Against all Gods Paperback – 17 Sep 2010
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"Rather than engaging in specific critiques of the new atheism, Phil Johnson and John Mark Reynolds add their voices to the increasing scholarly chorus that decries the real oppressor in these and related discussions: unexamined naturalistic presuppositions that reject alternative ideas without a hearing. Declaring that uncritical attitudes and a lack of appreciation for ancient writings lie behind many recent criticisms of Christianity, the authors call for open discussion of the relevant issues. This volume is a treat to read, featuring a succinct, straightforward and easily digestible text that successfully treats issue after issue."--Gary R. Habermas, Distinguished Research Professor, Liberty University and Theological Seminary
"This superb work by Phillip E. Johnson and John Mark Reynolds is both an informed response to the new atheism and simultaneously an invitation for ongoing conversation with those who question the truth claims of the Christian faith. I have longed to have a volume like this one to share with my colleagues in the world of higher education. Against All Gods is timely, convincing, readable and accessible; it is a privilege to recommend this little book to a wide audience, with the hope that it will find its way into the hands of university students across the land."--David S. Dockery, president, Union University
"Johnson and Reynolds are provocateurs in the best sense of that word, and Against All Gods is sure to arouse considerable debate and reflection. This is not another apologetic response to the new atheists. It is a cultural analysis and critique of their claims. It reads like a detective novel and conveys powerful, important ideas to the reader. I couldn't put it down."--J. P. Moreland, Distinguished Professor of Philosophy, Biola University, and author of The God Question
"What a wonderful little book. Johnson and Reynolds offer a clear, readable and intelligent critique of the new atheism. But they offer something more: joy, hope and love. You get both the reason and the romance of the Christian story. So the new atheism comes across not so much as wrong, but as one-dimensional and childish, a sort of intellectual pornography claiming to be true love. Johnson and Reynolds's complementary combination of intellectual and theological virtues is a fire that both warms and purifies."--Francis J. Beckwith, professor of philosophy and church-state studies, Baylor University
"Pastors need to consider buying this book for every young person in their church who will start college in the fall."--Paul Schperle, Enrichment, Fall 2011
"For those prepared to enter the dialog, an opportunity has emerged to engage in conversation. . . Against All Gods is a concise manual to help the reader become better equipped to intelligently defend the faith."--Jim Miller, The Daily Sentinel, May 8, 2010
"In railing against faith, some atheists become the very thing they speak out against. Against All Gods discusses the modern atheist movement, bringing forth a scholarly debate and how many atheists are hurting the cause arguing with weak or false information, putting religion to the stake a bit too harshly. Against All Gods is a fascinating read, and a top pick for any intrigued with the modern religious debate."--The Midwest Book Review, June 2010
About the Author
John Mark Reynolds is director of Torrey Honors Institute at Biola University in La Mirada, California.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Phillip Johnson writes (p.33): "Scientists in particular have to be men and women of faith... To be successful, scientists have to learn not to allow difficulties to destroy their confidence... Yet there is a limit. Sometimes repeated failure is a sign that reaching a goal by the means one has been using truly is impossible... Alchemists had faith that they could transform base metals to gold, but their persistence after lifetimes of failure made them seem ridiculous rather than heroic. I sometimes think of alchemy when reading of the constantly unsuccessful efforts of modern scientists to determine how nonliving chemicals combined by natural means on the early Earth to form the first living cells."
Correspondingly, he writes (p.34): "many scientists today have an absolute faith in naturalism". "On this assumption every natural phenomenon, like the origin of life, for example, is securely known to be explicable on the basis of natural causes accessible to scientific investigation--some combination of chemical laws and chance, to be more specific."
I may add further thoughts here. "[C]ombination of chemical laws and chance" is itself confusing, inasmuch as "chance" is equally the expression of such laws. However, science's presumption of "natural" causes as confined to physical or chemical laws consists of an enormous oversight. The very subject of life concerned here exhibits a natural phenomenon unexplained by only physical or chemical laws, which are understood as undirected and therefore excluding the possibility of goal-directedness, purpose, in nature. That phenomenon, which in fact distinguishes life, is the property of being directed at the goal of self-preservation, in contrast to the lifeless. It is a characteristic totally overlooked in the disputes, perhaps because it is right under our noses, and I have been trying to call attention to it though it remains a blind spot.
