Finding Truth: 5 Principles for Unmasking Atheism, Secularism, and Other God Substitutes (7/4)

It appears that atheism and secularism is on the rise today. At times it even appears that atheism is the rising ‘religion’. So is atheism without fault? Nancy Pearcey doesn’t think so and this book is about what she thinks are flaws the atheism worldview has.

Finding Truth: 5 Principles for Unmasking Atheism, Secularism, and Other God SubstitutesPearcey starts with a story. A story of how the typical christian youth who grows up in a Christian environment finds himself giving up his faith at an evangelical college. Pearcey then tells her story of how she, an atheist became a christian. Pearcey wants to share with the readers some of the thoughts she had as someone who was searching for the truth. Herein are the 5 principles that Pearcey will elaborate in more detail in the chapters ahead.

Pearcey first starts by identifying the most fundamental problem of atheism. And that is the problem of idolatry. Pearcey shows how even the atheist who cries out against the idea of God, makes a god in their own image and likeness. Pearcey shows the readers how the bible has already clearly shown us this in Romans 1.

Having identified the idol of atheism, Pearcey then teaches readers the implications of just beliefs. More importantly, Pearcey lets readers know that a deviation away from God’s idea of humanity or this world inadvertently brings about harmful and destructive behaviours. For example, if we believe that human is simply a product of evolution, then when we declare we love somebody, it can be nothing more than dopamine flooding our caudate nucleus. It may feel significant to us, but it is really nothing more than a bunch of neurotransmitters flooding our neuroreceptors. Any deviation from God leaves us with a beliefs that makes us less than we actually are.

The next principles Pearcey introduces is whether such beliefs contradicts anything we know about the world. This can be clearly seen when atheists say things like mortality or conscience is not objectively real, but the world will be much better if we live as if it was objectively real. In essence, no one can live our their belief to the fullest. This is also linked to the fourth principle, which looks at whether a belief is self-contradictory or not. This is most clearly seen in relativism, where everything is relative, but the statement itself. Lastly, since no belief can be self-standing, there will always be things they will need to “borrow” from the christian faith. This sums up the 5 flaws of atheism.

This book is most useful for high-school or college level youths. This will really them to think through about their faith and also about what atheism really is about. This will help them think critically about atheism and help them see their faith in a new light. Pearcey bring the burden of proof onto the atheist and ask them to show christians how their belief is able to stand up on it’s own and at the same time shows how the christian faith is able to meet all of the test. Recommended reading for almost all christians, since we have often raised of the rise of the nones.

Rating: 4.25 / 5

If you’re interested you can get it here and here (free international shipping), kindle.

Disclaimer: I was given this book free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review

Book Review – Tough Questions About God and His Actions in the Old Testament (12/12)

Is the Old Testament God a different God from the New Testament God? As a conservative christian, we are quick to say that God is unchanging and has been the same throughout the Old and New Testament, yet many a times we find it hard to explain the differences portrayed in the bible. Furthermore, most the these difficulties surfaces in the Old Testament where christians are often not well verse in.

Tough Questions About God and His Actions in the Old TestamentWalter Kaiser Jr. wants to help rectify this problem in the evangelical world. In this book, Kaiser gives a careful and well-thought through answers to christians. Although the title of the book seems to be apologetics in nature, I have found that the book speaks primarily to bible believing christians, or at least to non-christians who are open to listen what the bible has to say about such issues.

Kaiser tackles some of the most debated questions within this book. For example, he attempts to answer in the first chapter if God is a wrathful God or a merciful God. Or in the following chapter where he answers if God is one that is peaceful, or one that is guilty of ethnical cleaning.

Kaiser answers these questions by engaging the readers to look at what the Old Testament actually has to say about such things. As an Old Testament scholar, Kaiser helps readers interpret and understand the Old Testament passages correctly. What Kaiser really does in this book is he engages the readers with the Old Testament itself, Kaiser rarely veers off from this path. As such, this book is good for those who would like to honestly engage with what the Bible really says.

This book is therefore aimed primarily for those who are keen to seek answers about such questions from the Old Testament itself. College students will find this book helpful to ground their faith on the Word of God, and for those who are interested in what the bible has to say about these questions, this book will be very helpful. Pastor might be able to find this book as a good primer for these questions, and this book should be able to help you answer such questions. However, more in-depth questions might require pastors to seek more materials on specific topics.

