Book Reviews 2023

Book Reviews 2023

Reading Time: 11 minutes

Image by Pexels from Pixabay

I have read less than I would have liked this year due to the hours I have been putting in. Nevertheless, I wanted to review four of the titles I found time to read in 2023 that you might enjoy. 

Analog Christian – by Jay Kim (41 notes, 178 pages)

Atheism on Trial – by Mark Lanier (55 notes, 202 pages)

Confronting Christianity – by Rebecca Mclaughlin (76 notes, 226 pages) 

Irreversible Damage – by Abigail Shrier (60 notes, 231 pages)

Son of Hamas – by Mosab Hassan Yousef (Audible)

Devotion – by Adam Makos (Audible)

The reference to notes is my note-taking system when I read a book. The more notes I made, the more impactful, relevant, apologetic, or valuable I found the contents. Of course, the size of the book would also make a difference, so I have listed the number of pages. I enjoyed the two Audible books and would recommend them both. 

Analog Christian

This was published in 2022 by Jay Kim, a pastor in Silicon Valley. 

Kim wrestles with the dangers most Christians are unaware of concerning the technology we are surrounded by daily. Engineered to keep us swiping, social media is all-consuming. Inherent in the algorithms are pitfalls that often outweigh the benefits. 

Frances Haugen, a Facebook insider who became a whistleblower, wrote concerning the algorithm, its “engagement-based formula helps sensational content, such as posts that feature rage, hate or misinformation, travel far and wide.”1 Kim explains comparison and contempt are tools used by the enemy and are inherent in social media.

Before my divorce, I would celebrate the joy and love I felt for my wife on social media. On more than one anniversary, I’ve posted pictures of my wife and how many years we have attained. Bragging rights. After the divorce, social media became a punch in the gut. Every anniversary others posted celebrating their 20th, 25th, 30th, etc., would pour salt in the wound. It never occurred to me my posts would/could have done the same to someone else. 

Of course, we should celebrate successful marriages, but the inherent poison of comparison on Social Media is destructive and can be malignant. Kim writes about a time when he and his wife struggled with infertility, “Every pregnancy announcement, be it from a friend or acquaintance, felt like a punch in the stomach. I was unable to genuinely celebrate anything with anyone. All I could do was compare their good fortune to our anguish.”2

Temperature of Hate

Psychologists talk about hot-hate and cool-hate. Hot hate is something we are all familiar with. We have all experienced moments where someone does something blatantly rude, and our tempers flair. Crimes of passion and road rage, not brought under control, are examples of hot-hate.

But another kind of hate, cool-hate, is common in social media and circles of gossip among friends. Based on contempt and disgust, Kim explains people use sarcasm, dismissal, and mockery. It can be, and often is, more damaging than hot-hate. Just ask the family whose child committed suicide because of bullying. 

Kim writes, “The apps we use are actually using us. We are not so much the customers as the products. Each search and click provides valuable dates to companies constantly searching for ways to effectively commodify our attention and, more slyly, our addiction. A never-ending loop of comparison, which eventually breeds contempt.”3 Philippians 4:7

I highly recommend Analog Christian to any family concerned about social media, screen time, and how much time their still-at-home teens their phones.

Atheism On Trial

This was published in 2022 by Mark Lanier, a successful trial lawyer in Houston, Texas, and featured in the Wall Street Journal, New York Times, and American Lawyer. 

Lanier looks at the rationality of atheism and its coherence in the world as we understand it. He writes, “I am compelled to find answers to big questions that harmonize. I expect consistency. Consistency is the bedrock of logic, science, and sound thinking. I must have consistency.” 4

A couple of years ago, I had a conversation with a woman who did not believe in God. She reasoned the complexity and immensity of the universe was beyond what any ‘god’ could create, but manage in any sense of the word. 

Of course, she had put God in a box; her mind, and arguably this is true for all of us, cannot truly fathom who God is and what He is capable of. 

Richard Dawkins has the same line of thinking in his best-selling book, The God Delusion. Lanier writes, “With all due respect to Richard Dawkins’s brain power, that is not proof there is not God. If the average human brain is a full three pounds of grey matter, and I give Dawkins a brain and a half, still even four and a half pounds of neural and glial cells surely cannot be the standard for determining the makeup of the mind of God.”5

Can an insect, or even a dog or horse, conceive of man building the Golden Gate Bridge or flying from LA to New York? 1 Corinthians 2:9 Romans 11:34

Justice and Fairness

Steven Fry, a graduate of Cambridge and an outspoken atheist, was asked what he would say if he came face to face with God. Fry replied, “I’d say, ‘Bone cancer in children? What’s that about? How dare you? How dare you create a world to which there is such misery that is not our fault? It’s not right, it’s utterly, utterly evil. Why should I respect a capricious, mean-minded, stupid God who creates a world which is so full of injustice and pain?’ That’s what I would say.”6

What Fry and others need to recognize or accept is the hardwired concept of fairness, justice, and morality. How did this idea come about from natural selection? It didn’t. Lanier asks the same thing, “So where do the concepts come from? If there is a Judeo-Christian God, the answer is easy. If there isn’t, one is hard-pressed to find a source beyond the fascinating electrical synapses of human sacks of chemicals.”7

Lanier points out that the notion of justice and fairness is essential to Fry, but “Consider how this came to be. Should one believe that people have developed a keen sense of justice and fairness through natural selection? That somehow individuals benefit from fair treatment, and that humanity found it comes only if we ensure fairness to society? Perhaps, but that’s a stretch of post hoc analysis.”6 

He explains humans don’t want fairness; people want what they want, not what is best for their neighbors. The world doesn’t have a society where the redistribution of wealth comes from the heart of the people, and it never will. Jeremiah 17:9

Confronting Christianity

This was published in 2019 and written by Rebecca Mclaughlin, who holds a Ph.D. in Renaissance literature from Cambridge and a theology degree from Oak Hill College. She is also a former vice president of content at the Veritas Forum. 

