not mention or even appear to consult Philosopher Paul Moser's new book The Elusive God: Reorienting Religious Epistemology nor Greg Boyd's and Paul Eddy's fairly new book The Jesus Legend: A Case for the Historical Reliability of the Synoptic Jesus Tradition. Moser's book, I believe, would have really strengthened his case for the Holy Spirit epistemology found in chapter one. Also, the book by Boyd and Eddy would have really strengthened chapters five, six, seven, and eight. These two books, in my opinion, are way too good to leave not consulted. In light of desiring to leave out of the book arguments for the historical reliability of the NT, he could have at least consulted Moser's book. In a post-post-modern culture becoming increasingly post-Christian, I think the epistemological questions regarding knowing spiritual truths (or knowing anything for that matter) are very important since a lot of college and graduate students (and even lay-people) are becoming more and more exposed to post-modern philosophy without being also exposed to adequate criticisms of those philosophies where needed.

Overall, I would definitely add this 'third edition' to my personal library, especially if you are the type of person who likes to work through arguments and their objections. I believe Craig has done us a favor by addressing some of these objections instead of ignoring them even though he originally claimed he was not going to do so in the introduction.

-Michael Haney

Vox Day, The Irrational Atheist

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I had high expectations for this book. This concerned me somewhat as it increased the chances of being disappointed on reading it. Suffice it to say that it met my prior elevated expectations.

Vox is witty. He is both very clever and very funny. When you are laughing just reading the contents page you know it is going to be a good book.

What is useful in this foray into the New Atheist territory is that Vox lets them choose the battlefield and the weapons. And while Vox has no hesitancy in demolishing the arguments with his opponents' swords, he frequently just sharpens them before handing them back leaving the New Atheists to eviscerate themselves!

The first few chapters cover the ground rules. Subsequent chapters are devoted to various popular atheists exposing their foolishness or duplicity. Despite the subtitle (Dissecting the Unholy Trinity of Dawkins, Harris and Hitchens), Vox also has chapters on Dennett and Onfray. That they are not referred to in the title is due to Vox's admiration of the former's honesty, despite his mistaken conclusions; and the consistency of the latter's position, albeit a horrifying one.

He then discusses objections to Christianity that have been raised by several of New Atheism's statesmen or are commonly used by contemporary atheists. Vox suggests that Hitler was neither Christian nor atheist, but likely pagan; briefly dismissing the genetic fallacy that Hitler was raised Christian by noting that so were Dawkins and Hitchens. The Inquisition is dismissed mentioning themes that have previously been raised by other apologists, and also making the astute observation the the precipitating cause had a higher body count than all the inquisitors over several centuries combined. He then covers the Crusades. And finally human sacrifice in religion suggesting that often times political subjection was a primary motivation over piety. I am less certain the ancients made as a great a distinction from the spiritual as modern day secularism.

Following along the lines of the Christians-behaving-badly arguments, the tables are turned and the New Atheists are forced to answer for unprecedented mass murder of the more powerful atheists (and only atheists!) of the 20th century.

As a theological addendum, Vox takes on theodicy and determinism using analogy with computer games. The analogy is quite a useful one but because of some theological errors, minor equivocation and pushing the analogy further than it is capable of, this section, while interesting reading, is less compelling than the atheist trouncing.

The style is slightly difficult at times (but made up for in the humour); the arguments are reasonable to follow but some sentences take slow focused concentration or re-reading. Vox makes frequent reference to his vast knowledge of topics and persons and reading the electronic version may be preferable to allow quick searches on esoteric comments. (The electronic version is available free online).

The book's strengths include a offence approach—though perhaps a little aggressive, if one is going to take someone to task about minor mathematical errors he best be sure to make none himself—and arguing within the atheist paradigm. Weaknesses include allowing his opponents to label scientific that which is certainly not empirical evidence and better labelled historical, and the discussion of complexity where Vox fails to identify the real flaw in Dawkins' argument and his fractal designer rebuttal is incorrect.

Will this book affect persons on either side of the debate? I hope so. Certainly the more noble of the atheist crowd will ponder its conclusions and it may perhaps draw them away from the dogmatic assertion that "God is not." It will certainly encourage Christians who have thought the New Atheist arguments held water to realise they are hot air—if they can overlook any theological disagreements they have with the author. And for those who were already convinced of the New Atheist stupidity it certainly adds more ammunition to their armoury. Joel Bethyada

Brian Edwards, Nothing But the Truth

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This book came with significant praises, including that of London Theological Seminary principal Philip Eveson and Answers in Genesis president Ken Ham. In fact, it was Ham's recommendation with the AiG bookstore that motivated me to purchase it in the first place. The AiG review stated: "This is our favorite 'layman's' apologetics book for the truth and authority of the Bible! None that we are aware of is easier to read and understand." I was intrigued and thus I eagerly ordered a copy. At 512 pages, Nothing but the Truth is a colossal work in relation to its intent, but don't be daunted by its intimidating size; it has a lot of value.

The book is a near even split between basic systematic theology and apologetics. Chapters one through twelve discuss issues such as the nature of God, the history of the Bible, Sola Scriptura, prophecy, canon and New Testament relation to the Old Testament. Chapters thirteen through nineteen are focused on textual criticism, alleged Bible contradictions, archeology, hermeneutics and how it all relates back to the importance of the systematic theology established in the first twelve chapters.

What I respected about the book is that it is very Scripturally-based and makes constant references to the Bible itself. It also comes with a pretty good Scripture and subject index, as well as a statement of belief so the reader isn't left in the dark as to what the author believes as far as Christian doctrine goes. This is a revised edition of the book, which allows for a lot of updated and expanded information based on earlier research. Furthermore, the author is an experienced pastor-theologian and clearly knows the Bible very well.

The book provides a fairly solid explanation regarding the history of theological thought throughout the ages, among many other topics as aforementioned. While the broad coverage of topics makes this a good work for people who are just learning to study theology and apologetics, it often leads to slow reading and tends to drag on quite a bit. Also, while parenthetical citations are provided from time to time, the book lacks footnotes or endnotes and thus it can be difficult to organize a source listing. It's also worth mentioning that from time to time, the author phrases some minor assumptions as if they were fact. For example, he refers to "Mount Sinai" as if the actual location of the mountain from Exodus has been definitively located. Whether or not he intended such a meaning, it certainly sounded like it. While this is neither an excessively-significant nor common occurrence, readers should watch out for it.

To return to the recommendation from AiG, I would qualify their statement by saying that the book is more suited for those with an intermediate or better understanding of apologetics and an overall good knowledge of Scripture. It would be of little benefit to the new or immature Christian because the topics and heavy emphasis on systematic theology would likely confuse or seem meaningless to them. On the inverse, the professional apologist or Bible scholar would likely have little use for it due to its more general nature in contrast to specific scholarship. However, some apologists may find use in the latter chapters because they feature some of the finest answers that I've ever read to some of the most common "Bible contradictions," including the death of Judas (Matthew versus Acts) and the inscriptions written on Jesus' crucifix. So while a scholar would almost certainly learn a few new things within this massive work, it's most likely not worth searching through 512 pages to find. However, for the "lay Christian" with a good knowledge of Scripture and a desire to know more about the Bible and apologetics, this book is a solid choice. It would also function well for an undergraduate-level class on apologetics or an introduction to systematic theology.

The real value of this book is in the last half, especially for someone looking to boost his or her apologetics arsenal. While I absolutely recommend it, I would have liked to have been able to skip over a good majority of the first half of the book. While it is well-written and the systematic theology would no doubt be very informative to many people, by the time I reached the real treasure trove --- the apologetics --- I was simply weary of reading the book. Yet don't let my disparaging turn you away; Nothing but the Truth is well worth the time and the effort.

-Nicholas Gausling

Craig Evans, Jesus and the Remains of His Day

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Review by Nick Peters. Summary quote:

"This book in particular is about archaeological discoveries and the impact they have on our understanding of Jesus and like [Evans'] others, it does not disappoint."

"This is a book that could take you about a week to finish, but it will be time well spent. The material is thoroughly researched with a plethora of footnotes. It’s also highly readable. You don’t need to be too familiar with archaeology or the Greek language to understand what’s going on. Right now, if there was one book I would recommend someone read on the topic of Jesus and archaeology, it would be this one."

Gordon Fee and Douglas Stuart, How to Read the Bible For All Its Worth

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Rarely do I purchase a book that I have access to in my public library, but How to Read the Bible for All Its Worth by Gordon D. Fee and Douglas Stuart is an exception. When I discovered it while browsing the religion section, I expected it to be another exhortation on how to apply the authors’ interpretations of the Scriptures to my life. Not so. Fee and Stuart do exhort application, but it could just as well be said that it is about how not to apply the Bible where it should not be applied. This book closes the awareness gap that causes Christians to misinterpret and misapply the Bible, and that influences non-Christians to reject it.

The title has been misunderstood in two ways. First, the word “its”, while at the top of misspelled words in the English language, is intended to be a play on words as a possessive, instead of the contraction “it’s.” Second, the title appeals more to the layperson as a “how to” book, instead of a scholarly tome for the intellectual. Remarkably, Fee and Stuart have managed to provide both: a scholarly “how to” book that is vital and valuable for all.

They begin by explaining that this is not a book to convince the reader of a particular theology. Rather, it informs the reader about inherent issues within each genre in the Bible which influence interpretation. In the end, the reader’s theology may be altered, not by any one-sided exhortation, but rather by understanding more fully the background and nature of the Scriptures. This is done by example using exegesis and hermeneutics.

Interestingly, the first issue in hermeneutics concerns Bible translation. The authors explain that even translators are forced into interpretation, and that pitfalls exist in too literal a translation (mostly because word order and word choice, etc. can shift the meanings of literary techniques) as well as with a free translation. They advocate a “dynamic equivalence” approach, but even then insist on studying more than one translation. (One detail I found interesting is that the phrase “and it came to pass” from the KJV is a translation of a Hebrew narrative verb form. This carries implications for the internal evidence test for the Book of Mormon, which uses that phrase excessively.)

In exploring the different genres of the Bible, the authors explain, for example, the difference between the epistles and the letters in the New Testament and how this can influence interpretation. They clarify why thinking in paragraphs is critical for the epistles/letters, but not as valuable when reading the Gospels, and why thinking in oracles is vital to reading the prophets. They discuss why narrative in Acts holds distinct concerns that the narratives in the Old Testament do not have.

The authors also show how parables can get twisted into allegory. They discuss the issues of selectivity, arrangement, and adaptation in the writing of the four Gospels and how that can cause problems for modern readers. They expound the distinction between primary and secondary doctrinal statements within the Scriptures, and what are commands and what are applications of broad principles. Issues of cultural relativity--comparing particulars in that culture to the particulars in our modern culture-are explained. Fee and Stuart demonstrate how Old Testament law was paradigmatic, not all encompassing, and explain how proverbs are not promises. This is only some of the wealth in this book.

What happens when reading How to Read the Bible for All Its Worth is that a sorting process begins. While evangelicalism has been rightfully concerned with not dismissing parts of the Bible, here is a valid means to sort what applies when and why-not for the purpose of dismissing, but to fully understand the intended message. Fee and Stuart help dislodge the wooden, surface reading tendencies involved in many skeptics’ complaints, and which sidetrack Christians. Unfortunately, this book is probably not in many public libraries, but I think it’s worthy of our private libraries.

-Rachel Ramer

Charles Foster, The Jesus Inquest

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Full review by Nick Peters. Summary quote:

"Jesus Inquest is a remarkable book that you’ve never really heard of most likely, but you honestly should have. The book is written by Charles Foster who is a barrister in the U.K., which if you don’t know means he understands the rules of law quite well. He was a believer in the resurrection of Jesus but found many defenses quite lacking. His questions weren’t being answered and he doesn’t care much for many works of apologetics by Christians. He wanted to put forward the case from the opposite end as strongly as he could and see how he could respond."

R. Douglas Geivett, In Defense of Miracles

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It seems almost unfair: Antony Flew, and one dead man (David Hume), versus a team of Christian scholars. One wonders why Flew bothered at all.

For this reason, at any rate, I am inclined to see In Defense of Miraclesas more of a positive case for miracles than a rebuttal of any given non-theist or anti-miraculous position. But the problem with this book is that anyone who is already well-read in apologetics will find much in this volume that is repetitive. Craig's item on the empty tomb adds nothing new to his previous works; Moreland's essay on the resurrection appearances likewise.

The prospective purchaser of this work, then, must decide whether what is left that is unique is worth the price. If you have no further material on miracles, it is worth the price, perhaps in tandem with C. S. Lewis' book on the subject. But if your collection is already well-stocked, you won't gain anything by adding this to it. Case studies of the incarnation, fulfilled prophecy, etc. are all well and good, but if you wish to do some serious apologetics on these subjects, we suggest that you look elsewhere for more detailed studies dedicated solely to their issues.

John Glynn, Commentary and Reference Survey

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This book is basically a very valuable map in terms of Biblical study. The author, a former Seminary student, compiled the list of over 1600 books through talking with various professors at different schools. While the author may not be a professor himself, it comes recommended by Darrell Bock and Eugene H. Merrill, both professors at Dallas Theological Seminary. It has sections on just about anything you could want to study in the biblical field: OT Commentaries, NT Commentaries, Ancient Near East History, OT Languages, NT Languages, church history, theological studies, OT background, NT background, Jewish background and more. The only thing I didn't see was a section for the social sciences (although if you are a reader at Tekton, you should be well aware of the Context Group by now). That would be its only weakness, as I see it.

Another good thing is given the range of theological perspectives that different scholars occupy, it can be handy for some believers to know which position a particular author holds. John Glynn provides a small label by the commentaries which represents that scholars position. This can range from an "Evangelical", who holds that the Bible in its original manuscripts were infallible, to the Liberal-Critical, that there are errors therein the Bible and that it may not accurately represent God. It isn't that John Glynn isn't recommending books written by those from a particular theological perspective, he's just giving readers a fair warning.

If you have the chance, you should get this book. It will greatly help your study of the Bible, and more importantly how to apply it to your life and those around you.

-Lee Foster

Douglas Groothuis, Soul in Cyberspace

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As you sit there pondering whether to invest in one of those ten billion megahertz hard drives, consider taking a sobering look at this neatly done little work, The Soul in Cyberspace. Do you think that the computer is our key to utopia? It's already been said --- about radio, television and microfilm. Do you think that the Internet is the ultimate solution to our informational needs? Yes, it was said about the others, too; but we'll add that dangerous dimension of misinformation as a warning to watch out. Do you think computers are a great way for people to get together? Keep in mind that that nice fellow writing to you could be anyone, maybe someone who ought to be behind bars!

