I have a cherry tree in my front yard. Picking cherries off the 30 foot cherry tree without using the proper tools was difficult, painful, and ineffective. Yes, I was able to retrieve cherries, but the limitations were numerous. However, after renting a boom-lift, the job was expedited, entertaining, and productive.
“God or Godless? One Atheist. One Christian. Twenty Controversial Questions.” Is a “debate” between a now atheist former minister (with an affection for at biblical illiteracy and liberal view of the Bible) and a liberal doctor of theology who likes to have “orthodox” views when they are convenient (namely he likes that Jesus died, rose again, started the organization called the church, but has little use for the Old Testament). Both men were allowed to pick 10 topics to “argue” by making an opening statement, a single rebuttal, and a closing statement. As one can imagine, a short book like this with 20 chapters allows very little depth or thought.
While John Loftus, the atheist, stays on topic more often, his arguments are weak and easily dismissed. If he would have read the verses he referenced much of the time, he would not have used them. The thought that an all loving, knowing, and wise Creator does not exist because he cannot fathom how he would allow suffering (65 percent of his argument), is irrational. He relies upon neo-Darwinism and is unwilling to apply the same skepticism he harbors for religionists to his beliefs (yes, even from his own defense of the chapter “Everybody Has Faith). As the invited representative for atheism, he does so from an atheistic humanist with a rationalistic sentimentalism worldview. His topics are as follows:
- The Biblical Concept of God Evolved from Polytheism to Monotheism
- The Biblical God Required Child Sacrifices for His Pleasure
- The Biblical God Commanded Genocide
- The Biblical God Does Not Care Much about Slaves
- The Biblical God Does Not Care Much about Women
- The Biblical God Does Not Care Much about Animals
- The Biblical God Does Not Care Much about Science
- The Biblical God Is Ignorant About the Future
- The Biblical God Is an Incompetent Creator
- The Biblical God Is an Incompetent Redeemer
As the Bible was written by fallible men inspired by an infallible God to record His inspired revelation, we would expect the Bible to be an accurate representation of mankind’s imperfect following of Him. We expect the Bible to be entirely truthful in it’s revelation. And we should expect the disastrous intersection of fallible man with a perfectly infallible God. This is exactly what the Bible reveals. The arguments that God “does not care much” are from a purely modern (and self absorbed) worldview. God’s ultimate concern is to bring glory to His name, and His plan maximizes His ultimate concern, often at the expense of a sin-cursed mankind bent upon not submitting to this plan.
On the other hand, Randal Rauser, the Christian, cannot make it through a topic without an illustration that requires most of the topic to explain how it aids his argument. And when he does attempt to stay on topic, his arguments often do not affirm his position when he is in the affirmative. He tends to concede to points of un-orthodox positions (i.e. biblical authority, creation, biblical unreliability). His topics, which are poorly chosen save for one, were as follows:
- If There Is No God, Then Life Has No Meaning
- If There Is No God, Then Everything Is Permitted
- Science Is No Substitute for Religion
- God Is the Best Explanation of the Whole Shebang
- If There Is No God, Then We Don’t Know Anything
- Love Is a Many Splendored Thing, but Only if God Exists
- Everybody Has Faith
- God is Found in the Majesty of the Hallelujah Chorus
- God Best Explains Miracles in People’s Lives
- Jesus Was Resurrected, So Whom Do You Think Raised Him?
While I picked the cherries off the tree in my yard without the proper tools, I picked only the cherries that were easy to handle. In the same way, these men pick their responses without a well thought out rationalization. Their tools are “you too,” “no, your wrong,” and “the Bible isn’t trustworthy on this topic” (stupidly used by both debater).
The best argument in the book comes from John when Randall says he doesn’t believe what the Bible says, and John encourages to finish the step to denying all of the Bible if he is going to deny a lot of it. Randall’s denial of biblical truth is a really ignoramus statement from a really ignorant professor. If he would follow his own advise in his closing argument, then he would see the Bible is true and trustworthy and would have risen to use better tools whereby his purpose would be better suited.
Alas, neither is a clear victor, and the main loser in this debate is orthodox Christianity. But that is the result when liberal theologians come together. It would behoove the reader of this review to read A.W. Tozer (who argues for orthodoxy and Biblical trustworthiness in fewer pages). I detested reading this book, but finished it, hoping Randall would finish well. However, while his call to the un-Christian to become Christian is commendable, I suspect he will not compel anyone to do so. His topics are poorly chosen.