When it comes to apologetics I have read William Lane Craig, Nancy Pearcey, Doug Powell, Hugh Ross, Kenneth Samples, Frank Turek, John Lennox, R.C. Sproul, Johnathan Morrow, Abdu Murray, J.P. Moreland, Greg Koukl, Tim Keller, C.S. Lewis, Josh and Sean McDowell, Ravi Zacharias, Nabeel Qureshi, Paul Copan and a dozen others who would be considered the heavy hitters in Christian apologetics. All of their books, lectures, and debates have bolstered my faith, but none of their books would I describe as beautifully written. Rebecca Mclaughlin has done just that. Weaving personal experience and exposing vulnerable struggles within herself, she is empathetic to the battles many have. 

At the same time, she addresses many of the hard questions Christians may face when having discussions with unbelievers. She gracefully acknowledges the shortcomings of Christians in the past and the harm they have done in the name of Jesus. Mclaughlin then removes the layers of counterarguments without using hyperbole and other inflammatory language, and lays the facts on the table for all to see. 

Violent Buddhists?

Concerning religion and violence, she acknowledges the Crusades, as has William Lane Craig and other Christian apologists, though liberal historians have greatly exaggerated the numbers. And few have any doubt about the violence and blood on the hands of martyrs in the name of Islam. However, are there other examples? 

In 2018, the New York Times ran an op-ed titled, “Why Are We Surprised When Buddhists Are Violent?” Mclaughlin explains, “The article cites Sri Lanka’s civil war…fueled by ‘specifically Buddhist nationalism’; violence in modern Thailand; violence within the Dalai Lam’s own sect; and a growing body of scholarly literature on the martial complicity of Buddhist institutions in World War II era with Japanese nationalism.”8 Mclaughlin explains it is not that Buddhism is inherently violent, but as a religion, it is not free of blood-stained hands; no religion is. 

Some of you may have seen the 2016 Martin Scorsese film Silence. Tens of thousands of Christians in the 1700s were executed in horrific ways at the hands of the Shinto-Buddhist government. When we think of the Shinto Shrine, pictures of serene monks meditating, incense softly trailing in the air, and lush green foliage come to mind. 

Yet, Christianity and Islam seem to be the center of the target and the examples the media draws attention to. 

Rohingya Muslims in Buddhist majority Myanmar have experienced terrible violence at the hands of Buddhist soldiers. Nicholas Kristof writes, “‘Ethnic cleansing’ and even ‘genocide’ are antiseptic and abstract terms. What they mean in the flesh is a soldier grabbing a crying baby girl named Suhaifa by the leg and flinging her into a bonfire.”9

Religion is a Tool

Mao Tse-tung said, “Politics is war without bloodshed, while war is politics with bloodshed.” Religion has been and will continue to be used as a tool to further the agenda of politicians/dictators whose goal is control and power. 

Nazis changed scripture and published bibles to make Jesus a blond-haired, blue-eyed Aryan. Hitler announced, “I can imagine Christ as nothing other than blond and blue eyes, the devil however only with a Jewish grimace.”10 

Mclaughlin rightly points out human goodness is not innate, and the Bible makes that clear from Genesis to Revelation. “We are not naturally good people who behave badly only if we have been deprived of the proper upbringing, education, or circumstances. Rather, we are innately sinful, veering toward selfishness like a car with a misaligned steering wheel.”11 

“Staked at the heart of Christianity is a symbol of extreme violence – the brutal, torturous, state-sponsored execution of an innocent man. Christians believe that this execution was orchestrated by God himself. Some argue from this that Christianity glorifies violence. But the meaning of the cross is precisely the opposite. Violence is the use of power by the strong to hurt the weak. At the cross, the most powerful man who ever lived submitted to the most brutal death ever died, to save the powerless. Christianity does not glorify violence. It humiliates it.”12 

Irreversible Damage

Abigail Shrier writes, “This is a story Americans need to hear. Whether or not you have an adolescent daughter, whether or not your child has fallen for this transgender craze, America has become fertile ground for this mass enthusiasm for reasons that have everything to do with our cultural frailty: parents are undermined; experts are over-relied upon; dissenters in science and medicine are intimidated; free speech truckles under renewed attack… and the desire to escape a dominant identity encourages individuals to take cover in victim groups.13

Having raised three daughters and entering the phase of life where I am inclined to mention the joys of grandchildren to strangers, this book hits a home run for those who have serious concerns about the transgender storm and gender-affirming contagion that has overwhelmed our culture. 

Girls Becoming Boys

There is no doubt a generation of youth has drunk the Kool-aid and been taught and bullied into believing double mastectomies and puberty blockers are steps girls can take to become men. 

Parents and grandparents should be aware and informed about what is being taught at their child’s school. “The ACLU, Planned Parenthood, and GLSEN (formally the “Gay and Lesbian Independent School Teachers Network”) supply curriculum materials. Their members are routinely brought into schools to lecture students on sexual orientation and gender.”14

If you attend school in a progressive urban city, LA, San Francisco, or New York come to mind. All you need to view is the school district calendar. Pride month? No, it is now a pride year parade, and you better get in line, or you can expect to be ostracized by staff and peers. 

