Thursday, August 26, 2010

Book Review: Craig and Copan's "Contending With Christianity's Critics"

Contending With Christianity’s Critics: Answering New Atheists & Other Objectors. Ed. Paul Copan and William Lane Craig. Nashville: B&H Academic, 2009. 293 pp. $19.99.

Contending With Christianity’s Critics is the product of academic presentations at the Evangelical Philosophical Society’s annual conferences dedicated to “addressing challenges from the New Atheists and other contemporary critics” (viii). It is divided neatly into three sections with six chapters each. Part I (‘The Existence of God’) responds to atheistic arguments against God’s existence. Part II (‘The Jesus of History’) responds to skeptical reconceptions of Jesus of Nazareth. Part III (‘The Coherence of Christian Doctrine’) defends the coherence of theism broadly and the more particular doctrines of trinity, incarnation, atonement, hell, and omniscience. Contending is a useful anthology of articles geared towards establishing the rationality of the Christian faith. What follows is a very brief summary of each article’s thesis.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Avery Dulles on the Purpose of Apologetics

Cardinal Avery Dulles lays out an excellent summary of what apologetics does and does not accomplish. Consider this quotation an appendix of sorts to my previous blog entry.

“In pressing the case for their discipline, apologists should keep in mind that it is neither necessary nor sufficient for salutary acts of faith. It is not necessary, for we all know people who have strong faith without having ever read a word of apologetics. It is not sufficient, because faith is a grace-given submission to the Word of God, not a conclusion from human arguments. Apologetics has a more modest task. It seeks to show why it is reasonable, with the help of grace, to accept God’s word as it comes to us through Scripture and the Church. Reflective believers can be troubled by serious temptations against faith unless they find reasons for believing. Converts, in particular, will normally deliberate for some time about the reasons for embracing the faith. … there are sufficient signs to make the assent of faith objectively justifiable. The task of apologetics is to discover these signs and organize them in such a way as to be persuasive to particular audiences. The arguments can never prove the truth of Christianity beyond all possibility of doubt, but they can show that it is reasonable to believe and that the arguments against Christianity are not decisive. God’s grace will do the rest.” (Dulles, Avery Cardinal. A History of Apologetics. 2nd ed. San Francisco: Ignatius, 2004, p. 367)

The Apologetics Matrix: The Need for and Purpose of Apologetics

This is the text of a sermon preached in St. Albert, Alberta, Canada, just over a month ago.

The Apologetics Matrix – Grace Family Church, St. Albert; July 18, 2010

Two years ago, I left a beloved ministry at Edmonton Chinese Baptist Church to pursue a Ph.D. in Apologetics at Southern Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky. I dragged my beautiful wife and three children 3500km across the continent to settle in to a new city and country and go back to school. Why would I do such a crazy thing? We moved in obedience to God’s calling, and in response to a passion and conviction that God had planted within me. This morning I want to share my passion for apologetics with you, in the hopes that God will instill within you a similar passion and desire.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Do All Religious Roads Lead to Heaven? The Question of Religious Pluralism

NOTE: This is a sermon preached in Edmonton last Sunday (August 1).

Do All Religious Roads Lead to Heaven? The Incoherence of Religious Pluralism


John had been a devout Christian his whole life – since as long as he could remember. He had always believed that Jesus Christ was God in the flesh, had died as an atoning sacrifice for his sins, and rose again from the dead on the third day. John had no doubt that Christianity was true, and that it was the only path to personal knowledge of God and eternal life. Many years later, John moved to a new neighborhood where he was surrounded by neighbors of different faiths. A Muslim family moved in next door; both husband and wife were devout followers of Islam; they practiced the five daily prayers, observed a daylight-hour fast throughout the month of Ramadan, and eagerly anticipated their participation in the Hajj, a pilgrimage to Mecca. Further down the street was a Hindu family which attended the local Hindu temple faithfully, offering the prescribed sacrifices and seeking to practice right morality in order to accumulate positive karma. Behind their house, a Buddhist couple offered tutorials in transcendental meditation, seeking to bring their friends towards detachment from self and attainment of enlightenment. John’s Muslim, Hindu, and Buddhist neighbors were all sincere and devout followers of non-Christian religious traditions. They believed that what they believed was really true, and John found it existentially impossible to insist that they were mistaken in their beliefs and condemned to a godless hell.

One night, John attended a lecture at the local ‘Rainbow Spirituality Center’ where the speaker argued that all human religious traditions – including Islam, Christianity, Hinduism, and Buddhism – were simply different paths to the same goal. All religions, the speaker insisted, brought one into true knowledge of the divine reality – the ‘Ultimate Reality’, as the speaker insisted on calling it. Christianity was a true path to knowledge of God for Christians; Islam was a true path to knowledge of Allah for Muslims; Hinduism was a true path to union with Brahman for Hindus; and Buddhism was a true path to Nirvana for Buddhists. The path is different, but the goal, effectiveness, and worth are the same. John did not know it at the time, but the speaker was promoting a very popular and attractive view called ‘religious pluralism’ – the perspective that are equally valid historical and cultural responses to the divine reality, and are equally to be treasured, welcomed, and valued. In a sense, religious pluralism argues that all religious roads lead to heaven. Today I want us to consider religious pluralism and its relationship to orthodox Christianity. In particular, I want to look at the pluralist belief that all religious roads lead to heaven; I will suggest to you that religious pluralism has three fatal flaws which ultimately reduce it to incoherence.