Lee Strobel’s: The Case for Christ – a Review

Strobel, Leigh. The Case for Christ: A Journalist’s Personal Investigation of the Evidence for Jesus. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2000.

Strobel’s book is one of the best known lay-level works on apologetics. Strobel is an atheist who converted to Christianity while a crime journalist for the Chicago Tribune. His wife was converted to Christ first, and he began studying the Bible to try to prove her wrong, only proving the old saw, “What do you call an atheist who sits down and carefully studies the resurrection of Jesus Christ? Answer: A Christian.”

Strobel has written a number of books on Christian apologetics, and this is his first. All of his works are a series of interviews with major scholars related to particular fields to specific topics. The book is well organized and easy to read.

I personally divide my approach to the case for Christ into three phases, the first phase is the evidentiary phase – demonstrating the value of the gospels as historical accounts. The second, is the rebuttal phase, where I deal with explanations provided by other writers and the final phase is the conclusion. The case for Christ is a “first phase” work, and does an excellent job of communicating the basics though there are a few technical areas (such as the fancies of the documentary hypothesis) that might have deserved a little more space. On the plus side, Strobel does an excellent job of simplifying the case to the lay level without oversimplifying – he doesn’t simplify for example, by leaving out important details.

The organization of the chapters is topical, and are well written.

Conclusions: Strobel’s The Case for Christ is a great book, while there are areas I wish that Storbel went deeper, his work is one of the best lay level discussions of the evidence for the gospels. Strobel should not be considered the end of the discussion when it comes to Christian apologetics, but it is a great place to start.

Jerry Bergman – Hitler and the Nazi Darwinian Worldview

Jerry Bergman Hitler and the Nazi Darwinian Worldview. Joshua Press, 2012.

Bergman’s Book Hitler and the Nazi Darwinian Worldview is an entry on the lay level discussion to a long running debate about the influences on Nazi Germany. His book is ultimately a series of miniature biographies focusing on several leaders of the 3rd Reich, and the influence of Darwinism on their thoughts. Before going into the usual format for a review, (strengths, weaknesses, and conclusion) I want to note ahead of time that this work is more useful for Christians on the defense than offense. Richard Dawkins, and other members of the Atheist lunatic fringe (http://apologiafides.wordpress.com/2014/01/14/moral-argument-from-atrocities-5/), consistently argue that the Nazi’s were Christians. Because modern Darwinists no longer make the same racist assertions as they did in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, this is no longer a useful primary argument (my primary argument being found in our recent series on the tragedy of Compromise).

Positives Bergman is one of the few writers to accurately portray the reaction of nominally Christian organizations to the Reich – most writers either focus on those who collaborated with the Reich or those who opposed Hitler. Specifically, when one reads the secular discussions on the Reich, one would assume the collaborators were theological evangelicals, in reality, most of the leaders of the Christian denominations in Germany were influenced primarily by enlightenment era and existentialist philosophers and tried to reinterpret the Bible to fit these philosophers’ viewpoints – this is a type of theology I warned against in our recent series on the tragedy of compromise, a group I consistently refer to as the religious Left. Bergman’s work is heavily footnoted and researched, but is highly readable.

Negatives – Because of Bergman’s focus, the book is a bit repetitious in the later chapters – one can almost anticipate where the chapter will go.

His focus on Darwinism, while valid, would be better in a more technical work. There is no discussion of Wagner, theosophy, and German Neo-paganism. Besides the questions about the extent to which the Nazis were involved with the occult, there was also little discussion of the influence of Hegel, Nietsche, or any of the other enlightenment thinkers connected to the Reich; while these thinkers were Darwinists they were far more, and far worse.

Conclusion: While I discussed the negatives more than the positives, I liked this book, and recommend it. Take the negatives as a discussion of things to keep in mind, while reading the book, rather than a reason not to read the book. With the proviso of its usefulness above, this is a highly useful book.

Sunderland and the Enigma

Sunderland, Luther. Darwin’s Enigma: Ebbing the Tide of Naturalism. Green Forest, AR: Masters Books, 1998. Reprint 2002.

In preparation for our last piece on the tragedy of compromise, we’re going to republish two pieces from the Quartermaster’s tent. The first piece of these is a review of Sunderland’s book the Darwin Enigma. What I appreciate in Sunderland is where he is rare – he demonstrates and analyzes the philosophical elements of the discussion. Discovering him was a joy, because of my own work in a similar vein.

