Mini Book Review of ‘The End of Reason’ by Ravi Zacharias

endofreasonThe End of Reason by Ravi Zacharias was written as a response to what has been dubbed ‘New Atheism’. Primarily, it was written to refute the philosophy of atheist Sam Harris who wrote The End of Faith.

Zacharias’ arguments in this book are logical, concise, and articulate. I love the way his brain works! Zacharias is an evangelist and apologist that brings a unique perspective to theology and philosophy. He is an “Indian-born Canadian-American” with a Master of Divinity, several honorary doctorates, and an undergraduate degree. He brings to the table a command of logic and language that is unparalleled along with a cultural experience that is uniquely his own. Because of his unique background, Zacharias writes in a voice that is distinctly his own – and I appreciate that.

This book makes short work of the philosophy championed by Sam Harris and others. Zacharias places the worldview of new atheism alongside that of Christianity and exposes the hate, despair, and hopelessness of the new atheist. As Zacharias unravels the arguments of Sam Harris, he exposes them as illogical and unfulfilling.

On a side note, Zacharias writes as a former atheist who was once on the brink of suicide. His experience seems to have ignited in him a passion for revealing the illogical endgame of the new atheist and in this book he does so in remarkable fashion.

 

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Review of ‘The Atheist’s Fatal Flaw’ by Norman L. Geisler and Daniel J. McCoy

fatalflawThe field of apologetics can be classified into two categories, negative and positive. Negative apologetics is concerned with making a defense of the Christian faith while positive apologetics is more concerned with attacking the beliefs of non-Christians. This is book is, by and large, a work of positive apologetics as it furiously attacks the inconsistencies held by atheists.

Geisler and McCoy spend a great deal of time clarifying the arguments of popular atheists through extensive research and quotations. In fact, there are moments throughout the book I felt they were articulating atheistic thought too well. It is not an overstatement to suggest Geisler and McCoy understand atheistic claims far better than most atheists I’ve encountered. The two dive deep into the subject and articulate the opposing position clearly and fairly.

Using atheist’s own words to frame their arguments, the authors expose some major inconsistencies in atheistic thought. Primarily, these inconsistencies lie in the area of moral evil, God’s intervention, and the atheist’s own concern with human autonomy. While atheist’s condemn a God who doesn’t directly intervene in the face of moral evil, they accuse Him of violating human autonomy when He does intervene.

Basically, this book destroys atheistic philosophy. One could argue that the authors could spend more time focusing on negative apologetics and defending Christian philosophy, however, this is all implied when not directly stated. As it stands, this book can be read in just a couple of hours and does a good job of articulating the authors’ positions from beginning to end.

I highly recommend it.

 

God, Faith, Empirical Evidence and Grace.

skepticSkeptics commonly charge that if any such thing as God actually existed there would be empirical evidence available for all of us to study and thus recognize His existence. Empirical evidence meaning evidence that can be observed, measured, and experimented with according to Scientific Methodology. Skeptics suggest such evidence would remove all doubt to the existence of God and presumably put us all on the same playing field.

My first reaction to such claims is that I’m not entirely sure it’s impossible to measure and observe the existence of a Biblical God … and I plan on writing some posts in the future to address this. However, I suspect what most skeptics are objecting to is the fact that God hasn’t removed each and every one of their own doubts. One skeptic I encountered took great offense that Jesus would offer proof to “Doubting” Thomas by way of allowing him to examine His scars, however, He has never appeared and offered the same proof to modern-day skeptics.

So skeptics take umbrage to the idea that God has not removed all of their doubts, questions, fears, and concerns. Why wouldn’t God make His presence known beyond a shadow of a doubt for everyone to see? It’s a fair question. In fact, it’s a question I’ve asked in the past and it’s the question I hope to address with this post.

