Book Reviews


Michael Licona’s magnum opus on the resurrection, The Resurrection of Jesus: A New Historiographical Approach, is a must read for those who are interested in the historical evidence for the resurrection.  It has some overlap with other great works on the resurrection such as N. T. Wright’s The Resurrection of the Son of Godbut it is distinct in that it begins with an examination of history and method (philosophy of history) before examining the evidence for the resurrection of Jesus and drawing any conclusions.  Licona explores the nature of historical knowledge (what can be known) and historical methodology.  He even assesses the source material (canonical as well as non-canonical material) to determine each source’s value for the investigation.  Finally, he gets to the heart of the matter by determining the historical facts, and then assessing competing hypotheses to determine the best explanation.  All 600+ pages are worth your attention!

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I recently finished reading Greg Koukl’s new book, The Story of Reality.  In fact, I read it twice – and I rarely read a book more than once.  Koukl contends that while most Christians know most of the bits and pieces of the Christian worldview, few know how to put those pieces together in a coherent fashion to form a truly Christian worldview.  They may have a lot of knowledge about the Bible’s contents (micro-level understanding), but few understand the overarching Biblical storyline (macro-level understanding).  The Story of Reality sets out to tell that story, breaking it up into five major areas: God, man, Jesus, cross, and final resurrection.

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Need to Know about Qur'anIslam is the second largest religion in the world, and growing rapidly.  As such, it’s important for Christians to have a basic understanding of this formidable religion, and in particular, it’s sacred text, the Qur’an.  Christian apologist, James White, has written an excellent book – What Every Christian Needs to Know About the Qur’an – that provides Christians with a basic understanding of the Qur’an, focusing on the topics that divide Muslims and Christians.

White begins the book by making a case for why Christians should concern themselves with the teachings of the Qur’an.  From there, he provides a broad overview of both Muhammad and the Qur’an:

  • A brief sketch of Muhammad’s life and the origin of Islam
  • According to Muslims, the Qur’an was written by God from eternity past and merely dictated to Muhammad by an angel over a period of 22 years. As such, it is inerrant.
  • The central tenet of faith for Muslims is the absolute numerical oneness of God (tawhid), and a confession that Muhammad is His greatest and last prophet.
  • The worst of all sins is to associate anything with God (shirk), so the Christian claim that Jesus is God is shirk.

While White’s book is not written as a refutation of the Qur’an’s claims to be divine revelation, there are a number of points raised in the book that expose the Qur’an’s claims as false:

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SoulUntil relatively recently, most people believed that human beings are constituted of both body and soul.  With the rise of materialism, Darwinism, and neuroscience, however, this notion is under scrutiny and dismissed by most secular thinkers as ridiculous.  The notion that humans have souls is tantamount to a “ghost in the machine,” as British philosopher Gilbert Ryle put it.

The existence of the soul is important to Christianity for a variety of reasons.  First, the Scriptures teach that humans have souls.  If we don’t, then Scripture is wrong.  Second, if humans lack souls, then there is no life beyond the grave (at least prior to the resurrection).  But apart from the Bible or human tradition, why should we think the soul exists?  That is the subject of J.P. Moreland’s newest book, The Soul: How We Know It’s Real and Why It Matters.

This is not the first book Moreland has written on the subject, but it is the first book that is easily accessible to a lay audience. In less than 200 pages, Moreland lays out the case for the existence of the soul, the nature of the soul/consciousness, and the afterlife. He manages to examine the Biblical teaching on the topic as well.

While the modern tendency is to reduce the mind to the brain (appealing to neuroscience for empirical evidence), Moreland argues that this is manifestly false because mental properties are not identical to brain properties.  If mental properties cannot be reduced to physical properties, then the mind is not a physical thing, but an immaterial substance.

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God's BatallionsI have always heard the Crusades were an example of Christian imperialism, greed, intolerance, and involved all sorts of injustices and evils against Jews and Muslims that have served as a source of bitterness between Christians and Muslims ever since.  After reading, God’s Batallions: The Case for the Crusades by Rodney Stark, I realize that this story of the Crusades is not one that matches the historical record.  Among other things, Stark argues for the following propositions:

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Darwin_DoubtFor the previous installments: part 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, and 6.

Chapter 17

In this chapter, Meyer asks whether it is possible that the cause of the Cambrian explosion is an intelligent agent rather than naturalistic processes.  He argues that it is, and that the design hypothesis is better supported by the evidence than any naturalistic hypothesis.

Meyer looks closely at how historical science works.  It is different than physics and biology because you cannot experiment on the past.  What you can do, however, is develop multiple and competing hypotheses to determine which is the best explanation for the evidence at hand (inference to the best explanation).  One of the best ways to test competing hypotheses is on the basis of their causal adequacy; i.e. is the proposed cause adequate to produce the effect in question?  Remember, we have to explain the origin of biological information.  What sorts of causes, now in operation, are known to produce information?  Only one: intelligent agents.  If the basis of life is information, and the only known cause of information is intelligence, then it follows that an intelligent agent is not just the best explanation for biological information, but the only viable explanation. (more…)

For the previous installments: part 1, 2, 3, 4, 5.

Chapter 14

Darwin_DoubtIn principle, a neo-Darwinian explanation of the origin of new body plans can only work if body plans are wholly determined at the genetic level.  If sources of information other than DNA are substantially responsible for the formation of body plans, then at best neo-Darwinism is inadequate as a holistic explanation for the diversification of life, and at worst it is simply the wrong explanation altogether.

Once again, modern discoveries in embryological development have discovered that there are many factors other than DNA that play a critical role in embryological development.  For example, it’s been shown that in many organisms, you can completely remove the DNA from the developing cells and the embryo will continue to develop up to a certain point.  If DNA alone was responsible for embryological development, this should be just as impossible as driving a car without gas.  If the car is driving, and there is no gas in the tank, then clearly something other than gas must be powering the car.  The same is true of embryological development.  While DNA is necessary to embryological development, it is not sufficient in itself.  There are sources of power other than DNA that are critical to the development of the organism.  Scientists call such sources “epigenetic information,” meaning it is information beyond the genetic information coded in DNA.

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