Book Recommendations: Introductions to philosophy

A couple of weeks ago, I began working towards my master’s degree in philosophy of religion. A couple of days ago, I posted a video with several of the books that have to read for my classes this semester. I had someone comment, asking which of the books I would recommend. All of those are pretty technical, but I do have some really solid recommendations if you’re looking for an introduction to philosophy.

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Four Lessons I’ve Learned through a Major Life Change

Like everyone around the world, 2019 through 2020 has been a roller coaster for my family. God had been working in my heart and mind for years about the direction of my career and the implications for my wife and kids. My calling is Christian education, and I don’t see that ever changing. However, I began to reconsider a move I made a few years back from teaching to administration.

I felt an inescapable desire to get back into the classroom—as a teacher and a student. I began to pray fervently about returning to a teaching position while also furthering my education. More than anything, I was intensely burdened with maximizing my fruitfulness for the kingdom of God.

Sparing the details of the year-and-a-half-long process, God has guided my family and me through a major life change. I now sit in a different house, in a different state, with a different job, heading down a different path. And I could not be more excited!

It has been said that the only constant in life is change. But, no matter the size or number of changes we face, it is good to know we serve a God who never changes.

God has taught me countless lessons through this process. The following are four that I hope will be helpful to share.

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Inherited Belief Is Not Inherently Bad

It is commonly understood that a person’s religious beliefs mostly correlate with the culture in which that person lives. We see it all the time. People who are born and raised in a culture with Christianity is the most prominent religion will probably be Christians. People who are born in an Islamic country will most likely be Muslims. The same is true cultures that are predominantly Jewish, Hindu, Buddhist, or any other religion. We should also recognize that this correlation is true for non-religious cultures.

It is no wonder that it is popular to think that religion is culturally conditioned. This means that on a societal level, families are pressured by way of politics or economics to conform to a religious norm. This also means that on a personal level, children are pressured by way of indoctrination to conform.

It would be easy to conclude that religious belief is generally not so much about finding truth or trusting God, as it is about being brainwashed and forced to comply. It is more about conformity than about authenticity. Furthermore, when you simply inherit your beliefs, can you really say that you genuinely believe?

In his book The God Delusion, Dr. Richard Dawkins explained it this way:

If you are religious at all, it is overwhelmingly probable that your religion is that of your parents. If you were born in Arkansas and you think Christianity is true and Islam false, knowing full well that you would think the opposite if you had been born in Afghanistan, you are the victim of childhood indoctrination.[1]

I have come across this issue in many places, but the arguments always seem to boil down to two main objections:

First, there is an assumption that if a person’s religious beliefs are passed down from a previous generation, having been received from the surrounding culture, they are not grounded in truth or reality. In other words, the biggest reason why people are religious is that they were raised to be so. After all, there does not seem to be any other reasons for believing.

Second, there is a condemnation of teaching children a particular religion before they can choose one for themselves, or whether they want to be religious at all. In other words, the biggest reason why people teach religion to children is to maintain control in future generations. After all, there does not seem to be any other reasons to teach them.

Having grown up in a Christian home, I specifically remember the first time this idea swept over me. My parents had done their due diligence in bringing me to church and putting me in a Christian school. I did not really doubt Christianity as much as I did my own reasons for saying I was a Christian. Maybe I was a Christian simply because no other options were presented. If that was the case, I could have been any religion or none at all, depending on the place and the family in which I just so happened to be born. The realization was devastating.

But then I realized something else. How I came to know about Christianity had no bearing on whether or not Christianity is true. Therefore, it should have no bearing on whether I believe it. If believing Christianity just because my parents wanted me to believe is a bad idea, then rejecting Christianity just because my parents wanted me to believe is a bad idea.

The fact is just because one’s religious views are inherited does not mean that those beliefs are inherently false. It is undeniable that the greatest influence on our religious views is our parents, and that the greatest influence on our parents is their culture. That reality should cause humility in our consideration of religious beliefs. However, to argue that this invalidates a person’s beliefs altogether proves too much by way of something called a genetic fallacy.

Just because one’s religious views are inherited does not mean that those beliefs are inherently false.

