Monday, May 09, 2005

The Case for Faith: a review

The other day I was in a bookstore with my Mom. She seems rather intent on finding more or less subtle ways of exposing my to Christianity lately. She asked me if I would read The Case for Faith by Lee Strobel. In return, I asked her if she would read a book of my choosing if I read her book, and she agreed. I've picked a book out for her, though I haven't given it to her yet (I've picked Why Atheism, by George Smith). I have now read the intros and chapters 1 and 2 of Strobel's book. And I've decided to get the most out of it by writing a fairly thourough review, chapter by chapter. I'm doing it mainly to thoroughly scrutinize his arguments and provide rebuttals. I will be posting these here on my blog every few days, as I have time to write and revise my chapter reviews. I've started with my pre-read impressions:

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The Case for Faith: Pre-read impressions


Cover:
The blurb on the cover says that this is “A journalist investigates the toughest objections to Christianity”

A journalist—ok, fair enough. Not likely to have expertise it the subject matter, as journalists usually are more interested in communicating facts than studying them.

Investigates—if The Case for Christ is any indication, I doubt there will be much actual investigation. I expect to see interviews and such with Christians, Theologians, and perhaps former atheists who have converted for such or such reasons. But I don’t expect to see any interviews of present Atheists or religious skeptics, or even liberal Christians. It will be a one-sided investigation.

Toughest Objections to Christianity? I will examine this when I see what issues he is addressing.


Contents:

Good, descriptive table of contents. I will write my impression to each of these “toughest objections” before reading.

Objection 1: Since evil and suffering exist, a loving god cannot.
Ah, the problem of evil. This is an interesting one, but it was not a major that turned me on to atheism—though it has strengthened my position. I’ve heard lots of answers to this one. It is a worthwhile argument for atheism however, as it greatly simplifies life if you don’t have to try to make sense of preventable, senseless suffering in light of a good god.

2: Since miracles contradict science, they cannot be true
This one I have never heard before. I can see where the misconception comes from, however. When doing scientific analysis, bringing in supernatural causes to explain things doesn’t explain anything. Miracles are just useless to science. That’s no proof that they never happen, but as none have been really verified, we have every reason to be skeptical that they do happen. Especially in the light of the fact that most every phenomena which used to be clearly miraculous or supernatural now has a perfectly reasonable scientific explanation.


3: Evolution explains life, so god isn’t needed
Straw man. Evolution doesn’t even address the issue of god. It provides a natural explanation of how species evolve, or on a grander scale how the universe evolves. Whether or not God exists or is needed is irrelevant. A lot of Christians both acknowledge evolution and believe in God.

4: God isn’t worthy of worship if he kills innocent children
This one is worth considering, but I would think it should have been addressed in chapter one. It is an extension to the problem of evil. Strobel is getting two objections for the price of one.

5: It’s offensive to claim Jesus is the only way to god
It wouldn’t be offensive, assuming that god is real and there was evidence to support the exclusivity claim. As is, there is no more support for it than there is for the claims of other religions. No evidence, just blind faith.

6: A loving god would never torture people in hell
Perhaps the best objection listed so far. Doesn’t the idea of eternal torturous punishment make God sound, well, pretty darn sadistic?

7: Church history is littered with oppression and violence
Too true. While not negating the claims of Christianity, per sea, it I think it does shed doubts on the Christian claims to morality.

8: I still have doubts, so I can’t be a Christian
No comment. Not relevant to my situation, and not really an objection to Christianity at all. Except for the apparent inability of god to give assurance to his followers.

Note: all these objections are objections to Christianity, not to “faith.” I think this book should be called The Case for Christianity, not The Case for Faith.

Also, I have lots of objections that are not listed here, that I think are tougher than the ones he’s listed. Like:

If complexity cannot exist without a designer, who designed God? (I would not call the Christian concept of God simple.)
Is an action good because god said so, or does god say so because the action is good

I have more—my point is that Strobel is not really addressing the “Toughest Objections to Christianity,” as he claims. I expect that this book is not designed to convince skeptics but to shore up the faith of doubting Christians. We shall see.

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Check back soon for my review of Chapter 1!

2 comments:

Brian S. said...

Good start! I'm looking forward to reading the rest of it. Frankly, I can't be bothered with reading any of Strobel's books myself. I went through enough reading Josh McDowell.

Ruthie said...

It's a strange world. I know two people who on reading Strobel's books developed very open-minded and liberal-y type faiths.

Personally I'm not at all impressed by him - I think he's a bog standard advocate of conservative Christianity, and therefore doesn't ask any particularly interesting questions.

Mind you, my friend, Peterson, recently appeared on his show discussing the ex-gay movement with some pretty interesting results.
Click here for a transcript if you're interested!

Ruthie