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Jesus Creed


God is Great, God is Good

posted by Scot McKnight

Imagine.jpgWe’ve all observed the rise of nothing less than aggressive atheism, some of which goes over the top in argument and some of which simply lays its cards on the table with confidence and fearlessness and says, “OK, Christian, make my day. Beat this argument.” One thinks, of course, of Dawkins, HItchens and Harris. Some have taken this movement on with a sketch of ideas (as in D.B. Hart, Atheist Delusions: The Christian Revolution and Its Fashionable Enemies
) while others, like William Lane Craig and Chad Meister, by selecting a variety of authors to respond to various dimensions of the movement.

So, in God Is Great, God Is Good: Why Believing in God Is Reasonable & Responsible
, Craig and Meister have enlisted some friends to respond, and I happen to be one of them. The editors collected essays in groups: God is, God is great, God is good, and Why it matters. Fourteen studies:
Craig on Dawkins, Moreland on the image of God, Moser on evidence for a morally perfect God (worth the price of the book), Polkinghorne on physics, Behe on evolution, Michael Murray on evolutionary explanations of religion, Meister on evil and morality, McGrath on whether religion is evil, Copan on whether OT laws are evil, Walls on God creating hell, and the four additional pieces: Taliaferro on recognizing divine revelation, McKnight on the Messiah you never expected, Habermas on resurrection, and Mittelberg on why faith in Jesus matters. The volume has two other items: Anthony Flew on his pilgrimage and Alvin Plantinga’s review of Dawkins. 
All in all, a noteworthy volume.


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Ted M. Gossard

posted January 6, 2010 at 5:21 am


Looks like a good read. Reason is good, but seems like God has to open our eyes and hearts to his revelation, of course we know that to be true from Scripture.



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Joey

posted January 6, 2010 at 8:23 am


Scot, how much of a responsibility do we have to respond to atheists on their terms?
I feel like the strongest “argument” isn’t one of engagement but one of demonstration: Love, forgiveness, humility, etc.
I’m glad atheists are filled with passion. I’d rather spend time with an impassioned atheist than an apathetic agnostic. Think of how powerful it might be for somebody like Dawkins to encounter the resurrection. That would be on par with Saul!



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Scot McKnight

posted January 6, 2010 at 9:32 am


Joey, I’d say both but the goal can’t be to win but to embody and to testify.



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Ray Ingles

posted January 6, 2010 at 9:44 am


Thanks for avoiding the phrase “militant atheism”! There’s usually a huge double-standard about that word; the only time anyone calls someone a “militant Christian”, for example, is when they actually pick up a gun and shoot somebody.



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Richard

posted January 6, 2010 at 10:17 am


Scot, Thanks for bringing this issue up. I’ve listened to Craig often lately among others from the White Horse Inn. One of the questions that I have is, even though we see an increase in militant Atheism, isn’t it true that over all, the number of atheists have remained the same over the years. One of the reasons I’ve heard for this is that atheism is unsustainable or indefensible to sound reasoning. It just can’t logically be supported. My concern is more for a secularist spirituality that is more a self centered, self worship, kind of belief more in line with some of the passages in scripture that warn of those who become their own gods. Even relativism can’t be supported logically. What is your take on this issue?



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Matthew

posted January 6, 2010 at 10:21 am


Just bought it and looking forward to reading it!



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derek leman

posted January 6, 2010 at 10:35 am


How am I supposed to cut on my book budget with you always getting me to order books on amazon and/or put them on my wish list?
Sounds like one I will need to read and it is not on “highest” standing on my wish list.
Derek Leman (hint, everyone, since you have my name, you can find my wish list and buy me books!)



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Randy G.

posted January 6, 2010 at 10:41 am


Scot,
I would like to ask whether this is really the right place for us to expend our energy.
I am reading Jamie Smith’s book “”Desiring the Kingdom,” which makes a strong case for the pre-rational or non-rational aspects of Christian formation. It SEEMS to me that the kind of “soft formation” threats that he addresses and Christians need to provide opporunities for counter-formation are in the long run a more significant issue than the campaign of the aggressive atheists. Is this perception anything more than a reflection of my own sensibilities?
Peace,
Randy G.



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RJS

posted January 6, 2010 at 10:57 am


Randy,
Isn’t it wise to put effort into a number of different forms with different focus? There is no “one size fits all” and what is important to some is not to others.
My father-in-law has an excellent ministry among youth in his small rural community. The kids (and adults) he is reaching are not interested in any of the “intellectual” arguments we discuss here at length. It is much more down-to-earth and simple. He is particularly interested in reaching the youth many others give up on – who are unchurched and “marginal”. But the approach that works so well for him in that context would fall flat with another kind of audience (say the kind I interact with much more). This doesn’t mean he’s wrong, or I’m wrong.
I rather expect we need rational, pre-rational, non-rational ….. all can contribute.