When someone agrees or disagrees with an idea based on where it came from, it is known as a genetic fallacy. A genetic fallacy is illogical because how we come to learn of an idea does not determine whether it is true or false.

Genetic fallacies happen all the time in sports fandom. A die-hard fan declares that “we” are going to the playoffs this season. The fan’s friends all argue he is wrong. “After all,” they say, “you’re only saying that because you’re a fan. And only a fan because you grew up going to their games!” Of course, that might be the case. However, at the end of the day—or season—the team’s success in the playoffs has a whole lot more to do with its players’ performance than with what any fan thinks. What’s more, if the fan starts giving reasons why he believes his team will win, spouting off statistics and strategies, his belief seems much more plausible.

If accepting Christianity just because my parents wanted me to believe is a bad idea, then rejecting Christianity just because my parents wanted me to believe is a bad idea.

When applied to religious belief, the genetic fallacy has several problems.

Problem 1: It destroys itself.

Why would someone believe that religion is determined by culture? Perhaps it is because they live in a culture in which it is popular to do so. Perhaps they believe this because they were taught to believe it. Does that make their belief wrong? The argument collapses when applied to itself.  

The idea that religion is socially constructed is a relatively new and very Western idea. We might suggest, therefore, that the idea that religion is culturally conditioned, and therefore not worthy of consideration, is itself culturally conditioned, and therefore not worthy of consideration.

Philosopher Alvin Plantinga put it this way:

Suppose we concede that if I had been born of Muslim parents in Morocco rather than Christian parents in Michigan, my beliefs would be quite different. [But] the same goes for the pluralist…If the pluralist had been born in [Morocco] he probably wouldn’t be a pluralist. Does it follow that…his pluralist beliefs are produced in him by an unreliable belief-producing process?[2]

Problem 2: It works until it doesn’t.

The idea that most Christians only believe because it was how they were raised makes Christianity look oppressive. Religious instruction for children is painted as Orwellian indoctrination. Faith is relegated to religious determinism.

Religion of all stripes has been used to oppress and abuse. Certainly, Christianity is no exception. In fact, here in the West, where Christianity has had such a predominant influence, it appears as though it is the predominant culprit.

However, if religion is as oppressive and deterministic as the argument suggests, you have to wonder how guys like Dr. Dawkins, quoted above, made it out. As it turns out, Richard Dawkins was raised Anglican. And he is no exception.

In fact, for the past couple of decades, the fastest growing category in the U.S. are the “nones”, those with no religious affiliation. The majority of these “nones” were raised in a religious home. If religious belief was as determined as Dr. Dawkins suggests, should this be happening?

“Furthermore,” as Rebecca McLaughlin points out, “while many Americans are becoming nonreligious, the traffic flows both ways.” She continues:

A recent study found that nearly 40 percent of Americans raised nonreligious become religious (typically Christian) as adults, while only 20 percent of those raised Protestant switch. If that trend continues, my secular friends are twice as likely to raise children who become Christians as I am to raise Children who become nonreligious. [3]

It seems that religious belief is a much more dynamic experience than many people assume.

Problem 3: It belittles the personal struggles of the believer.

Several years ago, one of my apologetics students a former student of mine went on Reddit in hopes of sparking good conversation about Christianity. Another user posed the question, “Ever wonder why you’re defending Christianity and not Hinduism or the monkey god Hadoman?” (I have to assume the user was referring to the Hindu figure Hanuman.)

Undaunted, my student briefly explained that he did not believe Hinduism was rooted in truth since many of its core beliefs do not correspond with reality. I held back tears of joy as I continued to read.

As if my student had not even given an answer, a different user chimed in harmony suggesting, “Most likely it’s because your parents were Christian and you love your parents.”

My student saw this as a cheap accusation and was a bit insulted. This person who had never met him simply assumed that he had never asked any questions, felt any doubt, or studied the issues for himself. In fact, his parents were not believers.

This line of thinking fails to consider that people who are raised Christian often struggle with doubt and skepticism toward Christian beliefs. The “you only believe because” argument belittles that struggle. It fails to recognize that many Christians come through the struggle with deeper belief because they have seen firsthand how well Christianity holds up under the scrutiny of skepticism.

