Book Review – “Satan and the Problem of Evil” by Gregory A. Boyd

Satan and the Problem of Evil

*To read my review of the first book in this two-book set, please click here.

I am going to preface this review as I did the first one:  Boyd’s book is both large and complex.  No review I could write would be able to do it justice, and I do run the risk of misunderstanding or misrepresenting something he holds to, though I will certainly try not to.  While I will try to give enough insight to guide anyone’s choice on whether or not to read the book, I am sure any review I write will seem to be overlooking or oversimplifying quite a bit, and there is no way not to.  Boyd’s writing is very deep.

This is the second book in Greg Boyd’s Trinitarian Warfare Theodicy explanation.  The first book, with the review linked above, was called God at War, and in that book, Boyd sought to establish that the overarching viewpoint the Bible espoused from Genesis to Revelation was one of warfare between God and Satan.  Through this viewpoint, Boyd argued, we would have the best chance of understanding why evil exists in the world.  Boyd set up his view in opposition to what he called the “blueprint worldview” that would be taught most strongly from a Reformed/Calvinistic standpoint and still espoused (albeit less strongly) in a traditional Arminian worldview.  The main goal of Boyd’s first book was merely establishing that the Bible contained a warfare paradigm.  But it did not delve too deeply into how that would play out in the problem of evil, necessarily.

This second book, Satan and the Problem of Evil, seeks to do just that.  In this book, Boyd seeks to explain the finer details of how this warfare worldview would be a better explanation of why evil exists in the world than a blueprint worldview.

The book itself is 456 pages long.  This includes the book itself, 5 appendices, a glossary of terms, a bibliography, and author/subject index, and a scripture index.  There is one major adjustment to the layout of this book that I love, and that is that the notes are throughout as footnotes on each page rather than as endnotes in the back of the book.  Since Boyd uses quite a few notes, I think this was a great publishing choice, as it made it easier to check the notes without having to flip to the back of the book each time.  I appreciated that greatly.

The first part of the book focuses specifically on the issues of God’s sovereignty, God’s foreknowledge, and the free will of personal beings (humans, angels, demons, and Satan), especially as these relate to the problem of evil.  If you have not read God at War, Boyd does offer a much abbreviated overview in the first chapter, but it really helps to have read the first book prior to this one.

As Boyd discusses free will, he sees it as a necessary component of God’s creating people who could truly choose to love Him.  Boyd sees this free will as necessary and irrevocable.  But he does still see the freedom as limited (after all, there is only one completely free being, and that is God; all other freedom is granted by Him to beings).

It is in this first part of the book that Boyd really looks into the contrast between a divine blueprint view (especially as it requires “eternal divine foreknowledge”) and an open view of God’s knowledge.  The open view teaches (as I understand it) that God can fully know the past and present, but cannot completely know the future, as it is not yet determined by creatures with freedom.  God may be able to know all possibilities of what creatures will choose, but until they choose, the future does not exist in actuality, so God cannot know that perfectly.  This is not a limitation on God’s part, but is something God chose to set in place by allowing creatures to have non-compatabilist freedom.  To Boyd (and others who hold to the open view of God’s knowledge), this does not weaken God.  Rather, it shows His strength and power because despite not knowing how creatures will choose, God is so wonderful and sovereign that He will still bring about His ultimate will, and can redeem anything creatures do, even evil actions.

Here is the biggest difference in the trinitarian warfare theodicy Boyd espouses and a blueprint worldview.  A blueprint worldview sees every evil action as being at least permitted by God (with His foreknowledge that it would occur) if not ordained by Him.  In either case, every evil action is a part of God’s larger plan from the very beginning.  The view Boyd argues for is that because we are in a war zone, with God at variance with some evil free creatures, there are some things that happen for no purpose.  Still, God is able (as Romans 8:28 states) to bring good out of every evil occurrence eventually.

The hinge is really that God chose to allow the risk of creaturely evil against His will in order to give personal beings the choice to either love or reject Him, and the only way to guard this choice was to permit the possibility of evil and continue to allow it.

Boyd would be quick to point out that God can, and sometimes does, intervene in situations, but that He does not always do so, and we cannot understand all the various reasons why this occurs.  Many things can impact whether or not God intervenes, from His overall purposes to the prayers of others to even “chance” occurrences (set up, of course, by prior actions).  So while God does not always intervene, He does sometimes, and we cannot fathom all the reasons that go into why the intervention sometimes occurs and sometimes does not.