Rating: 4 / 5

If you’re interested, you can get it here and here (free international shipping).

Disclaimer: I was given this book free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review

P.S. The God I Don’t Understand: Reflections on Tough Questions of Faith might be another helpful book for you to read on this topic, get it here and here (free international shipping), kindle.

Book Review – Apologetics: A Justification of Christian Belief (5/11)

John Frame has been a strong proponent to the presuppositional apologetics. The new edition of the book hopes to make presuppositional apologetics easier to christian to understand and to pick up.

Book Review - Apologetics: A Justification of Christian BeliefFrame attempts in his first chapter to explain and make a case for presuppositional apologetics. He answers very clearly some of the common questions raised against presuppositional apologetics but also how we are to understand the terms thrown away by the critics. Frame hopes that by doing so, he would not only answer the critics, but also ensure that the critics would criticise presuppositional apologetics fairly.

Although this is not an easy book to read, I have found Frame’s explanation extremely helpful at times. For example, In explaining why we cannot starting on the same premise as an unbeliever or an atheist, Frame uses the illustration a paranoid who suspects everyone who is out to kill him (i.e. wrong premise). Now no one in their right mind will ever counsel this person with the same premise, so why would we do that when it comes to apologetics? Why would we be so willing to give up our premise and take on the premise of the other person? Furthermore, unless the christian worldview is assume, there will always be contradiction in our lives that goes against any other premise. The only way that makes sense of the world is the Christian premise.

An additional point on why I found this book helpful. Many books on apologetics focuses on the defence of the gospel, which is good and right. However many fail to see that apologetics can also take on an offensive approach. This is covered by Frame which shows convincingly that the task of an apologist, is not only to show the strength of his/her belief, but also to who the weakness of the other party’s belief.

I also like how Frame gives an example of he shared the gospel to someone on the plane.I found that the example shows how he would approach the questions or objections an unbeliever would have towards christianity and how he employs the defence and offence of the gospel.

Regarding the changes between the first and second edition, I’ve only read parts of the first edition. And based on what I’ve read (and if memory serves me right), I did not observe too many changes between the two edition. Readers will have to seek advice from other reviewers who have read both editions for more information on this.

I do urge would-be readers to be persistent in reading this book. You might not find this book easy to read the first time round. But take it one step at a time, read and think through the book slowly. I think the book is aimed especially towards those who are currently studying in college or have studied at college. This will not be a walk in the park, but it will certainly help you think through apologetics slowly, thoughtfully and biblically.

Rating: 4.5 / 5

If you’re interested, you can get it here and here (free international shipping), kindle.

Disclaimer: I was given this book free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review

P.S. I would also recommend Covenantal Apologetics as an alternative to this book. Get it here and here (free international shipping), kindle

Book Review – John Frame’s Selected Shorter Writings, Volume 2 (11/6)

I’ve always like the writing of John Frame and have learnt much from him, so it was with great joy to see a 2nd volume of his shorter writing being published. And after reading it, I felt that this was even better than the first volume. I remember two issues I raised in my previous review on the first volume, one being that some essays were really short, and the second on the how there were only 3 essays on apologetics. I happy to say that this volume addresses both my issues.

John Frame Shorter Writing, Volume 2Readers will easily notice that is volume is even thicker than the first volume. This is due to the number of chapters included in this book. A total of 35 chapters can be found in this book!

I have found 2 sections that were especially helpful and thought-provoking in this volume. First, I enjoyed Frame’s critic on the current seminary system. He points out very relevant things that are happening in the seminaries currently. For example, Frame raises the issue of accreditation. This is an area which many seminaries (and students) see as an important issue, but Frame reminds the readers that the main aim of seminaries is not to be accredited by an external party. Rather the main aim of the seminary has always been, and will remain to be, to train pastors who will be thoroughly equipped for the work ahead. Similarly, Frame highlights in another chapter how seminaries might have almost certainly been training it’s students to be research article writers through their multiple submission of research articles. However, this will not necessarily translate down to train good pastoral pastors. They are simply too ill-equipped for pastoral work.

The other section that I found was extremely enlightening and informative was the apologetics section. 7 chapters have been devoted to this topic, with 4 of them focused on Cornelius Van Til. Within these chapters I have found them to be an excellent introduction to the works and thoughts of Van Til, and will certainly help those who are new to Van Til.

