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S. Wilde (London)

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God's Undertaker: Has Science Buried God?
God's Undertaker: Has Science Buried God?
by John Lennox
Edition: Paperback

46 of 56 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Scientific and Philosophical Defence of Rational Faith, 30 April 2008
Possibly the best thing about this book is the foundation from which it approaches the current debate. Lennox identifies the real confrontation as not being Science vs. Christianity (a fundamental category mistake), but as Materialistic Naturalism vs. Christian Theism. Lennox provides some great evidence for those who actually want to think for themselves about the direction in which science points.

In the opening chapters Lennox surveys the leading theories in cosmology and physics to show that on the macro scale our universe shouts "design" much louder than "random chance". The fact of a beginning to all things, the fine tuning of many independent constants, the beauty of mathematical formulae and many other pieces of evidence are amassed against the hypothesis of naturalistic materialism. The conclusion that an intelligent mind is behind the universe is seen at least to be a plausible, rational explanation.

Lennox then sails in to the stormy waters of Biology and Biochemistry to see what the unfolding world of DNA and chemical microstructures has to say to us. He draws on his vast knowledge of mathematics and information theory to shows the incredible implausibility of the first mutating self-replicator arising by purely by chance. He shows that whilst random mutation and natural selection can certainly carry some weight, they crumble under the full force of atheism which demands they be the full explanation for all the specified complexity in the world.

In part this book is a refutation of various writings of Richard Dawkins (both are lecturers at Oxford University), but it goes far beyond that. It shines light on the poor philosophy that lurks in the shadows of the recent New Atheist writings. It deals in broad terms with the limits of science and the epistemological ignorance of those who insist, with Bertrand Russell, that the only source of knowledge is scientific knowledge.

Lennox also spends a long time identifying and avoiding a "God of the gaps" approach to Christian apologetics. His objection to this form of lazy intellectualism comes across loud and clear. Lennox highlights the "bad gaps" that we don't know the answer to because science hasn't advance well enough and refuses to simply posit "God did it" as the explanation. But he also shows a number of "good gaps" where atheistic materialism fails because of what we do know, not what we don't know. Lennox also highlights the ironic "evolution of the gaps" dogma of those committed to a naturalistic worldview who meet any deficiency in our current understanding with the creedal cry of "evolution did it"!

In summary, I know of no better contribution to the atheism / theism debate than this book. It will provide a great resource for those wishing to defend Theism. And it will be a challenge to those who can sufficiently divorce themselves from their atheistic presuppositions to objectively evaluate the evidence.
Comment Comments (10) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Sep 8, 2009 1:55 AM BST

The Language of God: A Scientist Presents Evidence for Belief
The Language of God: A Scientist Presents Evidence for Belief
by Francis Collins
Edition: Paperback
Price: £8.99

88 of 95 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Good, as far as it goes., 19 Mar. 2008
This book is both interesting and frustrating. It is interesting because as a prominent theistic scientist (who took over leadership of the Human Genome Project from a prominent atheistic scientist) Collins has a unique vantage point from which to contribute to the science / faith debate. It's frustrating because, in this reviewer's opinion, Collins should have gone so much further in engaging more fully in the wider Christianity / Atheism debate.

The book's subtitle "A Scientist Presents Evidence for Belief" is misleading. The pro-belief argument rests almost exclusively on the Moral Law whilst evidenced-based reasoning fills relatiely few of the book's pages. The reliance on philosophical argument is odd as one might expect the main evidence for belief from such a prominent scientist to be scientific in nature (Collins does touch on the Cosmological and Fine Tuning Arguments but these do not come across as central evidential pillars). However this reflects the thrust of the book - science doesn't land blows for theism or atheism - science should not even be in the fight.

Consequently I would say that this book does not add a great deal to the Christian / Atheist debate. Collins surveys that battle and seeks to pull back science from the front line. However I struggle to see how that is consistent with the worldview of someone who believes that the entire natural world has been created by the agency of a personal God, in order to declare his glory (which Collins must believe, as a self-confessed Evangelical). Science, as the study of God's creation, should be a powerful apologetic tool for those who have eyes to see, and thus I would recommend the book of another evangelical Scientist - John Lennox's "God's Undertaker" - above this book.

I found "The Language of God" frustrating for a number of additional reasons - at times Collins appears self aggrandising; in other places he seems to be humbly pleading with the wider scientific community to continue to take him seriously despite being a Christian (he spends much time criticising and distancing himself from his Christian brothers and sisters who hold different scientific views); his personal testimony chapter makes much of CS Lewis but little of the Lord Jesus.