The LGBTQ Calendar

October begins with “Coming Out Day,” followed by “International Pronouns Day,” and “LGBTQ History Month”. In November, we find “Transgender Awareness Week” and “Transgender Day of Remembrance,” March is “Transgender Visibility Month,” and April adds “Day of Silence/Day of Action.” May is “Harvey Milk Day,” and June is “Pride Month.”15

Any educator worth their weight in salt should proactively address any form of bullying. This includes students who identify as LGBTQ or transgender, but the pendulum has swung far and wide of any sensibility or reasonableness. 

A better remedy would be to teach all classmates kindness, understanding, compassion, and decency, regardless of their skin color, sexual orientation, political beliefs, or religion. What is a shame is that many students lack those kinds of characteristics, something generally taught at home, but now educators have to spend time reinforcing those virtuous behaviors.

After 25 years of teaching and dealing with parents, the old saying “the apple does not fall far from the tree” holds true. Some never get it; tragically, their children seem to be one train wreck after another, yet it is the teacher’s fault. 

The States Solution

Parents are blind to the fact they have acquiesced the raising of their children to the current culture. What is streaming on the big screen? What do they follow on Youtube, Instagram, and Twitter/X? They have unhindered access to smartphones, which suck away their time and bleach their brains. 

And the state’s solution? Affirm everything the child feels. Can you imagine a school board mandating everyone wear a pagri (Hindu head wrap), or a panung sash across their torso? Then, they affirm their religion is true and accurate because some Hindu students were teased. 

Shrier points out that ‘bullying’ is used as an excuse to indoctrinate youth on gender ideology, and those who are questioning their gender or adopt one of the nearly one hundred labels on the new gender spectrum must be affirmed. The National Education Association (NEA) warns, “The consequences of not affirming a child’s gender identity can be severe, and it can interfere with their ability to develop and maintain healthy interpersonal relationships.”16

Obviously, many parents disagree with this conclusion and are standing up and speaking out to teachers, principals, and school boards. Unfortunately, the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) considers it a violation of students’ rights if parents interfere with a student’s gender choices. If a student changes their pronouns from his to hers, the parents have no say, nor are they informed. 

Shrier ends her book with some advice for parents. 

Don’t get your kid a smartphone. Nearly every novel problem teenagers face traces itself back to 2007 and the introduction of Steve Jobs’s iPhone. In fact, the explosion in self-harm can be so precisely pinpointed to the introduction of this one device that researchers have little doubt that it is the cause.17
Don’t relinquish your authority as the parent.
Don’t support gender ideology in your child’s education.
Reintroduce privacy into the home.
Consider big steps to separate your daughter from harm.
Stop pathologizing girlhood.
Don’t be afraid to admit: It’s wonderful to be a girl.

There are three types of books you can learn from: books that encourage you, books that inform you, and books that challenge you. If you don’t read books challenging your status quo, you are simply building a room without doors and windows. 

It is easier to perceive error than to find truth, for the former lies on the surface and is easily seen, while the latter lies in the depth, where few are willing to search for it. – Johann von Goethe

Book Reviews 2023 by James Glazier is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 4.0

  1. Kim, Jay. “Kindness and Goodness Instead of Hostility.” Analog Christian, IVP, 2022, pg. 85 []
  2. Kim, Jay. “Kindness and Goodness Instead of Hostility.” Analog Christian, IVP, 2022, pg. 33 []
  3. Kim, Jay. “Kindness and Goodness Instead of Hostility.” Analog Christian, IVP, 2022, pg. 8 []
  4. Lanier, Mark, W. “Opening Statment.” Atheism On Trial, IVP 2022, pg.12 []
  5. Lanier, Mark, W. “Opening Statment.” Atheism On Trial, IVP 2022, pg.29 []
  6. Lanier, Mark, W. “Opening Statment.” Atheism On Trial, IVP 2022, pg.85 [] []
  7. Lanier, Mark, W. “Opening Statment.” Atheism On Trial, IVP 2022, pg.87 []
  8. Mclaughlin, Rebecca. “Doesn’t Religion Cause Violence?” Crossway, 2019, pg. 80 []
  9. Kristof, Nicholas. “Is This Genocide?” New York Times, 15 December 2017, https://www.nytimes.com/2017/12/15/opinion/sunday/genocide-myanmar-rohingya-bangladesh.html 6 Dec. 2023 []
  10. Mclaughlin, Rebecca. “Doesn’t Religion Cause Violence?” Crossway, 2019, pg. 83 []
  11. Mclaughlin, Rebecca. “Doesn’t Religion Cause Violence?” Crossway, 2019, pg. 92 []
  12. Mclaughlin, Rebecca. “Doesn’t Religion Cause Violence?” Crossway, 2019, pg. 93 []
  13. Shrier, Abigail. “Introduction.” Irreversible Damage-The transgender Craze Seducing Our Daughters, Regnery, 2020, pg xxix []
  14. Shrier, Abigail. “Introduction.” Irreversible Damage-The transgender Craze Seducing Our Daughters, Regnery, 2020, pg 64 []
  15. Shrier, Abigail. “Introduction.” Irreversible Damage-The transgender Craze Seducing Our Daughters, Regnery, 2020, pg 69 []
  16. Shrier, Abigail. “Introduction.” Irreversible Damage-The transgender Craze Seducing Our Daughters, Regnery, 2020, pg 71 []
  17. Shrier, Abigail. “Introduction.” Irreversible Damage-The transgender Craze Seducing Our Daughters, Regnery, 2020, pg 212 []
Can You Defend What You Believe?

