Be Confident Believers in an Age of Cranky Atheists
Thomas Nelson, 2012. Pbk, 251pp.
Mitch Stokes has studied under some of the best Christian philosophers: Nicholas Wolterstorff for a Masters and Alvin Plantinga and Peter van Inwagen for his PhD. Here he draws upon, develops and distils their ideas in this introductory book.
Stokes starts by looking at the new atheists and shows that they adopt an evidentialist view (the view that all beliefs, if they are rational, must be supported by sufficient evidence) . He quickly shows that evidentialism is false but does so in a humorous and non-technical way. As he puts it:
We have a choice then: either evidentialism is true and we're all irrational, or else many of the beliefs we ordinarily accept as rational really are rational and evidentialism is false.In parts two and three he looks at two old chestnuts: science shows God doesn't exist and suffering and evil show God doesn't exist.
In part two he makes some interesting remarks about mathematics; he believes it is central to the science-faith debate. He argues that the effectiveness of mathematics means that a naturalistic account of reality is unfounded. He uses Plantinga's idea that mathematics isn't created. However, this would mean that mathematics takes on divine attributes! For me that's a few steps too far! God is the only uncreated; mathematics is a creation.
The other 'defeater' he examines is the existence of evil and suffering. He takes the usual approach of distinguishing two types of problem (the logical and the probalistic arguments) before turning the tables and looking at the problem of evil for the atheist. If there is no divine lawgiver how can we have moral standards? If there are no moral standards how can we have evil?
Stokes has written this book not to defend Christianity against the (irrational) claims of the new atheists or to get atheists to believe in God, but essentially to equip Christians to expose the flaws in the new atheist approach. He is providing tools to do apologetics, in a non-apologetic way.
Abraham Lincoln is purported to have said “Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe.” This book will certainly help with the tool sharpening. It gives Christians the tools to cut down the rootless atheist tree.