Now all of this is not meant to scare you into chucking your hard drive and monitor into the ash heap and taking up egg farming. These are just summaries of some of the caveats you need to pick up from Douglas Groothuis, who, while not your traditional computer expert, is certainly quite perceptive in the area of that pre-computer, the human brain and mind. This book is a solid warning not to lose our humanity in an age where modern communication has made the human element scarce. At the same time, it is something of an indictment of the way modern society has molded the thinking processes of our people through the gradual encroachments of progressively advanced media formats.

If you take nothing else from this work, take this advice which this author as a librarian learned many years ago: "Information retrieval is not synonymous with handling the truth wisely."

Larry Hurtado, The Earluest Christian Artifacts

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Larry Hurtado has recently taken on the task of looking more extensively at the Christian manuscripts of canonical and non-canonical writings, particularly those of the first three Christian centuries. But, this is not another book on textual criticism, rather it is an examination of what certain features of the manuscripts themselves might tell us about earliest Christianity. For instance, what does the surviving manuscript distribution tell us about which books (including gospels, canonical and non) were apparently favored by the early church? What does the Christian preference for the codex (as opposed to the roll) tell us about early Christianity? What might the symbols (particularly the nomina sacra and the staurogram) found in the manuscripts tell us about what the earliest Christians believed? Hurtado emphasizes that the earliest manuscripts themselves are not only vital tools for textual criticism, but they also represent our earliest Christian artifacts (the second century examples predating the oldest examples of Christian inscriptions and unearthed church buildings). Hurtado states that the value of the manuscripts as artifactual evidence for Christianity has been largely overlooked in the scholarly community, and his goal for this volume was to discuss some of the more interesting features of the manuscripts and what implications they may hold for the study of early Christianity, and also to spark interest in the further study of the manuscripts as artifactual evidence in the future by New Testament scholars.

The book has five main sections, beginning with a discussion of the texts in general and what the numbers of surviving manuscripts of the various early Christian writings tell us (e.g. Matthew and John appear to have been more popular than Mark given the preponderance of surviving early manuscripts of the former in comparison with the latter). The next section contains a lengthy discussion of the Christian preference for the codex as opposed to the roll. Hurtado surveys the various suggestions in the literature as to why this may have been the case and evaluates the strengths and weaknesses of each argument. Chapter three concerns the nomina sacra, that is the phenomenon of the Christian tendency to abbreviate the divine names (for both God and Jesus) in the early writings. Chapter four takes a look at the phenomenon of the common incorporation of a "cross symbol" (i.e. staurogram) in the manuscripts. Finally, the last chapter briefly discusses a number of other common features of the manuscripts left by the various scribes.

This book is very well-researched and is informative at many levels, not surprising as it emanated from the pen of Hurtado. I personally thought that the most valuable chapter was that which discussed the nomina sacra, particularly given the Christological implications of the data. Hurtado demonstrates that the phenomenon of making special abbreviations of the divine names (a practice perhaps equivalent to the Jewish use of the tetragrammaton, i.e. YHWH) was early and widespread by the early Christians. Since the early church applied this custom to Jesus as well as God, this reveals more evidence of a high Christology on the part of the early church. In fact, Hurtado discussed the importance of the nomina sacra earlier in his massive, ground-breaking volume, Lord Jesus Christ.

Chapter four (which regards the staurogram) has a similar function of providing artifactual evidence of the importance of the cross according to Christian theology at least as early as the late 2nd century. The chapter on the codex was very provocative as well, though it does appear, at the end of the day, that the verdict as to why the early church so heavily preferred this particular medium (over and against the roll, which was the preferred medium of writing by the rest of the Roman Empire at the time) remains open.

Interestingly, there may be some correlation of the use of the codex by early Christians particularly with those books that eventually became canonized, as it is especially these books that are predominantly found in codices, occurring more often than that of the non-canonical writings (though, as a whole, early Christians preferred the codex for these writings as well).

Even readers well-seasoned in New Testament scholarship (including those well-versed in textual criticism) are likely to learn quite a few interesting pearls from Hurtado's latest book. However, for the same reason, this book is mostly to be recommended for the serious student of New Testament studies.


Peter Kreeft and Ronald Tacelli, Handbook of Christian Apologetics

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On the opening page of their book, Kreeft and Tacelli express their amazement that no such book as theirs, which summarized "all the major arguments for all the major Christian teachings that are challenged by unbelievers today," existed. With due respect to Kreeft, whom I admire greatly, I regret that it is still the case that no such book exists.

The Handbook absolutely does contain much useful material: Sections on the purpose of and need for apologetics, faith and reason, the existence of God (delineating 20 arguments in favor), the trilemma (a Kreeft specialty), and the resurrection are insightful and most helpful and the discussion questions appending each chapter add a flavor of interactivity. Nevertheless, Kreeft and Tacelli have spent almost no time on more practical issues such as form criticism and textual reliability, and what little practical material they do offer is little more than a rehash and summary of the type offered by Josh McDowell. (We must grant that both authors are professors of philosophy, and may not have requisite training to pursue practical topics in depth.)

Even so, the Handbook, despite this lack, makes the perfect starter book: The compilation of issues does make the book exceptional; Kreeft's breezy and highly understandable writing style, and his ability to bring out obscure points by analogy, adds much to the book's utility. Therefore, aside from our reservations expressed above, we highly recommend the Handbook for beginning apologetics readers.

Mark Lanier, Christianity On Trial

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Review by Nick Peters. Summary quote:

"Something I found pleasantly surprising about this book is that unlike many in the area of apologetics, Lanier does not constantly quote works of leading apologists as answers. In fact, he hardly quotes them if he does at all. I do not doubt Lanier has read a lot of them, but for most of his sources, he’s trying to avoid that and just using the reasoning tools me all have to examine cases."

"Lanier does cover several topics in this work. The existence of God is one that is covered quite thoroughly. I do wish more had been said about the Bible and the historical Jesus. There is thankfully a chapter on the resurrection, but it would have been good to have seen a prior chapter on the accuracy of the Bible in general and that it has been handed down reliably. I also did not think the chapter on morality answered the question the best, but even when I did not think the answer was the best, the argumentation is still quite interesting."

Ronald Mayers, Balanced Apologetics

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This book surprised me a bit. It is not, as the sub-title might indicate, a rundown of what 'presuppositional apologetics' and 'evidential apologetics' are all about and how to combine them, but rather a full-fledged logical defense of the need to combine them.

Of greatest value here, perhaps even to the beginning reader, is Mayers' presentation of apologetic practices in the New Testament and in the early church. A study of the techniques of Paul shows that he modified his presentation according to who he spoke to (becoming all things to all people), so that when reasoning with the Jews, he appealed to the OT, but when speaking to the Areopagus, quoted no Scripture but instead appealed to natural theology - and remained thoroughly Biblical. The credible apologist will likewise be prepared to meet prospective discussion parteners on their own terms to the degree necessary, without compromising the truth of the Word of God.

The rest of Mayers' work, while more relevant for advanced students, is no less valuable. An examination is made of the Biblical warrant for apologetics, followed by some significant philosophical groundwork, including a section on the interaction of faith and reason that tops even William Lane Craig's A Reasonable Faith.

My lone reservation is that this book is nearly very old. Even so, much of what it says is timeless. Balanced Apologetics is assuredly a welcome addition to the library of any serious Christian apologist.

Jonn McCollister, The Christian Book of Why

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John McCollister's excellent book The Christian Book of Why is not an apologetic work, strictly speaking. But anyone who has bothered to ask the question "Why?" about assorted beliefs and practices within various Christian denominations, both Protestant and Catholic, will truly appreciate this book. Parents who have children who constantly bombard them with so many questions on Christianity that it is driving them (the parents) batty will absolutely LOVE foisting this book on their kids. It'll keep thems occupied for hours on end if they like to read! Some kids are notorious for being able to render their parents nigh helpless by asking "Why... Why... Why?" with maddening robotic precision. Yes, I was one of those kids myself and sometimes I still do this even as an adult. I had to chuckle at Glenn Miller's astute observation on his Christian ThinkTank site that "You can raise more questions in 5 minutes than you can answer in 50 years." Well, think of The Christian Book of Why as a compilation of 50 years worth of answers to around 50 minutes worth of questions, if you will. It is like having an indispensable encyclopedia of Christian minutiae at your fingertips.

I first purchased this book along with two other excellent books: The Jewish Book of Why and The Second Jewish Book of Why. I don't know which of the Why books came first--the Jewish version or the Christian version-- but you can be sure that if it was the Jewish version we're going to catch a lot of flak over this, hee hee! McCollister's book reminds me of another book I saw recently in the bookstore called Why Do Catholics Do That? If I ever get around to reading that book I'll be sure to review it although I think it would be a better idea if a Catholic contributor to this site reviewed it instead. I think the whole idea of having a Why series is a good one and a potential gold mine-- sort of like the popular For Dummies series. I wonder whether anyone will ever get around to writing a book called Historical Criticism for Dummies or Christian Apologetics For Dummies? As a confirmed Dummy myself, I'd be first in line to buy them. The Christian Book of Why could be entitled Christian Beliefs and Practices for Dummies.

I would also have to say that this book probably would not be a good choice if you are trying to find the "perfect" birthday present for a non-believer. It is primarily intended for Christians who are curious about the beliefs and practices of Christian denominations, especially of those other than their own. McCollister is particularly good at delineating some of the core differences between Protestants and Catholics. Christians who are non-denominational (as I am) will probably enjoy reading about and even adopting some of these practices. I tried really hard to find something that I did NOT like about this book, and the only thing I could think of is that I wish it had an index of questions provided somewhere in the book. Instead, there is only an incomplete list of questions listed on the back of the paperback version. This list is exactly what prompted me to buy the book in the first place! This is perhaps a really nitpicky objection, but I think it would be great to be able to simply scan a list of questions until something of interest leaps off the page.

The book is divided up into 10 chapters of interesting categories, such as Festivals and Seasons, Public Worship, and my own favorite chapter-- Saints and Sinners. Like The Jewish Book of Why and The Second Jewish Book of Why (written by Alfred J. Kolatch) McCollister's book often deals with controversial subjects such as miracles, divorce, and homosexuality. Rather than authoritatively promoting one and only one stance on controversial subjects, McCollister (like Kolatch) takes a more ecumenical approach by giving a variety of possible stances for the reader's consideration. I think the word ecumenical is an Esperanto word that means "Can't we all just get along?" Frequent readers of this site will also find some familiar questions such as issues related to archaeological evidences for the Bible and the practice of baptism for instance. Unlike this site, however, it is not McCollister's intention to provide an extended scholarly analysis of the many questions he answers. For the casual reader, though, this book provides many succinct answers to often perplexing questions.

For example, this book answers such absorbing questions as: Why do some denominations use grape juice instead of real wine? (This is primarily a Southern Thing, y'all.) Why do the bride and groom exchange wedding rings? (Started as a Pagan practice.) Why is the Bible divided into chapters? (To make it easier to read, naturally. First done by Professor Stephen Langton of the University of Paris in 1226.) I'd better point out that the answers given The Christian Book of Why are much more detailed and scholarly than my little parenthetical responses given here. Yet, at the same time, it is not a very lengthy book (the paperback is only 326 pages with fairly large print) All of the subjects that are covered can be found in a handy index at the back of the book. The book is written in a comfortable, easy-to-understand style that sort of reminds me of a decent issue of Reader's Digest.

Why do we highly recommend it?

Because it's a good book!

-"Safari Man"

Mark Mittleberg, Choosing Your Faith

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This is the kind of book that I personally dislike, but it can be recognized as a good book for new Christians. The theme is epistemology -- how and why we choose to believe what we do, though it's written at a level where the word "epistemology" would only appear in the back matter in the references as part of a title. Using anecdotes, Mittelberg explains various ways people "choose their faith" and critiques them.

Aside from an anachronistic definition of faith , I approve of the contents overall. Think of it as the latest and most friendly exploration of the motto, "the unexamined life is not worth living."

J. P Moreland, Scaling the Secular City

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This book by "the other JP" of apologetics is a reason why I am honored to share (in whatever sense) a namesake with the author of this piece, which is a classic to cut your teeth.

Moreland doesn't cover any topic in-depth, but he does give a modicum of starter material that has a lot of power. His first four chapters are donated to arguments for the existence of God: The cosmological argument, design argument, argument from mind, and argument from meaning-of-life. It's the first chapter where Moreland is most powerful in this arena.

Chapters 5 and 6 get "historical" - 5 is a neat little summary of all the basic components we've been talking about in Tekton. Chapter 6 is a study on the Resurrection; fans of Craig will find little new here, but it never hurts to write a chapter on this subject.

Chapter 7 on Science and Christianity takes up themes which are developed in more detail in Moreland's newer books. Chapter 8 I would have liked to have seen done in more depth, especially regarding the old argument about God as a psychological projection, but most readers will find the matter satisfactorily treated.

No doubt about it: This book, with Craig's, will be the beginning apologist's first set of "boxing gloves."

J. P. Moreland and William Lane Craig, Philosophical Foundations for a Christian Worldview

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J. P. Moreland, PhD, is professor of philosophy at the Talbot School of Theology, Biola University, LaMirada, California. William Lane Craig, PhD, is research professor of philosophy at the same institution, and well known to many Tektonics readers as an outstanding apologist for the Christian faith.

The authors propose that it is important, nay, crucial, for Christians to grasp the philosophical underpinnings of their faith. While it may be enough for us, the converted, to stand upon "The Bible tells me so," the sceptical, educated unbeliever will reject that premise as a piece of circular reasoning, and will remain lost, not to mention contemptuous of the faith of Christ. But Christ is not willing that the lost should perish. Nor can we rest on ignorance as an excuse, when our sophisticated heathen asks, "How can God have foreknowledge of all events and yet man have free will? If God is good, why is there so much evil in the world? With so many opinions and so many religions, how can there be such a thing as truth? Isn't evolution a given?"

This book raises, explores, analyzes and offers answers to the essential questions of life and faith. Among them: What is knowledge? What is reality? What is time; does it really exist? Do we have free will, or are we determined? What about life after death? It goes on to deal with ethics and morality, and ends with the issues of the existence of God, the coherence of belief in God, the problem of evil, the Trinity, the Incarnation and Christian particularism (why is Jesus the way, the truth and the life?). The authors, always honest and fair, never fail to present and analyze opposing viewpoints from recognized, even eminent, sources. After all, how can we accept the authors' views, no matter how winsome, without examining the evidence from the opposition?