Can You Defend What You Believe?

Reading Time: 7 minutes

Swordplay

Many years ago, when I was in college, I took some fencing classes. No, not courses that teach you how to string barbed wire across your property, but lessons that instruct on swordplay. The class started with the foil, expanded to an epee, and finally, the saber. With some martial arts experience under my belt, I felt I had a slight advantage over some other beginning students. 

Several months down the road, I participated in a local college tournament and earned 2nd place after losing to a young woman in her late 20s. I had a 6-inch reach advantage over her and was as fast as she was, but she had more experience and knew some techniques I was unprepared for. 

I remember being frustrated because I could not score on her, and in my frustration, I moved in closer to press the attack, which is when she would often score. Finally, a few minutes later, she won the match.

Fleche

Fleche is a fencing term that is an explosive attack, ideally unexpected, to take your opponent off guard. So often, in conversations, we give away our advantages by making statements or claims we might have difficulty backing up if we don’t have the knowledge, background, or experience. So many Christians feel the pressure to be bold and evangelize their faith and are called to do so, but the truth is they hope no one will ask them any difficult questions they can’t answer. Then when questions start flying, they’re at a loss on what to say or how to respond. 

It should be obvious you don’t want to make any claims you can’t back up. 

Understandably, most Christians are not vocal about their faith for fear of offending or sounding silly when they can’t explain why they believe what they believe. 

Years ago, a co-worker Jennifer, who knows I enjoy blogging on apologetics and wrestling with tough questions, asked me about the crucifixion. She explained that someone asked her why Jesus was buried in a tomb. When the Romans crucified someone, they were thrown into an open grave or pit. In other words, why was Jesus so special? What made him an exception? What a good question; it does sound somewhat contrived, this whole placed-in-a-tomb-story followed by a resurrection claim.

Listen and Clarify

My initial response to her was to ask how he (her friend) knew that no one was buried in a tomb after being crucified? How did he come to that conclusion? That places the burden of proof on him, not because you are trying to avoid having to respond or that you don’t know the answer, but because you honestly want to know. 

We can’t expect to know all the answers to questions skeptics may ask, and it is essential to be honest when asked something you can’t answer. If you don’t know the answer, tell them. At the same time, when you ask someone how they came to that conclusion or what evidence they have for their reasoning, you may learn something in return. They may have good reasons for their claims, and you want to hear them. What is wrong with hearing their reasons? Nothing, and at worse, you will learn something. Not only from them, but if you then go home and research an answer, you will be better prepared to respond the next time someone asks you.

I had not heard that particular push-back before, and other than pointing out that Joseph of Arimathea was wealthy and a follower of Jesus who asked for his body so he could put Jesus in a tomb, Matthew 27:57, I would not have had anything else to add. So I went home and began my research for a blog post. What I found out surprised me, and maybe it will surprise you, too.

Crucifixions

History is unclear on who invented the crucifixion, but most historians believe it was the Persians. Romans crucified enemies for about 600 years, from 300 B.C. until the Roman emperor Constantine outlawed them in 337 A.D. One of the more famous accounts would be the slave uprising led by Spartacus in 73 B.C. After overpowering the Roman guards, the gladiators and slaves escaped from a gladiator school in Capua. The slave army expanded while pillaging the countryside and won several battles against the Romans until Spartacus and his army were trapped between two Roman legions with a 3rd soon to arrive. In 71 B.C., Spartacus and his army were defeated. Of those captured (over 6000) were crucified along the road from Capua to Rome, over 100 miles in length.((Czeck, Kenneth P. “Ancient History: Spartacus and the Slave Rebellion.” HistoryNet, historynet.com, n.d., http://www.historynet.com/spartacus.htm))

The ancient historian Josephus has multiple accounts of crucifixions; for example, Alexander Jannaeus, the Maccabean king, crucified hundreds while dining with his concubines. Varus, a Roman commander in Syria, crucified over 2000 Jews. Josephus even reported that during the siege of Jerusalem in 70 A.D., the Romans crucified up to 500 Jews a day until they ran out of timber in the surrounding countryside.((Josephus, Flavius. The Antiquities of the Jews. Trans. William Whiston. Blacksburg: Unabridged Books, 2011. Print.))

With crucifixion such a common practice for centuries, you would expect there to be an overflowing amount of skeletal evidence for this practice. But unfortunately, besides the multiple ancient historical accounts (Josephus is only one of many), we only have one archaeological piece of evidence, which happens to have been found in a tomb.

His name was Yehohanan, a young man in his mid-twenties who, around the time of Christ, did something to offend the Romans. For this offense, he was crucified. Because he was from a wealthy family, he was placed in a tomb, and after a year his bones were gathered together and then placed in a stone box called an ossuary. Two thousand years later, in 1968, a Jewish archeologist made the discovery, which is now on display in a museum in Israel.((Friedman, Matti, “In a stone box, the only trace of crucifixion.” The Times of Israel, timesofisrael.com, 26 March 2012, http://www.timesofisrael.com/in-a-stone-box-a-rare-trace-of-crucifixion/))

Why is there little Evidence for the Crucifixions?

The reasons for the lack of evidence are not necessarily apparent at first but substantial when you give it some consideration. First, nearly all crucified were not placed in a tomb but tossed into an open grave or left for animals to devour.

Second, it is a Jewish custom not to leave someone hanging up overnight, and often the bodies were taken down after several hours by the Jews. Deuteronomy 21:22-23. The bones would be scattered over time with little evidence remaining, and often they were criminals (at least in the view of Romans) and were not placed in tombs.