Equally enlightening was the section on church. Frame uses his theological knowledge and offers some pastoral advice on the issues of the church. Most of the chapters within this section are quite short, but will suffice to whet your appetite on these issues.

All in all, I have thorough enjoyed reading through this book and have found it to be even better than the first volume. If you have read the first volume, you surely must get the 2nd volume. For those who are totally new to John Frame, either volumes will be a good introduction. But for seminary students or would be seminary students, I would recommend you start at the 2nd volume.

Rating: 4.75 / 5

If you’re interested, you can get it here and here (free international shipping), Kindle.

Disclaimer: I was given this book free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review

Book Review – Questioning the Bible: 11 Major Challenges to the Bible’s Authority (19/4)

Throughout the years, the bible has constantly been under attack. Yet, as a christian I firmly believed that the bible can be defended. Likewise, so does Jonathan Morrow. In this book, Morrow tackles 11 questions that are commonly raised against the bible.

Questioning the Bible: 11 Major Challenges to the Bible's AuthorityMorrow first encourages skeptics (and especially christians) to be open about their struggles in believing the christian faith. Rather than sweeping things under the rug, Morrow is open to these struggles and wants to help these christians through their struggles.

Within the book, he tackles these issues by first explaining what are the doubts or questions these issues are raising. Next, he moves on to answers these questions. Morrow covers these questions in depth, that not only helps the readers to have enough knowledge to answer the questions, but also to be able to interact with existing literature on the topic.

For example, in the 2nd chapter it talks about the question to find the historical Jesus. Morrow gives an overview of the first, second and third quest of finding the historical Jesus. Next, talking on the issue of multiple attestation, he introduce the readers about the two source hypothesis of the synoptic gospels. Following which, Morrow shows the readers even the minimal Jesus, as proposed by the Jesus Seminar scholars, showed that Jesus was not merely a religious teacher. Lastly, he showed the readers that there were also external attestation to Jesus being the Christ. Phew! Certainly a christian who reads this will surely grow in depth!

At the end of each chapter, Morrow has also very helpfully summarised the main points of his argument, and also gives some conversation tips for those who interact with non-christians who raises issue. Lastly, he provides additional materials that the reader can read up on to tackle the issue in greater depth.

What a christian will get out of reading this book is really a deeper conviction in the God of Word, and a greater confidence in the Bible. May this book help the new generation of christian learn to defend the Bible with even more zeal in a hostile environment. Recommended for those in college or high school. You will find answers to your questions on the bible here.

Rating: 4.5 / 5

If you are interested, you can get it here and here (free international shipping), Kindle.

Disclaimer: I was given this book free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review

Book Review – The Skeletons in God’s Closet: The Mercy of Hell, the Surprise of Judgment, the Hope of Holy War (17/4)

Are there things that the Christian God needs to hide before people will believe in Him? Some of the atheist (or even christians) seems to think that there are. However, as readers will find out in this book, it is not God who has skeletons in His closet, rather, it is us who has these skeletons.

The Skeletons in God's Closet: The Mercy of Hell, the Surprise of Judgment, the Hope of Holy WarWithin the book, Joshua Ryan Butler seeks to address many touchy issue within the christian faith, but does so in a way that is not often seen in the current literature. The three big issues addressed within the book are Hell, judgement and holy war.

First, Butler addressed the issue of hell, whether it is “right” for unbelievers to be in hell after they died simply because they did not believed in Jesus. Butler showed that the issue is not so much that hell is a judgement centre. Rather, heaven is just a wonderful place, God “protects” it by keeping those who do not wish to be in heaven, to be in hell.

Next Butler, showed why judgement rather than being bad, is actually a good thing. Butler shows how God is not just concerned about the appearance of things, but He is deeply concern about all areas in our life. Similarly, since God’s judgement is universal, no one will be able to ever escape from His judgement.

Lastly, Butler address the issue of genocide within the Old Testament. He shows the readers that this is not really a war where the strong bullies the weaker, rather this is more of the under dog winning against a mega empire. Consequently, it is meant to show the readers that this is not the typical war that one might assume when reading such bible verses.

I do enjoy how Butler addresses many of these issues. I have found them to be refreshing and invigorating. However, I do have some concern for the way these issues are addressed. I am not fully convinced that the bible does not portrays hell is as a place judgement.

I do recommend this book to those who wants to gain a new perspective about these issues. Read and learn, though you should do it with caution. College or university students should find this book helpful.