Problem 4: It underestimates the value of religion to the believer.

They call it childhood indoctrination. They say we have to get to them before they have the critical thinking skills to question our authority. They say we are afraid that if we let them choose for themselves, they will choose not to believe.

I say, guilty as charged.

I have given my life to raising my children with a Biblical worldview because I believe it is true, and as a teacher I assist other Christians to do the same. I want to train my children in critical thinking so that they can discern when their culture is selling them a false bill of goods. I want to get them while they are young to see that they have a choice to make, one that no one else can make for them. And, you can be sure I am going to do everything in my power to show them that what I believe will all my heart, mind, and soul is the right choice to make.

My faith is the most important thing in my life. My God gives me purpose, His Word gives me direction, and his Son gives me identity. It is what makes me a faithful husband, reliable father, and helpful friend. What kind of believer would I be to not pass that along to a younger generation?

How could you expect me to do otherwise?

Problem 5: It ignores the cultural versatility of Christianity.

It is simply not accurate to say that Christianity is a Western religion. It was not originally, and it has not been for some time. Some religions may be culturally determined, but Christianity is not one of them.  

Over 90% of Muslims live in a quarter of the world. Over 95% of Hindus live in India and neighboring countries. About 88% of Buddhists live in East Asia. Christianity, on the other hand, is represented by a much more global spread, with about 26% in Europe, about 37% in the Americas, almost 24% in Africa, and 13% in Asia and the Pacific.

Richard Bauckham stated that “certainly Christianity exhibits more cultural diversity than any other religion, and that must say something about it.”[3] I believe what it says is that Christianity is the only religion that can genuinely be called a worldwide religion.

Christianity does not depend on a given culture, a specific language, a religious garb, a geographic location, etc. It is not a religion that comes from culture but one that reaches into cultures. This testifies to the universal nature of the gospel of Jesus Christ, who wanted from the very beginning for his story and message to be preached to all nations.

Conclusion

Yes, I was raised Christian. But just because something is inherited, doesn’t make it any less personal or any less real.

With anything you inherit, you have decision to make: Do you hold on to it? To make that decision properly, you must evaluate your reasons one way or another. Do you hold on to it because you “owe it” to past generations? Do you hold on to it because it is of personal significance? Do you hold on to it because it has value in and of itself? Do you hold on to it because it is a part of who you are? Do you hold on to it for a combination of those reasons?

If you inherited Christianity, I would invite you to explore the multitude of reasons why it is worth holding on to. Past generations testify to its rich heritage. Millions around the world testify to the personal fulfillment it brings. Rational arguments and empirical evidence testify to the truth value it has. The personal relationship that is at its heart brings you to know your Creator and Savior, which is to see yourself as you truly are. For all these reasons and more, it is worth holding on to.   

If you did not inherit Christianity, I would love to share my inheritance with you.


[1] Richard Dawkins, The God Delusion (New York: Houghton Mifflin, 2006), 3.

[2] Timothy Keller, The Reason for God (New York: Dutton, 2008), 11.

[3] Rebecca McLaughlin, Confronting Christianity (Wheaton: Crossway, 2019), 13.

[4] Richard Bauckman, Bible and Mission: Christian Mission in a Postmodern World (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 2003), p 9.


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Religious Faith Is Not Inherently Blind

There is such a thing as faith that is blind, but Biblical faith is not blind faith.

A Popular Misconception

For many people, the term “blind faith” is redundant. The assumption about religious faith is that a sort of blindness is inherent, and often intentional.

Nonreligious people cite famous quotes to confirm this conceptualization. Mark Twain once quipped, “Faith is believing what you know ain’t so.” Ayn Rand wrote, “Faith is the commitment of one’s consciousness to beliefs for which one has no sensory evidence or rational proof.” In his book, A Manual for Creating Atheists, Peter Boghossian identified his two favorite definitions of faith as “belief without evidence” and “pretending to know things you don’t.”

Oxford scientist and prolific atheist Richard Dawkins echoes the sentiment: “Faith is the great cop-out, the great excuse to evade the need to think and evaluate evidence. Faith is belief in spite of, even perhaps because of, the lack of evidence.”

By definition—at least by popular definition—faith is blind.