Third, injuries were often through soft tissue, not piercing bones, but if the bones were damaged, it would be difficult to tell from damage animals may have caused by gnawing on the bones. And not all who were crucified were nailed; some were just tied to the cross. 

Finally, crucifixion nails were considered magical or held special healing properties and were often collected when found. Consequently, the hardiest, longest-lasting evidence was often removed from the location of the crucifixion. The wooden crosses and the victims themselves would not last centuries, unlike the nails used.((Killgrove, Kristina. “This Bone Is The Only Skeletal Evidence For Crucifixion In The Ancient World.” Forbes, forbes.com, 8 December 2015, http://www.forbes.com/sites/kristinakillgrove/2015/12/08/this-bone-provides-the-only-skeletal-evidence-for-crucifixion-in-the-ancient-world/#10012eee403c))

I find it ironic that the claim, “No one crucified was ever buried in a tomb,” is not only false but the ‘only’ physical evidence we have for the ancient practice of crucifixion was found in a tomb of someone who was crucified.

Why Apologetics?

What you just read is an example of apologetics in action. Do you know what apologetics is? Apologetics is not apologizing for your faith – it is defending your faith. It stems from the Greek word apologia and means a verbal defense. Christians should be able to defend verbally why they are a Christian.

If someone asks you why you are a believer, can you give them reasons or evidence? Unfortunately, many Christians pull the experiential card, often based on feelings, emotions, and first-person experiences. Not to say those shared experiences don’t move others, but even the Mormons speak of a ‘burning in the bosom’ as a confirmation of their faith. If that is all two opposing views can offer, they seem to cancel one another out in my opinion. 

Why should a church engage in apologetics? Why should pastors teach apologetics? Why should youth groups be exposed to apologetics? There are several reasons:

  • 1 Peter 3:15
  • It builds the faith of believers. 
  • It feeds certain congregation members who may be more evidentially minded in their faith.
  • It prepares youth to hear arguments, reasoning, and conclusions counter to their faith. The first time they listen to claims counter to their belief should be before they move away.
  • Those who are confident in their answers are more willing to engage the culture and move beyond their comfort zone of fellow believers in conversation.

Your Style of Evangelism

I recently finished a book titled “Contagious Faith” by Mark Mittelberg. Mittelberg describes five styles of evangelism, and most of us favor one or two of the styles he describes. Not all of us are bible-thumping street evangelists, and to push some in that direction when it is not their natural style of evangelism can be a massive turn-off to sharing their faith. 

Mittelberg also recognizes it is not just a matter of having answers but a spiritual battle. “You see, helping people come to Christ is not just a matter of giving them good information or answers to their questions and objections. Neither is it just about being passionate or persuasive-though all of these can be important. It is, at bottom, a spiritual struggle that is being fought at an unseen level…”1

I recommend Contagious Faith for anyone curious about their natural style of sharing the good news. But no matter what your style of evangelism is, knowing what you believe and why you believe it is essential. 

Whether or not you want to admit it, you are walking the streets with a sword hanging from your hip. You are walking by others who are also armed. These swords are not called foils, epee’s, or sabers but by the more familiar names of explanation, ideas, reasons, evidence, justifications, beliefs, assertions, faith, and truth. 

When someone makes a truth claim, and you cross swords, you have two choices and only two choices. Learn from the experience, sharpen your skills, or remain the same; no better swordsman than you were before you engaged them. Which kind will you be?

Creative Commons License
Can You Defend What You Believe? by James W Glazier is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

  1. Mittelberg, Mark. “Reached by God to Reach Others.” Contagious Faith, Grand Rapids, Zondervan Reflective, 2021 pg16 []
God’s Not Dead

God’s Not Dead

Reading Time: 6 minutes

Above image by Arek Socha from Pixabay

Did you see the movie God’s Not Dead? I watched God’s Not Dead several years ago when it first came out. I returned a few days later to watch it a second time with my son and several of his friends. This time I took notes, as well as anyone can take notes in a dark theater.

If you have watched this movie or plan on watching it, then take a moment and read this. It will help explain some of the arguments used by both the atheist, Professor Radisson, and the Christian student, Josh Wheaton. This review (if you can call it that) is far from exhaustive in covering the logical fallacies and apologetic arguments, but it may be useful for the layman.

The Most Intelligent People are Atheists

The first argument Professor Radisson used when he walked into his philosophy class was to point to a list of famous, intelligent, if not brilliant, people who were all atheists. This is a logical fallacy called an appeal to authority. If you come up with a list of famous, educated, or influential people who support your cause, your cause must be essential and intellectually just.

Every year in politics, you see candidates endorsed by famous actors or actresses. They do this because the Hollywood spotlight holds a position of influence over us. If a famous actor or actress supports someone, more people will vote for that individual. Both the Republicans and the Democrats use a Hollywood face or well-known sports figure to promote their campaign. The fact that both sides take part in this should tell you something. It works.

Christians could also come up with a list of brilliant minds that believed in God or the Christian worldview. In popular culture, we have Tyler Perry, Ryan Gosling, Patricia Heaton, Chris Pratt, Denzel Washington, Mel Gibson, Martin Sheen, Angela Bassett, to name a few in the Hollywood circles. They all believe in God or profess to be Christians. We could also list those famous for their towering intellect. Copernicus, Kepler, Galileo, Pascal, Newton, and Mendel, to name a few.

Appealing to authority can be persuasive, but it does not make something true. Even if everyone I listed above thought that the world was flat, it would not be true. And when Professor Radisson shows off a list of brilliant and famous people that were, or are, atheists, it does not make atheism true any more than the lists I offered make Christianity true.