It’s quite helpful to examine the life, ministry, and teachings of Christ when asking questions of God. Christ is, after all, the image of the invisible God (Col 1:15). The Son reveals the Father to us and, as it turns out, Jesus was asked a very similar question as recorded in the Gospel of Matthew:

10 And the disciples came and said to Him, “Why do You speak to them in parables?” 11 Jesus answered them, “To you it has been granted to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been granted. 12 For whoever has, to him more shall be given, and he will have an abundance; but whoever does not have, even what he has shall be taken away from him.13 Therefore I speak to them in parables; because while seeing they do not see, and while hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand. 14 In their case the prophecy of Isaiah is being fulfilled, which says, You will keep on hearing, but will not understandYou will keep on seeing, but will not perceive15 For the heart of this people has become dullWith their ears they scarcely hearAnd they have closed their eyesOtherwise they would see with their eyesHear with their earsAnd understand with their heart and returnAnd I would heal them.’ 16 But blessed are your eyes, because they see; and your ears, because they hear.17 For truly I say to you that many prophets and righteous men desired to see what you see, and did not see it, and to hear what you hear, and did not hear it.

In this passage, the Apostles ask Jesus why He so often teaches people using parables. In other words, they asked Him why He didn’t give it to the people strait. Why did Jesus speak in parables when He could offer them empirical, objective, measurable, and scientific proof? Jesus’ answer provides us with a clue as to what’s going on.

Jesus tells His disciples that he speaks to the multitudes in parables because while they are seeing, they don’t see, and while they are hearing, they don’t understand. Jesus tells His disciples that the hearts of the people have grown dull. There problem wasn’t that Jesus had failed to provide them with proof, but rather they had rejected the proof He had already offered. The same Jesus that now spoke to the multitudes in parables had healed the sick, preached that the Kingdom of Heaven was near, healed the blind, exorcised demons, and even raised the dead! He had given them proof but they failed to accept Him as their Lord and Savior. They saw, but they didn’t see. They heard, but they didn’t understand. Their hearts were dull. So now, Jesus spoke to them in parables.

By their very nature, parables are designed to make people think. They take a fable, fairy tale, or story and place it along side reality in a way that illuminates and reveals the truth. On the surface they may seem like simple stories, but as you dig into them a little but truth is revealed. Jesus used parables when speaking to people who had, by and large, rejected Him. Their hearts were dull, so Jesus used parables to engage their mind. He wanted them to think about what He said. His parables served two purposes. For believers, those who had been granted to know the mysteries of the Gospel, would hear a parable and learn even more about their God. Unbelievers, those with a dull heart, would in turn be given something to chew on, to ponder, and to contemplate.

The alternative was simple. Jesus could have simply given them undeniable proof, but he had already done that. He had performed miracles and preached the Kingdom and they rejected Him. So He spoke to them in parables as an act of grace. Jesus didn’t want people to reject Him outright and then face the consequences of their decisions. He wanted them chew on the parables, contemplate them, and engage their minds until their heart followed. Why?

“[Because] The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance” 2 Peter 3:9, NASB.

It doesn’t matter how skeptical you are. You could be the staunchest of all the atheists and God’s desire is for you to come to repentance. He does not want you to perish in hell. So Jesus spoke to them in parables as a way to save them from themselves. It is better for the skeptical to ponder and contemplate a parable than it is for them to outright reject Christ. Parables are an act of grace.

In the same way, God has given us enough evidence in our world to lead us to Christ. The skeptic who demands empirical, measurable, scientific, and undeniable proofs from God is failing to see the evidence that is already there. They see without seeing, they hear without understanding. And in all fairness, yes God could appear and prove His existence to them beyond a shadow of doubt, but then they would be forced to make a choice their heart may not be ready to make. Many of the skeptics who watched Jesus perform miracles blamed evil spirits. Others failed to understand. Others demanded more signs. God bowing to your wishes and appearing before you to perform miracles is no guarantee of your willingness to believe …

Some would claim it was all special effects. Others would say it was magic or evil spirits. Others would claim God’s “in your face” miracles violated their free will to choose. Still more would demand more and more proof. Their resistance and denial would lead to their perishing.

So God gives you enough to engage your mind and your brain. He gives you enough proof to ponder and consider the world around you. To study Scriptures for yourselves. He is patiently waiting for you to accept Jesus because His desire is for none of us to perish. He is patiently showing all skeptics grace. 