Part 2 focuses on miracles, natural evil, and even tackles the concept of suffering in the afterlife.  Boyd does argue that supernatural beings can occasionally be behind “natural” evil, as we think of it.  He also tackles the idea of eternal conscious torment versus annihilation in the afterlife, coming up with a combined view that people do suffer forever, but they do so in a sort of self-contained existence, where they cease to exist to anyone but themselves.  He alludes greatly to C. S. Lewis and The Great Divorce for some of these ideas, and, while I don’t know whether I accept them fully or not, I do admit the concepts were intriguing.

There are 5 appendices in the book.

The first deals with remaining objections to his trinitarian warfare theodicy, including arguing whether it works on a practical level; that is, does it provide comfort to those who are suffering.  I was quite surprised to find myself agreeing that it is possible that an open view of God’s knowledge could provide better comfort than a blueprint worldview.  I think Boyd did an outstanding job of explaining his perspective there.

The second deals with philosophical arguments regarding the incompatibility of eternal define foreknowledge and self-determining free will.

The third deals with the idea of incomplete probationary periods and the possibility of salvation after death.

The fourth deals with a theology of chance and how it relates to God and freedom.

The fifth tackles some proof-texts from the Bible often used to support a compatabilistic view of God’s sovereignty and human freedom.  Here, Boyd tackles some of the stronger texts Calvinists and other compatabilists would bring up to argue that God is in control of everything all the time, both good and evil.  He works on dealing with them exegetically to show how they do not necessarily rule out his views of God.  There were a few verses that I’m not sure Boyd argued very well, but overall, I found his arguments very strong.

While I am still not sure where I stand regarding Open Theism, I found Boyd’s book extremely well argued regarding the idea of viewing evil from a trinitarian warfare theodicy worldview.  I suppose it could still work with Arminianism, though I would have to think it through quite a bit to determine how that would work as well as it seems to with an open view of God’s knowledge.

If you have read other books on theodicy, especially those from a blueprint worldview model, I would strongly encourage you to read this book (and Boyd’s first book) to help provide another picture.  Even if you do not ultimately agree with Boyd, I think his argument is strong enough that it needs to be considered.

I highly recommend Boyd’s book, though be prepared for an often deep and complex read.

*Note: I received a complimentary copy of the book from the publisher in exchange for my honest review.


Book Review – “A Peculiar Glory” by John Piper


After reading several books by John Piper (as well as reading articles by him and hearing him talk about a few things), I have discovered that Piper seems to be hit or miss.  Some of his books I really love, while others I truly find myself struggling through.  A Peculiar Glory falls into the latter category, and it is primarily the writing style that got me this time.

This book is Piper’s defense and explanation of the way we know the Bible is the word of God.  It takes a very Reformed stance, arguing primarily from an internal witness perspective rather than from an evidential perspective.  For some this is a great thing, and I definitely think that the Spirit must help us believe, as do most evidentialists.  I cannot put my finger on it, but I just felt something was missing in Piper’s working it out.

Piper starts by explaining how he feels the Bible held on to him, rather than the other way around.  I love reading biographical information about people, so this was a great part. He then moves on in Part 2 to explaining how we know what books and words make up the Bible.  This was a pretty common explanation.  Part 3 examines what the Bible claims about itself.  To some, this will seem circular; but I think we have to take into account what a book says about itself.  This may not be the only thing we rely on, but it must be considered.

Parts 4 and 5 are where the book takes a turn, in my opinion.  These parts deal with how we can know the Bible is true and how they are confirmed to be true.  The basic argument, as I understand it, is that we primarily know the Bible is true by the confirmation of the glory of the gospel of Christ throughout the text and as it comes alive in our lives.  That is, we mainly know that it is true by the revelation of the Holy Spirit in our lives as we read and are transformed by the word.  Ultimately, then, it is not about the proofs (although they may come, and Piper does not totally discount evidentialist proofs), but it is about the Spirit of God causing people dead in sin to come alive to the truth of the gospel in the word.  If anyone is convinced of the veracity of the Scriptures, it is because God caused them to believe it through exposure to it.

While I believe there is some truth here, it seems to me that it doesn’t put enough weight on evidence.  True, we don’t want to elevate evidence above the Scriptures themselves, but neither do we want to border on ignoring it.  Again, Piper does not argue for ignoring evidence; throughout he talks about using it.  It’s just that external evidences (history, archaeology, etc.) seem very minimally considered.

Piper’s goal is noble.  He wants to know how someone in a culture very distanced from all the information we have access to could come to know the Scriptures are God’s revelation.  If they don’t know about the textual evidences in manuscripts, the historical reliability of the text, etc., how could those people know that the Bible is God’s word?  Piper writes:

“What turned my focus (not my approval or my interest) away from historical reasoning as a support for faith was the realization that most people in the world–especially in the less-educated, developing world–have neither the training nor the time to pursue such detailed arguments in support of their faith. And yet the Bible assumes that those who hear the gospel may know the truth of it and may stake their lives on it–indeed must stake their lives on it.” (Kindle location 2196)

Piper’s answer certainly alleviates that problem.  I credit him greatly for showing us that we do not have to have knowledge of those other areas to know the Bible is God’s word.  But as a lay apologist, I struggle with minimizing so much great knowledge that we have.