The prompting is that only intelligent people are atheists, but you can see that is not the case. The suggestion is that science trumps faith, and that science and faith are at odds. Or more specifically, that knowledge and faith are on opposite ends of each other. Many atheists and even some Christians believe the less knowledge you have, the more faith you need. Please give it some thought. This is obviously not true; the opposite of faith is unbelief, not knowledge, and the opposite of knowledge is not faith, but ignorance. Throughout history and today, brilliant minds have excellent reasons and evidence for their faith.

Atheists do not have the market on knowledge, reason, and science. In my readings on apologetics, I have found tremendous support for my faith in Christ. As my knowledge has increased, so has my faith/confidence. As Josh researched the Christian worldview, no doubt his faith also increased.

I want to address two apologetic arguments Josh Wheaton used in the movie. This will help those watching the film for the first time understand the philosophy behind them. It is also important for every Christian to be familiar with them because they commonly come up when talking to skeptics or atheists.

The First Cause

The first argument Josh brought up was the Big Bang Theory.

In 1929, Edwin Hubble noticed what he called a ‘red shift’ in the color of very distant galaxies. This turned out to mean that the galaxies were moving away; in other words, the universe was expanding. Why is this significant? If we dial back time a thousand years, the universe would be smaller than it is today. If we were to go back a million years, it would be smaller still. So we could go back to the beginning and find the universe compressed into a single point that science calls a singularity. What caused this singularity? We call that God. As Greg Koukl puts it, to have a Big Bang, you must have a Big Banger.

Just a few years later, Albert Einstein came to peer through the telescope at the Wilson Observatory to confirm, at least in his own mind, the findings of Hubble. Since then, science has continued to confirm this, and the Big Bang Theory is widely accepted in the scientific community. 

I know many Christians that have been uncomfortable with this, but it plays into the hand of those who believe in God. Simply put, if the universe had a beginning, it must have been created. For centuries, scientists believed that the universe had always existed, but Genesis says, “In the beginning God created…”

One form of the cosmological argument is called the Kalam Cosmological Argument, and essentially it states the following premises and conclusion:

1. Whatever begins to exist has a cause.

2. The universe began to exist.

3. Therefore, the universe has a cause.

Someone might ask, “Then who caused God?” but God is an uncaused, eternal being. He stands outside of his creation, much like the author of a book stands outside of his novel. Time is inexorably tied to our universe, and God stands outside it. He is not bound by his creation any more than Thomas Kinkade is bound to live in one of his idyllic country cottage paintings.

Professor Hugh Ross, who has written several books on cosmology and lectured at over 300 campuses, wrote, “Consider the way parents prepare their children to explore and relate to the world and the rest of humanity. Step-by-step, as the little one matures, father and mother allow the world of exploration and relationships to expand. Likewise, according to the Bible, God will allow his children to move beyond their smallish playground (planet earth) into the expansive realm (the new creation) he always intended for them to experience and enjoy.”((Ross, Hugh. “Why Such a Lonely Universe.” Why The Universe Is The Way It Is, Baker Books, 2008, p.78))

Problem of Evil

Another argument Josh addressed is the problem of evil. The argument goes something like this: how can an all-powerful, all-loving, all-knowing God allow evil? David Hume put it this way, “Is he willing to prevent evil, but not able? Then he is impotent. Is he able but not willing? Then he is malevolent. Is he both able and willing? Whence then is evil?”

Let me ask you, what is your purpose in life? If you hold a Christian worldview, you must understand that your purpose in life is not your happiness but to commune with God. This life does not end with our last breath but spills over and opens up a door to an eternal ocean of God’s presence and love.

The old woman in the nursing home toward the end of God’s Not Dead spells it out nicely when she says to her son, “Sometimes the devil allows people to live a life free of trouble, because he doesn’t want them turning to God.”1 Some of you may have the same experience I do when I say the times I have been the most active in prayer are when I have been going through difficulty. No doubt many of you have experienced the same thing. How many have cried out to God when encountering a sudden life-threatening experience? In times of difficulty, most everyone recognizes we turn toward God, but sometimes the answer is no, and we suffer great pain or loss. For many of us, this brings us closer to God, and a greater understanding of the purpose to our life.

Timothy Keller wrote, “For many years, after each of the morning and evening Sunday services, I remained in the auditorium for another hour to field questions. Hundreds of people stayed for the give-and-take discussions. One of the most frequent statements I heard was, ‘Every person has the right to define right and wrong for himself or herself.’ I always responded to the speakers by asking, ‘Is there anyone in the world right now doing things you believe they should stop doing no matter what they personally believe about the correctness of their behavior?’ They would invariably say, ‘Yes, of course.'”2

We are all free to do good, and we are all free to do evil. The same freedom allows us to do one or the other, but we could not measure evil without good. Without God, evil is just a behavior that some don’t enjoy, and it becomes a subjective feeling. 

Timothy Keller pointed out that without a grounding objective morality we get from God, then evil is just a point of view. If we each decide what is right and wrong, then evil is just a matter of opinion. 

Volumes have been written on the problem of evil, and it is one Christians should be familiar with because it can be one of the most challenging questions to answer when the suffering does not offer any rhyme or reason. 

See God’s Not Dead if you have not seen it. I would have enjoyed more classroom debate and apologetic arguments in greater detail, more character development. Still, it has raised awareness in Christians who might otherwise never have considered intellectual and philosophical arguments for their belief in Christ. 

