Brett Williams's Reviews > Made for More

Made for More by Curtis Martin
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it was ok

For those who don’t need convincing

Curtis Martin has authored other books that reflect my own concerns, from modern hyper-individualism and the consequent disappearance of virtue, to questions of human meaning. In this book, he does a fair job of surveying the usual arguments, and does so with brevity, so it’s quick and straightforward. However, as so often with apologetics, this is a book for believers looking for support of what they already believe. The book makes some good points in regards to several skeptical excesses, and provides issues that deserve pondering, but for serious readers in an honest search for answers, you’re not likely to find it convincing.

The book begins with a series of imaginary speculations about heaven, where a conversation is envisioned between a recently deceased individual, a saint, and C.S. Lewis. The bottom line is Pascal’s Wager (1623-1662), the gamble that one should believe, based on the threat of damnation if they don’t. If they believe and there is no hell, or there is simply nothing, then so what? One may as well believe, just in case. Modern thinkers will ask if “belief or else” differs from any other tyranny that demands obedience by threat of punishment, and if such a tyrant should be worshiped? (This is not free will, but coercion in its absence.) Can one truly believe under such a wager, or is it mere pretending? Are reward and punishment sufficient cause to believe in any scripture, or should its doctrine be the guide?

After this initial story, Martin’s book goes on to present arguments in support of Christianity of the Catholic version. A number of Bible verses are quoted, but these are dependent on which translation a reader adheres to. Much is made of Exodus 3:14 in which God responds to Moses’ question of God’s identity with, “I AM.” But the King James Version has this as “I AM THAT I AM.” The New Jerusalem Version: “I am he who is.” The New World translation: “I Will Become What I Choose.” While these particular verses fall in the same neighborhood with slightly different implications, others variant verses have greater impact for orthodoxy, such as, “This bread is my body,” or “This bread represents my body.” Which one is inerrant? Hence the second biggest issue in Biblical interpretation: what did the original ancient Greek really say (or, in the case of the Old Testament, ancient Hebrew)?

Martin notes Jesus’ response to the king of the Jews question, with the verse, “It is you who say that I am.” Martin claims Jesus has a double meaning here, proclaiming Jesus is in fact God himself because Jesus used the words “I am.” A stretch if ever there was one, though for someone who speaks frequently in parables, perhaps. But if “I AM” is an incorrect translation, Martin’s repeated reference to it is meaningless.

The author notes thousands of references and manuscripts available with which to double check biblical fidelity as refutation to modification with time. In other words, God has preserved his word unaltered. Yet today we have 50+ translations, 671 Protestant denominations, and how many Catholic subgroups as a result of their disagreements over scriptures and their meaning. Things aren’t so certain. How many manuscripts and references by multiple civilizations are there in agreement on the first book ever written, “The Epic of Gilgamesh”? Yet do we really believe Utnapishtim built an arc (or even existed) to save two of every kind before the worldwide flood about to be delivered by the gods, and over a thousand years before the Noah story?

Among other defenses are apostle shortcomings, such as Peter’s denial of Jesus or cowardice of the apostles. Anyone wanting to look good would leave out such reports. But don’t these weaknesses make a stronger story when Jesus stays the course in the face of doubt and death? Remove adversity and Jesus is a less impressive figure. We’re also told that martyrs who met their end attest to the integrity of the message. While this may attest to the integrity of martyrs, this does not vouch for the message as history is full of fanatics who end their lives for a belief, like David Koresh and his Branch Davidians. The most important thing for Martin is, understandably, the resurrection of Jesus. But resurrections of the dead, virgin births, miracle workers, and human sacrifice are common in the ancient world (Sumerian Tammuz, Egyptian Osiris, Greek Dionysus, Hindu Krishna, Mayan Quetzalcoatl…).

While all this may seem cynical nit-picking, the serious reader wants a sound foundation to start from before sinking decades of effort into study. If the reader is unaware of other religious traditions, or ancient beliefs, Martin’s book will go down easy. Of course Martin means well, but he’s fighting that long battle between faith and reason with mismatched tools not up to the task. He’s mixing faith which needs no evidence with reason that does. Martin replaces “right reason” with (in Michael Shermer’s terminology) “motivated reason” that accepts evidence for what’s already believed, rejecting evidence that refutes that belief. For a more rigorous defense of Christianity, try Ernst Troeltsch (1865-1923), though he is significantly more dense than Martin. Troeltsch does not shy away from religious comparisons, scientific reasoning, or his disdain for miracles, and yet he comes away convinced of Christianity’s ultimate truth.
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Reading Progress

Started Reading
July 29, 2015 – Finished Reading
September 12, 2015 – Shelved

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