“For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse” Romans 1:20, NASB.

The Bible and Slavery

Bible2I continually see Scripture being attacked on the basis that it either endorses the practice of slavery or that it fails to explicitly denounce the practice of slavery. I’ve seen skeptics, atheists, and even self-proclaimed liberal Christians use this argument as a means to charge the Bible with immorality, irrelevance, and atrocities. A few years ago, I offered a response to such claims in an online discussion forum and thought I would share them here.

Does the Bible Endorse or Fail to Denounce Slavery? 
It is a mistake to assume the Bible doesn’t condemn slavery and if such an assertion is to be made, it deserves careful and critical examination.

First off, the word “slavery” as it occurs throughout the Bible refers to a wide spectrum of servitude from “leasing” ones service where both parties enter into the agreement willingly to situations that far more resembled slavery as we know it in this country. Biblically, the word “slavery” refers to a wide range of stuff from servitude to outright slavery.

I believe there is sufficient evidence that the Bible condemns the latter forms of atrocious slavery. First, consider the plagues that fell upon the Egyptians for refusing to free God’s people from forced, atrocious slavery. Of all the slavery portrayed in the Bible, the Egyptians rule over the Hebrews can certainly be compared to the racial slavery we experienced in our country. In this situation, I think God made it evident He condemned such a heinous act. Extracting the Hebrew people, as lowly as they were seen in the eyes of the Egyptian people, establishing them as God’s chosen ones, and pouring curses out on the Egyptians was as definitive a statement as God could have made. Certainly, any sane person can deduce that God is not in favor of such forms of slavery.

Couple this situation with the following verses:

  • “Anyone who kidnaps another and either sells him or still has him when he is caught must be put to death” (Exodus 21:16).
  • “But we know that the law is good, provided one uses it legitimately. We know that the law is not meant for a righteous person, but for the lawless and rebellious, for the ungodly and sinful, for the unholy and irreverent, for those who kill their fathers and mothers, for murderers, for the sexually immoral and homosexuals, for kidnappers, liars, perjurers, and for whatever else is contrary to the sound teaching” (1 Timothy 1:8-10).

The word “kidnappers” in the above passage is alternately translated as “man-stealers” or “enslavers” depending on the translation you are using. These verses when juxtaposed with the Hebrew slavery in Egypt clearly reveals that God does not condone or endorse the heinous, forced, and atrocious forms of slavery. Period. In fact, suggesting God endorses such acts does Him and His Word an injustice and reveals a poor working knowledge of Scripture.

Now this brings us to the more mild forms of slavery (where both parties entered into the agreement willingly). In these situations God’s Word speaks into the hearts of both slave and slave-owner. The method God’s Word uses to initiate social reform in this case is to speak into the hearts of individuals. Social change occurs one conversion at a time in the heart of believers. With this is mind, examine the following verses:

  • For the slave master: Ephesians 6:9, “And masters, treat your slaves the same way, without threatening them, because you know that both their Master and yours is in heaven, and there is no favoritism with Him.”
  • For the slave: 1 Peter 2:19-20, “For it brings favor if, mindful of God’s will, someone endures grief from suffering unjustly. For what credit is there if you sin and are punished, and you endure it? But when you do what is good and suffer, if you endure it, this brings favor with God.”

In the culture of the New Testament, slavery was engrained. So the writers of the New Testament encouraged social reform one heart at a time. When this is taken into account, no form of “Christian slavery” would resemble what comes to our mind when we hear the word slavery. Consider Paul’s interaction with the slave Onesimus.

In the first chapter of Philemon, Paul writes that Onesimus is “no longer a slave, but more than a slave” (v.16). He refers to Onesimus as his “son” (v. 10). In verse 17, Paul encourages Philemon (the master) to receive Onesimus as a partner in Christ just as he would Paul himself. Paul even goes as far as to assume any debts or charges that Onesimus may have built up against Philemon (v. 18)!

Does any of Paul’s words resemble the heinous, atrocious images that we associate as Americans with slavery? Paul is encouraging social reform by appealing to the hearts of both Onesimus and Philemon. In no way is he “endorsing slavery” as skeptics suggest.