Creative Commons License
God’s Not Dead by James W Glazier is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

  1. God’s Not Dead. Dir. Harold Cronk, Perf. Kevin Sorbo, Shane Harper. Pure Flix Entertainment, 2014. Film []
  2. Keller, Timothy. The Reason for God. New York: Penguin Group, 2008. Print. []
Quick Replies to Tough Questions

Quick Replies to Tough Questions

Reading Time: 3 minutes

Image by Kasun Chamara from Pixabay

I have been teaching the last few weeks at our Sunday morning men’s group, and for the last two Sunday’s have posed some tough questions for them to consider. 

Here are three questions they wrestled with that may leave a Christian flat-footed the first time they hear it. 

If you were born in Saudi Arabia, you would be a Muslim. If you were born in India, you would probably be a Hindu. The only reason you’re a Christian is that you were born in America or that your parents raised you as a Christian.

You have made a ‘choice’ to be a Christian, not because your parents or grandparents were Christian. A family’ heritage’ is something that is handed down, usually something that adds honor or pride to a family or individual. A heritage is acquired because of one’s birth into a family or inheritance received, not because of a deed, action, choice, or behavior.

For example, my own family had a heritage of naming the firstborn boy John. We had several generations of John’s in my family, my older brother, father, grandfather, great-grandfather, etc. I don’t know who started it or why, but I ended it. I much prefer Jedidiah over John, so we named our son Jedidiah John. 

When someone tells you you are a Christian because you were born into a Christian family, or you are a Muslim because your parents were Muslim, or Hindu because you were born in India, commit the genetic fallacy.

I may have started out as a Christian because I was born into a Christian family, but that has nothing to do with the ‘truth’ of my religion. People (often professors in college) will be the first to make this claim to young believers. You’re a Christian because you were born in America. Many students will have never heard this before and do not have a thoughtful, reasoned response. It could be the first in a long line of objections that undermine their faith. We need to be Christians who are Christians because it is true, not because our parents were Christians.

Students need to have established their faith within themselves before they go to college or join the workforce, or at least begin the process. The truth of their belief has nothing to do with their being born into that religion. Hopefully, they have some reasons for their faith (reasons they can share with others), and they’re not just parroting their parent’s beliefs.

God states in Exodus 20:13 You shall not murder. But, then in Joshua and Judges, God allows and even commands people to murder and destroy cities, all the men, women, and children. Isn’t that a contradiction?

It is not about what people call murder, but what God calls murder. Murder is killing that is not morally justified.

Yes, God called for the destruction of cities and people groups, but there is an essential distinction between killing and murder. I will add that if you make it, you own it. God granted us our lives, and He has the prerogative to take them away.

For example, the Canaanites were not destroyed because of race, religion, or land. Neither were they killed to convert to Judaism. It was their sin. They were a violent people who practiced idolatry, group sex, rape, bestiality, and child sacrifice.

The earliest Canaanite laws prescribed the death penalty for incest, but a few centuries later, it was a mere economic penalty, liken it to a parking ticket.

We also have sources outside the Bible that confirm child sacrifice was taking place regularly within the Canaanite religion; no other ancient culture did this consistently.

If God is so loving and forgiving, why can’t he be more tolerant of our sin?

God is loving, God is forgiving, and God is merciful, but that is not necessarily the same as being tolerant. The word tolerant today has changed into being accepting of other views. That is, you have to agree with them, not just tolerate them.

Look up tolerance online, from the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, and you will see the words “marked by forbearance or endurance.” In other words, you have to struggle with something that rubs you the wrong way, something you find disagreeable or even painful.

There is a reason God does not tolerate sin. His nature is holy and pure. There is no impurity within Him, and He cannot be in any kind of relationship with sin.

It is His combination of mercy and justice that gives us the answer we so desperately need. His mercy by itself cannot satisfy his perfect justice any more than His justice can be satisfied by His perfect mercy. Both demand a Godly response.

The sin has to be paid for, and His paying for it not only satisfies His justice but His mercy. God is VERY intolerant of sin, but His love for us, His mercy toward us, provides a way for us as imperfect vessels to dwell with a holy and perfect being.


Quick Replies To Tough Questions by James W Glazier is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.
Based on a work at www.dev.christianapologetics.blog/blog.

Why hasn’t God intervened…

Why hasn’t God intervened…

Reading Time: 5 minutes

Image by Anemone123 from Pixabay

Why hasn’t God intervened on the tyrants throughout history to prevent far worse atrocities than in the Old Testament days in which he did intervene?

An atheist blogger posted this question from a book titled Divinity of Doubt. He added a few of his own and then said they were impossible for a Christian to answer and that every Christian would ignore them. I enjoy looking for those kinds of challenges, not because I have an answer to all the questions I come across, but because it only sharpens my own faith when I work on a response. Let’s face it, no one, not even the most brilliant apologists or theologians, can answer every question that may be raised by skeptics. But if you take the time to consider what’s asked, it can only add to the tools you have at your disposal. 1 Peter 3:15 I choose the first three he listed and have addressed them in this post.

When I am around skeptics or atheists and they make a bold claim or a question that is based on an assumption, I often ask questions. The first question I ask maybe to clarify part of their statement. The second question has more to do with how they came to believe what they stated.

So, for example, with this first statement, I might ask, “What do you mean by ‘far worse atrocities’?” Or What do you mean by ‘intervened’? I would want to know what far worse atrocities she was referring to. Would the Holocaust, the Cambodian genocide, or the Rwandan genocide be examples? And by ‘interveined’ do they mean a complete and absolute interruption of some evil, or would a partial intervention be in the running?

