“Beyond Opinion: Living the Faith We Defend” (Ravi Zacharias ed.)

This anthology begins with “Challenges from …” various quarters, such as postmodernism, atheism, eastern religions, and science, followed by sections that are harder to characterize, except that everything in the book is about apologetics.  Not every contribution is great, but overall the book is certainly worthwhile, and received positive reviews from J.P. Moreland and William Lane Craig.

Some notes:

  • Ravi Zacharias, the book’s editor, is himself a big C.S. Lewis fan (xii), ranking him and Francis Schaeffer at the top (332).  Lewis, Richard Swinburne, Nicholas Wolterstorff, and Alvin Plantinger are listed by Alister McGrath (the Lewis biographer) as “four very obvious twentieth-century writers who [pace Dawkins] regard the establishment of a core intellectual foundation to faith as essential” (33).
  • Chapter 6 (by John Lennox) includes cites to many scientists; the best may be to “Nobel Prize-winning physicist Arthur Schawlow” (133):  “We are fortunate to have the Bible and especially the New Testament, which tells us so much about God in widely accessible human terms.”
  • There’s a good discussion of how we must have faith before we can reason (160-63); see also quote from page 171 infra.
  • Re the Trinity and Christ’s “being ‘all human’ and all divine”:  “The analogy that comes to mind is that of a cube, wanting to identify with a two-dimensional world, becoming a square.  It should be noted that it is still 100 percent cube in three dimensions, but this is possible only because the square is the image of a cube in two dimensions” (236, in chapter by L.T. Jeyachandran).
  • It’s important that Jesus Himself not only quotes but more explicitly endorses Scripture qua Scripture (309 — citing Isaiah 40:8, John 10:35 — in chapter by Zacharias).
  • There’s a good discussion of Paul’s tactics in Athens versus in Corinth (323-24, in chapter by Zacharias).
  • “[P]raying with people can sometimes do more for them than preaching to them” (32;7, in chapter by Zacharias).

In addition, I photocopied five longer passages.  First (128, in chapter by John Lennox; emphasis in original):

   The astronomer Carl Sagan thought that a single message from space would be enough to convince us that there were intelligences in the universe other than our own.  Now, if we are prepared to look for scientific evidence of intelligent activity beyond our planet, why are we so hesitant about applying exactly the same thinking to what is on our planet? Is the scientific method not applicable everywhere?  Once we put it this way, is it not obvious that the next question to ask is what, then, should we deduce from the overwhelming amount of information that is contained in even the simplest living system? Does it not, for example, give evidence of intelligent origin of a far stronger kind than did the argument from the fine-tuning of the universe, an argument which, as we have seen, convinces many physicists that we humans are meant to be here?

Second (56, in chapter by Alison Thomas):

… The single most important social influence on the spiritual lives of teens is their parents.  Fathers in particular have a vital role to play in the spiritual development of their children.  In his fascinating book Faith of the Fatherless, social scientist Paul Vitz writes that in his study of the world’s most influential atheists (including Friedrich Nietzsche, David Hume, Bertrand Russell, John-Paul Sartre, Albert Camus, and H.G. Wells), all had one thing in common:  defective relationships with their fathers.  Moreover, when Vitz studied the lives of influential theists (such as Blaise Pascal, Edmund Burke, Moses Mendelssohn, Soren Kierkegaard, G.K. Chesterton, and Dietrich Bonhoeffer) during those same historical time periods, he found they enjoyed a strong, loving relationship with a father figure.  Vitz notes that H.G. Wells was contemptuous of both his father and God, writing in his autobiography, “My father was always at cricket, and I think [Mum] realised more and more acutely as the years dragged on without material alleviation, that Our Father and Our Lord, on whom to begin with she had perhaps counted unduly, were also away — playing perhaps at their own sort of cricket in some remote quarter of the starry universe.

Third (289-90, in chapter by Danielle DuRant), there’s more along these lines from Vitz and from Alister McGrath, and it is tied in with the “stridency in disbelief” in the recent writing of Sam Harris, Christopher Hitchens, and Richard Dawkins.  You can read this passage, and for that matter apparently the whole book, here [link:  https://www.christianbook.com/reader/?item_no=4658EB ].

Fourth (158, in chapter by Joe Boot; footnote omitted, emphases in original):

… So then, as we tackle this faith-stifling atmosphere of skepticism, cynicism, and despair, where can we look to find help and inspiration?  I see the creative process in apologetics as a form of recycling the best insights we can find among past masters from times that are suggestive of our own.  We stand at the head of a long line of witnesses, many of them martyrs.  Their message is our trust; the message we preach did not begin with us.  Those who believe themselves to be so original that they wrap a new gift are not innovators but idolaters according to Scripture.  C.S. Lewis wrote, “No man who bothers about originality will ever be original; whereas, if you simply try to tell the truth (without caring two-pence about how often it has been told before) you will, nine times out of ten, become original without ever having noticed it.”

   As Lewis notes, “to tell the truth” makes Christian originality truly possible.  Orthodoxy is not a straitjacket to prevent creativity.  It is, instead, a vast playing field where one finds new ways to communicate the faith.

And fifth (171, also in the Joe Boot chapter just quoted from; emphasis in original, footnote omitted):

… In any case, to form a logical argument to presuppose logic as an ultimate foundation is to use a piece of reasoning to validate the whole, which simply begs the question.  Once again, faith is found to be indispensable to reason.  We cannot prove, without God, that our minds convey any truth at all.  The Christian proof itself is indirect by showing that the exclusion of the transcendent God is unintelligible and absurd as it destroys all reasoning, collapsing all reality into pure physics.  Michael Robinson writes:

If there is no God, we are just molecules in motion, and we have no sense and no mind; we are just the random firing of chemicals in the brain.  If our minds are composed only of physical matter, then our thoughts are, as Doug Wilson wittily quipped in his debate with atheist Dan Barker, just “brain gas.”… If our minds are just the result of chemical reactions, then in the debate over pop cans, God’s existence can rightly be settled by shaking the two soda pop cans simultaneously.  Labeling one can “atheism” and the other “theism”; after shaking the cans, the one that fizzes the most wins the debate.  If our minds are simply the fluctuations of proteins, neurotransmitters, and other brain biochemicals, then an intellectual debate is equivalent to the chemical reactions that occur when one shakes up a couple of cans of soda.