When Scripture is examined, the Christian can take confidence that neither God, nor His Word, “endorses” the heinous and atrocious act of slavery or human trafficking. We can stand on God’s Word when we oppose such practices and when we do, we will glorify God in the process.

 

Book Review of ‘Letters from a Skeptic: A Son Wrestles with His Father’s Questions about Christianity’ by Gregory and Edward Boyd

lettersI would have a hard time expressing how much I appreciated this book. It chronicles the correspondence between Seminary professor Dr. Gregory Boyd and his skeptical father Edward. Over the course of a couple of years, Greg Boyd corresponded with, and witnessed to, his father. This book allows the reader a glimpse into their private letters.

Like many skeptics, Edward Boyd had a negative impression of Christianity (as opposed to a positive impression of an opposing worldview); as such, he lends voice to many of the most common objections to the Christian faith. Professor Gregory Boyd skillfully, and lovingly, responds to each and every objection with a heart focused on leading his father to Christ. The end result is a tender lesson in apologetics for readers.

Here are a few of the reasons I highly recommend this book:

  • Gregory Boyd is witnessing from his heart. Too often, apologetics becomes purely an academic and polemic pursuit. Apologists are often more concerned with being right rather than leading people to Christ. This book offers an example of apologetics done correctly with proper love and concern for others.
  • It is honest. There is no attempt made to clean up some of the harsh language or objections offered by the older Boyd. By presenting his letters as they are written, readers are given the opportunity to get to know Edward Boyd – flaws and all. In the process of getting to know him, I found myself rooting for him to overcome his objections to Christ.
  • Dr. Gregory Boyd role models patience, persistence, and love. These attributes are too often missing from apologetics.
  • The Boyd’s relationship with one another is special. They are able to be honest with one another over the course of dozens of letters with no hint of hurt feelings or animosity rising to the surface. This is my weakness when engaging in apologetics. Too often I get frustrated and irritated by someone’s inability to appreciate the truth of Christ and I either get angry or give up. If Dr. Boyd experienced any such emotions he was able to disguise them well.
  • The transformation in Edward is evident as moves from skepticism toward Christ.

This is one of the best books I’ve read in awhile and represents one of the best examples of practical apologetics I’ve found. I highly recommend it.

Books Read in 2013: No. 7 – Think and Live: Challenging Believers to Think and Thinkers to Believe

thinkandliveTitle: Think and Live: Challenging Believers to Think and Thinkers to Believe
Author: Paul Hughes
Date Completed: April 20, 2013

This book distills posts and resources from Apologetics.com into one book. The result is tremendous. The title of the book is the stated goal – readers are asked to think, and live. The formula is fairly simple. In the first half of the book, readers are presented with a basic Christian apologetic. Chapters include Behold the Man, Only Logical, Risen Indeed, and Moral Miracles (among others). In the second half, readers are challenged to shape their lives around their beliefs. Chapters in the section include An Excellent Pursuit, Admirably Christian, and Love. I am appreciative for the approach. From the book:

So Christian belief, following on Christian thought, means to be ready to act as if what God says is so. Life and faith includes both … apologetics includes both.

Our beliefs should cause us to reexamine the way we live our lives. Christianity shouldn’t be simply an academic pursuit and the contributors to this book understand that. I highly recommend this work for anyone interested in apologetics.

Books Read in 2013: No. 6 – Did the Resurrection Happen … Really? A Dialogue on Life, Death, and Hope

didthe

Title: Did the Resurrection Happen … Really? A Dialogue on Life, Death, and Hope
Author: Josh McDowell and Dave Sterrett
Date Finished: April 8, 2013

Josh McDowell takes an interesting approach in presenting this introductory book on apologetics by crafting his presentation around an imaginary shooting on a college campus. The shooting leaves both staff and students searching for answers. Christians, atheists, and skeptics come together in the aftermath to investigate the reliability of Scripture. The evidence, arguments, and logic offered the book is quite convincing and is presented in a very approachable manner.