Moreland and Craig contend that faith and philosophy are not enemies. It is a wonderful thing to know that our faith is not based on a series of "just-so" stories, but rather is undergirded by sound logic, that it holds up under scrutiny, that there is truth, and we can know it, and furthermore, know why and how we know it. The authors begin with the definitions of philosophy both as first-order and second-order disciplines, then go on to instruct us in the basic foundations of logic, thus giving us essential tools to work our way through the rest of the book, which grows increasingly complex. And yes, this book is work. I once had a choral music instructor who, when he presented us with a very difficult piece of music, would describe the piece as a "spicy meatball." When he did, we knew we were in for a struggle, a challenge - in a word, work. But these were always the most wonderful and rewarding pieces to sing - the kind of music that could bring the mind alive and make the spirit soar. This book is a spicy meatball. I recommend it with all my heart.

-Diane Smith

Abdu Murray, Grand Central Question

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Review by Nick Peters. Summary quote:

"Murray has written an interesting apologetics work coming at it as an attorney and as a former Muslim. That brings a unique combination as Murray knows how to argue and handle evidence. He in fact often starts by presenting the case that the other side has given and then responds to how that side is lacking in what it states. All of this goes around the idea of the Grand Central Question. The theme is that each worldview claims to answer such a question and that overall, the Gospel does a better job of answering the claims...

"Murray’s book is a good start. One won’t find all the answers here, but for an earnest seeker, one will find the answers to some of their questions."

Brant Pitre, The Case for Jesus

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You might do a double-take on this one, if you start by looking at the picture of the author. At first glance you may think that Bart Ehrman has converted back to Christianity. In reality, Pitre is a solid Christian and you might say he's the "anti-Ehrman," and that's not just because he looks a lot like him. It's also because he spends a good amount of time refuting him.

The Case for Jesus is a lot like the book of the same title by Lee Strobel, to the extent that it functions as an apologetics primer. I didn't find much new in here, but the new reader to apologetics will find a buffet of the usual useful topics: New Testament reliability and the Resurrection being in the lead. Pitre's effort is especially notable inasmuch as he testifies that for a while, he was heading in the direction Ehrman was in, but did a U-turn back in the direction of the Witheringtons and the Keeners (the latter's name appears on the back offering an endorsement). Pitre's writing is easy to read and conversational, though perhaps a bit breathless at times. Highly recommended as an appetizer for new Christians.

James Sire, Scripture Twisting

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James Sire holds a Ph.D. in English from the University of Missouri, Columbia, and is an editor at Intervarsity press. He has authored The Universe Next Door (IVP), Habits of the Mind (IVP), Chris Chrisman Goes to College (IVP), Discipleship of the Mind (IVP), Jesus the Reason (Life Guide Bible Studies), Vaclav Havel: The Intellectual Conscience of International Politics (IVP), and Why Should Anyone Believe Anything at All? (IVP). Sire was formerly a senior editor at InterVarsity Press; he is a frequent guest lecturer at colleges and universities in the United States and Europe. He has written many books and Bible studies, most of which are available from IVP.

Summary of Content

Sire starts out the book in chapter one with a fairly strong chapter on the methodology of misreading. Sire's problems deal with cultic readings of the Bible. The first is the "Attack on the Bible," where he tells the reader what prompted him to write the book. He discusses Archie Matson's scripture twisting in regards to the Biblical account of the afterlife. He states his purpose and thesis of the book in this chapter: His reason for writing the book is to equip Christians with the capability to identify faulty biblical interpretations.

Sire makes a catalog of twenty reading mistakes. Sire devotes a section of the first chapter to the authority of Scripture. He stresses that he is not writing the book to make someone look bad but to call people out on misinterpreting the very word of God. Sire then gives his analysis of what word to use for these different religious groups and decides on the word cult, which I think he did not discuss in enough detail.

Chapter 2 is entitled World-View Confusion: A Preliminary View. Sire gives a definition of a world-view and gives many examples of such views. In this chapter he shows how one's world view -- which is a set of presuppositions which we have about the basic make-up of our world -- affects how we interpret the Bible and even the world around us. This mistake is the one from which all other reading mistakes stem. The first section is called A Jesus for Everyone. Sire points out that everyone wants Jesus to be on his side. That is why so many cults and other religions try to incorporate Jesus into their theologies.

World-View Confusion: Defined is the most important section of the whole book. He gives the definition of what world-view confusion is and how it plays into the interpretation of Scripture. He gives a biblical example of worldview confusion out of Acts 14:8-18. The next example is taken from Swami Satchitananda the Guru, who misinterprets Mt. 5:8 in his own world-view without taking into the account the world-view of Jesus. In the final section called Multiple Misreading Sire states "…the other errors are often merely subspecies of this one large category."

Chapter 3 discusses the text of Scripture. The driving purpose behind this chapter is that the Bible must be interpreted the same way as any other piece of literature. It must be interpreted according to the rules of literary interpretation. You must take into account the genre, immediate context, wider context, the context of the book, canon, etc. The first misreading Sire notes is Inaccurate Quotation, which is not taking into account the immediate context of the verse you use. It makes a biblical writer say something he did not. The two examples that Sire gives are Jess Stearn and his book about Edgar Cayce, where he takes Jesus' words in John 14:25-26 as saying that when Jesus says that the Holy Spirit will bring all things to remembrance as a reference to reincarnation.

Then he tackles the Jehovah's Witnesses twisted translation of Colossians 1:15-17: They put the word [others] in places that are crucial to the understanding of the verse. They translate the verse in that way so they can escape the reality that Christ is co-eternal with the Father, which implies the Trinity, which they reject. The Mormons also have their own translation of the Bible, which some say is the right translation because the Bible has been adulterated by errors. Sire shows that both translate the Bible wrongly and that the assumptions that they make are also false. Sire closes by saying that to interpret scripture correctly we must have an accurate translation.

Chapter 4 is called Scripture as Rhetoric. Sire states that the Bible commands respect and that people who can use it will always try and make it fit their preconceived notions. When the cults use the scripture as rhetoric it means they use it to gain support for their beliefs even if it is not interpreted correctly. The first misreading of the chapter is The Biblical Hook which is a text of scripture that is quoted primarily as a device to grasp the attention of readers or listeners and then followed by the teaching which is so non-biblical that it would appear far more dubious to most people had it not been preceded by a reference to scripture. [Pg. 156] The example that is given is Mormon missionaries quoting James 1:5 to promote their belief that if you just read the book of Mormon you will see its truth, and promises to give wisdom just like Joseph Smith did when he had his "revelation" that God had a body. The first hook is not the only one used; they also use Mark 9:7 which says, "This is my beloved Son." Smith took that verse and added it to his story about his revelation. Sire starts talking about how to avoid the biblical hook. His conclusion is that we should be like the Jews of Berea who went to the synagogue and studied the scriptures daily to see what it really said.

Scripture as Literature is the title of Chapter 5. Sire states that we need to interpret the Bible as we would any other piece of literature. The rules are essentially the same for it as with any other piece of literature. A lot of errors can be avoided by just understanding that the literature should be interpreted by its genre. If it is a letter it should be interpreted as a letter and so forth. The first case in point that Sire gives is number four on his list of misreading, Ignoring the Immediate Context.

The first case he gives is the Maharishi Mahesh: he ignores the immediate context of Psalm 46:10 where he says that it says, "be still and know that I am God be still and know that you are God." Mahesh ignores the immediate context. Sire gives the whole passage and shows that in the context God is speaking of himself and he never says, "be still and know that you are God." The second case of the section deals with Edgar Cayce. Cayce attempts to draw scriptural support for reincarnation. Sire shows that he draws a rough rendering of Matthew 24:36. Also, Cayce gives a totally different meaning to the disciples asking him if one can sit at his left and the other at his right. He tries to make this text talk about his own reincarnation. The text does not even come close to that meaning, as Sire shows.

The next misreading is Collapsing the Context. Sire says that this misreading is a corruption of a perfectly good principle of comparing scripture with scripture. The definition Sire gave to this misreading was when two or more unrelated texts are treated as if they belonged together. The example given is the Mormon doctrine of existence before physical conception for humans. They use the doctrine of covenants 9323 and the Pearl of Great price (Moses 3:5 and Abraham 3:22-23) they then use Jeremiah 1:5, Acts 17:26-29 and Hebrews 12:9. The conclusion is that the Mormon argument is an argument from silence. The Mormons collapse the context of scripture by taking verses that teach the pre-existence of Christ with verses that speak of human existence! To summarize this fallacy Sire says to avoid this error you must make sure the text speaks about the same subject and keeps the subject in its correct context.

This misreading is called over-specification and it is simply the drawing of a conclusion that is more detailed and specific than the text will allow. Sire gives two examples of this fallacy. The first is the Mormon use of Jeremiah 1:5, and the way they put it together with Abraham 3:22-23. The fact is that Jeremiah never speaks about pre-existence: all that it says is that before he was born God knew him. They must use the Pearl of Great Price to make Jeremiah come to their conclusion. The second case Sire uses is the founder of Christina Science, Mary Baker Eddy. She quotes Genesis 1:1 and runs off an amazing amount of conclusions that are not possible to draw from the texts.

A misreading that is easy to make when doing a word study is called word play. Sire says this error happens when instead of taking the Greek or Hebrew and studying its etymology the cult member or regular Christian will take the English word and draw conclusions from it. The best example is Mary Baker Eddy where she takes the name adam and discusses its Hebrew usage but after that she says that a dam in English shows light on the word meaning that man is a dam to God's redemptive strategy. Sire says that avoiding this should not be difficult!

This next fallacy is called the figurative fallacy. Sire says this fallacy is "far more difficult to avoid than word play because it is not always clear-cut what to take figurative and what to take literal." But the key to understanding is that every reader must determine the way language is being used. The fact is that cults mistake a lot of literal language for figurative. Again, in this section, Sire gives two examples of a cult member's folly.

The first example is again Mary Baker Eddy. This time she says that words that seem literal are actually figurative. She even wrote a dictionary for spiritual meanings of certain scripture passages that are to be taken literally but she takes figuratively. Sire shows she provides no evidence except her subjective feelings on the matter. She also has a great deal of world-view confusion with her unbiblical thoughts on how only spirit exists.

In the second case Sire gives the other side of the figurative fallacy which is taking the figurative for the literal. It deals with the Mormon Scholar Talmage's view that Isaiah 29:1-6 supposedly talks about the book of Mormon.

The important point is that as responsible Bible readers we must understand the text in the manner in which it was written.

Misreading number nine is called Speculative Reading of Prophecy. Sire states, "A predictive prophecy is to readily by the occurrence of specific events, despite the fact that equally committed biblical scholars consider the interpretation highly dubious." The example given is another Mormon reading of Ezekiel 37:15-23. Talmage tries to make the case that one of the sticks that Ezekiel speaks of are the book of Mormon, but, if you look in the text, this will not do.

We need to read and interpret scripture according to the rules of literature. We must interpret scripture as inspired literature that is to be read in its historical and literary contexts.

In Chapter 6 Sire deals with Scripture as evidence, and focuses on mistakes of inductive reasoning. Sire gives a good summary of inductive reasoning: "When all the data stack up in favor of a proposition, one should presume the proposition to be true. If there is counter data, one should examine it to see if it really does weigh against the proposition. If so, something is probably wrong with the proposition itself. We may then wish to try again to formulate a view which really fits the facts- all the facts we not only have easily at hand but can get in hand by research." However, he needed more elaboration in this chapter, as he failed to explain some things clearly.

Saying but not Citing: This fallacy is the act of stating that evidence is in the scripture or isn't there when it actually isn't or is. An example would be someone saying, "The Bible is full of contradictions." When pressed further he cannot say where. The first case that Sire states is Ginsbergh saying that the Tree of Knowledge in the Garden of Eden was nothing more than a super computer. Ginsburgh never cites the passage; all he says is that there has to be more evidence somewhere. The next case of misreading is one of my favorites by Erich Von Daniken. He says the Bible says, "I seem to remember that the Ark was often surrounded by flashing sparks."

Sire shows that this is not true. The conclusion is that he totally fabricates evidence. In a very different example, Christmas Humphreys attributes words to Jesus that Jesus never said. In fact, many things he claims were said by Jesus contradict what Jesus did say.

The misreading of selective citing is the same thing as stacking the deck in an argument. The cults build up as much biblical support as they can without interacting with other texts that may contradict their position. The total teaching of scripture on a subject would lead to a conclusion different from that of the writer. Sire gives the example of the Jehovah's Witnesses critique of the traditional Christian notion of the Trinity. They argue against the weaker text used by orthodox Christians and ignore the other scriptures that have very strong implications for the Trinity.

The fallacy of Inadequate Evidence is as Sire states, "hasty generilization that is drawn from to little evidence." Sire gives the example of Erich Von Daniken who tries to make the case that God was an astronaut. Daniken uses Genesis 6:4, which speaks of nephilim. Biblical scholars are not sure of what this word means, but this does not stop Von Daniken from saying they are astronauts from outer space. He totally ignores the solutions put forward by biblical scholars.

The second example he gives is the Jehovah's Witness' belief that blood transfusions are evil. They try to make the case that a blood transfusion is the same as drinking blood, which is false because the biblical writers would not be thinking about blood transfusions. Sire gives a very good refutation of their beliefs on pg. 84

Chapter 7 is called Reasoning from Scripture. The last chapter that Sire wrote was about inductive reasoning. This chapter is about deductive arguments. This is the process of reasoning form the general to particular. A generalization already established - by oneself or by someone else - is applied to a specific case.

The fallacy of Confused Definition: Sire states, "No deductive argument can proceed properly if we do not have a clear concept of each term in the argument." His first example is the pacifist use of the commandment (Ex. 30:13) "Thou shalt not kill" to forbid capital punishment. Sire then gives good arguments to show this is not the correct definition of the word. It should be murder, not kill.

The first case Sire gives is Edgar Cayce. He says that in NT times Resurrection was the same as reincarnation! This is totally contradicted by the teaching of scripture.

The second case is Mary Baker Eddy's explanation of the Trinity, which makes no sense whatsoever. She has confused her non-biblical worldview with scripture and then proceeds to interpret scripture with her false definitions.

Sire also discusses the Jehovah's Witness' degradation of the Holy Spirit. They come to the text with their cultic assumptions and then redefine the Holy Spirit in a very vague way.

The ignoring of alternative explanations is the next fallacy. This fallacy is basically where someone holds a view even though there are better explanations to the contrary.

Von Daniken is used as an example again in the first case. He asks, "How did the writer know what happened in Genesis 1 and 2". The best explanation would be that God revealed it. But this is not an explanation that he can accept so he says they are astronauts.

Case two discusses a Mormon missionary manual which states, "As you read each page of the book of Mormon and pause and ponder. Ask yourself: Could any man have written this book?" Sire shows how Mormons do not give another explanation for this. You should always look at the explanation within the flow of scripture; if it seems to be foreign to the context, be careful.