Sunderland’s book is an important aging work in the Creation-Evolution debate. The work is technical, and spends much of its focus on the failings and gaps in evolutionary theory. The work, as recognized by the title, focuses on evolution in large part due to its relationship to modern atheistic philosophy. Sunderland’s work is solid and technical for its day. He spends a great deal of time explaining – not those comments made by Biblical creationism about evolution, but those outside of our camp have said on the matter – including discussions between biologists and mathematicians. Among other things, Sunderland has sought to acquaint himself with the persons involved in the various debates. For example, he notes questions about Stephen Jay Gould’s Punctuated Equilibria as being at least partially derived from Marxist dialectical materialism.

Analysis: Southerland is a highly technical work. As my training is not in the hard sciences, I will not discuss his accuracy or inaccuracy. As the theory of evolution shifts regularly, this book, due to its age, may not be the best primary source. Southerland’s work was probably in production at the same time as Behe’s better known Darwin’s Black Box, so issues of molecular biology are not discussed in the same terms as Behe presents. Sunderland’s work also does not take the same steps to note when arguments are technical. However, Darwin’s Enigma hits the note of evidence and philosophy in the debate over evolution that many sources do not discuss: the question of the quality of the evidence. He notes this not only from the standpoint of Creationists’ argumentation, but he also notes prominent scientists who have likewise noted the evidentiary problems in the evolutionary theory. For example, he spends quite a bit of time on Karl Popper, one of the major names in Philosophy of Science. Popper is no young earth Creationist, but he refers to the theory of evolution as a metaphysical experiment – praising the experiment as a valuable one, but not calling it “science”. He also notes how many theories are related to evidentiary problems; for example, Goldberg’s Hopeful monster theory, or Punctuated Equillibria are precisely formed because the fossil record does not demonstrate gradual changes, but rapid change over a very short period of time. He goes on to note other issues that are outside of my domain, but these evidences alone are powerful information that the academics don’t tell their students. Sunderland’s research is erudite, beginning with Darwin and his sources.

Conclusions: If you are looking for an easy read or an introduction to the debate over evolution versus creation, this book is not for you. This book is useful if you are looking to expand your knowledge and understanding of the philosophical underpinnings of the debate.

Ken Ham: the lie – a review

Ham, Ken. The Lie: Evolution/Millions of Years. Green Forest, AR: Master books, 1987. Revised Edition, Green Forest, AR: Master Books, 2012.

I first encountered Ken Ham’s The Lie: Evolution when I was a Freshman or Sophmore in Bible College. I thoroughly enjoyed the book, and found it to be incredibly useful. It affected my understanding of Biblical Creationism and though Ham did not use the term in the original edition, it was my first real introduction to presuppositional case-making (see on the term “presuppositional”). In the time since that first reading, I have grown and my thinking deepened, the new expanded and revised edition of The Lie has likewise deepened and I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book.

Analysis: Ham’s revision updates the book for its appropriateness to today’s issues. This work is not a scientific analysis as one sees from Michael Behe’s Darwin’s Black Box or Luther Sunderland’s Darwin’s Enigma, nor should it be a substitute for these works. Rather, this book focuses on interpretational issues, and why Genesis matters. In discussing the issue of Evolution, the influence of philosophical naturalism is felt on what Ham refers to as “historical science,” as opposed to “operational science” (which appears to be the science based on the scientific method that we are familiar with from our high school textbooks). The Lie demonstrates how evolution and the concept of “millions of years,” “molecules to man,” “Goo to you,” etc. is the primary foundation for the attack on Christianity by the modern world.

One thing that I thoroughly enjoyed was the updated castle diagram. While I agree with Ken Ham’s assertions about the centrality of Genesis to Christian teaching and the importance of defending the creation accounts (since this is the chief offensive strategy of the modern pagan worldview), I have long viewed the resurrection as the central evidentiary foundation for Christianity (our positive case) and creation science as a point where we are being attacked (a negative case). Ham’s updated diagram (which still focuses on the modern theory of millions of years) demonstrates his argument applies to all of God’s truth, and presents a point of unification for multiple apologetic strategies. One could truly apply his discussion to more than the assault on God’s prerogative as Creator, and it becomes therefore more useful to understand for all areas of case making.

Conclusions: Ham’s book alone is insufficient for answering the attacks by Philosophical Naturalists. However, Ham provides a strategy for understanding the issue as no other writer today. This is absolutely a must read for all believers, and is perhaps the first book that all believers should read on this debate because of the strategy and its explanation of the importance of the issue. Because Ham roots his discussion in the Biblical worldview, his message is sorely needed for understanding the importance of Genesis.