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Apologetics: Getting People to the Gospel as Soon As Possible

A close friend who is a pastor once asked me why I was so into apologetics. He was not against apologetics per se. He just didn’t see the point of doing apologetics, at least when compared to the vital importance of declaring the gospel. Why would we spend our time debating and answering questions, when they only distract from people’s real need?

I agreed that spreading the good news of Jesus Christ is of utmost importance. However, I explained that the question is not whether we do apologetics or proclaim the gospel. The question is instead how apologetics serves the gospel.

Simply put, apologetics clears the path between people and the gospel of Jesus Christ. In apologetics, we remove obstacles of belief and give reason to believe. In that way apologetics gets people to the gospel as we get the gospel to people.

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Why Bread & Fish?

If I had to pick my favorite story in the Bible, it would be the story of the bread and fish. You might know it as “The Feeding of the Five Thousand.”

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What’s a Student to Do?

COVID-19…social distancing…quarantine…

These are all words that we seldom, if ever, heard before a couple of weeks ago. Now we see and hear them several times a day. The fact is, we have never seen anything like this before. The spread of the Coronavirus is the type of event that will be in future editions of history textbooks.

We are going through a season when everyone’s pattern of life is being disrupted. Events cancelled, businesses closed, schedules trashed. We are having to find a different way to do just about everything.

Most adults have worked from home before, just not for this extended amount of time. It is unusual, but not entirely unfamiliar.

This is uncharted territory for most students. They have never done school from home. High school students are having to learn geometry with their teachers as a distance. College students are having to write papers with libraries closed. Even homeschoolers are now confined to home, no doubt more than they prefer.

So, with the world turned upside down, and everyone confined to their homes, what is a student to do?

Here’s the thing…

Many have pointed “blessings in disguise” that we can find if only we look. For students, this moment presents unique opportunities for growth. I would suggest three.

1. Read

With the extra time you have on your hands, tolle lege! Read a book…or several.

You may be one who thinks they hate reading. I understand. Reading is not easy, but it can be worth it. You probably just haven’t found a book written well enough or about a topic important enough to make it worth your effort. So, by all means, keep looking.

You may be one who loves to read. I understand. Reading is great, but it can also be a waste of time. You may not have found a book written well enough or a topic challenging enough to test your mind. So, by all means, keep looking.

During this quarantine, you have a unique opportunity. You can read, not just to earn a grade, but to learn a lesson. You know the difference! You can read, not just for enjoyment, but improvement. Not that the two are mutually exclusive.

Closed bookstores and libraries shouldn’t be problem. We live in the digital age! Load up Kindle on whatever device you prefer and dive in!

If expense is a concern, there are plenty of other options. You would be amazed at how much is available online for free. Amazon.com will let you “Look inside” and read part of a book, several chapters in some books. Then you will be able to decide if it is worth purchasing.

Depending on how old or popular a book is, not to mention copyrights, you may be able to find a PDF version to save to your preferred reading platform. The PDF section of my Kindle library is full of classics that I have found online for free.

One of my favorite tools is Hoopla, a platform for digital content from public libraries. The app can be downloaded on any device and offers access with only a library card number (which you can also get online if you don’t have one yet).

Suggestions? Of course! Here are several books for students that immediately come to my mind (affiliate links below):

(For more specific book recommendations, contact me on Instagram, Twitter, or in the comments section below.)

And if I could be so bold as to suggest one more book to read during this season of social distancing: the Bible. All sarcasm aside. I have already heard from several of my students that one of the blessings in disguise of what we are experiencing is that they have been able to spend more time in God’s Word.  

2. Observe

Students have a particularly unique opportunity during the quarantine to observe their parents as they never have. Many parents are being forced to work from home. So, now you have the chance to see them in action.

Generations ago, children observed their parents at work on a regular basis, whether it was on the family farm or a family-owned business. In fact, children often participated in the work. Then our country industrialized, and many parents began working away from home where children no longer could observe, much less participate.

Senator Ben Sasse describes it this way:  

“Today’s children are likely to conceive of work as one job, and yet less likely to work the same job as their parents—such as on a family farm or ranch or in the same trade—than ever before. They no longer see up close a broad range of their parents’ work struggles, and they do not daily observe their parents’ work ethic the way their great-grandparents did. Most kids’ hours are spent chiefly in age-segregated environments.”

