A Review: Contending with Christianity's Critics Edited by Paul Copan and William Lane Craig
Compilations are often difficult to evaluate. Does one consider this work’s contribution to the series, the worthiness of the series’ editor, or each individual essay? The most obvious conclusion seems to lie in considering each essay on its own individual merit, but then arises the problem of being brief and yet informative. This work is actually the second volume in an ongoing series by B & H publishers in which current apologetic issues are faced by some of the leading apologists in the field and by some rising Christian voices as well. The first volume of this series was Passionate Convictions, and both it and the second volume are products of the Evangelical Philosophical Society conference. As such, many of these essays were first meant to be lectures. This particular volume is most concerned with the New Atheists and answering some of the legitimate objections they have raised.
Anyone somewhat knowledgeable in this field would be rather excited when he sees the list of contributors to this project, and will naturally have high expectations. Sadly, some of those high expectations are not to be realized in this work. William Lane Craig begins with the first essay in which his clear style and jabbing humor are characteristically apparent. Unfortunately for the reader, the essay is only four pages long and seems to be little more than a basic critique of Richard Dawkins’ The God Delusion. Nevertheless, the critique is done well and in typical style of the author his critique devastates Richard Dawkins’ arguments, showing that his conclusion does not follow from his disjointed premises.
The second essay is written by James Sinclair on the multiverse concept recently suggested by some of the New Atheists. Sinclair is an analyst with the US Navy and shows significant knowledge in the subject matter. As one begins to read his essay, however, the reader quickly begins to question the wisdom of placing this essay as the second one in the book. While Sinclair’s evaluation is slightly helpful, by giving such a lengthy treatment to this recently espoused multiverse concept, it seems he gives it more credence then it deserves. Furthermore, the concept of a multiverse cannot even be considered a theory in the true sense of the term since it is not based upon evidence, but upon conjecture and cannot be repeated nor quantified. Additionally, it seems that Alvin Plantinga’s response is still to be preferred against this argument, especially since it has never been satisfactorily rebuffed.
Victor Reppert then seeks to confront naturalisms’ supposed rational arguments. His basic argument seems to be that naturalism destroys itself by what it asserts. Naturalism argues that all is indeterminate, but reason and science presuppose that nature is determinate; otherwise there would be no reason to study the processes because there would be no processes. This leads to the conclusion that naturalism is false. Michael Murray then follows this essay seeking to answer the question: “Is the concept of God a trick of our brain?” He shows that all psychology has proved is that a concept of God or gods arise naturally out of the human consciousness. This conclusion is merely descriptive and not prescriptive.
The fifth essay is written by Mark Linville and discusses the complete inability of Atheism to give a credible explanation for morality from their system. In this exercise, the author writes clearly and shows the major issues with the Atheist’s claims. The sixth article by Gregory Ganassle seeks to look at Dawkins’ “Best Proof” against theism. Dawkins’ basic argument states that the natural world fits better with the concept of no god than a concept of divinity. As the author points out, this is hardly an objective argument but is based on Dawkins’ subjective opinion. As such, while it is an honest argument, it is also rather shallow.
The 2nd part of this volume contains articles specifically speaking to concerns regarding the Historical Jesus. The contributors are Robert Stein, Ben Witherington III, Gary Habermas, Craig Evans, Daniel Wallace, and Michael Wilkins. These essays are perhaps the best of the 3 collections in this work. One walks away from reading these articles with excellent arguments supporting the gospel’s authenticity, the reliability of the NT Greek documents, and the resurrection event and its implications.
The final section of the book speaks to the coherence of Christian Doctrine. Paul Copan, Steve Porter, Stewart Goetz, and David Hunt are some of the contributors to this section. While several of these articles are informative, many do not speak to current issues as much as classical issues. For instance, both the articles on the Trinity and the Incarnation do not contain any new information that one might not get in a good Systematic Theology volume. Nevertheless, these are still good articles, but the only two that seem to speak toward more modern theological concerns are the final two essays. These speak to the reality of Hell and Open Theism. Both of these articles are enjoyable and informative. They both seek to answer modern objects, and seem to accomplish their purposes.
This collection of essays begins with an excellent article and ends with two helpful articles, sadly, many of the articles between these bookends seem to be unhelpful or only slightly helpful. Were four or five of the lesser articles taken out, this volume might have been considered excellent from all sides, but the work seems most helpful for the four or five excellent articles which it contains.
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