Rating: 4 / 5

If you are interested, you can get it here and here (free international shipping), Kindle.

Disclaimer: I was given this book free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review

Book Review – Did God Really Command Genocide (3/3)

Non-christians have always pointed out that God of the Old Testament is angry and vengeful. And that He ordered a genocide to massacre the entire population. So what is the christian’s response towards such a statement?

Did God Really Command GenocidePaul Copan and Matthew Flanagan attempts to answer this thorny question in this book. Copan and Flanagan are no strangers to these questions and has showed that christians does have a very good answers against this questions.

First, Copan and Flanagan helps the readers understand the question at hand, which centers around the Crucial Moral Principle, “It is morally wrong to deliberately and mercilessly slaughter men, women, and children who are innocent of any serious wrongdoing.” Which Copan and Flanagan distills into 4 clauses :

1 Any act that God commands us to perform is morally permissible.
2 God is the author of the Bible.
3 It is morally impermissible for anyone to commit acts that violate the Crucial Moral Principle.
4 The author of the Bible commands us to perform acts that violate the Crucial Moral Principle.

Having allowed the reader understand the question at hand, Copan and Flanagan then skilfully moves to explain each of the clause. And how the crux of the question lies mainly in the third and fourth clause.

Having done that, Copan and Flanagan then moves on to discuss about the bible text itself. This, I thought was where the book really excelled. Copan and Flanagan helps the readers to see that what might be read as “every single one”, might not mean literally “every single one”. Indeed, in some passages, the authors of the book (within the bible) mentions that “every single one” was killed, yet the same author would refer to these group of people again later in the book, showing that not literally “everyone single one” was killed. Copan and Flanagan really helps the readers learn these passages in their historical and cultural context.

Having explained the passages, they then move on to ask whether the commands to kill is always wrong. Although that might seem to be quite a simple question, Copan and Flanagan helps us see that, this questions is not as simple as what we think it is. He also highlights that although this action was indeed commanded by God, yet one must remember this are special occasions where He tells His people to act this way. They are certainty to not take that as a convenient excuse to act however they like to.

Lastly, Copan and Flanagan deals with the issue of, will God ask us to do these same actions again? and what if someone says God commands them to kill today, how should we answer? Reading the answers provided in this book at a time where religious extremism has prompt some to kill, shows how this is certainty not how a christian should ever act.

I think college students will find this book very helpful as they try to answer questions regarding this faith. Pastors might want to consult this book if they find themselves preaching through passages where God commends the people to kill “every inhabitants ”. They will find very helpful answers in this book.

Rating: 4.25 / 5

If you’re interested, you can get it here and here (free international shipping), Kindle.

Disclaimer: I was given this book free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review

Book Review – Tough Topics Biblical Answers to 25 Challenging Questions (13/2)

Every christian grows up with many questions about the faith. Some of them are trivial, others are vital to the faith and needs to be answered urgently. And this book answers both such questions!

Tough TopicsSam Storms had written a substantial book to give answers to 25 of such questions. A word of warning to those who are looking for quick and short answers: look elsewhere! This is not a book for those looking for quick answers.

A quick look at the content page and you see many kinds of questions being answered in this book, some are quite common like “What Is Blasphemy of the Holy Spirit?” and “Can Christians Lose Their Salvation?” some probably are novelty questions, “Can a Christian Be Demonized?”. Overall I felt that Storms had answered all the questions very well. He always reminds the readers to search God’s word to find answers. He points out the passages that are relevant to the question, goes through scripture and then answers each of them thoroughly. Even in areas where he knows there are contentions (Are Miraculous Gifts for Today?), he sets forth his views but also present alternative views fairly.

Having said that, given the size of this book, I would say this book would be a good resources for lay leaders primarily. If you’re willing to read and to work through the various bible passages before coming out with a comprehensive answer, then this is the book to go.

Rating: 4.25 / 5

If you’re interested, you can get it here, and here (free international shipping), Kindle.

Disclaimer: I was given this book free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review

Book Review – Despite Doubt (21/10)

I’m quite sure that we all have doubts one time or another in our christian lives, but what do with do with them? And after hearing sermons on doubting Thomas, some might even think that they shouldn’t be doubting. Some might just sweep it under the carpet, others may thrive in it, some fall away because of it. So what do we do with these doubts?Despite Doubt

Michael Wittmer wants us to ‘doubt away’. This is a deliberate play of words, he wants our doubts to be away, and he wants us to be honest with our doubts. This book can be spilt into 2 portions. The first portion deals with doubts that most people have, doubts about God, Jesus, Bible, etc… and the second section deals with some questions (doubts) that christians have about their lives, about trust, promise, assurances.