Misreading number fifteen is the Obvious Fallacy. The example that Sire gives is Erich Von Daniken, as he says, "Undoubtedly the Ark was electrically charged!" Sire does a good job of showing that Von Daniken is wrong. Case two is about the Jehovah's Witness saying that obviously the world is moving toward obvious change. Christians would say no, you do not take a proper interpretation to the scripture. The third example is Talmage's argument that Ezekiel 37 refers to Joseph Smith; he says, "Plainly the separate records of Judah and Joseph are here referred to." The connection is not plain at all!

Fallacy number sixteen is Virtue by Association. This view is where a cult leader associates his views with those of Jesus or the Bible to try and gain support for their teaching or the style imitates the style of the Bible. The first example that Sire shows is that of Rick Chapman, who puts Jesus in a line up with a bunch of Gurus and says that you cannot go wrong with these guys. The other example that Sire gives is the case of Juan Mascaro, who tries to say that the Gospels, the book of Ecclesiastes, and the Psalms parallel the teaching of the Hindu holy book called the Upanishads. The Mormons are also guilty of this fallacy when they try and make their holy books sound like the Bible by using similar language. They try to use John 1 and make it fit to their theology.

Chapter 8 is probably the most important chapter besides maybe the ones on world-view confusion. Sire starts out the chapter by saying that we as Christians adopt sola scriptura as our belief in the Bible and that it has the last word on every area in life. The whole thesis is that the Bible read in the grammatical-historical method is our final authority. There is not any other writing or revelation that can override what the scriptures say.

Esoteric Interpretation: This is the view that only the spiritual meaning of scripture is what is important. The biggest problem with this is that the Bible holds some secret meaning that can only be spiritually discerned by a few people. You must assume that the Bible does not mean what is says on the surface. The person who believes in this normally makes no distinction between subjective and objective realities but believes they are the same.

Supplementing Biblical Authority: New revelation is supplemented for biblical authority through supposed modern day prophets. The Mormons for example have books which they believe are more authoritative than the Bible when the two seem to conflict.

Rejecting Biblical Authority: The Bible is either rejected in the whole or it is trumped by something else. Sire gives Archie Matson as a good example: He holds that the Bible contains contradictions and that Jesus himself rejected its authority. The second case given is Edgar Cayce supplementing the Bible's account of creation. He also teaches that Jesus had some thirty incarnations and that he was reincarnated over and over again. The third case is the Mormons sing a modern day prophet who can deny Biblical authority. In case four Sire surveys Sun Myung Moon's teaching that his followers will be able to commune with spirit men.

Rejecting Biblical Authority: In this section Sire suggests that the reason the Bible is rejected today is because of a world-view someone takes either before or after they read the Bible. The first assumption that someone can take is atheism, which denies that God even exists, and denies a priori that He even exists. The other is that people believe that God is a far and distant creator who just spun everything together and now has nothing to do with his creation. The person will object that either the Bible does not correspond with reason or it does not go along with other authority. Sire gives an example of Ernest Renan who wrote in his book The Life of Jesus that, "Until a new order of things prevails, we shall maintain then this principle of historical criticism-- that a supernatural account cannot be admitted as such, that it always implies credulity or imposture, that the duty of the historian is to explain it, and seek to ascertain what share of truth or error it may conceal." Von Daniken uses this principle in his Chariots of the Gods. Case two is by Archie Matson who says the Bible is full of contradictions.

When confronted with questions about the integrity of Scripture, Sire concludes that we should ask these questions: where is the problem? What is your authority? What evidence do you have for relying on this authority?

Chapter 9 is entitled World-View Confusion: The Heart of the Matter. Sire does not bother to deal with the definition of worldview confusion. He does say that it is the not taking into account of the historical and literary context of Scripture. Sire's main point of the Chapter is about the interpretation of John 1:1.

In the first appendix of the book Sire restates the 20 misreadings that he has went over. In the second appendix he deals with the Jehovah's Witness' mistranslation of John 1:1, then he deals with misinterpretation and translation by the Mormons.


Sire comes to this book with a stated bias, which I respect because most writers act as if they are totally objective. Sire is an evangelical Christian and as I do he takes the inerrancy of Scripture seriously. He also says the Bible is very important to him because it forms the only basis for a coherent worldview that we have. He makes his feelings known on page 10: "As a Christian the Bible means a lot to me. It has been my companion for years. I have learned that its words are God's Word, its commands his will, its perspective on life the only true one. Of course it has puzzled me with its enigmas and the depth of its insight. I am often frustrated by what I believe God is demanding of me through the words on its pages. It encourages me, but it breaks me. It thrills me and it frightens me." Sire lays it all out here and lets you know he is a man defending his faith against attackers.

Sire deals with the issue of tone in a very nice way: he says that he is trying to do it out of Christian love. A lot of books about cults make Christians look not so Christian.

The overall structure of the book is I think nicely put together. It is logical and orderly. The best example of Sire's logical flow in the structure is Chapter 8: the argument flows nicely with Sire showing that the esoteric interpretation is a form of substituting biblical authority because it is claiming that only gifted people can understand its message. He meshes the whole chapter together nicely at the end with the total rejection of the Bible. The book really has a flow. The fallacies get more and more severe as you go. Sire's overall argument against the cults is very strong. He shows convincingly that they take scripture out of context and make it fit their preconceived notions.

I found the two chapters on world-view confusion the most interesting. I agree totally with Sire that all misinterpretations of scripture stem from this one mistake. Take for instance the well meaning Christian who does not take the verse in 1 Corinthians 11 about head coverings in its historical context and makes all the women wear head coverings. The reason they do this is because they have not taking the Bible with in it cultural (worldview) setting and interpreted it with the background, the reason Paul said this was because only the pagan temple prostitutes did not wear head coverings when they worship. They miss this because they confuse their world-views with that of the Bible's first century context. The Jehovah's Witness cult is a good example they try to argue against blood transfusion by saying it is the same thing as eating or drinking blood. Sire shows that this is wrong for many reasons but the obvious one is that the biblical writers would not have known what a blood transfusion was.

Now to a few criticisms of Sire's book. I would like to make note that I am in no way defending Mormon doctrine but I do feel that many of Sire's conclusions are completely wrong and that there are better ways to deal with Mormonism.

First, on pg. 45 in the book where he is discussing the Mormon hook of what he calls their apologetic of using James 1:5: this is the first problem since it is not a Mormon apologetic; it is a evangelization technique kind of like the Christian use of John 3:16. I am also concerned that someone reading this book with no further reading on Mormon Apologetics may have a false view of the Mormons. It is common for evangelical scholars to just dismiss the Mormons offhand with out addressing their arguments, or as in Sire's case not giving any footnotes that deal with their arguments.

Case number two where Sire misrepresents the Mormons is on pg. 63. He states that "One of the texts used by the Mormons to document premortal existence is a case in point. "Before I formed thee in the belly I knew thee; and therefore thou camest for the out of the womb and I sanctified thee, and I ordained thee a prophet to the nations." (Jeremiah. 1:5) Now I agree with Sire that their interpretation is wrong but my question is what if a Christian is arguing with a Mormon and they try and use this argument? The Christian will have to give a reason just like we command skeptics who reject the Bible. It will be the same for us. We must give strong reasons why we reject their scriptures. Sire does not even give a footnote or a reference to a book that deals with Mormonism! Also, some of the prophecies of Christ seem to be very vague until you shed the light of the New Testament on them; couldn't the Jews use the same exact argument against us?

The section in the first chapter of the book about the classification of cults I find rather weak and not well argued at all. He gives a few paragraphs; I think maybe he could have called them something more suitable like eccentric religious movements.

I also think that this book is not for the average Christian. The reader at least needs a little bit of background in hermeneutical principles. I think this is a big flaw in the book; he should have given the last chapter's section on hermeneutical principles at the beginning of the book so that the reader who may not know much about hermeneutics could understand some of the arguments a little better. That is the only part of the structure of the book that I think makes the book weak in the reader-friendly category.

Overall I basically agree with Sire's book, and his arguments against Mormonism, and after all it was not to be a book on the cults; just their misreading. I do think that there needs to be caution, though: when we as Christians critique a cult we need to make sure we do not leave any loose ends hanging out. I think that Sire has done a great service to the Church and anyone interested in countering cultic doctrines.

-Blake Landon Reas

R. C. Sproul, Essential Truths of the Christian Faith

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To know what you should believe, you should read your Bible; but if your ambitions need a little shove or you need a little explanation, you might consider this book which offers Sproul's highly accessible descriptions of 102 key Christian doctrines.

As a tool for understanding, this book is an excellent choice. Each entry is some 3 to 5 pages long, and is supplemented by Scripture references, summary points and in some places diagrams. The work is capped by an extremely helpful suggested reading list classified by difficulty level.

Of course, some may differ with certain elements of Sproul's Reformed theology, but most of the entries by far cross inter-denominational lines. This is a well-formulated mini-encyclopedia of Christian belief that gets straight to the heart of matters.

R. C. Sproul, Reason to Believe

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One might call this a handy-dandy answerer of common objections, and as long as its limitations are recognized, it should prove a valuable resource for the newborn Christian. Sproul tackles the old ghosts of Biblical error, universalism, hypocrisy, atheism, evil and suffering, and the fate of those who have not heard the gospel. None of the chapters by themselves do more than break ground on any of these topics by use of anecdote and example, but that's quite alright. Reason to Believe is just the sort of book that folks will gladly digest before moving on to more solid food.

Rodney Stark, For the Glory of God

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This new book by the reknowned sociologist Rodney Stark (of e.g. "The Rise of Christianity" fame) is on the Historical/Sociological consequences of Monotheism - and HIGHLY recommended.

In For the Glory of God: How Monotheism Led to Reformations, Science, Witch-Hunts, and the End of Slavery Stark shows how much secular historians and sociologists have distorted, downplayed and dismissed the deep and fundamental positive Christian influence in history. It is astonishing to read how much nonsense and dishonesty there's been - and still is. Stark manages to tackle an enormous amount of anti-Christian myths head on, not the least by actually checking the historical sources.

The main point is to examine possible correlations between a belief in god/gods and sociological/cultural developments, and he succeeds admirably in this - against old theorists like Durkheim and others who insisted that religion (of course) was about rituals and that the actual content of the faith (of course, as the content, of course, was plain wrong, of course) was irrelevant and silly anyway.

Stark is able to show how the kind of God/gods one believe in - and the intensity of this belief - are significant variables in several areas:

When, where and what kind of reformations occur. Even if he insists (quite rightly) that any religious body which establishes a monopoly will lead to strife, that reformations are unavoidable, and never is blind to atrocities or negative aspect of neither Protestants nor Catholics, he shows in every chapter the necessity of Christianity for the modern world.

The rise of modern science (Stark shows a high correlation between belief in a rational God and a rational Creation on the emergence of science from about the fourteenth century, while other beliefs had a negative effect) is a direct outcome of a Christian view of the Universe. Even if that view was not a sufficient cause, it was a neccessary cause. And there's a lot of stuff on the antireligious rhetoric about the "war between Science and Religion" - there never was any.

Without a passionate belief in God (and Jesus) there would be no modern science or abolition of slavery. In fact the Church even hindered and stopped witch-hunts, even as at the same time, through some hard to avoid logic and rationality, it led courts in the late fifteenth century to start taking up such cases when considering that non-Christian "magic" (herbs, hexes, wise women) in fact worked, and worked even better than Christian "magic" (prayers, relics etc), in an age of religious strife which reduced former tolerance of religious noncomformity. What Stark does here is in fact to make some kind of sense of the craze, and to show that any country with a strong, central government (like in Spain, Portugal and Italy) managed to stop almost all cases before they went to court or to executions. While perhaps three quarters of the total number of withces executed (about 30 000 of 40 000) died in the autononymous German "Borderlands" along the Rhine river.

This book will become a classic of Modern Sociology of Religion, even if of course some of his findings may and should be questioned, as with all science. And no doubt it will lead to a lot of aggressive debate (and I guess, even more distortions, downplayings and dismissals), as it goes so directly against Political Correct History.

-B. Davidsen

Robert Stein, Playing by the Rules

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The science of Biblical hermeneutics, indeed the very word, "frightens people" and with the advent of personal subjectivism and syncretism, little wonder! But Robert Stein offers a user friendly road map to "play the game" of interpretation, and do so in a way that does justice to the Bible, and indeed to any text.

The first four chapters of Playing By the Rules are devoted to general principles of interpretation. Stein begins by establishing the solidity of authorial intent as the ultimate basis for interpretation, as opposed to the text or the reader being the source --- a very important piece of groundwork, in an age when "Well, that's your interpretation, here's what it means to me" is a standard answer to unpopular or hard-to-swallow hermeneutics. Stein then defines his terms, analyzes the role of the Holy Spirit in interpretation, and covers the roles of language, genre and context.

The balance of the book is spent evaluating specific genre types within the Bible. It is here that the apologist will find the most practical applications for their work. Our single reservation: Stein should have put his Biblical examples in their cultural contexts by offering examples of each genre type from outside the Bible. (For example, comparing the text of Proverbs with similar ANE wisdom literature.) This sort of exemplifying would have served to head off any critical claims that the Bible was in some sense being given unique treatment.

The book is illustrated with easy-to-remember diagrams, and each chapter closes with discussion questions and/or exercises to test comprehension. The layman and the prospective apologist will deeply appreciate Stein's effort. We highly recommend this book.

Dan Story, Engaging the Closed Minded

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Dan Story's little (112 page) book, "Engaging the Closed Minded" is one of those gems that could easily be overlooked if one is not careful. I found my copy low on the shelves of a local Christian bookstore and began it with minimal expectations. I was very pleasantly surprised.

Dan Story is a trained apologist. While a Master's degree might make some writers difficult for mere mortals to read, Dan has crafted an accessible presentation of the difficulties Christians encounter when witnessing to the unbeliever or casual "believer." His language is ordinary, and his book well organized. As stated in his "Ten Commandments of Apologetics," we must always keep "Gospel First, Apologetics Second." In other words, we should never lose sight of the fact that our purpose is to bring the world to the cross.

With the cross always in view, Dan shows how we sometimes need to first convince the worldly that there is a God. Then we can proceed to show them that God has laid out a law for mankind. Finally, He has provided a way of salvation from the penalty of that law. Real-world examples show how this process works.

We are all called to be witnesses. Dan Story has given us the tools to make us better ones.

Mark Strauss, Jesus Behaving Badly

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Review by Nick Peters. Summary quote:

"Nearly everyone likes Jesus. Two billion people around the world proclaim Him to be Lord and God and Messiah. Muslims will say that He was born of a virgin, avoided death, lived a sinless life, and did miracles. Many atheists would even say that while they don’t believe miraculous stories told about Jesus, that they can like many of His ethics. Indeed many people do like Jesus, but He is not without His critics. After all, Jesus got Himself crucified and you don’t get crucified by being the warm and fuzzy Mr. Rogers figure. Some people thought Jesus was enough of a problem in the first century that He should be nailed to a cross. Today, Jesus still has His critics."