I am not against industrialization, but I think our culture lost a lot when children lost the opportunity to see the work their parents put in day after day to provide for their families.

Well, guess what, in all the weirdness of this moment, you have regained that opportunity!

Take this time to observe your parents at work while at home. Ask them questions. What does their daily routine look like? What are the products and services they provide? What are their customers like? How many meetings do they attend? What is the most frustrating thing about their job? What is the most rewarding thing about their job?

When you get a front-row glimpse of what your parents’ work requires of them, you will more than likely get a whole new level of appreciation for them. You and your family will be all the better for it. And, who knows, maybe you will get some guidance toward your own vocation.

Take advantage of this blessing in disguise. You get to observe what your parents do to give you the life you enjoy. Watch and learn.

3. Build

The type of habits that make a person successful in life do not happen by accident. They are built.

What time did you wake up this morning? Or possibly, this afternoon? For many students, the morning is something that happens to them. However, you have an opportunity during this time at home to build patterns and habits into your life that will enable you to get up each morning and seize the day.

John C. Maxwell, author of dozens of books on leadership, says, “The secret of your success is found in your daily routine.” Your daily routine is simply the series of positive habits that builds you into the person you ought to be. In other words, building good habits builds you.

They say it takes 21 days to form a habit. Well, guess what? You have time!

I would suggest that you focus on your morning. I have found personally, and in conversation with many others, that the day is often won or lost in the first couple of hours. At least the rhythm for the day is set by then.

You will be amazed at how a morning routine reduces your stress, clears your mind, and maximizes your energy.

I don’t know what your regular morning looks like. Perhaps, you already have a set routine. However, I would strongly recommend that at least three features be a part of your morning.

Solitude

Social media is great for many reasons, especially during this time of quarantine. However, it shouldn’t be the first thing you concern yourself with in the day. The first thing you set your eyes on each morning should not be a filtered and posed picture of someone else.

My advice would be to practice solitude by avoiding social media first thing in the morning. Instead, work more healthy habits into your morning.  

Prayer

Prayer offers so much more than the mindfulness practices that are so popular today. Prayer is more than meditation: it is communication with God. Prayer does more than focus your mind: it directs your heart. Prayer does more than bring clarity: it brings you into the presence of God to live your day by his grace and for his glory.

My advice would be to begin each day praying for your day, expressing your dependence on God for a good day.

Scripture

One of my favorite metaphors in the Bible is in James 1:22-25. James compares the Bible to a mirror. I would dare say most of us would not go through our day without looking at a mirror and doing something about the mess we see. It is infinitely more important that we look into God’s Word, the mirror of our lives, and put to practice what it teaches.

My advice would be to spend a substantial part of your morning reading the Bible and finding some command to obey, correction to make, truth to ponder, or promise to claim.

Each of these no doubt deserves a discussion/blog post by themselves. Nevertheless, they are worth the effort to work into your morning, as is building a morning routine in general. The best part is, because of the quarantine, you are currently able to build a morning routine without waking up that early! Talk about a blessing in disguise.

For many students, this quarantine will be an inconvenience of boredom instead of an opportunity for growth. They will spend more time admiring other people than examining themselves. It will be a time of amusement instead of a time for improvement.

Which will it be for you?

A Devotional Thought from Richard Dawkins

Last fall, acclaimed atheist Richard Dawkins released his newest book, Out Growing God. For those familiar with Dr. Dawkins’ previous books, the book offers nothing new. However, this book has a more targeted audience: teenagers.

Dawkins dedicates the book to “all young people when they’re old enough to decide for themselves.” In the book he recounts that he “gave up” Christianity when he was fifteen years old. Dawkins offers this book as a guide for those headed in the same direction.  

As I read, I stumbled on a thought that I believe has some value for Christian believers—yes, a devotional thought courtesy of Richard Dawkins!