This book is an entry in McDowell’s ‘Coffee House Chronicles’ series and is geared toward college aged readers. My biggest concern is that readers of this age group may find the dialogue between characters a little awkward and somewhat unnatural. They are sure to be rewarded, however, if they persevere and focus mostly on the evidence that infuses this little book.  Another bonus is that this book is rather inexpensive for the Kindle.

Books Read in 2012: No. 25 – The Gospel For Muslims: An Encouragement to Share Christ With Confidence

gospelmuslimsBeing a Muslim who converted to Christianity, Thabite Anyabwile is uniquely qualified to write this book. As such, he has written a book that “is concerned not with defense but with a good offense, with getting the gospel out to others” (p. 14). This book will help the reader understand some of the basic assumptions of Islam and why it is difficult for them to accept the claims of Christianity. In addition, he examines some of the claims Muslims make about Christ and the Bible and exposes how these claims are inconsistent within Islam as a whole.

I find Anyabwile’s writing style to be authentic and engaging. He is obviously in expert in this particular subject and should be read by any Christian wishing to engage the Muslim community.

Five-Point Strategy for Sharing the Gospel with a Cultist

Five-Point Strategy for Sharing the Gospel With a Cultist

Got Questions Ministries defines a cult as “a religious groups that denies one or more of the fundamentals of Biblical truth” (Got Questions). John Thomas Rogers adds that a cult “… is a religion that as not yet achieved respectability or has not grown up yet – a baby religion” (Rogers xxiv). An estimated seven million Americans have been involved in cults (Cult Hotline) with new members being recruited everyday. With such growing participation in the cults, it is in the Church’s interest to identify the theological issues cults have in common, refute them with sound Biblical doctrine, and to create strategies to share the gospel with those unfortunate people who have been led astray. There is a two-fold purpose behind the need of such a proactive stance by the Church. First, such a strategy would serve to ‘inoculate’ church members who may be in danger of being attracted to cults. In addition, the issue is a matter of salvation for those lost amid the cults. Christ charged the Church with the mission of spreading His gospel to the world and creating disciples[1]; refusing to formulate a strategy to refute the cults is akin to ignoring the soteriological needs of those who are lost. This paper will serve as a preliminary attempt to address these issues. Theological issues common to the cults will be addressed with an eye towards how these issues impact the individual cult member. These issues will then be refuted Biblically and a five-point strategy for sharing the gospel with a cultist will be presented.

Of the theological issues common to the cults identified by John Thomas Rogers (Rogers xxiv), three will be addressed in this paper. First, cults do not see the Bible as the final authority on theological issues and, as such, include outside authorities. Rogers writes, “One of the most common reasons cults give for their existence is that the Bible has errors, or at least that it cannot be understood without help … In other words, cults exist on authority outside the Bible” (Rogers 65). This view of the Bible’s authority (or lack thereof) stands in stark contrast to Biblical Christianity, which teaches that the Bible alone is authoritative on matters concerning God. One of the foundations of the Protestant Reformation is the principle of sola Scriptura (or by Scripture alone), which means, “only the Bible has the authority to bind the consciences of believers” (Sproul 42). The Bible is seen by Biblical Christianity to be the ultimate form of authority, inerrant, and infallible.[2] Furthermore, Biblical Christianity teaches that the Bible is complete. Rogers writes, “Once the task of completing the Bible was done, the apostles would be replaced by the Bible” (Rogers 129).

Once the sole authority (and inerrancy) of the Bible is denied, cults are then free to deny the deity of Christ. Rogers writes, “… most cults doctrinally lower Christ to the level of an angel or claim that He is only an angel …” (Rogers 108). This is in direct contrast to Biblical Christianity’s teaching that Christ is God the Son and the Second Person of the Trinity. John Walvoord writes, “Christianity has always honored Jesus Christ as its historical and theological center [and] one’s faith in and understanding of Jesus Christ involve the most important theological issues anyone can face” (Walvoord 11). One of the wondrous aspects of Christianity is the hypostatic union; the weaving of Christ’s complete deity with His complete humanity. A concise vision of Biblical Christianity is expressed by the Nicene Creed of the 4th Century; Christ is eternally begotten of God the Father, assumed humanity by incarnation through a virgin birth, and secured salvation for a sinful mankind through His death on the cross and resurrection. Furthermore, Biblical Christianity teaches that Christ will come again to judge the living and the dead and will reign over an eternal kingdom.[3]