Let me state clearly that I read this book a little along, as the style just seemed harder for me to get into this time, and I struggled reading it for long stretches at once.  So I may have spaced it out too far and missed something that would make it all click better.  I may have to read it again sometime and see if it flows better the second time around.  So if I have misrepresented Piper above, it is unintentional.

It is a good book, and I would recommend it to others, with the head’s up that if they are not Reformed/Calvinist, there may be things here they disagree with.  If you are an apologist looking for detailed arguments in favor of the word of God along the lines of McDowell, Craig, Koukl, or others, this book is not that kind of apologetic.  If you are looking for a way to see how to defend the word of God using the Scripture itself, I think you will find this a valuable book.

*I was provided with a complimentary copy of this book from Crossway in exchange for my honest review.  

Book Review – “Fool’s Talk” by Os Guinness


As a lay apologist, I am always looking for good books on the topic.  I have heard Os Guinness speak more than I have read things by him, but I knew that I liked what I heard.  When I saw he released a book on apologetics, I immediately added it to my “to read” list.  Guinness’ book, called Fool’s Talk: Recovering the Art of Christian Persuasion, did not disappoint!

The first thing I want to point out is that the book is dense.  Not in a bad way, but it is certainly  not a quick read.  Guinness includes a lot to think about, and it is both deep and well rounded.  Honestly, I’m not sure I feel qualified to write a review after reading it only once, but I will have to read even slower the next time, so I am going to give it my best shot.

Fool’s Talk is an interesting addition to the apologetic genre.  It is not a book primarily filled with answers to tough questions, although there are some.  It is not primarily a book on methodology.  In fact, Guinness points out a few times throughout the book that he is no fan of scripted methodologies of apologetics or evangelism.  To Guinness, we should know the person we are talking to well enough to have a genuine conversation that is geared toward the needs of the hearer.  I suppose I could describe Guinness’ book as being a primer on why apologetics is necessary, with many reminders as to the ultimate goal: loving people enough to persuade them into God’s kingdom for their benefit.

Along those lines, then, Guinness’ book is also a crossover into evangelism. Again, nothing scripted.  Rather it is an encouragement that the reason for apologetics is not ultimately about “winning” an argument.  Instead, the goal is heart and life transformation of those we are reaching out to.

Guinness tackles various subjects such as why people fail to believe, how to “turn the tables” to expose the presuppositions (and the weakness of those presuppositions) of the hearer, how to trigger more of  desire for our hearers to know God, understanding that our lives must increasingly match our talk, and more.

I found myself wondering throughout the book whether Guinness would support more of an evidentialist-based approach or a presuppositionalist-based one.  Guinness ends up answering that question in the book, and I love his answer:

“One of the most futile arguments in contemporary apologetics is the debate between the so-called evidentialists and presuppositionalists. But what should be clear from this description of the journey toward faith is that the answer is not either-or, but both-and and which-when.  Both presuppositions and evidences are a key part of our apologetics approach, and the real question is which to focus on and when.” (p. 246)

Guinness then proceeds to explain how someone who is hardened to Christianity is in need of more presuppositional explanations, while someone who is open is in need of more evidentialist ones.  I think that he does a phenomenal job of bringing together something that is normally divided (and often harshly so).

Throughout, Guinness reminds us that the goal is love.  We love people.  We want them to know God. Therefore we must recover the art of Christian persuasion.  It is not about being smarter than others.  It is not about winning an argument; if all we do is win arguments, we may be winning small battles but ultimately losing the war for the hearts of people who need to know God in Christ.  It is about knowing the love of God and life in His kingdom and wanting others to know and experience the same.  That is the goal of Christian persuasion, and it is a much-needed reminder for those of us who delve into apologetics.

I truly believe every Christian needs to read this book.  It needs to be read slowly, thoughtfully, and prayerfully.  And then it needs to be implemented in our lives.  If we can lovingly recover the art of Christian persuasion, the Church will make great strides in leading people back to God’s loving kingdom.

*Note: I received a complimentary copy of this book from InterVarsity Press in exchange for my honest review.

Book Review – “Searching for Jesus” by Robert J. Hutchinson


As a lay apologist, I am always interested in reading on various aspects related to Christian evidence.  The various “quests” for the historical Jesus are just one aspect that I enjoy reading about.  I saw a new book on the issue, and immediately requested one from Thomas Nelson publishers (through Book Look Bloggers) to read and review.