His Accusation

A few times through the book thinking about Old Testament Israel. He brings into question their monotheism. Basically, he talks as though they weren’t:

“…although the Israelites worshipped their own tribal god Yahweh, they didn’t necessarily disbelieve in the gods of rival tribes, such as Baal, the fertility god of the Canaanites; they just thought Yahweh was more powerful – and also extremely jealous…” [1]

Dawkins is following an argument from as late as the 19th century. German theologians, namely Julius Wellhausen, reinterpreted the Jewish religion through a Darwinian lens. Wellhausen popularized the idea that the Jewish religion evolved over time from animism (the belief that a spirit lived in everything), to polytheism (the belief in many gods), to totemism (the belief one’s tribe descended from a group of plants or animals), to ancestor worship, and eventually to monotheism—well, sort of.

This idea is not new, but it is also not current and for good reason. Jewish scholar Rich Robinson explains:

“Unfortunately, [Wellhausen’s] influence was based on assumptions and philosophies which had little to do with historical evidence. The recent upsurge in modern archaeology has shown Wellhausen’s viewpoint to be arbitrary and outdated.”[2]

(Note: I highly recommend Dr. Robinson’s article on the topic. It was concise but helpful on the issue.)

So why does Dawkins portray the Israelites this way? My guess is that he is attempting to relegate the Jewish religion to the ash heap of ancient paganism. After all, conflating the Biblical narrative with the mythologies of the past and dismissing it accordingly is one of Dr. Dawkins’ favorite thing to do. The strategy is clear: if he can disregard the Jewish religion, he can disregard the fulfillment of it, Christianity.

However, as with so much of Richard Dawkins critique of religion in general, and Christianity in particular, he acts as though his assertions are a given. When he offers evidence for his claim, which is rare, it is feeble at best.

But, here’s the thing…

On this issue, I think he kind of has a point. It’s just not the one he intended.

Our Reflection

Think about how many times the Children of Israel turned to idols. Think of how often  idolatry was in the pervasive land. There were many points in Hebrew history that worshiping the gods of their enemies was the norm. Moses and the prophets told them that there was only one God and that they were to worship and obey him alone. They were supposed to be monotheistic. But they often failed to act like it.

I am not sure what value that fact has for Dr. Dawkins other than criticizing believers for not being as consistent as their beliefs should make them. (A line of reasoning that has gotten him in trouble before.)

However, his comments prompt me to ask myself: Years from now, what evidence will a skeptic have on me to accuse me of not being truly monotheistic?

In other words, how much am I capitulating to my culture and bringing idols into my heart and mind when Christ has claimed them for himself?

Like the Hebrews, we live in a world with an abundance of phony gods. Our culture worships the pantheon of modern deities like money, power, and comfort. We are called on to show obeisance to the postmodern deities of moral relativity and individual autonomy.

The real difficulty is that our culture has an ally on the inside. The Bible tells us that our hearts work in tandem with the world in the idol making process. In Ezekiel 14, three times within four sentences, God indicts his people for setting up “idols in their hearts.” (Ezekiel 14:3-7) We do not make idols with our hands; we make them with our hearts.

Hand-crafted images made of wood or precious metals are not much of a temptation these days. Furthermore, most of us Christians avoid the worship of blatantly sinful idols that come by way of temptation and addiction. But our hearts are more menacing than that. You see, we tend to make idols out of the good things in life. 

Timothy Keller explains how this happens:

“The human heart takes good things…and turns them into ultimate things. Our hearts deify them as the center of our lives, because, we think, they can give us significance and security, safety and fulfillment, if we attain them.”[3]

That is to say, an idol is not defined by its inherent goodness or badness. An idol is “anything you seek to give you what only God can give.”[4]

So I ask myself, what am I seeking to give me what only God can give? (…and probably already has given!)

May God help us to detect and destroy the idols our hearts create. That way, years from now, no one can look back and accuse us of not being truly monotheistic.


[1] Richard Dawkins, Outgrowing God, p. 7. 

[2] Rich Robinson, “Monotheism of the Ancient Hebrews: Evolved, Invented, Stolen or Revealed?” (https://jewsforjesus.org/publications/issues/issues-0505-letters-to-the-editor/monotheism-of-the-ancient-hebrews-evolved-invented-stolen-or-revealed/)

[3] Timothy Keller, Counterfeit Gods, p. xiv.