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Mike Hickerson

posted January 6, 2010 at 11:27 am


Randy,
I just started reading Smith’s Desiring the Kingdom, too, and finding his arguments convincing. Not to speak for Smith here, but:
1) He’s careful not to dismiss the rational aspect of human nature.
2) From my experience with Scot’s work, Scot is an exemplar of the kind of theological “story-telling” that shapes our affections, in line with Smith’s vision of human beings as “worshiping animals.”



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Ryan

posted January 6, 2010 at 11:55 am


I am curious why there are often comments like some of the above that seem to push back against rational arguments and reasoning as part of the Christian faith.
I am struck by the spiritual devastation I and other friends of mine experienced in our first year of college, and how heartening it was to find from some campus ministers that Christianity could compete in the market place of ideas.
I identify deeply with Lee Strobel when he tells his story of pastors continually dismissing his questions and being taught evolution in high school and deciding it was enough for him to write God off. Then years later through truth and reason finding the help to explore faith again.
I also think of Paul telling us to be transformed by the renewing of our minds in Romans, and what a joy it is to discover that God is not restricted to just personal spiritual experience, but rather the evidence of his existence runs the gamut of creation.
So I guess my question to those of you who seem to cringe at books like this is why? Why be reductionistic in not allowing room for the mind, reason, and arguments in our great faith?



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Steve

posted January 6, 2010 at 12:15 pm


This sounds like a great book – interesting, engaging and maybe even
important. I appreciate the recommendation and will look forward to buying and reading this book. I’ve been a fan of Craig’s for some years, not to mention many of the other contributors.
That said, I have to say I appreciate Joey’s question. It’s not that
the answers and arguments aren’t important, but that they are only
impactful in a particular context. By this I mean that engaging especially the aggressive atheists on turf of their choosing is both ill-advised and ineffective, as most of our modernistic apologetics have been. The context is foreign for an apologetic of faith in a
God of incarnation. It’s not that there aren’t good arguments and answers, it’s that the way use them mitigates the point, at best.
I think the gaps in trust and relationality can be bridged with a commitment to incarnational living of faith in community that depicts the powerful narrative of God?s redemptive work on humanity?s behalf, through Christ. Incarnation is the key word for apologetics in this or
any time, in my view. In a postmodern world, the persuasiveness of the truth claims of Christianity will depend on communities of persons whose characters reflect and who struggle to enact the love that was revealed in Christ. As Lesslie Newbigin has said, ?the only hermeneutic of the gospel? is ?a congregation of men and women who believe it and live by it.? Such a community ?has at its heart the remembering and rehearsing,? through word and sacrament, of the ?words and deeds? of Jesus.
I had a seminary professor whose office voice mail message said, “You’ve reached the disembodied voice of Dr. xxx xxxx. Leave
a message and I will return your call when the rest of me returns.”
Our culture has had enough of a church that has largely been a disembodied voice, spouting propositions generally not supported by
any incarnation of them.
I am a pastor to many who are disconnected from any institutional faith. Most are skeptics, if not outright atheists. Nearly all are
disillusioned, disappointed, discouraged and disheartened. A recent
encounter with one of these people who are so beloved by God and me,
convinces me of the argument I make here for an incarnational apologetic: Simon, who loves to study Christian apologetics for the
purpose of exposing Christians’ weaknesses and incongruity, and who is a long-time agnostic who left the faith of his childhood decades ago, told me he appreciated the fact that I’m not afraid of the arguments of science, reason, and the like. I responded by saying, “My life is my apologetic. My words only explain what you
see in my life,” to which he replied, “You make me want to believe.”
This is no argument against rational arguments, rather, an argument that we pay attention to the context in which we present them.



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Ethereal

posted January 6, 2010 at 1:19 pm


I’m sorry for asking an unrelated question here.
I’m a rather new reader of this blog. I especially enjoy the entries on science & faith issues. I was assuming those were all written by Prof. McKnight, and wondering what (RJC) would stand for.
And then I just realized RJC was a different person, and s/he was the admin of this blog. But who is RJC? Does Prof. McKnight and RJC share the same view on some of controversial issues such as evolution and global warming?