Searching for Jesus by Robert J. Hutchinson is a very detailed read.  The text is 275 pages, not including the acknowledgements, selected bibliography, notes, index, or “About the Author” page.  The notes are extensive, adding up to 41 pages. The total page count is 350 pages.

The book is interesting.  The main thrust of the book is to show how (to borrow some phrases from the subtitle) “new discoveries in the quest for Jesus of Nazereth” mainly “confirm the gospel accounts.”  The book takes as its main task to argue that “many of the ‘scientific’ or scholarly ideas about Jesus paraded in the media every Christmas and Easter are increasingly obsolete, based on assumptions, theories, and unproven hypotheses that are, in some cases, more than a century old and which have been superseded by more recent research” (p. xvi, emphasis in original).  Rather, Hutchinson argues, “new discoveries are causing some experts to wonder if the basic portraits of Jesus in the Gospels is far more plausible than the elaborate reconstructions created by academic skeptics over the past 150 years” (p. xvii, emphasis in original).

Throughout the book, the author tackles the most prominent issues surrounding Jesus of Nazareth, examining the evidence to try to see what it shows us and what the best view of Jesus is based on that evidence.  Chapter 1 tackles the question on whether or not the gospels contain eyewitness testimony.  Chapter 2 looks at the arguments that the Jesus we have come to know is primarily based on legendary material and developments rather than historical facts.  Chapter 3 asks whether the gospels are forgeries that have a late date or whether they actually date earlier than previously thought.  Chapter 4 looks at archaeological finds relating to Jesus and the New Testament.  Chapter 5 asks whether the idea of the Messiah as someone who would suffer was invented by the Church, or whether it dates back to Judaism itself.  Chapter 6 examines the Jewishness of Jesus.  Chapter 7 looks into whether or not the gnostic views of Jesus are accurate.  Chapter 8 asks if Jesus was a revolutionary in line with the Zealots, or whether His revolution was something entirely different.  Chapter 9 examines ideas from the Gospel of Judas, specifically whether the view that Jesus planned His own death is accurate or not.  Chapter 10 examines what proof we have of the resurrection, and what it meant for Jesus to be resurrected.  Chapter 11 looks at how early in the history of Christianity the idea developed that Jesus was divine.  Because he covers so many topics, he cannot dig as deep as could be done into any of them, but he does a great job of giving a broad overview of the issues from multiple perspectives, ultimately arguing in favor of what the gospels seem to say.

Throughout the book, Hutchinson lays out all the various perspectives related to the issues above.  He doesn’t merely argue for the conservative, orthodox views.  He also clearly (and fairly) explains multiple views that would traditionally be considered liberal and skeptical.

Which leads me to the concern I have with the book.  As it is published by Thomas Nelson, I honestly think I went into the book expecting something more traditional and conservative.  In reality, the book, while mainly conservative, tends to be more open to liberal arguments than what I am used to reading.  From what I can tell, nothing on the back of the book or inside flap led me to believe that the book would be written that way.  An endorsement from N. T. Wright on the back says that “[q]uestions remain,” but it never mentions what kinds of questions or how many we should expect.  The inside flap does say the book is “Written for skeptics and believers alike,” but many conservative apologetic works make that claim. Once I started reading the book, however, it quickly became apparent that this was not a standard apologetic work.

In the book’s introduction, Hutchinson states:

Finally, a quick note on the Bible in general: In my own mind, I am writing for two groups of people: committed Christians of many denominations who have a wide variety of beliefs about how and to what degree the Bible is inspired or even inerrant; and, secondly, general readers who are interested in Jesus of Nazareth and early Christianity but who are not wedded to any previous notion that the Bible is based on real events.  Writing for these two groups presents many challenges, of course, but I tried to steer a middle course and remain respectful both of Christian orthodoxy and secular skepticism. What’s more, most of this book is about what secular, Jewish, and not necessarily Christian scholars and archaeologists are discovering and concluding–and how their recent research is, to a surprising degree, supporting much of what the Gospels say about Jesus of Nazareth.  Thus, this book is not primarily a work of Christian apologetics as such but rather a brief overview of the changing world of New Testament scholarship. (p. xxvii)

To me, something this clear should have been included on the dust flap or the back of the book rather than tucked away inside the introduction, especially since this book is published by a company that, to the best of my knowledge, is usually known for quite conservative and orthodox books.  People just getting into apologetics could pick up the book thinking they are getting something along the lines of Strobel or Geisler, when in reality, this book is far different.

