books

A Shot of Faith to the Head

About a 18 months ago I read Tim Keller's book The Reason for God and it ignited in me a renewed passion for apologetics and philosophy, specifically Christian philosophy. There has been a renaissance of sorts in the past 40 years after many thought that Christian philosophy was dead. The charge has been led in large part by Alvin Plantinga a professor of philosophy at Notre Dame.

One of Plantinga's students Mitch Stokes, is the author of A Shot of Faith to the Head. In his book he has done an incredible job of consolidating Plantinga's philosophies and through succinct clear writing and dry wit has made some rather heady philosophy accessible, readable and understandable.

In this book Stokes takes aim at the militant sect of New Atheism. His stated goal is give believers in Christianity confidence in what they believe through rational thinking. Its a good challenge because a good number people in the West who were brought up in the church never really questioned nor thought critically about what they were being taught.

True faith is not believing in something because your parents or friends do but because you've thought it through and have made it personal to you.

In the first section of the book Stokes takes on the question that belief in a God is irrational. This is a great foundation because if belief in a God is irrational to begin with there is no use philosophizing about his existence. This section gets a bit deep and for me required several read throughs but his arguments are convincing.

I'll note that one of the best parts of the book are the "for your arsenal" sections at the end of each chapter. These give a "Cliff Notes" style recap of what the chapter contained. This makes it convenient to read back and pick up on the major highlights.

Evidentialism is main focus of Stokes first attack. Most atheists (and too many believers for that matter) are evidentialists, which means in order for beliefs to be rational they require sufficient evidence.

Stokes claims that evidentialism is false in that if all beliefs require evidence then the evidentialists belief that evidentialism is true is ultimately irrational. At some point we need beliefs that haven't been reasoned to. We need beliefs that are not supported by other beliefs as way of arguments.

Stokes continues to argue that all reasoning needs a place to stand, a foundation. These foundational beliefs (like believing that our senses are working correctly) can be believed without any inference whatsoever and are perfectly rational.

The second half of the book deals with two of the most difficult objections to the existence of God for the believer - mainly that "Science has shown there's no God" and the problem of evil.

Stokes starts this second half by arguing that there is no conflict between science and religion and that the whole mess began with some revisionist history concerning Galileo. He argues that the conflict was not because of Galileo's views on science but between Christians on how to best interpret Scripture. Since this time atheists have pointed back to this incident as an indictment against religion.

For the problem of evil Stokes argues that there are two versions: The logical problem and probabilistic problem. First there is a need to show that there is not a logical inconsistency between the existence of God and the existence of evil. Is there a way that God and evil can co-exist? Stokes says that it would not be possible for God to create creatures with free will without allowing for the possibility of evil.

Second the probabilistic view says that it is highly unlikely (but not impossible) that God exists because evil exists. The issue here is our finite minds. Just because we can't think of a good reason to allow evil doesn't mean there isn't one.

As stated by the subtitle (Be a Confident Believer in the Age of Cranky Atheists) Stokes wants the believer to know that they can stand strong intellectually under the mockery and derision that has caused many believers to doubt and many doubters to suspend belief completely.

Much like Keller's work The Reason For God, Stokes' A Shot of Faith to the Head provides a wonderful rational defense to belief in God and succeeds in allowing reason to be on the believer's side.

Though I had to read sections over and over because my lazy mind tends to wander under the weight of philosophy I emerged more confident in my beliefs would highly recommend this book.

Books I'm Currently Reading

I tend to go on book binges and start multiple books at a time. Its a terrible way to read and comprehend but it happens. I will finish all of these at some point and get a review of each up on the site but until then here is what I'm currently reading.

  • Humility by CJ Mahaney - In a word - humbling. This is the second time I've read through it and its just as challenging.
  • Forgotten God by Francis Chan - Just about a chapter in but already challenged by the lack of attention I give the Holy Spirit.
  • Erasing Hell by Francis Chan - A few pages in and I'm sure it will be good but this is one I'll probably finish last.
  • The Reason for God by Tim Keller - This is one of the best books I have ever read. It is the best apologetics book from a philosophical and practical point of view. I will be giving this book to every graduating senior in our youth ministry from now on.
  • Give them Grace - by Elise Fitzpatrick - A tremendous book on parenting which is a subject I need a tremendous amount of help in.
  • Ministry by Teenagers by Jonathan McKee - I want to see our teens serving more and taking on more on their own. This looks to be a great resource.
  • Candid Confessions of an Imperfect Parent by Jonathan McKee - Not only am I reading this for myself but I'm hoping it will be a good resource for the parents of the teens in our student ministry.

Bedtime Stories

Mia has reached another milestone in her short life - the ability to listen to a longer book with chapters. About a year ago we tried to read Charlotte's Web one chapter a night and while she loved to read it every night she didn't always remember what had happened the previous night or seemed interested in seeing the story progress. More often than not she wanted to go back and re-read bits that we had already read.

 boxcar-children

So, while perusing the library a little over a week ago I found myself in the older children's section and noticed that the library had several books sitting on top of the shelf that were being featured for the week. One of the books was The Boxcar Children by Gertrude Chandler Warner. I don't remember the first time I read this book but I loved it. I always had a fantasy about going out and living on my own, making cool and useful things out of common objects and who wouldn't want to build their own swimming pool?

I checked the book out and told Mia I had a special story to read her that night. We got home, Mia got ready for bed and we settled into our big comfy recliner and started the book. And from the first page she was enthralled. She was so interested to know where the children had come from, what was going to happen at the bakery, and why they didn't buy any donuts...

As we neared the end of the first chapter I was very curious to see her reaction when I stopped reading and it was exactly what I had hoped for. She was very disappointed that we had to be done for the night but she was excited that we would get to continue the story the next night. This also served for her as a very good motivator to get ready for bed quickly because we wouldn't read until everything was done.

Well, Mia loved the book and we ended up finishing it in about a week (Mickie read a couple chapters during the day when Mia couldn't wait to see what would happen next). So now I am really excited to be able to share some of my favorite stories with her - the only question is what story will be next? I'm thinking of Matilda by Roald Dahl but we'll have to see.

Night

I've always had an interest in Israel but mostly because of the Biblical significance and how it relates to my Christian faith.  However in recent days I've been very intrigued by its history in the 20th and 21st century.  I've been absolutely fascinated by the Jewish people and their struggle to exist as a people and as a nation. I recently have been reading books and getting documentaries from Netflix about their war for independence and then the 6 day war.  I guess what has fascinated me the most is how despised of a people they have been.  A good portion of the world would like to see Israel wiped off the face of the earth completely.  What I find interesting is that the world for the most part stands by and for the most part idly accepts those feelings.

I just finished reading Night by Ellie Wiesel which is a first hand account of someone who lived through the holocaust.  I can't remember reading a book that was so chilling and numbing.  Probably like much of the world thought at the time, my mind did not want to believe what I was reading.  I had the benefit though of historical fact, other testimonies, and the privilege of walking through the Holocaust museum in Jerusalem to aid my understanding.

Reading that book has given me a deeper perspective on what it must mean to be a Jewish person.  They fight against those memories every day.  And each new day is a fight to make sure it doesn't happen again.