"After all, did you hear about the time that Jesus drowned a whole herd of innocent pigs? What about cursing that fig tree, and it wasn’t even the season for figs? Don’t you know that Jesus said that if you are to follow Him you must hate your family? How extreme is that? Jesus also called a Gentile woman a dog one time. How can it be that Jesus could do something like that? Jesus could have also been a revolutionary plotting the overthrow of Rome. He said He came not to bring peace but a sword and He came to bring fire to the Earth and how He wished it was already kindled!"

"Maybe that Sunday School image of Jesus is even more off the mark than we realize..."

Lee Strobel, Case for... series

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For two years after his wife became a Christian, then-Chicago Tribune court reporter and atheist Lee Strobel began his own investigation of the evidence for Christianity. Now he retraces the same questions that he had asked during his quest. This time, however, he decided to travel around the country and question various scholars in a variety of fields.

The book is divided up into three parts. Part One examines the reliability of the New Testament, Part Two looks at Jesus’s claims to divinity, and Three discusses the evidence for the Resurrection. Among those interviewed are Craig Blomberg, Bruce Metzger, D.A. Carson, William Lane Craig, Gary Habermas, and JP Moreland.

Although much of Parts One and Three will not be new to those who have read Jesus Under Fire or similar works, this book has several outstanding features that distinguish it. Chapter 8, with Christian counselor Gary Collins, provides a good analysis of the psychological profile of Jesus and deals with the question of His sanity. Strobel offers many anecdotes from his court reporting days and draws many parallels to the issues clustering around the Gospels (for instance, in regards to why an eyewitness like Matthew would need to use Mark as a source, he recounts a situation where a crowd of reporters were trying to ask Mayor Richard Daley a few questions. Although he was there, he used a tape recording from another reporter to make sure that he got his account correct.). Strobel also interacts with recent skeptical offerings, such as Michael Martin’s The Case Against Christianity, Charles Templeton’s Farewell to God, as well as the almost obligatory examination of the Jesus Seminar.

In addition, the format of the book allows us to get larger glimpses into the personal lives of these authors than usual. For instance, we might have suspected that Ivy Leaguer Bruce Metzger would wear a suit and tie to the Princeton library even on weekends, but who would have guessed that Gregory Boyd routinely uses words such as "wacko" and "funky?"

In short, The Case for Christ is lucidly written, moves quickly, and is a excellent starting place for both believers and inquiring skeptics.

-Brent Hardaway and JPH

Buy The Case for Faith Now

When I picked up Lee Strobel's latest book The Case For Faith from the bookstore, I must confess I had a rather uncharitable thought. My thought was that I hoped Strobel's next book would be The Case for Reason, because it is a popular perception among non-believers that we Christians have too much of the former and not nearly enough of the latter. This misconception, unfortunately, can be a hard one to counter-- not because Christianity is inherently unreasonable, but because historically some of the most famous leaders of the Church have zealously castigated the merits of reason while promoting the virtue of faith. When one reads in George H. Smith's Atheism: The Case Against God that Tertullian wished "A plague on Aristotle" and that Martin Luther called reason "the devil's bride", "a beautiful whore", and "God's worst enemy" it is not difficult to see why Smith would contemptuously declare that "Christianity is peddling an inferior product" in the free marketplace of ideas. But is it really the case that a Christian must commit 'intellectual suicide' in order to have faith? In other words, are there no reasonable answers to the objections against theism in general and Christianity in particular?

I was premature with my uncharitable thought. Objections to Christianity are the very issues that Strobel sets out to address in The Case for Faith. As a former atheist who still struggles occasionally with some of these issues I found this book to be just as useful (if not more so) as his previous book The Case for Christ. In addition, I think this book will be a valuable aid to amateur apologists and Christians in general who take seriously the injunction to "Prove all things; hold fast that which is good." Furthermore, it just might present some skeptics with challenging answers to questions that have never been answered to their satisfaction. Strobel explores some of the most common objections to Christianity (and theism) in the same way he did when writing his previous book: by interviewing some of the brightest minds in Christendom.

One of the charges I have read against Strobel's first book was that while Strobel did ask some tough questions, he only asked the questions to people who presented one side of the issues. In The Case for Faith, however, Strobel starts out the book by interviewing the agnostic Charles Templeton, one-time preaching colleague of Billy Graham. Although I have never read anything written by Templeton yet, J.P. Holding remarks in his review of Templeton's Farewell To God that he frequently engages "argument by outrage" to discredit Christianity. If so, I can identify because most (if not all) of my arguments against theism and Christianity in my college days were "arguments by outrage." And although I agree that such arguments tend to be more emotional than logical, I must say that outrage can teach you a very important lesson. For me, my atheistic outrage inevitably led me to one conclusion which I have still not abandoned today even as a theist: Something is very wrong with this world. Eventually I came to believe that this truth I perceived about the world could not be reconciled with a totally naturalistic world view. Templeton, on the other hand, more or less argues that something is wrong with this world and that it can not be reconciled with belief in a loving God. But although Templeton does forcefully argue his reasons for agnosticism in the interview, he makes some startling and gut-wrenching admissions to Strobel about Jesus Christ that the reader will not soon forget.

After his interview with Templeton, Strobel embarks on a journey to interview an impressive array of prominent Christian leaders: Peter Kreeft, William Lane Craig, Ravi Zacharias, Norman Geisler, and J.P. Moreland. He also interviews people who are not quite as well known (to me, anyway) such as scientist Walter L. Bradley, historian John D. Woodbridge, philosopher Dallas Willard , and the minister Lynn Anderson among others. Strobel also includes material from discussions with family, friends, and acquaintances, and even includes a short passage where former president Bill Clinton admits to his culpability in the Monica Lewinsky affair. With such a wide variety of subjects ranging from journalism, law, politics, science, philosophy, apologetics and theology the seeker of truth will surely find something of relevance to his or her life.

The main objections that Strobel seeks to answer are divided into eight chapters: 1) Since Evil and Suffering Exist, a Loving God Cannot 2) Since Miracles Contradict Science, They Cannot Be True 3) Evolution Explains Life, So God Isn't Needed 4) God Isn't Worthy Of Worship If He Kills Innocent Children 5) It's Offensive To Claim Jesus Is The Only Way To God 6) A Loving God Would Never Torture People In Hell 7) Church History Is Littered With Oppression and Violence and 8) I Still Have Doubts, So I Can't Be A Christian. For those who have dealt with these issues extensively in the past, there will probably not be a great deal of new information to be found here. But for those who are new to Christianity or Christian Apologetics, this book neatly summarizes what are often problematic issues that can recur either in one's private contemplations or in public debates with non-believers. For those who spend a great deal of time discussing Christianity or defending against the objections to it either in person or on the Internet (as I frequently do) this book is an excellent book to recommend for the beginner.

-"Safari Man"

Buy The Case for a Creator Now

I was enjoying my Spring Break and walked into my local Christian bookstore and was pleasantly surprised to see that there was a new book by Lee Strobel on the shelves. This is his follow-up to the books "The Case for Christ" and "The Case for Faith". These books I find to be unparalleled in quality and approach for apologetics on the beginners' level. Thus the bar was raised substantially high for "The Case for a Creator," but Strobel did not disappoint! Once an ardent atheist, Strobel investigated the veracity of the Christian faith from many angles after noticing the change that Christ rendered in the life of his recently-converted wife. An open investigation into the scientific evidence was included in his search, but Strobel has with this latest effort taken a fresh look at how some of the freshest scientific discoveries affect the debate over whether life and the universe can be explained through naturalistic hypotheses or there must be an intelligent Agent behind it all.

Strobel starts us off with an interesting allegory of a trip that he took to West Virginia as a young journalist where he was assigned to investigate the story of people that were protesting the books used in the local schools because of the teaching of concepts in them that were incompatible with the Bible. Included in this we get to peer into Strobel's atheistic mindset and how confident he was that science had "put God out of a job." In the next chapter, Strobel details some of the typical "icons of evolution," such as the Stanley Miller experiment, Ernst Haeckel's embryo drawings, and the archaeopteryx which confirmed in Strobel's mind the veracity of evolution. Then, the interviews begin.

Strobel first discussed these "icons" with Princeton University's Jonathan Wells in order to determine whether or not their evidential basis is as solid as he once thought. Next, Strobel talked with Stephen C. Meyer of Discovery regarding the question of whether faith is compatible with science. Then, Strobel engaged in a discussion of the kalam cosmological argument with William Lane Craig where Craig presents the philosophical as well as the scientific evidence of "The Big Bang" in order to demonstrate that our universe had a beginning. Robin Collins was Strobel's choice to discuss the evidence from physics of the existence of an intelligent Agent where an impressive case was built based on the "Anthropic Principle," which is the fact that the universe is very precisely tuned by various physical laws to allow for the occurrence of life. I personally found the ensuing discussion of the "Multiple Universes" theory that naturalists tout to counter this phenomenon especially helpful and thought-provoking. The 5th interview was with Guillermo Gonzalez and Jay Wesley Richards where astronomic principles were discussed. First came a very interesting short history lesson that shed important light on the medieval Church's persecution of Copernicus, Galileo, and Giordano Bruno. It was also demonstrated that the widely-made claim that medieval Christians and ancient philosophers thought that the Earth is the center of the universe is essentially a myth. There was also a very interesting tidbit regarding Christopher Columbus and a myth attached to his story (if you haven't guessed what that might be, you'll have to read the book for yourself ;-)). The actual astronomical data discussed regarded the many conditions necessary for there to be a habitable planet and the likelihood (or lack thereof) of there being another habitable planet in the entire universe. Also, a very interesting discussion of "habitability and measurability" closed the interview. This is the very interesting phenomenon that our particular position in the universe seems to be very conducive to making scientific discoveries.

Michael Behe and his conclusions based on "Irreducible Complexity" were next put to the challenge. A few helpful examples of this phenomenon in nature were described and some objections to the conclusions from his popular book, "Darwin's Black Box," were discussed. Strobel interviewed Stephen C. Meyer for the 2nd time in this book in order to elucidate the evidence for "Intelligent Design" based on DNA evidence. Finally, J.P. Moreland discusses with Strobel the impressive case that can be made not only for "Intelligent Design," but also for the existence of a soul and life after death, based on human consciousness. Strobel concludes his book with a helpful summary of his investigation, an interesting array of inferences that can be made about the Creator from scientific investigation and its correspondence to the characteristics attributed to God as described in the Bible, an incorporation of the evidence he attained from his previous two works, and a discussion of how all of this leads to a very impressive case for the veracity of Christianity. As appendices Strobel also summarizes the evidence from "The Case for Christ" and has a host of "Questions for Deliberation" based on the material in the book.

The cumulative case certainly seemed powerful in the end, and Strobel did an excellent job, as in the other two works, of including the right mixture of technical jargon, quotes from experts, as well as allegories to keep the reader interested and wanting more. It should, of course, be cautioned once again that this book should be treated as a very diverse stepping-stone into more in-depth apologetics for "Intelligent Design." Many books have been written on each of the topics Strobel discusses, so obviously not every objection to all of the theories expounded by the various experts could be scrutinized in this one book. Strobel does, however, at the end of each chapter, as with his previous two books, list several books on each topic where a more in-depth view of the evidence can be found. In closing, let me say that, based on Strobel's earlier works, I had high expectations of this book before reading it, and these expectations were met, if not surpassed.


Buy The Case for Easter Now

I found this tiny book while surfing Amazon's online bookstore ...and I'm happy to say I'm glad I bought it. On the other hand, if you've already got the Case for Christ, you already own it (it's chapters 11, 12 & 13) - this book might be useful as a gift if you are short of cash this Easter.

It may be little (it's the sort of thing you can read in one sitting) but it is packed with the usual content by Strobel: introductory stories from his reporting days, engaging interviews with relevant experts - together with questions for group study at the end of each of the three chapters.

The three experts interviewed are: Dr Alexander Metherell for the medical question of "Did Jesus actually die on the cross?" (the details here are grisly and disturbing), William Lane Craig, and Gary Habermas - both scholars on the resurrection. Each presents solid argument and evidence for each part of the case, and skeptical questions are posed and answered (I especially liked the debunking of Thiering and Baigent and Leigh). It doesn't deal with the hardcore anti-apologetics of the Robert M Price sort, but it is sufficient and compelling for those just beginning the apologetic circuit - and as with the other Strobel books I've read, it makes you hungry for more.

Probably this book is best for young Christians who need to know how to defend the cornerstone of their faith and who perhaps are not familiar with Craig and Habermas: for them, a cheap and cheerful volume that really shouldn't be missed!


Buy The Case for the Real Jesus Now

No review. Highly recommended.

Daniel Wallace, Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics

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After the student learns the basics of NT Greek: the forms, declensions, and a working base of Greek words, the student can with great profit work through St. John's Gospel, the Catholic Epistles of John, and large parts of St. Mark's and St. Matthew's gospels. However, the student will quickly recognize that the NT doesn't always conform to the neat and precise grammatical exercises offered in whatever introductory book that was used.

And that is why Wallace's GGBB is a most recommended tool for the student. Wallace's book builds a badly needed bridge between learning how to parse efficiently and actually understanding the semantics of complicated Biblical texts. This book is a chalked-full locus of just about every grammatical issue that one could think of.

Here are some of the great features about this book:

The book is laid out in a visually pleasing manner that allows one to focus his or her energies on learning the concepts versus trying to find things. Individual verses for discussion are laid out on new lines with grammatical comments given below for easy reference and comparison. This gives Wallace's text a much greater usability than the two giants among hard-core NT grammars: A.T. Robertson's A Greek Grammar of the New Testament in the Light of Historical Research (by Hodder and Stoughton) and the Blass-Debrunner-Funk grammar (available from the University of Chicago Press).

The book is most comprehensive. For example, 33 uses of the genitive case are laid out in clear exposition and detail. Even the rarest usages of grammatical constructs are mentioned. The book also has the nice feature indicating what the ``important'' or major uses of each grammatical construction are.

Unlike Robertson's legendary Grammar and the famously terse BDF Grammar, Wallace provides copious discussions concerning the grammar of key verses. For example, in 1 John 5:20, does the demonstrative , ``this one/ he'', refer back to the Father or Jesus Christ when the text says ``This is the true God and eternal life''? The decision is one of great importance. If houtous refers back to Christ then we have another proof-text for the true Godhood of Christ. If houtous refers back to the Father, then we are in error to use this as a proof-text for Christ's deity. Wallace lays out most objectively the reasons for the former and the reasons for the latter. Just about every key verse in the NT has extended discussions on it showing the evidences for and against grammatical and semantical interpretations offered by various exegetes.