The author goes on to explain how he struggles with the same skepticism as non-Christians, but that he is willing to dig into the evidence of contemporary scholarship to follow the evidence where it leads.  I admire this honesty, of course; I just wish it would have been clearer somehow on the outside of the book, which is traditionally the promotional part.

The last paragraph of the introduction begins:

I approach the effort to understand Jesus with what I hope is an open mind.  Although I am a believing Christian, I have no trouble questioning many of the central assertions of historic Christianity, especially when there are good reasons for doing so.  At the same time, however, I feel equally free to question the assumptions and unproven theories of contemporary New Testament scholarship, especially when there are good reasons for doing so.  I view them with the same skepticism and weary familiarity with which other people view the doctrines of Christianity. (p.xxviii)

Again, no fault to the author for his forthrightness.  I just wonder how many people will pick up the book based on reviews or the cover without realizing this is the mindset the author is coming from?

So, what is the end result of the author’s writing?  What does he leave the reader with in the last part of the Epilogue?

Whatever Jesus “really” was–and as we’ve seen in this book, after two hundred years of relentless scholarly digging, no one can agree what this is–whether Jesus was God incarnate or three quarters God or just a little God–it is literally true that he is and has been a “light of revelation” for untold billions of people throughout history.  For those who believe in him, skeptic or not, Jesus is nothing less than the human face of God. (p. 274)

This is far from a traditional conclusion to an apologetic book.  We have already established, however, that this is not a strictly apologetic book in the usual sense of the word.  For conservative Christians, however, who take in hand to read through this book, the ending may come as a shock. While the author doesn’t outright deny the traditional claims for Christ’s life, his desire to take a “middle course” keeps him from ultimately landing on either side, leaving it up to the reader to decide on his or her own.

So is this a book I would recommend?  Yes . . . and no.

Yes, I would recommend the book to skeptics who are open to historical evidence.  I would recommend the book to apologists who are interested in keeping up with recent findings in New Testament scholarship regarding the life of Jesus.  I would recommend this book to anyone who has already read and is familiar with the liberal and conservative arguments regarding Jesus of Nazareth.

But no, I would not recommend the book to new believers.  I would not recommend the book to someone interested in only a conservative, orthodox defense of Jesus of Nazareth.  There are other books that are better for that.

So how do I rate the book?  In terms of what it is intending to do, to clearly lay out multiple explanations for who Christ is based on current New Testament understanding and scholarship, it does a great job.  In terms of showing how recent evidence is pointing us closer to what the New Testament gospels have said all along, it succeeds.

Unfortunately, the “packaging” of the book from Thomas Nelson seems to leave something to be desired.  The outside of the book can easily lead someone to believe the book is something that it isn’t.  It seems like a traditional apologetic book on the defense of Jesus of Nazareth against liberal and skeptical views.  While there is some of that in the book, there are also more times the author concedes liberal views than what many Christians are used to reading about.  Again, I don’t fault the author of the book for being forthright in his views.  I just think it should have been clearer on the outside of the book.

Ultimately, this book is good for those I mentioned above, those who are familiar with the discussion and want to read more recent information on it.  But I wonder if it wouldn’t have been more successful if published by another company or if the outside was clearer?  I fear that skeptics will avoid the book because it is published by Thomas Nelson, a known Christian publisher, and because the outside of the book seems to describe it almost as a traditional apologetic book, or at least it doesn’t clearly explain that it is not.  Since the author’s stated purpose is to reach skeptics, I wonder if he will succeed this way.  On the other hand, I fear some Christians who have never been exposed to liberal or skeptical arguments may have their faith shaken up, if this is the way those arguments are introduced.  There are other books that do a better job of refuting those arguments and introducing them in ways that don’t sound as if they carry more weight than they sometimes do.  So there is the potential for confusion to be brought in to some people who the author ultimately wants to strengthen.

In short, the book is one I would recommend, with certain reservations, to certain people. But I could not necessarily recommend this book to just any Christian reader without making sure they have resources or people to help them wade through the contents.

Note: I received a complimentary copy of the book from the publisher in exchange for my honest review.  

Book Review – “God’s Crime Scene” by J. Warner Wallace


I love apologetics.  I love reading on various arguments, explanations, and ideas on explaining and defending a Christian worldview.  Naturally, I was very excited when David C. Cook publishers offered to provide a copy of God’s Crime Scene by J. Warner Wallace for me to read and review.  I have read Wallace’s previous book Cold-Case Christianity, and I enjoyed it immensely.  This, too, was a good book by Wallace.

God’s Crime Scene argues for the existence of God from the ground up.  In the book, Wallace uses his experience as a cold-case detective to examine the evidence we see in creation to determine whether it points to a Creator or not.  As such, the book is intended to help those who question God’s existence see good arguments as to why He does exist.