Author Reynolds is exceptionally candid in saying about themselves as authors (p.113): "Both of us have our doubts..." Perhaps their arguments are too narrow, by concerning Christians versus atheists. It would be more inclusive to speak about theism opposite atheism. Then there is no need to defend a particular faith, but a general concept of God as one who has goals, purposes, for his creatures. The preceding should help in this direction.
For several years now, the "New Atheists" have highlighted what they believe are the "difficulties" in theistic worldviews, especially the Christian theistic worldview. For many of them, rationality is more or less identical to the deliverances of science, and what science delivers most clearly is evolution. Since evolution explains the biological complexity of the universe without reference to God, God is an unnecessary hypothesis. Continuing belief in him, then, is an exercise of irrational faith.
Johnson and Reynolds push back against these conclusions by pointing out several difficulties within the "Darwinian worldview" itself. Among other things, they point out that faith is not irrational. Rather, it is human, a necessary component for all human intellectual endeavors. Further, the deliverances of science cannot determine once for all the nonexistence of God since those deliverances shift over time. Also, if the Darwinian worldview acts as a "universal acid" on traditional beliefs - the phrase is Daniel Dennett's - then it acts as a universal acid on all beliefs. If there is an evolutionary explanation for belief in God, then there is also an evolutionary explanation for belief in evolution. If the evolutionary explanation invalidates the former, it invalidates the latter as well.
One needn't agree with Johnson and Reynolds' Christian theism, as I do, to appreciate the difficulties with atheism they raise in this small book. But surely at least one of the goals of a liberal arts education should be self-criticism: knowing what's doubtful about one's own position. For years, criticism of theism has been an implicit and explicit part of a liberal arts education on many college campuses. Taking the first steps toward criticism of atheism in the same way would be a sign of educational progress.
The new atheist movement is on the offensive. Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris and Christopher Hitchen's are not just atheists - but they have become evangelical atheists. They have moved from not believing in God, to actively trying to bring down theism as a rational position. They have moved from saying religion is a waste of time, to religion is evil.
Yet the authors of this book argue that while they disagree with the conclusions of the new atheists, Dawkins, Harris and Hitchin's are asking the right questions. They are bringing the issue to the forefront. And this is a GOOD thing for the authors of this book. Why? Because it will force universities and scientists to engage with the claims of the new atheists. Dawkins especially, has pushed the boundary of what science is beyond the comfort zone of many scientists. Would the scientific world endorse Dawkins claim (scientifically) that the logic of Darwinism supports atheism, or that the answer to cosmic fine tuning is in fact that there are a huge number of alternative universes? Surely this has left the discipline of empirical science and entered philosophical speculation.
For me this book throws down a challenge to the scientific and academic world. The challenge is - "Please - engage with New Atheism, and it's claims vigorously. Make Dawkin, Harris and Hitchin's defend their position. Compare it with scientists who accept intelligent design as well as the claims and teachings of Christianity and then make your mind up. Please, let's have an open, fair, deep and impartial examination."
As the authors suggest, if this were to happen, this will mean that for the first time new atheists will have to defend their position rather than merely taking skeptical shots at christianity.
Very clever! And Highly recommended!
Though this book is a response to the charges leveled by Dawkins, Hitchens, Harris and the like, you will not find a point by point rebuttal. Rather, this book is what Johnson and Reynolds consider their contribution to the conversation. After all, they point out, "although they tend to give the wrong answers, they also tend to raise the right questions". This book is written in a very accessible manner and will make a good introduction to the conversation for all but those most unfamiliar with the topics at hand.
If there is one thing that complicates the Johnson/Reynolds side of the conversation, it's in the co-writing of the book. Phillip E. Johnson writes the introduction and chapters one through five then hands it off to John Mark Reynolds for three chapters before returning for the epilogue. There is certainly a shift in style and expertise--not for the worse, but it certainly breaks the flow.
In not simply answering a laundry list of challenges from the new atheists, Johnson and Reynolds refuse to let the terms of the debate be set for them. All in all, Johnson and Reynolds have made a well-reasoned defense for the continued conversation between the two camps.
This was a free review book provided by InterVarsity Press.