However the book has many interesting and positive aspects. The general scientific education one receives from its pages is fascinating, irrespective of any religious connotations. The bioethics appendix is well thought through and raises helpful questions. It's fascinating to see how someone who appears to adopt everything the scientific establishment tells him from both within and outside his specialist field remains able to maintain an evangelical Christian worldview. It does a good job in presenting one way in which science and Christian theism can peacefully co-habit - Theistic Evolution or BioLogos in the author's own terminology (whether this is the correct answer is for the reader to decide). It is a well timed rebuke to believers who are tempted to use science as an excuse to give up on following Jesus Christ. It's reassuring to those who find the pseudo-scientific ramblings of Dawkins et al compelling. Ultimately this is a well intentioned book seeking to call an end to hostilities between science and the Christian faith and probably worth a read.
Comment Comments (4) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jun 16, 2015 5:39 PM BST

The Christ Files: How Historians Know What They Know About Jesus
The Christ Files: How Historians Know What They Know About Jesus
by John Dickson
Edition: Paperback

9 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An Excellent Overview of Mainstream Historical Scholarship, 3 Jan. 2008
In this book John Dickson does an amazing thing. In only 100 pages he surveys the vast field of mainstream historical and New Testament scholarship and explains how we know what we know about Jesus of Nazereth. For those whose only contact with New Testament scholarship (most of the population in my experience) is the sensational claims of extreme sceptics, this book is a useful corrective. In its pages we're introduced to the proponents of some unorthodox views - the astrologer and gay rights activist who believed that Jesus was a homosexual; or the professor of German who believed that Jesus never existed. The author explains why those sorts of theories have never made it in to mainstream thought and would never survive scholarly critique. He presents the evidence for the historical Jesus that we have from pagan, Jewish and Christian sources and outlines the tools by which Historians separate truth from fiction. The reader is left able to make an objective decision on the validity of the New Testament accounts for themselves.

As an evangelical I appreciated that this is, by design, not an apologetic book. The author's aim is not to present anything that is historically possible on the assumption that the New Testament is true, but rather to come at the issue from the perspective of an objective, mainstream historian. The results are eye-opening, refreshing and faith-enhancing. A "must read" for believers and sceptics alike.
Comment Comments (3) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Nov 13, 2012 9:42 AM GMT

The Dawkins Letters: Challenging Atheist Myths
The Dawkins Letters: Challenging Atheist Myths
by David Robertson
Edition: Paperback

17 of 27 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A well researched and well written response., 3 Jan. 2008
In this small book David Robertson takes Dawkins to task over a number of factual and logical errors present in The God Delusion. He does this through a series of letters that are jovial and engaging to read. The response to Dawkins' main argument against theism - "who designed the designer" - was especially appealing. This book deserves to be read by all who have an interest in the current debate if for no other reason than to see how easy it is for an "ordinary" person (with no advanced scientific or philosophical training) to take Dawkins' shabby arguments to pieces. A well researched and much needed response.

The God Delusion
The God Delusion
by Richard Dawkins
Edition: Paperback

15 of 54 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars "New Atheism" Reaches a New Low, 5 Nov. 2007
This review is from: The God Delusion (Paperback)
I don't know what is more concerning - the fact that this is the best book that the UK's leading atheist could produce, or the fact that so many reviewers on this site appear to believe that "The God Delusion" really is the best book ever written. I'm glad I read it before I came across some published reviews which really serve to highlight the dearth of logic and reasoning prevalent throughout, or I may not have bothered. This book really has been taken to the woodshed by atheist and theist reviewers alike. To quote the London Review of Books "Imagine someone holding forth on biology whose only knowledge of the subject is the Book of British Birds, and you have a rough idea of what it feels like to read Richard Dawkins on theology." And Prospect, a magazine usually sympathetic to Dawkins, writes "It has been obvious for years that Richard Dawkins had a fat book on religion in him, but who would have thought him capable of writing one this bad? Incurious, dogmatic, rambling and self-contradictory, it has none of the style or verve of his earlier works."

You don't have to be religious to dislike this book - just educated about religion and philosophy and capable of seeing beyond the rhetorical sophistry Dawkins employs. Open-minded fans of Dawkins' earlier works will be sorely disappointed - this is a real low point for him as an author and for the New Atheist movement as a whole. This book will continue to attract a following amongst those who find that it confirms their preconceptions, but by any objective measure, this is not a good book.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Nov 5, 2007 8:50 PM GMT

The Dawkins Delusion?: Atheist Fundamentalism and the Denial of the Divine
The Dawkins Delusion?: Atheist Fundamentalism and the Denial of the Divine
by Alister McGrath
Edition: Paperback
Price: £7.99

23 of 60 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Fitting Response to a Vacuous Book, 5 Nov. 2007
A number of the reviewers complain that this book is thin on evidence for traditional Christian beliefs. They don't seem to realise that it's not meant to be a comprehensive apologetic tome (or they do, and just want to mark down the book). This is a small, focussed response to a large, vacuous rant. Dawkins presents very little to engage with, beyond the rhetoric and hyperbole that we've come to expect from the "new atheists". The McGraths do an admirable job in highlighting the logical inconsistencies and philosophical blunders made by Dawkins in "The God Delusion". If you're looking for more general apologetics try something like "The Case for Christ". If you're looking to see Dawkins' sophistry exposed, this is a good place to start.
Comment Comments (8) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jun 9, 2009 4:40 PM BST

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