In the first section, Wittmer answers most of the common questions people have against or about christianity. Wittmer does this by taking up their stand and showing the readers about what their belief entails or implies in our lives, if we are to take up such system of thought. Essentially Wittmer wants us to doubt our doubts away.

Wittmer also has a very  written very helpful on the definition of faith and doubts. One example: when dealing with the topic on knowledge, he argues in order for our faith to grow, we need knowledge, but even a greater or fuller knowledge will never be able to obliterate faith. Uncertainty it not the opposite of faith, but rather the lack of knowledge.

In the next section, Wittmer deals with the common christians usually have or face. I especially like how he dealt with the topic of why the church is full of hypocrites (found in chapter 20). He answers this lucidly by showing that the church has hypocrites, simply because the church is good. No one fakes a bad stuff. But hypocrites doesn’t ‘prove’ that Christianity is not real. (Read the book for the fuller answer with explanation)

Finally, this is why I think this book is excellent. Often books dealing with apologetics, they do a great job answering questions, Wittmer does this too, but he goes further than that. He calls readers to re-examine their lives, he calls them to put their trust in Jesus, shows them what it means. And therefore, what he is really doing is to deal answer their doubts, and then to slowly lead them to Christ and discipling them into a church. This book would be fine for either christians or non-christians, and any teenager should be able to understand this book since there are not many technical terms, and they’re usually explained in a very layman language also. Wittmer has also provided discussion questions at the end that would be helpful for group studies, and the division into small but numerous chapters would be appealing to groups who wants to spend more time discussing about them. Or they could be group into multiple chapters and discussed, since the chapters flow very well one after another.

Rating: 4.5 / 5

If you’re interested, you can get it here, and here (free international shipping), Kindle.

Disclaimer: I was given this book free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Here’s the trailer:

And a introduction of the book by the author:

Despite Doubt – Embracing a Confident Faith, By Michael E. Wittmer from Discovery House Publishers on Vimeo.

Book Review – Letters to an Atheist: Wrestling with Faith (3/10)

If you have listened in to any debate between an atheist with a christian, often times the debates centred around the ‘notia’ aspect (knowledge), while that is not the only way to try to convert others to Christianity, that might be the most publicised way to do so. So what other ways can a faithful christian try to do? Scores of books on apologetics have tried to fill in this gap but too many a times, they too are leaning too much into the ‘notia’ aspect too. Letters to an Atheist

Which is why I think, this book ought to the read by those who wants to do just that. If you have heard about the author (if you don’t, google/wiki it), Peter Kreeft, you would have know that he is a professor of philosophy which might terrify some, and perhaps makes the rest of us wonder whether or not we should even attempt to read this book. But have no fear, it’s not as difficult as you expect.

In a series of letters, Kreeft corresponds with Michael, an atheist, trying to have a ‘debate’ about each others’ faith. Though Michael is a fictional character, it is by no means an ‘artificial’ debate. Within this book, Kreeft approaches the topic with rigour (what I term as hard [or technical]  philosophical approach) but that is not the focus of the book, far more often, Kreeft approaches the topics using what I call the soft (or laymen) philosophical approach, for example, Kreeft uses the beauty and desire as argument/pointers for the existence of God. Sure, some will find this a little difficult to digest, but Kreeft has consciously (and deliberately) left out the most technical and difficult bits so as to make this book more accessible for the masses.

What is more, included in the last section of the book Kreeft answers against some of the questions often raised against christianity such as hell, the problem of evil, the harm religion has done in history and others. I found this section exceptionally helpful and had it not been included it would have made the book a lot less helpful.  Although these questions are not tackled in length by Kreeft, he answers them succinctly and to the point. Some might want to see this portion expanded more, but this was not the purpose of the book and should be sufficient for most.

So if you’re thinking of reaching out to the atheists around you with some meaningful conversations, do give this book a read, it’ll help you to be able to have good time conversing with them, checking each others’ presuppositions and its effect on our day-to-day living.

Rating: 4.25/5

If you’re interested, you can get it here, and here (free international shipping), Kindle.

Disclaimer: I was given this book free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.