[4] Keller, p. xvii.


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Four Things Christianity Allows Us to See 20/20

(I know, I know. We’re all already tired of the “2020 Vision” themes. But this opportunity only comes twice in the timeline of human history–and the first time we weren’t even counting years the same way, nor were we measuring vision the same way. So humor me.)

Few ideas have made an impact on me more than this quote by C.S. Lewis:

I believe in Christianity as I believe that the sun has risen: not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else.

It is a profound thought with many implications. But it mainly points to the simultaneous testimonies of the evidential weight and explanatory power of the Christian worldview. In other words, Christianity is not only a worldview for which there is much evidence. It is a worldview that offers an explanation for everything we see and experience in life.

Here are four things Biblical Christianity allows us to see:

A More Satisfying Vision of Our God

People have all sorts of ideas about God, but these ideas tend to leave us dissatisfied with God.

I find that misconceptions about God are often due to a shortsighted obsession with one of God’s attributes to the neglect of all the rest. For many, God is too loving to be wrathful. For others, God is too wrathful to be loving. For some, God is too elusive to be knowable. For others, God is too confounding to be real.

Each of the world’s religions present their own imbalanced view of God. He is too transcendent to be personal, and too holy to love. Or He is too erratic to be exalted and too complacent to be decisive.

With all the poor explanations of who and what God is, it is no wonder so many people have a hard time believing in God at all.

As Christian apologist Greg Koukl puts it:

If that’s the kind of God they don’t believe in, then I agree with them. I don’t believe in that kind of God either.[1]

The Bible stands apart from all these dissatisfying presentations of God. The Biblical picture of God displays the cumulative force of every attribute of God. As such, Christianity has an understanding of God that is maximally dynamic in every attribute— and because of every attribute.

In the Bible all God’s attributes stand in balance with one another. God’s righteousness is balanced by his love. Wrath is balanced by mercy. Condemnation is balanced by grace.

All man-made visions of God will forever be too small. In Christianity, we find that God is bigger than any caricature with which skeptics portray Him. God is more complex than any misrepresentation by which the religions of the world present Him.

This is because in the Bible we are not given a manmade vision of God. The Biblical vision of God is one given by God Himself. The Christian understanding of God is more satisfying because God is more satisfying.

A More Lofty Vision of Our Humanity

Misconceptions about God almost immediately result in misconceptions about us. Whenever we recast God in our thinking, it will always be a demotion from who and what he has revealed himself to be. And because humans were made in his image, humanity will be demoted in our thinking as well.

Christian philosopher Nancy Pearcey stated it this way:

When a worldview exchanges the Creator for something in creation, it will also exchange a high view of humans made in God’s image for a lower view of humans made in the image of something in creation.[2]

Some worldviews describe humans as a feature of an exclusively physical universe. As such, we are the result of random mutations, highly intelligent animals, living on oasis of life-permitting good luck. Some worldviews describe humans as a manifestation of an exclusively spiritual universe. As such, we are the delusional manifestations of a universal over-soul, working our way toward oblivion.

As much as biology influences the human experience, we are so much more than an accidental pack of neurons. As much as people long for spirituality, we are meant for more than nirvanic nothingness.

The Bible stands apart from all these presentations of humanity. The Biblical explanation of humanity tells a story in which a personal God decisively creates us for the purpose of, and with the capacity for, a relationship with him. Unlike all other creatures in his creation, we were made like him to be with him.

Christianity has the greatest possible view of humanity because it holds that humans were made in the likeness of the greatest possible Being.

A More Accurate Vision of Our Problem

I think everyone can agree on at least one thing: the world is not as it should be.

Turning the pages of world history, it’s easy to see that humanity has a problem. On one page we are doing fantastic things—exploring frontiers, creating art, and splitting atoms. On the next page we are doing terrible things—exploiting people, producing filth, and dropping bombs.

What is our problem?

Over the years, important thinkers have devised explanations for why the world is out of whack. Buddha taught that physical desires were our problem. Karl Marx taught that economic oppression was our problem. Sigmund Freud taught that repression of our physical desires was our problem.   