Once I have a clearer understanding I might ask another question to seek further insight and reasons for their belief. For example, I might ask, “How do you know that God has not intervened?”

This question assumes there is a God and implies He has not done any intervening. Consider for a moment the underlying assumption. How could anyone possibly know that God has not interceded? If a terrible atrocity was averted by God and did not take place, how would anyone know that? It would be impossible to see if He has intervened because the tragedy would never take place to question His lack of interceding. Just a moment of reflection makes this first claim comical.

Of course, this does not prove He has intervened, but don’t let someone get away with an assumption that cannot be supported.

2. If God were all-powerful, why wouldn’t he create humans who could appreciate good without having evil to compare it with?

There are several directions I could go with a question like this. What do they mean by all-powerful? I would want to flesh out exactly what they mean by that. For starters, all-powerful does not mean God can do the logically impossible. Can he put a round peg in a square hole? Can he create a married bachelor? Of course not.

C.S. Lewis touches on this in his book Mere Christianity. “My argument against God was that the universe seemed so cruel and unjust. But how had I got this idea of just and unjust? A man does not call a line crooked unless he has some idea of a straight line. What was I comparing this universe with when I called it unjust?1

We can appreciate the goodness of God without having experienced evil. God’s goodness is objectively beautiful. A child can enjoy a lovely garden without having experienced a garden full of withered and dry flowers void of color. A child can also appreciate loving and kind parents without having experienced cruel and abusive parents.

The above question pre-supposes that we can’t appreciate good without evil. God’s love, kindness, wisdom, and much more can be appreciated without experiencing corruption of some sort. The second question implies that we can’t enjoy good without evil, which is patently false.

Are there parts of God’s character we wouldn’t understand without evil? Oh yes! How could we experience his mercy, forgiveness, grace, and justice without evil? Yes, we can experience His goodness without evil, but we experience more of Him because of evil.2

3. If God were all-perfect and all-powerful, why would he do such a poor job and create such an imperfect world with its deadly earthquakes, floods, hurricanes, tornadoes, droughts, etc.?

The brilliant Christian apologist Ravi Zacharias would often respond by asking a question, “Who is asking?” In other words, what steers your world view? He would address the questioner and point out the following:

  • If you are a scientific naturalist, then natural disasters are part of the evolutionary process. For example, without plate tectonics, we would not have mountains. Without degrees of elevation, we would not have rivers, lakes, canyons, flood plains, etc. Those who lose their lives from natural disasters just become part of the natural selection equation. So why are you complaining?
  • If you are a philosophical naturalist, then our chemistry rules the day. What could be wrong with natural disasters? It is just the way things are, and you have no basis to complain. Natural disasters are just normal, regular, and expected common occurrence of our world. How could that be wrong? There would be no such thing as a ‘poor job’ because that suggests something is wrong with our natural world.
  • If you are a follower of an eastern religion such as Buddhism or Hinduism, then it is just ‘karma.’ You are getting what you deserve. What goes around, comes around. If you had done evil in your former life, then you are receiving what you earned.
  • If you are a Muslim, then the term ‘inshallah’ or Allah’s will, applies to the question. Everything is the will of Allah and cannot be questioned.

Our world view is what we believe to be true about reality. We can ask questions all day long, but some answers (depending on your world view) are not allowed, not even an option to consider. I will quote Thomas Nagal to make this point clear. Nagel is an atheist philosopher who was refreshingly honest in his personal assessment of God. Nagel wrote, “I want atheism to be true and am made uneasy by the fact that some of the most intelligent and well-informed people I know are religious believers. It isn’t just that I don’t believe in God and, naturally, hope that I’m right in my belief. It’s that I hope there is no God! I don’t want there to be a God; I don’t want the universe to be like that.“((Nagel, Thomas. “Logic,” The Last Word, Oxford, Oxford University Press, 1997, 130-131))

If you talk to people outside the circle of your world view, opportunities are inevitable. Opportunities to do some gardening, maybe pull some weeds. If nothing else, seek to understand their view and the reasons behind it. If you have something to offer, great. If not, then let it go and consider what they had to say.

Not long ago, I went shooting with a friend from work who shoots regularly. I had mentioned my Smith & Wesson Shield .40 had jammed for the first time about a week prior. As we chatted about it, she brought up ‘limp wristing,’ a term I had never heard of before. After watching some Youtube experts, which she shared with me (got to love Youtube), I believe that could have been the problem. All that to say, if I had had the attitude that a woman could not teach me anything about firearms, I might still have an occasional jam in an excellent handgun, mistakenly thinking it is the weapon, not the operator.

Having a little humility is a good thing. If you are wrong, don’t you want to know? Understanding world views outside of Christianity is an asset. I have lost track of the number of atheists or skeptics I have chatted with whose goal is not to understand, let alone even consider what I might be sharing, but to smugly ask questions many Christians can’t answer. Their arrogance is sometimes palatable, but I keep reminding myself His desire is for all to be saved and I am not ahead of them in line for the pearly gates. 1 Timothy 2:4

Like a bulletproof vest, take your faith to the range and fire some rounds at it to see if it holds up. If it doesn’t, then maybe something your world view needs to change.


Why hasn’t God intervened by James W Glazier is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

  1. Lewis, C.S. “The Rival Conception of God.” Mere Christianity, Harper One, 1952, p.38 []
  2. Hall, Amy. Would We Know God without Evil? Stand to Reason, str.org, Aug. 7, 2020, https://www.str.org/w/would-we-know-good-without-evil- []

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