Wallace maintains his role as an unbiased moderator throughout the text. When Wallace offers his personal opinion on the meaning of a text -- he clearly demarcates his personal opinion as such so that the reader can make an informed evaluation based on the grammatical evidence alone. While I don't agree with some of Wallace's opinions regarding certain verses, he always presents the facts clearly.

His treatment of the Greek article in the New Testament takes up about 85 pages -- and it is SUPERB and informative. The Greek article is important because most if not all of the verses that assert deity for Christ depend on how one interprets the articles present. Wallace presents the facts concerning the article, and he doesn't clutter the facts with opinions and speculations. This objective and undeniable evidence is then used in various applications, my favorite being the application to verses that possible deal with Christ's deity. Wallace soberly avoids the Trinitarian excess in seeing Christ's deity in every grammatical situation, but at the same time he also clearly delineates where the NT grammar is undeniable in declaring Christ's deity. This objective treatment is badly needed in a day when Jehovah's Witnesses go door-to-door with altered Interlinear Greek New Testaments that have stripped away or deliberately mistranslated any references to Christ's deity, and when Mormons make polytheistic assertions in their proselytizing literature. (The deity of Christ is not one of a few possible interpretations placed on certain texts -- it is the ONLY grammatically feasible option for certain texts.)

Wallace doesn't feel constrained by what people in the past have said. He lets the evidence speak for itself. For example, the venerable giant Robertson was regarded as the authority on matters grammatical, but Wallace is not afraid to challenge some of the statements of Robertson. Of particular interest is where Wallace disagrees with Robertson on Robertson's claim that certain grammatical constructions demonstrate the personality of the Spirit. (I think that Wallace is correct.) However, Wallace gives a grammatical presentation of the Spirit's personality using an agency argument involving the preposition ``hypo'' that is much more airtight, and seemingly undefeatable.

Wallace's treatment of the complicated Greek verb is masterful.

Examples are COPIOUS and generously detailed.

Regardless of whether one agrees with Wallace's personal opinions on certain passages, one can never accuse him of taking the easy way out on exegetical matters. For example, see his discussion of Acts 9:7 and footnotes 166-8 for an interesting and debatable example where he contends that the usual way of clearing up the apparent discrepany introduced by the verse is not probably correct.

These are just some of the nice features of Wallace's book. Now my only complaint -- and I feel like a blasphemer for suggesting that more be added to such a great book! -- is that there aren't exercises or problems to test one's retention or mastery of the concepts. But I must be honest and state that I personally don't know how one could incorporate problems into a thick book, nor do I know what TYPES of problems one could ask.

There is a workbook -- William B. Mounce's A Graded Reader of Biblical Greek that ties in with Wallace's text. The workbook is quite useful and helpful for the student who desires greater proficiency, and is a worthy investment as well. (I have worked through most of Mounce's workbook with great profit.) The workbook is available from Zondervan. But the text stands mightily on its own as well!

Ultimately, this book is a must-have for the student of the Greek Scriptures, and it arms the student to the hilt for good, indepth, and critical readings of the commentaries on the NT. The student, with this book, can critically evaluate the grammatical claims made by some commentators, and can make an informed decision in the end. Kudos to the nth degree for Wallace!

-Eric Vestrup

John Wenham, Elements of New Testament Greek

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It sounds over-idealistic to say, but I cannot help but state that I feel that every believer should try to obtain some degree of familiarity with the Biblical languages. And, for the person who wants to study the basics of New Testament Greek, I cannot recommend any book more highly than Wenham's text.

The text presents a quite sumptious buffet of Greek grammar over the 44 lessons in the text. Wenham doesn't waste time trying to come up with ways of getting around the fact that learning a language means MEMORIZING lots of forms and declensions. Instead, the lessons are brief but easy to understand. New forms are presented with the utmost clarity and the layout is quite nice. The person who diligently works the exercises and memorizes the various forms in this book is more than ready to cut his teeth on the glorious words of the NT.

The Greek verb is a notoriously intricate fellow, and Wenham avoids the temptation of throwing too much at once on the beginner. He judiciously begins with the present indicative and then heaps on the 'usual' nouns: The first and second declensions. First and second declension adjectives follow. Meanwhile, the student can build his or her vocabulary up fairly quickly. Lessons 19-27 build up the first three principal parts of the Greek verb in a careful manner. Lessons 28-33 provide a nice respite with third declension nouns and adjectives, as well as the (not too frequent) comparative and superlative comparisons of adjectives. Lessons 34-44 are spent filling in the perfect, pluperfect, and aorist passive principal parts, as well as some common classical holdout verbs.

Of course, all Greek books cover the same material, so what makes this book so highly recommended? Well:

(1) Wenham avoids the needless complication caused by the acute, grace, and circumflex accents and their shift patterns. The student is relieved of a needless burden. Wenham does retain the smooth and rough breathings, and he also retains the accents when there would otherwise be ambiguity. This writer finds that accents really bother people when they are first learning their Greeks, and Wenham has taken a nice step towards eliminating a useless convention.

(2) The exercises are a lot of fun, and, unlike some books (such as William Mounce's Basics of Biblical Greek, not only are Greek to English exercises provided, but copious English to Greek exercises are provided as well. It may not seem necessary to do English to Greek if all one wants to do is to translate the NT into English, but this writer speaks from personal experience when he says that the English to Greek exercises really reinforce vocabulary and form paradigms! And, this book has a separate key to all of the exercises, The Key to the Elements of New Testament Greek, that may also be purchased from Cambridge University Press. Thus, the diligent student can check his or her work and gain confidence from seeing the correctness of the attempted answers, or can spot flaws or weaknesses in his knowledge of the concepts.

(3) Wenham lays out new paradigms in a matter that a motivated person who is not scared of memorizing forms can readily do so. Personally, this writer hates gimmicky approaches and likes grind-it-out memorization. Wenham's book is a great tool for a motivated beginner.

(4) The vocabulary is most thoughtfully arranged. To be sure, most Greek books feature this, so Wenham's book doesn't stand out in this regard.

(5) The selection and arrangement of material are presented in a very natural way.

(6) For the most part, the lessons are succinct and very clearly written.

Now, on the other hand,

(1) Wenham sometimes is a bit miserly on providing examples. This writer felt that the section on the Greek infinitive could have had a lot more examples. Similar comments apply to the section on participles. (The finest discussion of participles is found in James Voelz' Fundamentals of Greek Grammar by Concordia Publishing. Voelz' book is also a nice starting tool, but my heart lies with Wenham.)

(2) It would have been interesting to see a more detailed discussion of the Greek article, as it plays such an important role in verses which ascribe full deity to Christ. But, this may not be at all an appropriate criticism for a book which purports to deal with the elements of a language.

However, the book and the key can be bought for around 20 dollars. The book is self-contained, although one will need to buy a lexicon when one hits the three-quarter point of the book. (This is not a criticism, because the student needs a good lexicon anyway!)

It took this author about 4 months to complete the book cover-to-cover, working all of the exercises, and the writer spent about 1.5-2 hours per day. The fun of NT Greek feeds on itself. Within a good week of work, the student can actually see the results, and the feeling of accomplishment spurs one on to learn more and more.

So, I highly recommend this little book as THE first plunge into the exciting and fascinating world of NT Greek. I don't think that there could be a finer, more succinct, and organized treatment of the topic.

-Eric Vestrup

Dinesh D'Souza, What's So Great About Christianity?

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It seems that atheism has experienced something of a literacy renaissance in recent years. Books expounding the scientific and philosophical virtues of atheistic reasoning are everywhere these days (especially the New York Times bestseller list). One cannot even go a library or bookstore anymore without being bombarded by these tomes of anti-religiosity. Although these sorts of books have always been around (Bertrand Russell's famous 1927 work comes to mind), there has never really been a 'glut' of atheistic treatises before. In the last few years, a quartet of non-believers (Dawkins, Hitchens, Dennett, Harris) has emerged and codified a veritable cannon of un-belief that has become, for lack of a better term, 'scripture,' to the pious anti-theist. It is this newfound cannon (The God Delusion, God Is Not Great, Breaking the Spell, the End of Faith) that Christian thinker and author Dinesh D'souza seeks to refute in his latest work, What's So Great About Christianity.

What's So Great about Christianity is divided in eight parts, covering a necessarily wide-range of topics. After all, he is, unlike Alastair McGrath, trying to refute all four of these works at one. In all, the books jumps from demography to philosophy, with liberal amounts of science and history sprinkled in between. Since this is a popular work, many of the arguments will be familiar to those who are well-versed in apologetics. However, Dinesh succeeds, perhaps more than any author I have ever read, in managing to compress and combine all these arguments (teleological, anthropic, cosmological, etc) into a single, coherent whole without diluting or in any way compromising the arguments themselves. For this reason alone I would recommend this book as a wholesale rebuttal to the works of the Hitchens, Dawkins and ilk. But that is not even the books strongest suit. As author Stanley Fish notes on the back- over, the great strength of this book is that it intellectually concedes nothing. Rather than just producing another work of Christian apologetics, D'souza takes a hard, sceptical look at atheism. In what is perhaps the book's most entertaining chapter, D'souza calls atheism the "opiate of the morally corrupt" and notes the propensity of that belief system to breed mass murderers. Refuting what he has dubbed "Atheist fables," D'souza notes that atheistic ideologies have killed more people in the last few decades than the Crusades, Inquisition and witch burnings combined. He also takes careful aim at other such anti-Christian fables, devoting a whole chapter to set the record straight on the myth of Galileo's persecution.

In the end, What's So Great about Christianity is an eloquently written, thoroughly researched, liberally footnoted, erudite work of non-fiction. Though I will leave it up to the individual reader to decide whether D'souza outdoes Dawkins and Hitchens, I wholeheartedly recommend this book and think it should be required reading for anyone who has been subjected to the bunk pushed by Dawkins and his gang.

-Adam J. Smith

Eric Redmond, Where Are All the Brothers?

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This little volume is best seen and used as a food for thought/gateway apologetics book. Redmond also has a specific demographic in mind for his readership (African-American men), but except for one issue (whether Islam provides a better deal for that demographic than Christianity), the objections Redmond deals with are color-blind, so don't presuppose that it won't be useful for anyone else.

Redmond provides book lists for further study, so I'd say go for this one if you have someone you're dealing with whose ready to consider other points of view.

Norman Geisler and Paul Hoffman, Why I Am a Christian

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If I had to describe this book using only one word, it would be versatile. This book is comprised of 6 sections that are further divided into a total of 16 chapters that are written by 14 Christian authors defending Christianity from a number of different angles. What follows will be a brief discussion of each section and the chapters comprising them and a mention of the author of each chapter.

The first section is entitled "Why I believe in Truth." Francis J. Beckwith starts off this section with Chapter 1 entitled "Why I am not a Moral Relativist." Moral relativism is a perspective that claims that there are no moral absolutes. Beckwith begins this chapter with a brief discussion of how our moral discourse has been influenced by moral relativism and then critiques two arguments used to support moral relativism: cultural and individual differences. Beckwith concludes by arguing that the existence of a theistic God is the best explanation for objective moral norms. The second chapter, entitled "Why I believe Truth is Real and Knowable" and written by Norman L. Geisler, seeks to define what truth is and is not. Geisler then defines and defends the "correspondence" view of truth: "Simply put, truth is what corresponds to its referent. As applied to the world, truth is telling it the way things really are. Truth is 'telling it like it is.'"(pg. 33) and he also argues against objections to this view of truth. He then concludes by providing refutations to relativism and agnosticism. I felt that this section provided very strong arguments for what truth is and why we can have confidence in this definition of truth.

The second section is entitled "Why I believe in God." J. Budziszewski in Chapter 3, "Why I am not an atheist" gives reasons, as a former atheist, as to why he feels that atheism is a self-deception and how he personally moved from atheism to faith in Jesus Christ. William Lane Craig, in Chapter 4, entitled "Why I believe God Exists," details several reasons why it is reasonable to believe in God. He first discusses how the existence of a Creator makes sense of the universe's origin. Then, he moves into a discussion of the evidence of God from the complex order in our universe. Finally, Craig discusses the argument for the existence of God from objective moral values.

Norman L. Geisler makes a return in Chapter 5, entitled "Why I believe the God of the Bible is the One True God." Geisler discusses many of the attributes of God as portrayed in the Bible such as His pure actuality, infinity, immutability, eternality, oneness, simplicity, personhood, etc. which give God His identity and then how this distinguishes Him from other views of God such as that of pantheism. Geisler then discusses the reasonableness to believe that God as portrayed in the Bible is the One that actually exists. He does this by demonstrating the cosmological, moral, and teleological arguments for God's existence and also why there cannot be two infinite gods that exist. I felt that this section defended the claims that were made very well.

The third section is entitled "Why I believe in Miracles." In chapter 6, "Why I Believe in the Possibility of Miracles," R. Douglas Geivett details five modes of scepticism that exist about miracles. He then discusses the scientific and philosophical bases for scepticism about miracles and concludes with a defence of the possibility of miracles. While I felt that the author makes a good defence for the possibility of miracles, much of the chapter was very confusing and requires quite a bit of concentration to follow his arguments. The main problem for me was that he assigned letters(a, b, c, d, etc.) for the different varieties of scepticism that he details and continually refers to them throughout the rest of the chapter. This is a chapter that could require quite a bit of patient studying in order to grasp a strong understanding of the author's case.

In Chapter 7, entitled "Why I believe the Miracles of Jesus Actually Happened," Gary R. Habermas first compares the miracles of Jesus, save the Resurrection, to other miracle stories from the ancient world. Here, the author examines the evidence of the Gospel proclamations against the evidence, or lack thereof, of other miracle accounts from the ancient world. Habermas then moves into a discussion of the historical evidence that exists for the miracles of Jesus. Finally, the author examines the veracity of the Resurrection of Jesus and the weaknesses of alternative hypotheses that attempt to discredit the bodily Resurrection of Jesus Christ. I feel that this chapter establishes a solid foundation for the case of Christ's miracles and His unique bodily Resurrection on the third day.

Hugh Ross is the author of Chapter 8 that is entitled, "Why I Believe in the Miracle of Divine Creation." I feel that this chapter provides convincing evidence for the belief that the earth and the universe was created. Ross discusses the fine-tuning of the universe and how mathematically absurd it is to believe that life and celestial order could have resulted from blind, incidental processes. There is also an interesting discussion included by Ross on how the planet earth possesses a unique perspective on the rest of the universe that could not be enjoyed if we lived in the vast majority of other galaxies or planetary positions in the universe. It is worth noting that Ross is a proponent of the Big Bang theory in which he feels fits into the Biblical model of creation. Keep in mind that Christians have different perspectives on the plausibility of this theory and whether or not it fits into the Biblical creation model.