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AHH

posted January 6, 2010 at 1:50 pm


Behe supplied the chapter on evolution?
Of course there are plenty of worse choices around, but I would have hoped for somebody (McGrath, Conway Morris, Darrel Falk, Loren Haarsma, George Murphy, Polkinghorne) who could have emphasized the compatibility between science and faith, rather than the neo-Paley gap-based argument that I expect would come from Behe.
I hope Behe at least clearly stated his acceptance of the basic picture of evolution (common descent) as he has in other places, so the chapter would not give aid and comfort to those (both Christian and non) who paint evolution and faith as irreconcilable enemies.



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Rick

posted January 6, 2010 at 2:03 pm


Ethereal-
RJS is a science professor at a major US university.
Although I think Scot agrees with much of the positions RJS takes, he does not always indicate his full take on those issues.



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Ethereal

posted January 6, 2010 at 2:32 pm


Rick,
Thank you for the response! I see, RJS is a science professor.
AHH,
I had the exact same reaction to “Behe on evolution.”
Yes, there could have been a worse choice, but Behe seems to be bad enough as a person who talks about evolution.
Dept. of Biological Sciences at Lehigh U. had to issue a statement that the department does not endorse Behe’s position on evolution.
http://www.lehigh.edu/~inbios/news/evolution.htm



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Arni Zachariassen

posted January 6, 2010 at 2:36 pm


“Behe on evolution” – Sigh… That’s a serious drawback to what looks like an otherwise excellent book. Why not a serious thinker like Philip Clayton or John Haught, who actually accept the science and genuinely engage it, instead of denying it and stacking dodgy theology against it?



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Ethereal

posted January 6, 2010 at 2:46 pm


I just realized that William Lane Craig is a fellow of the Discovery Institute’s Center for Science and Culture “which is the hub of the intelligent design movement”!!
I felt the same sorrow when Lee Strobel published “The Case for a Creator.”
Arming oneself with the ID theory to argue against atheists just wouldn’t work! Big sigh…



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RJS

posted January 6, 2010 at 3:05 pm


Ethereal,
Even I do not always know when Scot agrees with or disagrees with what I write – although he is clearly comfortable enough with it to let me continue writing.
With respect to Behe on evolution in this volume – I’d have to actually see what he wrote to judge, but I don’t have the book. Behe doesn’t deny evolution or common descent – he just thinks it must be “front-loaded”. I don’t think his proposal of irreducible complexity holds up to scrutiny – and complexity does not necessitate a “designer”.
(Although Arni – I don’t actually think Philip Clayton would be a very good substitute, for entirely different reasons.)
Note that one of the other contributors is John Polkinghorne – this is interesting. I enjoy reading Polkinghorne’s thinking on many of these issues.



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Randy G.

posted January 6, 2010 at 3:27 pm


RJS and Michael,
Thank you for the corrective. I agree with both of you regarding working several paths. I guess I was expressing some of my frustration with the all emphasis on the rational approach that I have encountered among some. I know that neither Scot nor RJS desire or promote that. I also ought to consider differences in learning styles since three of my brothers are schoolteachers.
Peace,
Randy G.



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Scot McKnight

posted January 6, 2010 at 3:59 pm


Ethereal and RJS,
I don’t disagree with RJS on science. I’m a listener when it comes to scientists and watch the scientists discuss.



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dopderbeck

posted January 6, 2010 at 4:41 pm


I haven’t seen the book, so I confess this is entirely and unfair reaction, but… Scot, your inclusion here, and Polkinghorne’s seem utterly baffling to me in light of the other contributors. I just don’t see Behe, Moreland, Habermas, WLC, Copan, et al. as very helpful voices in our culture, beyond a very basic level. When your science apologetic hinges on ID (Behe, Moreland) or YECism (Habermas), and your theodicy of hell hinges on Molinism (WLC, Copan), we have a problem. Sure, they all can frame some decent basic defenses of theism, and Habermas can make some good arguments about the credibility of the resurrection, but the good tidbits come with so much fundamentalist baggage….
What ever happened to the “we’re beyond all that” ethos of the emerging church movement?



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Luke

posted January 6, 2010 at 7:52 pm


You don’t have to be an atheist to see that Dawkins’ central argument fails miserably. I’m an atheist and I regularly rebut Dawkins on my blog. See, for example, my article Richard Dawkins and Naive Atheism.



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Phil W

posted January 6, 2010 at 10:43 pm


So far, five responses have mentioned Behe ? all were negative. On the other hand, I’m glad that the editors/publisher chose a contributor who believes that God had some role to play in the creation of life.
AHH wrote of the “gap-based argument that I expect would come from Behe.” I’m just curious: among Christian theistic evolutionists, does anyone believe that there is an argument for miracles (or for the Resurrection of Jesus in particular) that is not a God-of-the-gaps argument?
Arni mentioned “serious thinker[s] … who actually accept the science and genuinely engage it, instead of denying it and stacking dodgy theology against it.” Are you seriously contending that Michael Behe, William Dembski, and Stephen Meyer aren’t serious thinkers? What about accepting only what is true? What “dodgy theology” do you have in mind?
RJS wrote: “I don’t think his proposal of irreducible complexity holds up to scrutiny – and complexity does not necessitate a ‘designer’.” I’m interested in knowing whose scrutiny of irreducible complexity you’re referring to. Does the scrutiny hold up to scrutiny? AFAIK, no one in the ID community has argued that complexity necessitates a designer.



