CAN A RATIONAL PERSON TAKE THE BIBLE SERIOUSLY TODAY?
John Knapp II, PhD
In the spring semester of 2003, Derrick McCarson enrolled in “Introduction to the New Testament” at the University of North Carolina. On the first day of this 500-student class the professor, Bart Ehrman walked in and started abruptly, “ ‘How many Bible-believing Christians do we have in the auditorium today?’…After about a half dozen students raised their hands, Ehrman said, ‘That’s good. It looks like we have a few Christians here today. Welcome to Intro to the New Testament. My goal this semester will be to change everything you Christians think you know about the Bible and Jesus.’ ”¹
Dembski & Licona also report this note of contempt for Christianity on university campuses and some resulting political fallout: “A 2007 report by Tobin and Weinberg published by the Institute for Jewish and Community Research reveals that American faculty ‘overwhelmingly assert[ed] their desire to see Christian influence lessened’ while being ‘far less critical and even supportive of increasing Muslim religious influence in politics.’ They added that ‘it is interesting and even perplexing to see a shared inclination among faculty atheists, those faculty with no religion, and those faculty for whom no religion holds importance: They defend the right of Muslims to express their religious beliefs in American politics, while holding openly hostile views of fundamentalist Christians.’ ” ²
Do Christians in the twenty-first century commit themselves to such preposterous superstition and act naively, and hurtfully, as children?
The purpose of the rest of this article is to introduce you to and describe the 272-page book (also available in electronic format) Evidence for God: 50 Arguments for Faith from the Bible, History, Philosophy, and Science edited by William A. Dembski and Michael R. Licona. This recent apologetic³ with 35 contributors can introduce you, and give you responses to, the “real issues” that today challenge reasonable Biblical faith.
Here are “answers,” or “responses,” to things some of you have probably wondered about—or should wonder about—in case you’re challenged by thinking people (as you should be).
I’ll give you just one-half of the chapter titles to bait the hook:
* The Cosmological Argument
* The Moral Argument for God’s Existence
* Naturalism: A Worldview
* Suffering for What?
* God, Suffering, and Santa Claus: An Examination of the Explanatory Power of Theism and Atheism
* Creator and Sustainer: God’s Essential Role in the Universe
* The Origin of Life
* What Every High School Student Should Know about Science
* Darwin’s Battleship: Status Report on the Leaks This Ship has Sprung
* How Darwinism Dumbs Us Down
* Limits to Evolvability
*Intelligent Design: A Brief Introduction
* Molecular Biology’s New Paradigm: Nanoengineering Inside the Cell
* The Vice Strategy: Squeezing the Truth Out of Darwinists
* Did Jesus Really Exist?
* The Credibility of Jesus’s Miracles
* The Son of God
* The Empty Tomb of Jesus
* Is Jesus the Only Way?
* Did Paul Invent Christianity?
* Is the Bible Today What Was Originally Written?
* Inerrancy and the Text of the New Testament: Assessing the Logic of the Agnostic View
* Archaeology and the Bible: How Archaelological Findings Have Enhanced the Credibility of the Bible
* The New Testament Canon
* What Should We Think about the Gospel of Judas?
If any of these don’t intrigue or bewilder you, read no further.
But if they do, then let me suggest you buy the book. After getting it, go to the list of contributors and examine what they’ve done and where they come from. Many, in addition to having a strong Biblical faith, have several graduate degrees (some with two earned doctorates); and they come from some of the best schools in the world. This is no choir of fundamentalists who’ve exchanged honorary doctorates with each other.
But they do share many common beliefs often “automatically” rejected by many of their atheistic, or agnostic, colleagues who refuse to step beyond the framework of Naturalism (see the third chapter cited above). These include the probabilities of the existence of a transcendent personal God who was creator and is sustainer of all that is; a historical Jesus who lived, died, and literally rose again from the dead; the divine inspiration, reliability, and uniqueness of the Bible; and accepting the importance of many recent findings of modern science—especially the Big Bang Theory of beginnings, the development of nanotechnology, and the increasing recognition of the failure of Darwinism (mutation and chance acting alone) to account for the observed record of significant changes in living organisms over the years.
Further, from the first sentences these articles are written with broad strokes and are very readable for many who visit this website. And I’ve read them all very carefully.
Weaknesses of this book?
(1) For some the essays may be too short. Several pages can hardly do justice to what others have written volumes about. (Yet I dare say they’re long enough for most of us!) What they do very well, however, is show how to think about and respond to typical accusations against Biblical faith that so often are presented as “obviously true.” And they can point to sources and patterns that deserve more recognition.
(2) The essays often seem to present only one person’s view. Can, for example, the single article on archaeology represent fairly represent the results of systematic digging over the decades? But again, here many trends and assumptions in research are identified and responded to.
(3) The notes and sources (another thing I peek at first) are fascinating and invite looking at more sources that obviously aren’t provided.
(1) Overall, these articles, as far as I can tell⁴, are written by gifted, qualified people (not pastors with just scientific interests) who are well read and trained in the areas they discuss. Further, I am confident they have been considerably critiqued and then modified after reaction by peers (yes, probably by like-minded ones, however).
(2) The articles are friendly to those who take seriously reality that steps beyond strict naturalism. The authors take very seriously the need for systematic research, as well as honestly recognizing the a priori assumptions taken by those doing research and those holding to historic Biblical faith.
My recommendation for the 10, 100, or 1000 of you willing to consider this important book is to (1) buy a Kindle ebook version⁵, and (2) engage in a 100-day devotional (or otherwise systematic) adventure going through this book brief chapter by chapter, spending, say, two days on each one, making notes and praying as you go. Call it “Evangelistic Apologetics 101, homeschool version.”
And, for many of you, starting each day with such a private encounter will open your mind and enrich your faith—as well as that of those you spend time with.
If this happens, let me know [see Note 5 below].
¹ William A. Dembski & Michael R. Licona, Evidence for God: 50 Arguments for Faith from the Bible, History, Philosophy, and Science. Baker, 2010, p.11 [loc. 50, Kindle]. This is from the Introduction of the book that’s the subject of this article.
² Gary A. Tobin & Aryeh K. Weinberg, “Religious Beliefs and Behavior of College Faculty,” in Profiles of the American University (Roseville, CA: Institute for Jewish and Community Research, 2007), 73, 76-77. Quoted in Note 1 (above).
³ An “apologetic” is an argument for something, or defending something, that people, believe. It can also refer to books that do this.
⁴ Okay, now it’s my turn. Where do I come from? Though I was a long-time full professor of English at State University of New York-Oswego, I have a PhD in science education, have written science texts for kids (Silver Burdett) and have been a departmental editor for School Science and Mathematics long ago; and I’ve done graduate work at Denver Seminary. Though I’m not a scientist, as a science educator I’ve been trained to critically evaluate research material, esp. in many areas of science.