Section 4 is entitled "Why I believe the Bible is the Word of God." It is probably this section of the book that I found to be the weakest, particularly Chapter 10 as I will discuss. Gary R. Habermas makes a return appearance in Chapter 9, entitled "Why I believe the New Testament is Historically Reliable." I felt that this was the most convincing chapter of this section. Habermas discusses the great manuscript evidence that exists which powerfully establishes the wonderful preservation and substantial historicity of the New Testament. He also provides a defence of the traditional authorship and dates as held by most Christians of the New Testament books and provides corroborating evidence from extra-biblical sources. Habermas then moves on to a discussion of recent strategies employed to test the historical trustworthiness of the New Testament and then to a discussion of the defence of the Gospels in light of rules derived from ancient historiography. Finally, the author discusses the works of Paul and also early creeds and traditions. I felt that in each area Habermas provided a strong defence for the historicity and reliability of the New Testament. Now we move on to Chapter 10, entitled "Why I Believe the Bible is Scientifically Reliable." I recommend that the reader be cautious while traversing the pages of this chapter. In this chapter, Walter Bradley discusses why the events of Genesis 1-11 are scientifically compatible. However, in doing so, I feel that he conforms/complies too much with modern, fallible scientific reasoning. For instance, he argues that the 7 days of creation are not to be taken as literal 24 hour periods but should be interpreted as 7 long periods of time and that Noah's flood was only a local flood rather than a global cataclysm. I personally disagree with the author on these issues although I am not qualified to argue whether his exegeses are sound or not. However, I do recommend the reader to compare his views with those of "Creation Ministries International" here.

This section concludes with Chapter 11, "Why I Believe the Bible Alone is the Word of God," written by Winfried Corduan. Corduan first establishes criteria for what he believes qualifies a particular set of writings as potentially divinely inspired scripture. The author then made his argument that the Bible was divinely inspired. Corduan approached this by re-examining some of the reasons Habermas pointed out in Chapter 9 that renders the New Testament a historically reliable document. This, in turn, was used to argue the reliability of the New Testament claim that Jesus was God, which, in turn, gives us confidence in the Old Testament since Jesus endorsed it as being divinely inspired. Finally, the author gives brief surveys of scriptures from other religions(Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, Zoroastrianism, etc.) and ultimately gives reasons why he feels it is safe to discard the possibility that any of them are divinely inspired. Overall, I must say that I was disappointed with this chapter as well. While the book as a whole gives good reasons to confidently conclude that the Bible is the unique Word of God, I felt that more could have been done with this chapter to strengthen that lofty claim. For instance, the author of this chapter could have presented a case from MAPS(Manuscript-Archaeology-Prophecy-Science) evidence and/or the Bible's miraculous unity despite the great length of time in which it was composed by so many different authors. Again, I found the last two chapters of section 4 to be wanting.

Section 5 is entitled "Why I Believe Jesus is the Messiah and Son of God." I was more satisfied after reading the 2 chapters that comprise this section than I was after reading section 4. Barry R. Leventhal, a Jewish believer, explains in Chapter 12, "Why I Believe Jesus is the Promised Messiah," why indeed he believes in Jesus Christ. Leventhal begins with a brief discussion of Christ's fulfilment of Messianic prophecy and how they validated His claims of Messiahship. He first discusses the number of Old Testament Messianic prophecies and the extreme mathematical unlikelihood that they were fulfilled in Christ merely by chance. Then, he discusses the Micah 5:2 Messianic birth prophecy and Isaiah 52:13-53:12 suffering servant prophecy in some detail. Leventhal then switches gears and discusses the impact Jesus had as the resurrected Messiah. He details five lines of evidence which support the Resurrection as a historical event that are not in dispute with anyone(according to the author): 1) the martyrdoms of the disciples; 2) the conversion of sceptics such as Saul and James; 3) the changes to key social structures; 4) the ordinances of communion and baptism; 5) the emergence of the church. Finally, Leventhal discusses the transforming impact that Jesus has on lives.

Peter Kreeft, in Chapter 13, entitled "Why I Believe Jesus is the Son of God," next explains what exactly this doctrine means. He then details why he feels that this doctrine is important for believers and explains why the doctrine, while difficult, is not impossible to believe. Kreeft concludes this chapter with a discussion of the logical and moral arguments that serve as standards for determining whether or not the doctrine is true.

The sixth and final section is entitled "Why I Have Chosen to Follow Christ." John S. Feinberg, in Chapter 14, entitled "Why I Still Believe in Christ, in Spite of Evil and Suffering" argues from two primary angles why it is rational to believe in an all-powerful and omniscient God despite suffering. He does this from the Arminian freewill perspective and also the integrity-of-humans perspective. He concludes by giving a personal testimony of why he remains a steadfast Christian despite his experience with suffering.

J. P. Moreland in Chapter 15, entitled "Why I have Made Jesus Christ Lord of My Life," explains why it is intellectually and spiritually reasonable to embrace Christianity. He starts by arguing for the justification of the existence of a monotheistic God, for the truth of Christianity, and the religious experience for Christian theism. In the case of the latter, Moreland discusses the benefits of having an applicable Biblical wisdom, the veracity for Christianity from observations of specific changes in the lives of individuals, specific religious experiences, and answered prayers. He concludes by detailing reflections of his own spiritual journey.

The final chapter, written by Ravi Zacharias, entitled "Why I Believe Jesus Christ is the Ultimate Source for Meaning" provides a strong philosophical argument to justify the claim of Jesus in John 14:6: "I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life. No one comes to the Father but through me."

The book is then concluded with the powerful testimony of sceptic-turned-Christian Josh McDowell. This details the journey that he made which ultimately led him to conversion and the changes that occurred in his life afterwards.

Despite the weaknesses I felt that section 4 contained, I felt the overall quality of the book is very good and is a good resource for the open-minded seeker. It is a good resource for beginners in the apologetic realm and could be a great gift to give to someone that is willing to hear the truth but may be having, for one reason or another, intellectual problems with accepting Jesus Christ as his or her Savior.


Pam Dewey, Field Guide to the Wild World of Religion

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This interesting book occupies an unusual space between the comfortably-flowing narrative discourse and the documentary reference work. It has portions that could be identified from each; but the result is not at all an ugly mongrel, but rather a beautiful delight (sort of like my little dog was a mix of Pomeranian and poodle; and he has the best of both breeds).

Among the flowing narratives: discourses on how the accessibility and variety of sources of information has changed, just in the last 40-50 years (something that as a librarian, I regularly taught "Internet newbies"), chapters on particular subjects (such as "Pentacostal and Charismatic: What's the Difference?") and "The Word Faith Movement") and a few personal accounts, much of them derived from Dewey's years as a member of Armstrong's Worldwide Church of God (hence as well, the single shortcoming of the book, in my view; too much WCOG for its relative importance...but that is not to be much begrudged). Among the documentary references: mini-encyclopedias of names and terms having to do with wayward forms of Christianity (such as the King James Only movement and the Brownsville movement) or persons within such movements (Benny Hinn, Marilyn Hickey) as well as discussions of basic terms (like "cult" and "speaking in tongues"). I would classify this work not so much as a reference tool as a user-friendly introduction to major names and concepts. Most encyclopedic-treatments are not suited well to comfortable, armchair reading; the Field Guide is. If you are not familiar with what has been going on in these areas (as I have not, being otherwise occupied) the Field Guide will be tremendously useful as a way of bringing you up to speed. A few entries could have stood more information (for example, the entry under "preterism" does not indicate that there is a heretical form of this belief system!), but as a whole, readers will find this work very informative, and the list of resources for further research at the end will be an additional help. Two thumbs up!

Ravi Zacharias, Beyond Opinion

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In today's apologetics, we have resources available to us that have until only very recently been out of reach to all but the most privileged and qualified. Now, every high school student has no excuse for not being able to adequately defend his faith. In a world where information is so plentiful and so accessible, we often lose sight of the purpose of apologetics and how we ought to truly be motivated.

In this book, Dr. Zacharias has compiled his best authors from RZIM to address the most important modern and postmodern topics that challenge the Christian faith. He even goes as far as to cover challenges from our youth culture, a topic which has been long neglected in apologetics. The first section of this book is dedicated to answering the most culturally relevant topics in the world of western Christianity. The second is dedicated to internalizing those answers.

In the second section of this book, a case for the trinity as a paradigm for spiritual transformation is offered. In addition, a chapter is offered on the importance of doubt and persecution in spiritual growth. Yet again, two issues which have not yet found their proper place in the role and position of apologetics. The final section, with two consecutive chapters offered by Dr. Zacharias himself, twists the knife in the reader with an indictment to all apologists.

At the end of this book, we come to its central message, the purpose of apologetics. So often, apologists have focused on winning arguments alone. For its own sake, argumentation is valuable, but says Dr. Zacharias, must conform to a greater purpose. We must not focus solely on winning arguments, but on winning people. All to often, we forget why we do what we do. We must not only answer the questions posed to us, we must also internalize those answers and live them before a watching world.

I am reminded of a quote that precedes an old DC Talk song, What if I Stumble? "The greatest single cause of atheism in the world today is Christians who acknowledge Jesus with their lips, then walk out the door and deny him by their lifestyle." It is time for us as apologists to see the questions behind the questions and address the questioner and not only the question. It is time for us to live above reproach to make our arguments indeed flawless.

-Jesse Burridge

Zondervan, Illustrated Bible Backgrounds Commentary

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Tekton readers have become well acquainted with Holding's opinion of those with the tendency to read the Bible, and I quote, "like it was written yesterday and for you personally." And no doubt, after reading some of Bible difficulties refuted here, you were left wanting to get more acquainted with the Biblical societies. Yet, perhaps you don't have the time or the knowledge of big words to sift through some massive, scholarly tomes.

Well, the good people at Zondervan may have given readers like yourself a ray of hope. This massive 4-volume set covers each book of the New Testament, going verse by verse and presenting tons of relevant information. Best of all, this set seeks to distance itself from the anachronistic tendencies in modern Christianity, by assisting the reader to understand the Bible with such background details as Jewish traditions, social customs, historical facts, some of the more colorful meanings behind original Greek words, and highlights of key persons, groups, places, and things. The commentary set also has various illustrations, images, and informative sidebars, giving it a textbook-like feel.

For each book of the New Testament, this set is contributed to by an evangelical scholar. Of course, that means this set tends to be conservative, but this is offset slightly by the fairness they treat topics where other scholars disagree or where alternative interpretations might be possible. (And no, there is no evidence of a gate into Jerusalem called "the Needle's Eye." Just letting you know). However, it is surprisingly easy to read.

Overall, this set does and excellent job of assisting the reader understand what is going on behind various sections of Scripture. The only complaints I have are a few nit-picks: e.g.; Some of the images are superfluous, as if I've never seen a sheep before, and I think I could live the rest of my life without seeing another map of Galilee. I really wish the footnotes were done at the bottom of each page rather than after each Bible book covered... though to their merit this set has a lot of citations. For the book of John alone, there are 671 footnotes for the main text and 35 for the sidebars; a few of the resources cited are actually public domain and can be found on the Internet. It is pretty comprehensive, but not as in depth as it could be. Of course that may not be a bad thing, since ZIBBC as it is now is 4 whopping volumes! There are a few odd passages I hoped it would cover better than it does.

This commentary set would be and excellent investment for the average Joe Christian, aspiring theologian, or lay apologist. Tekton readers who are looking for something more advanced are better off with some massive, dusty tomes, or a small library of Holding's all stars. However, in general ZIBBC is good as a companion for your Bible study times or for reference. To some extent, I've also found it helpful for apologetics.


Not Recommended

In most cases, we prefer to simply not post reviews of books we do not recommend. But these exceptions are warranted.

Robert Boyd, Boyd's Handbook of Practical Apologetics Boyd's Handbook of Practical Apologetics will work fine to impress your Sunday School class. But if you're confronting skeptics, leave this one at home.

This book by Robert Boyd - who is not to be confused with Greg Boyd, author of Cynic Sage or Son of God? - is mostly a catalog of information and Biblical proofs. If you have yet to buy anything on apologetics, this book can be a handy start, but to the veteran, all of the data will be familiar.

Boyd rather disappointingly spends time on creationism 'proofs' from the folks down Henry Morris' way - not a good sign; you can't cover such a difficult topic in such a short space. On the other hand, archaeological data from the same section is rather more helpful. Not enough time is spent on fulfilled prophecy in the second section. The archaeological proofs in the third section constitute perhaps the most helpful part of the book.

Documentation is rather shoddy. We may appreciate that Boyd is a Professor of Old Testament and is probably therefore authoritative enough to be his own source, but when engaging in debate, the he-says-so method is not much help. A 'practical' handbook ought to be of better use in practice.

The Handbook offered a few useful tidbits and references, but overall, it was no help at all.

Ray Comfort, The Evidence Bible

If one reads enough about apologetics or simply goes in-depth about studies relevant to Christianity, one will often find that there is a gap between scholarly Christianity and popular Christianity. In tertiary or in secondary doctrines, the views on either side will usually not resemble each other in the least. In primary/essential doctrines, there will often be agreement on general details, but not on specifics.

This is epitomized by people like Ray Comfort. We find many basic ideas in their literature that we can agree with, but they often stumble in specifics or in the non-essential doctrines. In the latter case, why should we care at all? We should care simply because truth matters. It will never be a case where if you are wrong about the doctrine as a whole, your salvation would be put into question (like in the case of Christology or Soteriology), but truth still matters whether it has eternal consequences or not. But that’s enough of standing on the soap box. Let’s get down to reviewing the book itself.

If you’re expecting a great apologetic work because of the title The Evidence Bible, you would be sorely disappointed. This book is more about Comfort’s favored mode of evangelism (using the Ten Commandments) than it is about defending the Christian faith. One would be much better served buying The Case for Christ or The Case for Faith. Even if you’re a beginner in apologetic studies, this book would not be right for you. But let’s examine the book according to the purposes outlined on its cover.

Prove God’s existence: Is this accomplished? Actually, it is. He basically relies solely on the teleological argument and he presents some interesting facts in the process. Regrettably, the most effective argument in the teleological category — the Anthropic Principle — only makes cameo appearances in a repeated quote from Stephen Hawking. Regardless, he accomplishes the goal, but not quite with as much finesse and absoluteness as you would get from works of Alvin Platinga, William Lane Craig, or Richard Swinburne.