Some believe we are simply uneducated. Our problem is that we do not know enough about the universe and each other. We are not lost. We are ignorant and confused.

Some believe we are simply unenlightened. Our problem is that we are off-center and out of touch with deeper reality. We are not lost. We are unconnected and distracted.

What do all these views have in common? They describe what is wrong with the world as something that has happened to us. Something ‘out there’ is our problem.

As the story goes, The Times in England once asked several prominent intellectuals, “What’s wrong with the world today?” Christian author G.K. Chesterton responded simply,

Dear Sir,
I am.
Yours, G.K. Chesterton

The Bible presents the most accurate diagnosis of our problem—sin. It is a problem that resides in each and every one of us. We do not do what we should because we are not what we were meant to be. The problem is very much ‘in here.’

A More Hopeful Vision of Our Salvation

When you survey the philosophies and religions of the world, you notice that each one has its prescribed list of things to do in order to attain salvation. Whether by education or meditation, sacraments or sacrifices, removal from the world or involvement in it–there are things we must do to fix the problems we have. Because the problem is something ‘out there,’ the solution must be as well. All we have to do is go out and get it.

Christianity on the other hand offers a unique hope. Philosopher of religion Albert C. Wolters tells us:

As far as I can tell, the Bible is unique in its rejection of all attempts to either demonize some part of creation as the root of our problems or to idolize some part of creation as the solution.[3]

In other words, because we are the problem, the solution is out of our grasp. We cannot attain salvation; it needs to be given to us. Like criminals in a court of law, or a terminally ill patient, if we could have saved ourselves then we would not be in this predicament in the first place. Our exoneration must come from a righteous judge. Our cure must come from a great physician.

In the Bible, there is only one solution presented: Jesus Christ. The entire Old Testament anticipates his sacrificial death. The New Testament celebrates his miraculous resurrection. It is the gospel of Jesus Christ that is the power of God unto salvation. He has done for us what we are desperately incapable of doing for ourselves.

Christianity offers infinitely more hope because Jesus is infinitely more capable of saving us than we are of saving ourselves.

Here’s the thing…

When it comes to the battle of ideas, there is no such thing as neutral ground. There is no “view from nowhere.” We all believe something, and we all believe what we believe based on assumptions we cannot prove.

As I see it, there are then two questions:

1. How well can you see the beliefs you have?

This is where most people begin and end. They find the evidence to support their belief, and that is that. They believe it because they “see it.” But, a second questions must be asked.

2. How well do your beliefs help you see everything else?

Do your beliefs involve a misconception of God? Do your beliefs diminish your vision of humanity? Do your beliefs confuse your vision of our problem? Do your beliefs present hope in your vision of salvation?

We Christians believe in Jesus Christ, because in him we see God of very God, the fullness of the Godhead bodily. In him we see humanity the way it was meant to be. In him we see our sin identified, paid for, and defeated. In him we see hope for the eternal life for which we were made.

We Christians believe in Christ, not only because we see him, but because by him, we see everything else.


(Footnote links are affiliate links for Amazon.com. If you click or purchase from these links I will receive a small commission. So, thanks in advance!)

[1] Greg Koukl, Tactics: A Game Plan for Discussing Your Christian Convictions, p. 163.

[2] Nancy Pearcey, Finding Truth: 5 Principles for Unmasking Atheism, Secularism, and Other God Substitutes (p. 98).

[3] Albert C. Wolters, Creation Regained: A Transforming War of the World, p. 50.


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2019 Reading Review

open book apologetics worldviews

Last year, when I wrote about my reading journey through 2018, I did not know what to expect. I worried about coming across as braggy. I wondered at the anxiety that would come from broadcasting my yearly reading goal. However, I only wanted to encourage others to engage in one of God’s greatest gifts to humanity—reading.

The response was exactly what I had hoped for. In the weeks that followed, readers replied with questions about certain books. Others recommended books for my 2019 reading list. Through the year, many have shared parts of their own reading journey. It has been awesome!

The problem is, now my hands are tied! Apparently, when you let the world know what your plans are for the year, people expect a follow-up. Who knew?
So, here we are a year later. I am happy to report that I have achieved my goal of reading 60 books this year.

The following is a summation of my year in reading.

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