The chapters examine the beginning of the universe, the fine tuning of the universe, the origin of life, the appearance of design in creation, the existence of consciousness, the existence of free will, the existence of morality, and the problem of evil.  As Wallace concludes each chapter, he puts together an “Emerging ‘Suspect’ Profile.”  Ultimately, Wallace argues that the “Suspect” (quotes in Wallace’s book) responsible for the world as we know it is:

  1. “external to the universe
  2. nonspatial, atemporal, and nonmaterial
  3. uncaused
  4. powerful enough to create everything we see in the universe
  5. specifically purposeful enough to produce a universe fine-tuned for life
  6. intelligent and communicative
  7. creative and resourceful
  8. a conscious Mind
  9. free to choose (and create) personally
  10. the personal source of moral truth and obligation
  11. the standard for good by which we define evil” (p. 193)

The layout of each chapter is to start with a legal case and the accompanying evidence as a way of analogy to the evidence to be examined from Creation.  Wallace then tackles all of the attempts to explain the evidence by looking “inside the room,” or looking only at natural, material causes.  He shows why those explanations fail to explain the evidence before looking elsewhere for an explanation for the evidence in question.  In the margins of the chapter Wallace includes “Expert Witness Profiles” (small biographical bits regarding people he cites in the book), “Cold Case Approach” information (explaining how a cold-case detective would look at evidence), and “A Tool for the Call-Out Bag” (extra tips to explain how detectives and jurors look at evidence to make decisions).

There are many selling points for those who wish to go deeper.  There are copious notes throughout, and often these notes add more information (full quotes from authors, explanations, etc.) rather than just citations as to where Wallace got information from.  Another inclusion is a section for each chapter in the back of the book called “The Secondary Investigation.” This section will take the information discussed in each chapter and go in more detail.  Finally, Wallace includes “Case Files: The Expert Witnesses.”  This section is a small bibliography for each chapter, providing titles of books that provide more information for those arguing from “inside the room” (the naturalistic arguments) and those arguing “outside the room” (the theistic arguments).  I especially like the fact that Wallace is willing to include titles that would argue against his case for others to read, as it shows that Wallace believes his arguments will stand up under scrutiny.

Who will benefit most from this book?  First, those who are atheist or agnostic who are open to considering other viewpoints will benefit.  Second, Christians/theists who are looking for assistance in understanding how to argue for a Creator.

I do need to take a minute to clarify a few things for people to understand if they are trying to decide whether or not to read this book.

First, this book takes an Intelligent Design approach, as far as I can tell.  It assumes modern scientific understanding of things such as the age of the earth and universe, the Big Bang, etc.  Young-Earth Creationists (YECs) are still able to use things from the book that don’t require a YEC stance.  But they will have issues with some of the assumptions that Wallace (and those he cites) makes.

Second, because it takes an Intelligent Design approach to arguing for the existence of God, it will fit in more with someone who holds to classical apologetics or cumulative case apologetics.  Presuppositionalists may have issues with the way Wallace makes his case.  As far as I can recall, no Scripture is cited in the text itself, and the only Scripture referenced is in the notes for the “Closing Argument.”  For classical apologists, this is a plus, as it shows that one can potentially argue for a theistic understanding of God without quoting chapter and verse.  For presuppositionalists, this may likely be a downside, as it doesn’t start from what they consider the ultimate authority to make the argument.  I still think anyone can glean much good from the book, but it was a point worth mentioning for those who take things like the above into account.

The last thing that potential readers need to note is that this book will not provide evidence to take someone all the way to considering Christianity.  It is not intended to.  Wallace himself points this out in the book:

“If the evidence in this book has been compelling to you and you’ve decided a Divine Creator is the best explanation for the evidence in the universe, you’re now among the vast majority of people on our planet who accept that proposition.  But given the variety of theistic worldviews available, which, if any of them, is true? The case for God’s existence presented in this book might apply to a number of religious systems positing a personal God, particularly the monotheistic traditions such as Judaism, Christianity, and Islam.  I would encourage you to investigate the claims of these systems with equal vigor.” (p. 203)

Wallace goes on to explain how he came to believe in Christianity, and he points out that he talks about how he came to that conclusion in Cold-Case Christianity, so he does point people to reading that could take them further.  For those considering this book, however, please understand that it does not argue all the way to Christianity; it stops with the existence of some form of a Creator.

Overall, this is a good book to read for those interested in arguments for the existence of a Creator/Intelligent Designer.  The layout and methodology is definitely unique, and it would make a good addition to anyone’s library who is interested in apologetics.

Note: I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for my honest review.  


