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Customer Review

on 23 May 2012
Lennox propagates the erroneous belief that scientific reason and advances were brought about by Christianity and the bible itself. It is about time that this fallacy is squashed. We have the years from 40AD, to approx 1550 where there were 1,500 years of Christianity without a scientific revolution occurring. Why did it happen when it happened? Perhaps it is merely a coincidence that it occurred in a Christian culture merely because factors other than religion helped kick-start it. This viewpoint totally blots out all of the advances of the Greeks as well as ancient and contemporary Muslim scientists. For a complete debunking of this viewpoint please read Chapter 15: Christianity Was Not Responsible for Modern Science by Dr. Richard Carrier in Christian Delusion: Why Faith Fails.

Lennox states that one of God's first commandments is to name all the animals. Thus we are led to believe that this is proof that the bible is true. Quite how we were to describe our encounters with animals without naming them without God's facile commandment is not understood. I can't help but think he said this as some bizarre tongue-in-cheek humour. But his writing doesn't convey humour at all.

John explains the various nuances of faith and how that word isn't really descriptive enough to convey all its separate meanings. I say that what we need in this debate is a new vocabulary to focus our attentions. John readily agrees with me and he quotes the new atheists (when they are questioned further) that faith requires evidence - or a probability weighting (as I would prefer to name it). John lambasts Baggini (a fellow philosopher) for believing that Napolean fought the battle of waterloo when Baggini could not have seen this. And John rightly says Baggini didn't see Jesus perform a miracle either and the evidence - on the face of it - is the same. Why should one person choose to believe and the other not based on historical evidence? Later in the book John will list the sources available to the New Testament historian but he will not once mention textual criticism and how the copyists often altered the text to suit their particular theological viewpoint. I doubt if anyone is altering the historical text for Napolean. Lennox says that the evidence for Jesus is not only the miracles themselves but the signs within the miracles. For instance, when Jesus feeds the multitude he states that I am the "bread" of life. And this is a sign of evidence which encourages faith for Lennox!

Lennox advances that atheism is a philosophy and a worldview and a faith. If he believes this then he must also concede that atheism needs a better vocabulary. Atheism isn't a worldview or a faith or a philosophy it is merely the negation of a particular belief - nothing more, nothing less. Lennox has wasted a chapter arguing against a falsehood (that atheism is a faith). Secular humanism is a worldview (and maybe a faith). I do wish he would realise this and get over it. Lennox should also realise that he is an atheist in respect to the God of the Jews and the God of Islam and the polytheistic gods of Hinduism. Lennox must concede according to his own reasoning that he is an atheist as well. He should also concede that the Bible and the Koran are a journey out of polytheism and into monotheism. The Koran states that Jesus was not divine and the New Testament often talks about other false gods. Lennox has believed one over the other based on the accident of being born in a Christian culture.

Lennox says that atheism is empty because ultimately the wronged are never righted and that Christianity provides ultimate justice. Quite what the justice is and how it is metered out is never mentioned. Lennox obviously doesn't want to guess the mind of God - I wish he would he might find some disturbing doubts entering his faith. Christianity promises to burn the wrongdoers in hell forever. The punishment does not ever fit the crime. This isn't justice - it's warped and ultimately barbaric. What I don't understand is when there is justice in the following situation. Two people named Joyce and Sidney meet in Heaven. Joyce says to Sidney, "Hey weren't you the guy that raped and killed me". Sidney replies, "Yeah, that was me. I repented and said that I believed and here I am". Joyce says to God, "Where's my justice that was a horrible experience and a horrible death. God replies you've got it - you're with me now". I fail to see justice.

Lennox conveniently skirts over the issues that cause his Christian faith concern. He knows that if he dwells on the problems too much that a conflict may arise. For example Lennox never tries to harmonise evolution and the fall of man. The nearest he can come to harmonise this is by saying that: most scientists believe that homosapiens descended from a lower life form. Most scientists! John spent a whole chapter arguing for the sinfulness of man (because of the act of scrumping) and didn't once try to harmonise this with science.

John uses the appeal to authority fallacy to promote his arguments. Be careful to spot that the authority he appeals to is his own. He says, "I believe in heaven and I believe that in heaven there is perfection. And I say this as a scientist!" In his writings he rubbishes Hawking who said that philosophy is dead by (quite rightly) arguing that Hawking is employing philosophy to say that philosophy is dead. Lennox isn't employing science to say that heaven is real - or even philosophy - he is employing Christian Theology. To try to conflate - in an underhand way - science and Christian Theology is disingenuous.

John mentions penal substitution theory and uses the imaginary triangle of people named X,Y and Z. X wrongs Y says John. Z has neither the power nor the link to X to forgive X and give justice to Y. This is true of three humans but imagine if Z is God; God has the power and the link to both of them to forgive and to meter out justice. No, no, no John. Always question, always think one step further, please. Here's another triangle - well more a square this time. W (Jim) wrongs X (Bill) and in doing so through the act of sin wrongs Y (Jesus) and Z (God). Z (God) has to forgive W (Jim) by punishing Y (Jesus). But here's the snag if W (Jim) doesn't believe that Z (God) has punished Y (Jesus) then W (Jim) will be punished forever and ever. But it gets more bizarre. God forgives all who believe because of the punishment of Jesus. But the punishment is merely symbolic. If we were to represent one face slap as one sin committed by one repentant person then we can clearly see Jesus' punishment is merely symbolic. If it is merely symbolic then the question is begging: why do it at all?

John mentions that the New Testament is a reliable historical document. He quotes many New Testament historians who support his case. He often introduces them as agnostic or even atheistic. Yet he doesn't dwell on this odd fact. If even the most knowledgeable of New Testament scholars are not convinced that Jesus is the risen God then there is something fishy going on here. John mentions the process of copying text by hand and remarks that the monks got it largely right give or take a few spelling mistakes. He fails to mention facts like various genealogies were copied out in rows when they were meant to be copied out in columns (or was it vice versa) resulting in them being mixed-up. He also fails to mention the various additions to the texts which didn't exist in earlier copies. The additions were to get across a certain theological viewpoint of the author or the copier. Sometimes the changes are subtle and sometimes the changes are large but always they reflect the bias of the scribe/author. John mentions the secular evidence for Jesus but fails to mention the fact that outlandish occurrences are never mentioned in the secular text. For example, Matthew 27:45-53 tells of the dead walking the streets and appearing to many. Not one mention of zombies walking the streets is mentioned in the secular texts of the time. Not one. Furthermore, some mentions of Jesus in secular texts of the time have been found to be forgeries.

Lennox again chooses his evidence and arguments and ignores the rest. When talking of the origin of morality he doesn't mention the research conducted in the morality of our evolutionary cousins such as chimpanzees. For a great secular explanation of morality please read The Origins of Virtue (Penguin Press Science)

The most striking thing about Lennox's defence of Christianity is that the damnable doctrine of hell is never even mentioned and hence defended. I think that he is avoiding the issue. This is true with many of John's books. He likes to cherry pick his opponents' arguments and ignores the ones that trouble him.

If I were a Christian or even a weak atheist then I believe that I would be impressed by this book. The trouble is Lennox is answering the new atheists and defending the Christian faith from attack. I must say that he has a rather easy job to do because the new atheists' attacks on Christianity are so weak. I must inform you of the new breed of new-new atheists spearheaded by John W. Loftus. They include many ex-Christians in their ranks and the arguments are much stronger than Dawkins et al. You won't find one of them trying to blame religion for its role in wars or crusades.
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