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Preview — Unbelievable? by Justin Brierley
Read between June 20 - July 19, 2018
It is better to debate a question without settling it than to settle a question without debating it. Joseph Joubert
‘Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have’ (1 Peter 3.15).
Tim Keller has described the gospel as the ‘what’ and apologetics as the ‘why’.4 It is aimed at showing sceptics that the claims of the Christian faith are worth their time and attention.
As a scientist he found it intriguing that the emergence of life on our planet seems to disobey one of the fundamental laws of nature. The second law of thermodynamics states that, when left to their own devices, all closed systems (such as our universe) will move towards increasing ‘entropy’ – the scientific word for disorder.
From a purely naturalistic viewpoint, we evolve whatever beliefs make sure we keep propagating the species. This means that any beliefs in the real existence of human rights, values and morality are ultimately an illusion.
The moral argument only deals with the beliefs you personally hold. You don’t need to believe in the Bible to acknowledge that objective moral values exist, and require a moral lawgiver.
The idea that human rights, welfare provision and equality will naturally prevail in any educated society was a secular myth, he said: ‘Everything we take for granted as being part of the natural state of things absolutely isn’t, and the reason we have these assumptions is because our society is saturated with Christian assumptions.’
Atheism and Christianity tell two very different stories. One is a story of ultimate purposelessness – the ‘blind, pitiless indifference’ of Richard Dawkins’ universe. The other is a story of ultimate meaning and hope – hope that there is a reason for our existence, hope that our lives mean something, the hope that death is not the end. A hope that is expressed in the resurrection of Jesus Christ and which every Christian is called to embody in the real business of following him.
we aren’t obliged to exhaustively investigate the truth or falsity of every religion if we find compelling reasons from the outset that Christianity is true.
From its inception, Christianity has been a public religion making claims that could be held up to historical scrutiny in the place it was birthed.
no widely respected historian holds to the mythicist position,
for mainstream academics, the view that Jesus never existed belongs in the same category as those who claim that the moon landings were a hoax.
we have far better historical evidence for the life of Jesus than we do for the crossing of the Rubicon by Caesar, a major event in the history of the Roman Empire, which nobody questions.
We aren’t obliged to make every element of the stories line up in order to establish that the Gospels are historically reliable, any more than differing accounts from the battle of Waterloo would change the conclusion that Napoleon’s army was defeated.
the Islamic view of Jesus stands against the vast weight of prevailing scholarship.
If there is a God, then why should we cut ourselves off from explanations that involve supernatural agency if that’s where the evidence most clearly leads?
if we grant the possibility that there is a God, then the explanation that God raised Jesus from the dead turns out to be the best fit for all the data we have.
Within Christian belief suffering is at least a mystery we can hope to make sense of. In atheism, it is simply meaningless.
Rocks, chairs and cats also lack belief in God. Does that make them atheists?
There is no ‘default’ position. Everyone is called to give reasons why their view of reality is the best explanation of the universe we live in.
Atheists also believe they have the truth. The Christian might equally respond ‘So out of the thousands of beliefs about the nature of the world, yours just happens to be right?’
hell isn’t God’s punishment for not believing the right things; it’s a self-imposed exile and final end for those who simply don’t want God.
when it comes to Christianity, a simple survey of history will soon confirm that, far from poisoning everything, it has been responsible for masses of positive things. The modern benefits of healthcare, education, social provision, human rights, and even literature, art and music can all be found to have roots in the Christians who were inspired to build hospitals and schools, found universities and institutions, and create great classical works of art and music.
Like any institution run by humans, the Church has sanctioned both good and evil. That doesn’t mean Christianity is inherently evil, merely that it can be misused.
Maybe God isn’t interested in people simply believing in him. Instead, I think God is far more interested in people loving him and trusting him than merely believing in him.
apologetics alone can never provide the whole picture in our search for faith. In the end, nobody gets argued into the kingdom of God.
Every song about love lost and won, and every film about good overcoming evil is an echo of that greater story of redemption.