Answer 100 common objections to Christianity: There’s nothing quite as deep as expounding on Exodus logistics, copyist errors, or a little examination of social science issues here. Most objections are extremely easy to answer. All but maybe a handful could be answered by a beginner apologist (these few having to do with the “Problem of Evil” or, in one case, where it involves God ordering the killing of certain people). The rest include such questions as: Who made God? How can a perfect God be furious? Will people who have never heard about Jesus go to hell? (admittedly, this is a little more difficult) and How can people be happy in heaven, knowing that their unsaved loved ones are suffering in hell? I have chosen from among the most difficult of the remaining and we still don’t see too much that would make the book worth buying.

Another thing I should point out here is that Comfort doesn’t exercise any ability to go against the paradigm in these objections. For example, in the objection that religion has caused more wars than anything, Comfort doesn’t refute this paradigm, he merely takes it for granted and says that those Christians who caused wars were not real Christians [1292]. I guess he didn’t know that the vast majority of all wars have no discernible religious significance. He also works within the paradigm on the idea that this world is “full” of suffering (rather than be like Glenn Miller and refute it ( [1461] and he doesn’t refute the idea that the Bible is a fairy tale. He simply evades it (while giving the appearance of a good answer) and says to take the objector through the Ten Commandments.

Show the Bible’s supernatural origin. Of course, the Bible would not have to be supernatural or inerrant for it to be true, but does the book succeed in doing this? Though the attempt is spread throughout the book, the one concentrated effort in a note on Psalm 119:105 [790] is rather lacking. It is a case where Justin and Jordan Drake (I have no idea who they are) lay out five evidences that the Bible stands alone (which doesn’t necessarily prove divine origin). These five evidences are: Unique continuity, unique circulation, unique translation, unique survival, and unique durability. The first would be a valid point, but the book as a whole doesn’t do much in proving it, the paragraph devoted to expounding on this is no more than a sound bite. The others are definitely no grounds on which to base a doctrine of divine origin. It is basically up to the reader and their presuppositions to decide if Comfort’s book makes an overall convincing case. (For the issue of “continuity” one would be best served reading articles on this site or on Glenn Miller’s

Learn to show the absurdity of evolution. This is outside my personal purview and the purview of this site so I’ll skip it.

Study how to share your faith with your family or at your workplace. Learn how to witness to an atheist. Study how to speak with a Mormon, a Jehovah’s Witness, a Buddhist, a Hindu, and a Moslem. I put these all in one category because they are basically saying the same thing with a few variations. In all these cases, Comfort either allows someone else to speak or he gets on the soap box and speaks about how the “Law method” is a Biblically-backed evangelism method. Sorry, but I’ll have to get on my own soap box again.

In all cases, Comfort talks about “circumnavigating the intellect (the place of argument) and going straight to the conscience (the place of the knowledge of sin).” He also claims that this was done in the Biblical evangelism. Frequent readers of this site will notice a few problems with this.

First, what good would it do to evangelize in this way to those already adhering to another religion? After all, they are convinced that their religion will save them (otherwise they wouldn’t be part of it). Unless we convince them that the Christian way is truer, they won’t bother. This involves appealing to the intellect.

Second, there is no way this could have been done in Biblical times. As Malina notes in The New Testament World [66], to the ancients, there was no such thing as an individual conscience that made people feel guilty. The negative effect would not be feelings of guilt, but feelings of shame and the conscience as we know it (basically the standard of right and wrong) was outside the individual. It was in the group and what the group thought of you. Trying to appeal to something that wasn’t there would be worthless.

Third, if you read the book and see where he thinks it took place, you will note that Comfort isn’t that good at exegesis. Here are some examples. He thinks that Jesus used it when he was speaking to the woman at the well in John 4:7-26. He says that He uses the Law in verses 16-18 [1347-8]. Here’s what they actually say:

“He told her, ‘Go, call your husband and come back.’ ‘I have no husband,’ she replied. Jesus said to her, “You are right when you say you have no husband. The fact is, you have had five husbands, and the man you now have is not your husband. What you have just said is quite true.”

Sorry, no use of any of the Ten Commandments here. He says Paul, Timothy and James used it in Romans 3:19-20, 1st Timothy 1:8-11, and James 2:10 respectively [1308]. All are clearly not in evangelistic contexts, but are in letters written to Christians. The only places one could really use for evangelistic contexts are found in the book of Acts. Comfort finds a few instances here as well. Three of these instances are Acts 2:14-41, 7:1-53, and 28:17-28. In the first (Pentecost), the passage directly contradicts his method of speaking to the conscience. The Ten Commandments are never referenced, but we do see references to miracles, the Resurrection, and prophecy fulfillment. In other words, the evangelism was evidentiary in nature. The people were not remorseful because of some guilt brought by the Ten Commandments being applied to their conscience, but because they had put the Messiah to death and also because they wanted to know if there was any way to atone for such a sin. In the second (Stephen’s speech), the Law is referenced once in the last verse of an historical discourse indicting the leader’s for being guilty of the same crimes as their forefathers. In the third (Paul’s last speech in Rome), Paul tries to convince his audience from the Law of God and the Prophets. What more likely happened here is that Paul was performing an historical discourse and using prophecy. This would fit in with the idea of the overarching authority of the OT.

Well, that’s enough standing on the soap box for now.

Discover how to prove the authenticity of the Bible through prophecy. Here, Comfort falls prey to the common misuse of prophecy apologetically. Most prophecies he references (Messianic) tend to be typological in nature. He says that they are direct references to the Messiah, but more often than not, they are simply typological applications (the few exceptions are such prophecies as Isaiah 53 and Daniel 9:24-27). Not many prophecies can be used effectively in apologetics to modern Skeptics because of their typological nature (prophecies in Daniel are exceptions though). For a more informed view of prophecy see here (, here (, and here ( He also makes the mistake of assuming futurism to be true. For a corrective, see here (

See how the Bible is full of eye-opening scientific and medical facts. This beyond the purview, but I will say that some can be rendered suspect because they read poetic literature wrongly (e.g. seeing the Second Law of Thermodynamics in Psalm 33:6 and 102:25-26).

Read fascinating quotes from Charles Darwin, Albert Einstein, Sir Isaac Newton, Louis Pasteur, Stephen Hawking, and many other well-known scientists. Read the fearful last words of famous people who died without the Savior. Read incredible quotes about the Bible from presidents and other famous people. These quotes aren’t exactly fascinating, but they are somewhat interesting. However, I think the book could’ve done without these sound bites. Comfort would have been better served getting rid of the quotes from all these people and replacing them with relevant quoting of informed Bible scholars. He spends so much time quoting Charles Haddon Spurgeon (more so than all others combined) and Martin Luther (neither were truly informed Bible scholars [they didn’t have access to relevant anthropological info] and Spurgeon wasn’t a scholar at all) when he could’ve quoted Ben Witherington III, N.T. Wright, James D.G. Dunn, Bruce Malina, or other members of the Context Group or Studorium Novi Testamenti Societas. Fortunately, he does quote actual scholars on a few occasions (like R.C. Sproul and John McRay), but not quite enough in relevant contexts.

Learn how to refute the “contradictions” in the Bible. There isn’t much done here. The number of times he deals with supposed contradictions could probably be counted on two hands. But it is interesting to note Comfort’s note on Mark 15:26 titled: Contradictions in the Bible—Why Are They There? In it, he states that the seeming contradictions were put there by God to “snare” the proud. He also says that God has “hidden” things from the “wise and prudent” and “revealed them to babes” (Luke 10:21), purposely choosing foolish things to confound the wise (1st Corinthians 1:27) [1275].

This of course comes from a view of inspiration that I wouldn’t agree with. Did God purposely include the copyist errors ( Did He purposely include the anachronisms ( I disagree with the premise here and I would like to make one more note about the “proud and wise”. He doesn’t realize that in both cases, the words were used sarcastically ( and that such would not include those who are truly wise and learned (like the scholars I mentioned earlier). I don’t think the “contradictions” should be blown off so easily and should be dealt with properly.

Find out why the Dead Sea Scrolls are relevant to the Bible. Here, Comfort does show that he is informed about the DSS and knows that they are not the materials that conspiracy theorists think they are. He shows that they are relevant to showing the preservation of the OT (they are basically scrolls of OT copies and a few other works). However, he doesn’t make a similar note about the preservation of the NT (it has been preserved even better than the OT). Sorry, no Bruce Metzger quotes here.

Here are some miscellaneous notes about the book.

For a book with such a title and of such longevity (even though most of it is taken up by Scripture), you would expect a good bibliography. Unfortunately, it is only about a page-and-a-third long. Many of the sources are scientific (and those actually written by true scientists), but the rest isn’t really impressive if he was planning on doing anything other than a young-earth creationist apologetic. Of those remaining, the most scholarly sources are Norman Geisler, D. James Kennedy, and C.S. Lewis. The rest of the unimpressive list includes such names as: Bill Bright (he’s not too bad, but he still wasn’t a first-rate scholar), Ray Comfort (he cited another book of his titled Scientific Facts in The Bible), Grant Jeffrey, Ben Jennings, Josh McDowell, R.A. Torrey, and Phillip Yancey. (I have no idea where he got the Sproul and McRay quotes).

Comfort is proud to say that our faith is not an intellectual one, but an experiential one. In a note on John 17:3 [1382], he tells an anecdote about how Dr. Paul Tillich made a speech refuting the Resurrection. An old preacher responded to this by admitting his ignorance on the literature Tillich quoted, but noted that Tillich could not tell him how the apple he was eating tasted and could neither have “tasted” his Jesus. The auditorium of 1,000-plus then erupted in cheers. At the end, Comfort notes that it has been said, “The man with an experience is not at the mercy of a man with an argument.”

No wonder popular Christianity is such an intellectual cesspool! Tell me, is the man who has never experienced ice right if another man tells him there is such a thing as ice? I can’t believe Comfort is actually glad that the Resurrection wasn’t properly defended, but instead that experience was elevated! No wonder there are so many apostates! A Christianity that can’t properly defend itself against attackers will be at their mercy. This is important because consequences are eternal. In the beginning, when the Church was confronted with arguments of Jews or of heretical sects, we don’t see the Apostles saying, “You have Jesus living in your heart, you have experienced Him, and He is your friend who you personally know.” Rather, we see them make proper arguments against these sects in their Epistles.

Comfort also makes the false assumption that we can personally know God [1381] (rather than simply having knowledge of Him) and that He is our friend rather than that He is our patron ( (see about a quarter of the way down).

In a note on Psalm 131:1 [799], Comfort says, “Beware of ‘intellectual Christianity.’ It is easy to become puffed up with a theology that forgets ‘the simplicity that is in Christ’ (2nd Corinthians 11:3). The measure of the quality of our Christian theology will be evidenced by the depth of our concern for the lost.” The scholars I mentioned earlier as well as those who quote them extensively (like J.P. Holding and Glenn Miller) all belong to intellectual Christianity. None of them are haughty. As for the whole quote about the simplicity in Christ, I guess he never read Hebrews 5:12-14 which chastises certain people for still being babes and needing to be taught elementary truths again.

Comfort also frequently makes the widespread mistake of thinking that Hell is a place of torture. See here ( for a more informed view of Hell (it starts about an eighth of the way down).

Comfort (and Spurgeon, who he pervasively quotes) makes the Western mistake of assuming that what was so bad about the crucifixion was the pain involved. While that was a bad thing about it, the real focus of the ancients was the shame involved. You will not see one passage of Scripture say anything about the pain, but you will see some talk about the shame. See here (

Comfort and Spurgeon also paint a picture that practically says that if we don’t have a heavy heart and aren’t constantly crying over the fact that the lost are going to Hell, then we are not concerned for them. Of course, essential to this is that Hell is a place of torture, which it is not. Many do show concern, but we aren’t in a state of such depression over it because we are not quite so given over to emotional swaying.

There are more common errors present in Comfort’s book (e.g. misunderstanding of prayer (, the idea that Satan is behind everything wrong), but I think that’s enough. Don’t get me wrong, Comfort does often present agreeable ideas (pointing out the bad “wonderful plan” evangelism method, indicting American Christianity for under-evangelization, and chastising many churches for not teaching properly on sin). However, there is still too much wrong and not enough right to warrant buying this book. It is right to indict the Church (specifically the American branch) for under-evangelization as a whole, but it simply contributes to the related problem of under-defending.

Beginners would be better served purchasing Strobel’s compilations and reading Holding’s and Miller’s materials. After you get your feet wet, you should continue reading Holding’s and Miller’s stuff, but also, if you can afford to, start reading up on the materials they cite (as an 18-year old, I personally can’t afford too much at this point). But whatever you do, don’t waste your money on this book.

-Ross Harriman

Josh McDowell, New Evidence that Demands a Verdict

Let's start with the basics: What's "new" about this "New Evidence that Demands a Verdict"? Well, the old chapters 11 and 12 from Vol. 1 are history. (That is, the one on general Bible prophecies, like the one on Tyre, and the chapter that was nothing but testimonies.) The old Vol. 1 chapters 2 and 3 are now one chapter (materials used to make the Bible/canon), and the old chapter 4 (historical reliability) is now two chapters, one for each Testament. There is a short added chapter on the Jesus Seminar. There are new chapters on different types of worldviews (skeptical, mystical, etc.) and a couple of chapters on figuring out what truth is -- yes, you can see McDowell's current "Right and Wrong" mission shining through. There are a few (very few) updates within chapters, old quotes removed, new ones added. And of course, there is a new cover -- gold.

That's it. Now the question is: Why did they even bother to update it?

Don't expect it to answer criticisms such as those we found in the old Jury Is In project. (We are at least referred to He Walked Among Us...but it's out of print!) The cover blurb says that it is intended to help Christians "answer questions challenging (them) in the 21st century" but I suspect someone at Thomas Nelson got the numbers on the century reversed.

It is unfortunate to have to say this, but Josh McDowell had a golden opportunity with the ETDAV franchise to make a real difference in apologetics with this update. Instead, only the cover came out gold. McDowell is doing an admirable job with his current campaign helping teenagers, and as a busy worker for Christ, he does much good, but it is clear that the new ETDAV is an "update" by someone who had his fingers in too many pies.

I would be less than honest if I didn't admit something here, at the risk of being falsely accused of sour grapes: I sent samples of Tekton material to McDowell and offered to help revise ETDAV, long before I knew about this update. I never heard back from him, and from the meeting I had with him it seems clear that he either never saw the material or else forgot about it at once. But it really is irrelevant whether it was me or someone else who sent McDowell the material, because there is a lot of material out there that could have inspired a much better update in the first place. The bottom line is that the "new" ETDAV is nothing new at all, and McDowell bears full responsibility for it.

The unfortunate aspect of this update is that (as I have learned by experience) books like this often do more harm than good in the long run because people count of McDowell to provide the be-all, end-all refutation to Skeptical objections; and when he doesn't, they become lost in the woods and don't know what to do. Admittedly that is not all at McDowell's feet. But we nevertheless say: Buy one of the volumes listed above instead.