This blogsite is named for C.S. Lewis and Blaise Pascal but, besides them, if I had to recommend to a skeptic a set of apologetics, I would probably choose Lee Strobel’s trilogy: The Case for Christ, The Case for Faith, and the book this post will discuss, The Case for a Creator.
The latter book follows the same template as its two predecessors: The author makes an intelligent division of the relevant topics into chapters, and then in each chapter he visits a distinguished and impressive expert whom he then interviews. Strobel is an ex-journalist specializing in legal matters as well as an ex-atheist, not a wide-eyed innocent, and he asks some pretty tough questions and then lets the experts reply at length. It’s an effective approach. Because I read the first two books when I was much younger and not taking notes as I went along for this blogsite (which did not yet exist), I don’t have entries for them here, and so it seems somehow fitting that I keep this entry short as well.
Suffice it to say that this book is a worthy companion to the other two, and that it does a great job of identifying and then discussing the growing evidence in a number of fields that shows science not only does not undermine, but affirmatively supports, belief in God. “…[I]t’s indisputable that there has never been a time in history when the hard evidence of science was more confirmatory of belief in God than today” (130, quoting William Lane Craig). “We are entering the greatest era of science-religion fusion since the Enlightenment last attempted to reconcile the two” (303, quoting Gregg Easterbrook, a fine journalist who’s also quoted elsewhere in the book). I enjoyed reading (289) a similar point made by Werner von Braun (!): “The vast mysteries of the universe should only confirm our belief in the certainty of its Creator. I find it as difficult to understand a scientist who does not acknowledge the presence of a superior rationality behind the evidence of the universe as it is to comprehend a theologian who would deny the advances of science.” (This book, by the way, would almost always be as useful to a believing Jew as to a believing Christian, since the Creator discussed does not hinge on the veracity of the New Testament.)
The first couple of chapters trace the author’s personal history, recounting how he lost faith early on as a result of what he was mis-taught about evolution. The next two chapters present a general overview of the problems with Darwinism in particular and the intersection of science and faith, and feature interviews with Jonathan Wells and Stephen C. Meyer. The heart of the book is chapters 5-10: “The Evidence of Cosmology: Beginning with a Bang” (interviewing William Lane Craig); “The Evidence of Physics: The Cosmos on a Razor’s Edge” (interview with Robin Collins); “The Evidence of Astronomy: The Privileged Planet” (interview with Guillermo Gonzalez and Jay Wesley Richards); “The Evidence of Biochemistry: The Complexity of Molecular Machines” (interview with Michael J. Behe); “The Evidence of Biological Information: The Challenge of DNA and the Origin of Life” (interview with Stephen C. Meyer, again); and “The Evidence of Consciousness: The Enigma of the Mind” (interview with J.P. Moreland). The last chapter contains a good summary of the book (see especially 292-93, which re-introduces the book’s basic scope, and then 296-300 (“The Design Hypothesis”), which summarizes chapters 5-10; you can read most of that summary here, and by the way the book’s entire text is online in a couple of place, like here). There’s an appendix, “A Summary of The Case for Christ“; there are also study/discussion questions.
The book spends a lot of time debunking Darwinism, but I suppose that makes sense. While one can be a Darwinist and a Christian (like Francis Collins), an atheist is hard-pressed to give a non-Darwinist explanation for life. Put another way, the plausibility of Darwinism is necessary but not sufficient for the plausibility of atheism.
I’ll note just a few quibbles:
- Chapter 7 points out how astonishing it is that any planet is able to provide, as earth does, the conditions essential for life: Quite so, but it seems to me that this point is better used as a way of supporting the “fine-tuning” arguments of, especially, chapter 6 generally rather than the unnecessary and even irrelevant claim that life can exist “nowhere but earth.” See 163-64 (carryover paragraph).
- A frequent argument in chapter 7 of the book is some variant of, “It’s unlikely another planet could have X, and the life on earth requires X.” But it’s not always clear, at least to me, why some other planet with some other life form might not need X. On the other hand, the point is made that it’s hard to imagine how any planet can support life without carbon and water (174).
- The inability of materialism to explain consciousness (chapter 10) is sufficient but not necessary for Christianity. For example, even if in the future some people came to believe that materialism did explain consciousness, I don’ think that the Bible’s body/mind distinction would necessarily become nonsensical.
Two additional noteworthy quotes, the first one from John Polkinghorne, a mathematician/physicist and minister/theologian (304):
No one has ever seen a quark, and we believe that no one ever will. They are so tightly bound to each other inside the protons and neutrons that nothing can make them break out on their own. Why, then, do I believe in these invisible quarks?…In summary, it’s because quarks make sense of a lot of direct physical evidence…I wish to engage in a similar strategy in regard to the unseen reality of God. His existence makes sense of many aspects of our knowledge and experience: the order and fruitfulness of the physical world; the multilayered character of reality; the almost universal human experiences of worship and hope; the phenomenon of Jesus Christ (including his resurrection). I think that very similar thought processes are involved in both cases. I do not believe that I shift in some strange intellectual way when I move from science to religion…In their search for truth, science and faith are intellectual cousins under the skin.
And the second from the book’s penultimate page (309):
If you’re a spiritual skeptic or seeker, I hope you’ll resolve to investigate the evidence for yourself. Actually, [surgeon Viggo] Olsen’s three-pronged approach would provide a good outline to follow:
•First, is there a God who created the universe?
•Second, did God reveal himself to humankind through the Bible or other sacred scriptures?
•Third, is Jesus the Son of God-deity united with humanity and can he help us as he claimed?
Finally, I’ll note that, while the short section on “The Beauty of Physics” (154-56) may not persuade a nonbeliever, I found it not only inspiring but tingling.
Oh, one last thing: A few times in the book the point is discussed or at least made that, whichever side of the debate you are on, we are dealing with evidence here, and probabilities, not absolute proof. What we have in this book is a “cumulative argument” (157); Strobel notes (300), “[I]n my opinion the combination of the findings from cosmology and physics by themselves were sufficient to support the design hypothesis.” The most direct and best discussion of this point is in chapter 4’s interview with Stephen C. Meyer (86-88), which you can read here (scroll down a little more than half-way to the heading, “The God Hypothesis”). I think this point is very important, especially given my penchant for Pascal’s Wager. That is, given the great asymmetry in downsides and upsides as we choose to believe or not believe, one hardly has to offer conclusive proof in order to make belief rational.