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    I review for BookLook Bloggers

    Saturday
    Sep132014

    Book Review: Geisler and McCoy's The Atheist's Fatal Flaw

    There is more than one way to refute an argument.

    One way is to argue directly against the assertion, showing it to be wrongheaded.

    But another way is to uncover the weak points and expose fallacies. One such approach is to expose internal inconsistencies, thus rendering the argument self-refuting.

    Norman Geisler and Daniel McCoy use this strategy in establishing the truth of Christianity in their book The Atheist's Fatal Flaw (BakerBooks, 2014). Geisler and McCoy do their very best to outline arguments against theism as they are presented by atheists such as Sam Harris, Richard Dawkins, Dan Barker, and Christopher Hitchens, quoting from primary sources. Then, through the application of logic, Geisler and McCoy expose problems and impart confidence to those seeking to defend the credibility of Christian claims concerning reality. While this book is technically written, Geisler and McCoy are clear and accessible for those seeking to engage in conversation with skeptics on faith, doubt, and the space between. My familiarity with the classical arguments for theism and for Christian belief, along with my reading of the intellectuals Geisler and McCoy set out to refute, helped my comprehension and enjoyment of this book. But I'd recommend this book to those just getting started with apologetics, as well. The subject matter is broad, and the presentation fresh.

    Regarding the progression within this work, Geisler and McCoy address the problem of moral evil, human autonomy and freedom, submission to the divine will and corresponding favor, death, guilt, divine punishment or pardon, and eternal destinies. They then raise specific inconsistencies, and offer an appeal for open inquiry concerning Christian truth claims as Christians present them at their best, rather than as weakened or distorted versions of Christian theology. In each chapter, Geisler and McCoy demonstrate that the atheist's primary objection is not the issue raised, but rather the notion of God in and of itself. Atheists have no problem with morality, nor with naming certain actions as definitively evil. Rather, they have objections to a God would might set conditions to allow evils to occur, or who is a final arbiter concerning morality. They have no objections to restraint of human autonomy and the limiting of freedom, so long as a divine person has not decreed it so. The primary objection, as noted by Geisler and McCoy in each chapter, is to God.

    Christians should be skilled in presenting the reasons for what they believe. This requires familiarity with basic arguments against theism, and ready answers that clear away rubble and roadblocks that obscure the pathway to belief. I will keep this volume at the ready on my shelves, and review it from time to time. This is a helpful book, and will have great value to any Christian apologist.

    Note: I received this book in exchange for a review.

    Saturday
    Sep132014

    Book Review: Zondervan's NIV Teen Study Bible

    Every time I visit a bookstore, I take a look at the Bibles on sale. Zondervan's NIV Teen Study Bible is widely used by young people. Whenever I have a student ask for recommendations for an age appropriate Bible, I want to be able to point them to helpful resources. This edition is solid.

    Teenagers have basic needs. The translation needs to be readable and accessible. The text notes need to be exegetically sound and practically helpful. Basic historical information makes the stories come alive, and this edition includes this kind of help. And, if possible, teen study Bibles prove essential when application is made to life today. This Bible makes a run at each of those aims, though the notes, application, and commentary in this edition is by no means exhaustive. Good teachers and secondary resources add perspective and depth of insight, and I trust that if your teen is reading this Bible, those will be available.

    One notable aspect of this version of the Bible is the inclusion of The Apostles' Creed as a theological rubric that guides the reading and understanding of the text. For creedal traditions, this will be a welcome feature. For church traditions which pay little mind to the creeds, this could be a cause for concern. In the early pages of this Bible, the creed is accompanied by Scripture references. I think this was a good move on the part of the editorial team.

    Concerning look and feel, my copy is a hardcover edition, which feels sturdy. The pages also have a good weight.