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Sacred Frenzy

posted January 6, 2010 at 10:48 pm


I, for one, am encouraged by the diversity of contributors to this volume, and I have found the likes of Behe, Moreland, Polkinghorne, et. al. helpful, even if I may not agree with everything they say.
Mere Christianity includes those who come with some “fundamentalist baggage.”



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Arni Zachariassen

posted January 7, 2010 at 1:22 am


“Arni mentioned “serious thinker[s] … who actually accept the science and genuinely engage it, instead of denying it and stacking dodgy theology against it.” Are you seriously contending that Michael Behe, William Dembski, and Stephen Meyer aren’t serious thinkers? What about accepting only what is true? What “dodgy theology” do you have in mind?”
Yes, I am. Intelligent Design is the death throes of creationism. They are stuck in antiquated notions about divine activity, and try to ram special creation where they perceive gaps in the science. Instead of taking the science seriously, they disregard and belittle it, all in the pursuit of finding/making a space where they can posit divine activity. This dichotomising is primitive, setting the creator up against creation. It isn’t, as Haught points out, deep enough, not integrated enough. Taking the doctrine of creation seriously means taking creation seriously. What does nature actually tell us about itself? All serious, relevant scientists agree: It all came about through the process of evolution. If that’s what it says, that’s what it says and, again, taking the doctrine of creation seriously, we need to work from that fact. Only then can we critically engage the science with our theology. But rather than do that, people like Behe have decided beforehand, on flimsy theological grounds, what they want creation to be and say and their (mis)treatment of the science shows that beyond any doubt. Scientifically too, but first and foremost theologically, it is dodgy.



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Phil W

posted January 7, 2010 at 11:04 pm


You claim that Intelligent Design theorists “try to ram special creation where they perceive gaps in the science.” Do you ever “ram special creation where [you] perceive gaps in the science”? Perhaps at the origin of the known universe, or at the miracles of Jesus or his Resurrection? Also, an inference to the best explanation is not the same thing as a “gap.”
“All serious, relevant scientists agree: It all came about through the process of evolution.” What is your definition of “serious, relevant scientists”? Is your statement true only as a tautology? How would you classify Behe? (a) Serious, but not relevant. (b) Relevant, but not serious. (c) Neither serious nor relevant. How would you classify Jed Macosko, Scott Minnich, Jonathan Wells, Dean Kenyon, Douglas Axe, etc.?
It seems quite possible that you “have decided beforehand, on flimsy theological grounds, what [you] want creation to be and say.” You have replaced their “antiquated notions about divine activity” with new and improved (?) notions about divine activity. “This dichotomising is primitive, setting the creator up against creation.” What do you mean by “against”? Is the potter “against” the clay? Or do you mean that ID isn’t sufficiently pantheistic? Or something else?



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William

posted August 25, 2010 at 2:31 pm


God is great, God is good: why belief in God is responsible & reasonable edited by William Lane Craig (Talbot) & Chad Meister (Bethel College) is a frontal response to the New Atheists. The title itself is a play on Christopher Hitchens? book God is Not Great. Craig and Meister have marshaled some of the best Evangelical philosophers and apologists to undertake this task. The book is divided into four parts, 1). God is, 2). God is great, 3). God is good and 4). Why it matters. Overall, the book is unevenly written. Part one is the strongest section of the book. Craig?s refutation of Dawkins? atheistic arguments is best demonstrated in his treatment of the cosmological and especially the teleological argument where he expounds the ?fine tuning? of the universe. Part two again takes up the teleological argument. Here John Polkinghorne and Michael J. Behe rightly hold to the theory of evolution but argue that the probability of our universe existing in its present form is best explained within a theistic context. Part three is decidedly disappointing. Chad Meister sidesteps the ?Problem of Evil? almost entirely after stating that the ?logical problem of evil? is indefensible. If Meister has the deductive form of the ?Problem of Evil? in mind he has not addressed the inductive form of the argument which the majority of philosophers recognize as a major problem for theism. Part four is a ?pastoral? appeal that is unlikely to convince the atheist or agnostic to change their mind. In conclusion, this book is not great, nor particularly good, but simply fair.



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