Monday, July 16, 2012
Is Christianity Intellectually Defensible?
I Just finished a delightful new book titled A Shot of Faith to the Head by Dr. Mitch Stokes. Had I read it thirty years ago, I would have had an intelligent, unanswerable response to my my friend.
The author received his doctorate in philosophy at Notre Dame under tutelage of the world's foremost Christian philosopher, Alvin Plantinga. He now teaches at New Saint Andrews in Moscow, Idaho. Plantinga's thought has single-handedly turned many secular departments of philosophy into bations of theism. This book gives the layman a clear, easy to understand, tour of Plantinga's thought.
Stokes devotes the first third to foundational ideas. Then he attacks two of the "new atheists" major "defeaters" of the Christian worldview. The first is the conflict between religion and science. Stokes shows that there really is no conflict. Science does not disprove theism. Rather, science, properly understood, aggresively points to the evidence of a designer.
The last third of the book tackles the problem of evil. The problem of evil suggests that, because their is evil, pain, and suffering in the world, God can't be both good and soveriegn. Therefore, God must be either good but not sovereign, i.e. he cannot stop evil. Or, he is sovereign but not good. He can stop evil, but he does not choose to do so.
Stokes first answer is the cross. What if evil turns out to be inherently productive? What if ultimately, the good that comes from evil turns out to greatly outweight the pain and suffering? That must be true. Why? Because God sent his Son into the world to endure incomprehensible suffering. He did it to acheive a greater good than there would have existed without that suffering.
In addition, if there is no God there cannot possibly be any such thing as either "good" or "evil," and without "evil" the problem of evil disappears. Stokes shows that atheists cannot argue for the existence of evil from their world-view.
In fact, Stokes conclude, it is atheism, not theism, that is irrational. “The notions of design, rationality, and absolute standards cannot exist in a naturalistic world, in the world of the atheists. Without absolute standards—of which there must be many—their worldview would entirely collapse. And this poses a serious problem for any atheist who claims that belief in God is irrational. In fact, it takes the legs right out from under such a claim. If there is no designer, then there is no proper function, and therefore there is no such thing as irrationality. But then there’s no such thing as rationality either. There’s only a sterile, impersonal “desert landscape.” Beliefs are neither rational nor irrational. They just are. But if the Christian story is true, then there is such a thing as irrationality. And as we saw, those who don’t believe in God are suffering from it.” 
I reccomend this book highly.