Finally, having denied the deity of Christ, cults are free to replace the salvation offered by His sacrifice on the cross with a salvation secured by works. Rogers writes that this salvation by works is accompanied by an absolute obedience to the group (Rogers xxiv). This teaching is opposed to the Biblical teaching of salvation by grace, “ For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast” (Ephesians 2:8-9 NASB). Rogers writes “To comprehend that salvation truly is the work of God apart from my insignificant efforts caused me to realize that even my response to God as He drew me to Himself could be a source of personal pride. Jesus paid it all; all to Him I owe!” (Rogers 113).

It doesn’t take much imagination to see how these theological issues could work together to impact a member of a cult. Without the authority of the Bible to guide their beliefs, cult members are subject to the ever-evolving theology of cult leaders. Rogers writes, “The doctrines of cults change as needed. If a doctrine has positive results, it can be developed. If it has negative results, it can be changed and then later forgotten” (Rogers xxvii-xxviii). As a result, cult members are left on unstable ground theologically speaking. Their core beliefs are subject to the whims of their leaders. When this is coupled with an inadequate understanding of Christ’s deity and a salvation that is guaranteed only by works, cult members are eventually forced into a situation that requires blind allegiance to their group. Ultimately, and more importantly, these issues work together to become a matter of salvation. Cult members are lost and prevented from seeing a clear picture of the salvation offered by Christ’s sacrifice on the cross. It is for this reason that Christians should take great care in sharing the gospel of Jesus Christ with cult members. What follows is a simple five-point for Christians to adopt when sharing the gospel with cult members.

  1. Know Your Own Doctrine: Rogers writes, “To know the doctrine of every cult or religion is impossible” (Rogers 55). There are simply to many cults out there that employ evolving doctrines to be an expert in all of them. It is best to be grounded in a good knowledge of Biblical doctrine when sharing the gospel with cult members.
  2. Keep the Discussion Friendly: Refuse to engage in an argument with cult members regardless of whether or not they attempt to argue with you. Their salvation is of utmost importance and we do not want out behavior to serve as a stumbling block in their acceptance of Christ (see 1 Peter 2:12).
  3. Establish the Authority of the Bible: As a Christian, do not sacrifice the authority of Scripture. Politely explain to the cult member in question that if they want to prove a position, they must do so using the Bible only. Rogers writes that by insisting the discussion revolve around the Bible alone “… you are not being unfair; you are being honest. You are asking the [cult member] to do with you what you would have to do with a Jewish individual who rejected the New Testament and accepted only the Old” (Rogers 70).
  4. Continually Point the Discussion to Christ: Remember, it is common to all cults that works be required for salvation. By continually returning the conversation to the Person of Christ you are offering the cult member something they simply don’t have – salvation by grace alone.
  5. End Well: Rogers writes, “How one closes a conversation with religious people or cultists is just as important as how one opens it” (Rogers 114). If you sense tension developing in the conversation or can tell feelings are being hurt, don’t be afraid to recommend a break in the conversation. Your task is to share the gospel with the cult member and then allow the Holy Spirit to convict them. Time away from the conversation might be just what the Spirit requires.

 

Conclusion

It is been demonstrated that the prominence of cults in the United States requires the Church to formulate a strategy to share the gospel with cult members. It should be recognized that there are theological issues that separate the cults from Biblical Christianity. Three such issues are of immense importance; the authority of Scripture, the deity of Christ, and a salvation of works as opposed to grace. Ultimately, these issues boil down to matter of salvation. Christians who hope to share the gospel with cult members should keep these issues in mind and employ a five-point strategy; know Biblical doctrine, keep the discussion friendly, establish the authority of the Bible, continually turn the discussion to Christ, and ensure the discussion ends well. By employing such a strategy, Christians may successfully lead a cult member to Christ and proactively protect their own church members from being attracted to the cults.

