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God is Good, God is Great

Author: William Lane Craig and Chad Meister (Eds.)
Published By: IVP (Nottingham)
Pages: 265
Price: £12.99
ISBN: 978 1 84474 417 6

Reviewed by Philip Joy.

This is a rather good piece of apologetics which I think would make a timely addition to your personal library, or to the church bookstall for the more intellectually-minded congregant or enquirer.

The format of the book is to take some of the key charges thrown at Christianity by the mainly scientific ‘New Atheist’ movement (e.g. Dawkins’ The God Delusion) and to provide some rational and straight-forward answers to their invective, in the process proving not only that ‘God Is’ - exists - but that he is both ‘Great’ and ‘Good’. At a time when the opponents of Christianity are proclaiming on television and in popular paperbacks that God either doesn’t exist, or that if he does, then he’s powerless anyway; and that anyhow faith is a force for nothing but evil in the world, this book ought to be a great help to Gospel proclamation both public and private.

Part One begins with three chapters on the existence of God. The first chapter takes us straight to the key arguments for the existence of God such as the Cosmological argument, the Moral argument, and something called the Ontological argument (not previously known to this reviewer). All these are cited by Dawkins as disproving God. Patiently, William Lane Craig explains what scientists and philosophers of all persuasions have always considered sound methods of argument, and then he shows that according to these, Dawkins’ proofs are simply faulty and at odds with his own scientific principles.

In Part Two the book responds to the challenge that God, if he exists, is not omni-anything. An engaging essay by John Polkinghorne provides an example. He eloquently describes the fine-tuning of the universe (gob-smacking up-to-date-science sermon material!), before comparing Naturalist and Theist explanations of the phenomenon. Naturalists, it seems, can only explain fine-tuning by the ‘mulitiverse’ hypothesis which resorts to 16-dimensional String Theory to propose an infinity of universes in which one is bound by chance to be fine-tuned for carbon-based life. Theism on the other hand “finds an unforced explanation already available within its overall worldview” (p.72). Theism is thus more scientifically rational, and God is, ergo, all the greater.

A taste of Part Three may be provided by Alister McGrath’s Essay “Is Religion Evil?” This is a particularly important question today with violent fundamentalism - Muslim, Zionist, Christian and Hindu - distorting popular opinion at a sub-rational level, so that the humanist position plays rhetorically with its audience as if  “...lurking within every believer lies a potential terrorist; get rid of religion and the world will be a safer place” (p.120). The New Atheists examine sacred texts completely out of context, however, and McGrath gives them short shrift. He shows how extremism is not a defining characteristic of religions, but of binary opposites, a good many of which would still exist were the world’s religions to disappear overnight! He proves the New Atheists weak on relevant sociological analysis of, say, suicide bombers; and he reminds us that religions really do differ in their approach to violence, and cannot just be lumped together. Along with chapters looking at the good or evil of Old Testament laws and the problem of a good God creating a hell, this is a very rewarding central section.

The book ends with an extended conclusion homing in on Christianity in particular and asking, from a number of angles, why all this matters, dealing with such matters as the notion of personal revelation, what Jesus might really be like, the eyewitness accounts of the resurrection and a final evangelistic chapter called “Why faith in Jesus really matters” - necessary for enquirers of the intellectual type who might just not take that personal step.

The writers of the book say they aim to provide “a well-argued resource, one that is irenic in spirit...a positive engagement in the ongoing dialogue...” offering readers the opportunity to “follow the truth wherever it leads.” This is exactly what it does. Every chapter has an ample bibliography for further reading, and the review of The God Delusion by Plantinga in an Appendix proves that to be forewarned is to be forearmed. Not for a good while have I read such an accessible, well-argued, well-directed and above all concise piece of apologetics. My only initial worry was with the cover. Don’t judge a book by its cover, they say, but we do, and solid scarlet reminded me of a dry ‘Doctoral Dissertations’ publication, but this was soon dispelled upon opening the text. I’d give this one five stars!

Philip Joy

Specialist in Old Testament narrative and typology

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You are reading Issue 50 of Ministry Today, published in November 2010.

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