    Here is some information on specific features:

    • Big Picture Book Recaps: Tucked inside each book, there is a "Panorama" heading. In a sentence, the student is reminded of the primary theme.
    • Keeping Q & A Personal: Throughout this Bible, there are letters written addressing teenage concerns. The "Dear Jordan" inserts provide wisdom on moral dilemmas or theological searching.
    • Key Concept Exposition and Summaries: "To the Point" and "Instant Access" provide illustrations or direct applications of key passages or verses.
    • Unpacking the Apostles' Creed: This Bible begins with a copy of the Apostles' Creed, and the corresponding Scripture passages. Students are given both a basic theological framework through which to read the Bible, and guidance on where to find the foundations for these beliefs.
    • Book Overviews: Each book of the Bible starts with an overview, giving the reader an idea of what they will encounter. These are brief, have a basic outline, and provide a little bit of historical context. Would be complemented nicely with a commentary, Bible dictionary, or other resource.
    • Trivia: Insets raise questions and offer answers. Trivia questions relate directly to the text at hand, so if students are reading, they can search for answers, or check their reading retention and comprehension.
    • Full Color Maps: Patriarchs, Exodus and Conquest, 12 Tribes, Davidic and Solomonic Kingdoms, Life and Times of Jesus, the Missionary Journeys, and First Century Jerusalem. Those maps parallel the Bible stories most teenagers will explore as part of a Sunday School or midweek gathering.

    I'd recommend this Bible for teenagers. It's colorful, interactive, and constructed with youth in mind.

    Note: I received this Bible from BookLook Bloggers in exchange for a review.

    Friday
    Sep122014

    Those Amish Sure Can Raise a Barn

    The things communities can do.

    HT: Digg

    Thursday
    Sep112014

    Mythbusting: Depression and Christianity

    RELEVANT online recently featured an article on Christian faith and depression.

    Thankfully, a few Christian leaders have addressed mental health issues recently. Rick and Kay Warren led the way following the death of their son, Perry Noble has written a book (he addressed depression on his blog as well), and to my pleasant surprise, Lifeway's Bible Studies for Life student ministry curriculum features a special session on mental health this fall, which our congregation will utilize during our Sunday Morning Bible Study.

    Debra Fileta at RELEVANT identifies these four myths regarding depression:

    1. Depression is a faith issue.
    2. Depression can be prayed away.
    3. Depression isn't physical.
    4. Depression shouldn't be talked about.

    The entire article is worth a read.

    If you're struggling with depression, get help. If you are not personally but wish to help those who are suffering, work to make your Christian fellowship a place where vulnerability is encouraged, compassion is actively exercised, and information concerning mental health issues is accurate and sound.

    Depression can yield isolation, immense suffering, and in severe instances, death. It isn't simply sadness. If you need help, get help. Know the signs and symptoms. Reach out.

    Christ has compassion for the hurting and downtrodden. We are called to love as he loves.

    Wednesday
    Sep102014

    Four Components of Growth

    John Wesley is a guy who lived in the 18th century. He also happens to be one of my pastoral and theological heroes.

    Wesley was a British pastor in the Anglican tradition. But he was much more than this. He was at the center of a time of Christian renewal. John's brother, Charles Wesley, wrote many hymns that are still familiar today. And George Whitefield--a famous evangelist who traveled to America and whose voice was so powerful he could preach to thousands of people at once--are two other prominent figures associated with what we now call the Methodist movement.

    In 1739, Benjamin Franklin heard Whitefield preach in the city of Philadelphia, and estimated that his voice could be heard by an audience of 30,000 people in the city--without a microphone. Franklin further added that Whitefield had the power to preach to 25,000 in the open country. That's power. You can read Franklin's account here.

    John Wesley, Charles Wesley, and George Whitefield made an impact on their world through a strong commitment to Christ. The Methodist movement began at Oxford, on a college campus. A few young people came to John Wesley, who was a scholar, and together they sought to grow as disciples of Jesus, serve others, and proclaim the gospel.

    In John Wesley's 9th Discourse on the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7), he identifies four keys to Christian growth:

    1. Believing in God, "'as reconciling the world to himself through Christ Jesus,' [and] the believing in him, as a loving, pardoning God;"
    2. Loving God, "to rest in him, as our God and our all;"
    3. Imitating God, being "merciful even as he is merciful;" and lastly
    4. Obeying God, "the glorifying of him with our bodies, as well as with our spirits; the keeping of his outward commandments; the zealously doing whatever he hath enjoined; the carefully avoiding whatever he hath forbidden; the performing all the ordinary actions of life with a single eye and a pure heart, offering them all in holy, fervent love, as sacrifices to God through Jesus Christ."

    That's what we're seeking. Believing, loving, imitating, and obeying God.

    Take a step.