 

 

 

 

 

Works Cited

Cult Hotline & Clinic. The Jewish Board of Family and Children’s Services, 2010. Web. 30 October 2012.

Rogers, John Thomas. Communicating Christ in a Religious World. Xulon Press, 2009.

Sproul, R.C. What is Reformed Theology? Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 1997.

Walvoord, John. Jesus Christ Our Lord. Chicago: The Moody Bible Institute, 1969.

“What is the Definition of a Cult?” gotquestions.org. Got Questions Ministries, n.d. Web. 1 November 2012.


[1] “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit” (Matthew 28:19).

[2] 1 Peter 1:23 describes the Word of God as being living, imperishable, and enduring.

[3] Unfortunately, it is beyond the scope of this paper to offer a complete treatment of Christology, however, the Nicene Creed sums traditional Biblical Christology up well.

Arrogance: First Impression of Onfray's Atheist Manifesto

I make a concerted effort to read books written by authors with world views opposed to mine. I find that there is a potential for growth when my views are challenged and my thinking stretched. At the very least, I often walk away from such encounters with a better understanding of the positions counter to my own. Such understanding makes it easier to share the gospel with those who think differently than myself.

It was in that spirit that I recently checked out The Atheist Manifesto: The Case Against Christianity, Judaism, and Islamby Michel Onfray. The book is intended to take the philosophies of Kant and Nietzsche to the next level:

Kant is a monument of timid audacity. The six hundred pages of his ‘Critique of Pure Reason’ contains the ingredients for blowing western metaphysics sky-high, but the philosopher ultimately shrinks from the task.

So a final push is needed to rekindle the flames of Enlightenment. A little more Enlightenment, more and more Enlightenment! Let’s be Kantian in opposition to Kant, let us pick up the gauntlet of boldness he throws down – without daring to act boldly himself.

It is with this goal that Onfray launches his attack on religious thought. What is immediately striking, however, is the arrogance of his approach. Onfray pities the believer like one may pity the mentally ill:

I do not despise believers. I find them neither ridiculous nor pathetic, but I lose all hope when I see that they prefer the comforting fairy tales of children to the cruel hard facts of adults.

To Onfray, believers are like children hopelessly courting fairly tales while he and his fellow atheists tend to adult business. He may not hate or despise believers, but he certainly sees them as mentally deficient. Religion, according to Onfray is a mental illness – an illness whose only cure is atheism:

Atheism is not therapy but restored mental health.

Onfray’s arrogance is reminiscent of other noted atheists such as Christopher Hitchens and Richard Dawkins. Unfortunately, they launch their arguments from such a condescending platform that anything of value they may have to say is lost amid their audacity.

This stands in stark contrast to Christianity which teaches that God created all men and women in His own image (Gen. 1:27). The student of the Bible is taught to be humble in spirit. When we’re tempted to think too highly of ourselves, the God of the Bible reminds us that He doesn’t show favoritism (Gal. 2:6) and ultimately, God sacrificed His Son for all men (John 3:16). Christ’s act on the cross paved a path to God that is just as available to Michel Onfrey as it is Billy Graham.

Without reading a single argument from Onfray it becomes obvious that his views create an atmosphere contrary to civil discourse. How should the atheist (of Onfray’s ilk) hope to convince anyone when he makes it clear from the onset that his opponents are essentially mentally ill? Onfray clearly doesn’t respect the intelligence and reasoning abilities of the Christian. As a result, his arguments fall on deaf ears and serve only as cannon fodder for those who already subscribe to his beliefs.

The genuine Christian, however, sees value in all people as the image-bearers of God. It is because they recognize this value in their fellow human beings that they engage them in the first place. Onfray’s brand of atheism begins with the premise that Christians are mentally ill while Christianity begins with the premise that all men have sinned and fall short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23).

Do you see the difference?

Without considering a single argument from either side it’s clearly more beneficial to adopt the attitude espoused in the Bible. Onfray’s worldview leads to an attitude that devalues and condescends his fellow man. Discipleship to Christ leads to a world view that appreciates and sees value in all men.

What a difference Christ makes.