Book Review – “Abolishing Abortion” by Rev. Frank Pavone

One topic I have been wanting to read more about lately is the topic of abortion.  I have been interested especially in finding good information regarding how to help end abortion and save the lives being lost in the practice.  Interestingly, I was accidentally providentially sent a copy of Abolishing Abortion: How You Can Play a Part in Ending the Greatest Evil of Our Day by Rev. Frank Pavone (published by Thomas Nelson) from Book Look Bloggers.

While many books on abortion focus mainly on the scriptural reasons we should end abortion or on providing moral and ethical arguments against it, Pavone’s book, while including those topics, focuses more on the political aspect of what needs to be done.

The book starts by explaining how we must take the abortion discussion into the public square.  In doing so, Pavone tackles the question of separation of Church and state, arguing that in reality both Church and state have a common goal: the protection of the right to live for all humans, with no exceptions.  He goes on to argue that it is “Time for Repentance,” meaning that those of us who believe that all human life should be protected need to repent for not doing whatever we can to help bring an end to abortion.  As Pavone continues through the book, he offers insight into how churches can stand up for the rights of the unborn politically in light of the threats of losing tax-exempt status.  I found this chapter especially enlightening, as I hear much about the tax-exempt status of churches without necessarily understanding how this started and what all is involved.  Suffice it to say that churches really are not in nearly as much danger of losing that status as they have been led to believe.  In reality, the laws regarding that issue seem to be so vague that to enforce them would be nearly impossible, unless I am misunderstanding Pavone.  Chapters 7 and 8 seemed to be the hardest to get through for me, as Pavone focuses specifically on Roman Catholic issues regarding the topic (he writes the whole book from a Catholic perspective).

I really found the most interesting parts of the book starting in chapter 9, “Collision Course.”  In asking the question “What is the difference between killing a child just before birth or right afterward?” Pavone makes this statement:

“There is no way out of this question for the abortion industry or for any of us.  Kermit Gosnell and other late-term abortionists put the ideological approval of the practice of abortion on a collision course with the normal, human antipathy toward gruesome violence.  To break the impasse over abortion, we must compel the collision with all its pain, with all its attendant friction, collateral damage, and anxiety. In fact, we need to increase the speed and force of that collision.  Although collision is inevitable, our human nature does everything it can to postpone the moment of impact, and more damage is done in the meantime.” (p. 157-158)

On one hand, we all know that murdering humans is wrong.  On the other hand, abortionists and pro-choice advocates are forced to try to deny that innate understanding in some way to continue to support their stance.  Our job, according to Pavone, is to continue to increase the pressure to acknowledge the gruesome fact that abortion is taking human life.  Whether it is through pictures, through reason and logic, or any other means (still in a loving way), we must take a stand and continue to increase the tension in this area until the question of what abortion is doing can no longer be avoided, dodged, or reasoned away.

Pavone explains in the next chapter that we are really advocating for the care of both mother and child in fighting against abortion.  He explains:

“We need to convince the unconvinced that to be pro-life is to be pro-woman. The difference between ‘pro-life’ and ‘pro-choice’ is not that pro-lifers love the baby and pro-choicers love the woman.  The difference is that the pro-choice message says you can separate the two, and the pro-life message says you cannot. Our opponents criticize us as ‘fetus-lovers’ who are insensitive to women and indifferent to children.  But one cannot, and pro-lifers do not, love the child without loving the mother.  Abortion defenders claim they are loving women, even as they admit they are killing their children.  But one cannot love the woman without loving the child.  Nor can one harm the child without harming the mother.” (p. 183-184)

It is not either/or but both/and.  Protect and look out for women and children.

Chapter 11, the last chapter, is really one of the most important.  Its title is “A Foundation of Love,” and that truly must be the true foundation of the pro-life movement.  Pavone states, “Love is the foundation and inescapable condition of everything the pro-life movement does, whether that activity is perceived as ‘loving’ or ‘harsh.'” (p. 195)  Pavone continues on to explain:

“Abortion is the exact opposite of love.  Love says, ‘I sacrifice myself for the good of the other person.’ Abortion says, ‘I sacrifice the other person for the good of myself.’ And isn’t it amazing that the very same words used by the culture of death to justify abortion are the words used by our Lord to proclaim life and salvation and love: ‘This is My body!’

‘This is my body,’ some say. ‘I will do what I want, even if it means destroying the child.’ ‘This is My body,’ Jesus said, ‘given for you.’ (See Luke 22.)” (p. 197)

The above struck me as being very hard-hitting and very true.  Abortion truly is the opposite of love, but I would add so is ignoring it and staying silent out of fear.  If we love everyone, including the unborn, the time to stay silent is long past.

Pavone is very clear throughout that we are not to attack, demean, or look down upon those who have had abortions.  We are to love them, to assure them of forgiveness in Christ, and to reach out to them to help them as much as possible.  This book is in no way a cold-hearted, holier-than-thou attack on anyone.  It is birthed out of a love for humanity, even at the earliest stages of life.

Overall, Abolishing Abortion was a great read.  I couldn’t really associate much with the parts dealing with Catholicism and the pro-life position, but the majority of the book at the beginning and end were well worth the time invested.  It truly helped open my eyes to how vocal I need to be out of love for women and children.  I would encourage everyone to read this book and let it embolden them to take a stand for those who truly cannot take a stand for themselves.  Love demands it.

You can purchase the book from Amazon here or from Thomas Nelson here.

Note: I received this book free from Book Look Bloggers in exchange for an honest review.  

Book Review – What Does the Bible Really Teach about Homosexuality? by Kevin DeYoung

What Does the Bible Really Teach about Homosexuality? by Kevin DeYoung is a great basic book on a biblical Christian view of homosexuality.  In light of the Supreme Court’s recent ruling regarding homosexuality and marriage, it is very important for Christians who believe that homosexuality is not God’s design and is, therefore, a sin to have a good, loving, well-reasoned, and ultimately biblical explanation for why they believe the way they do.  I believe that DeYoung’s book will go a long way toward helping Christians articulate their views.

In the Introduction, DeYoung explains that while the Bible does talk about homosexuality, in reality it is a very small part of what the Bible is about.  DeYoung does not say this to downplay the importance of the topic in our current culture, but to remind us that there is a larger storyline in Scripture, and its comments on homosexuality fall into that larger storyline.  He also very clearly states up front that “this is a Christian book, with a narrow focus, defending a traditional view of marriage” (p. 15; italics in original).  The book does not cover every possible nuance of the discussion, and it is does not intend to.  For those interested in studying deeper, DeYoung includes a brief annotated bibliography in the back.  He also emphasizes that “If you walk away from this book angry and arrogant, disrespectful and devoid of all empathy, someone or something has failed.  I pray the failure is not mine” (p.18).  DeYoung’s point in writing the book is not to hate or bash anyone, and he states that very clearly.  I also believe he does a great job of maintaining a straightforward yet loving tone throughout.  He also does not want his readers walking away with anything but a loving concern for those who deal with same-sex attraction.

The book is then broken into two parts.

Part one is “Understanding God’s Word,” and it deals with the major texts in Scripture relevant to the discussion of homosexuality: Genesis 1-2; Genesis 19; Leviticus 18, 20; Romans 1; and 1 Corinthians 6 and 2 Timothy 1 (together).  In each chapter, DeYoung examines the biblical text and responds to common objections or reinterpretations of the text.  For a book of this size (150 pages, not including the bibliography, acknowledgements, or Scripture index), DeYoung does a great job of laying out a basic understanding of the issues.  He is a careful exegete, and remains faithful to the text as his final authority.

Part two is titled “Answering Objections,” and this part deals with extra-biblical objections to a traditional Christian view of homosexuality.  The objections he answers are “The Bible Hardly Ever Mentions Homosexuality,” “Not That Kind of Homosexuality,” What about Gluttony and Divorce,” “The Church Is Supposed to Be a Place for Broken People,” “You’re on the Wrong Side of HIstory,” “It’s Not Fair,” and “The God I Worship Is a God of Love.”  Each of these objections are truly relevant in our current culture, and again, for a book of this size, DeYoung does a good job of responding to each one.

The conclusion explains the importance of the topic by reminding us that several things are at stake in the debate: “the moral logic of monogamy,” “the integrity of Christian sexual ethics,” “the authority of the Bible,” and “the grand narrative of Scripture.”  DeYoung ends by reminding us that we all need Jesus and His grace in our lives.

There are three appendices in the book.  Appendix 1 deals with the question of same-sex marriage.  Appendix 2 discusses a Christian view of same-sex attraction.  Appendix 3 ends with a call to 10 commitments Christians and churches should make when dealing with the issue of homosexuality.  This includes commitments like #2 “We will tell the truth about all sins, including homosexuality, but especially the sins most prevalent in our community,” and #8 “We will ask for forgiveness when we are rude or thoughtless or joke about those who experience same-sex attraction.”  DeYoung also encourages us to do everything in love in the 10th commitment.

If you are looking for an easy yet helpful read regarding the issue of the Bible and homosexuality, Kevin DeYoung’s book is a great place to start.  I have linked below to Amazon and Crossway (the publisher) in case you would like to order a copy.

What Does the Bible Really Teach about Homosexuality? (Amazon)

What Does the Bible Really Teach about Homosexuality? (Crossway)