Showing posts with label book review. Show all posts
Showing posts with label book review. Show all posts

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Book Review: Is Jesus the Only Savior? by Ronald H. Nash Part 2

This is the second of a two-part review of Dr. Ronal Nash’s Is Jesus the Only Savior? (“Inclusivism”).  This review was much better than the first half (in my opinion).


Before delving into the arguments for or against inclusivism, Dr. Nash gives an introduction to the concept.  First off, it is important to understand that the topic has nothing to do with tolerance, in the sense that people ought to not mistreat those that believe things that are false.  The inclusivism in question here is soteriological in nature.  It is an answer to the question, “What about those that have never heard the Gospel?”  According to Dr. Nash, inclusivists would say, “devout believers in other religions will be saved, but only on the basis of Christ’s atoning work.” (emphasis added)  Dr. Nash also quotes Dr. John Sanders, “[T]he work of Jesus is ontologically necessary for salvation (no one would be saved without it) but not epistemologically necessary (one need not be aware of the work in order to benefit from it).”  As part of defining inclusivism Dr. Nash presents what he calls the starting point for the ideas of inclusivism: the “particularity axiom” and the “universality axiom.”  Dr. Nash references Dr. Clark Pinnock as insisting that Jesus Christ’s lordship is non-negotiable, Christ as the particular Lord of all and savior of all.  Dr. Nash references Dr. Sanders with regards to the universality axiom, referencing 1 Tim. 2:4, “[God] desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.” and Tit. 2:11 “For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all men.”  As Dr. Nash’s introduction of inclusivism continues, he discusses the growth of this view within evangelical circles, its widespread acceptance within Roman Catholicism, inclusivism and its relation to non-Christian religions, and finally a comparison of inclusivism and universalism.  This section seems a bit out of place, with the exception of the comparison to universalism, this series of sections would have been better suited as a separate chapter, but Dr. Nash brings all these ideas together in the conclusion which also serves to introduce the next two chapters.

Dr. Nash continues this discussion of inclusivism with the next two crucial sections.  Chapter eight focuses on the theological ideas presented in inclusivism and chapter nine on the relationship between inclusivism and the Bible.  Dr. Nash admits that in reality the biblical discussion concerning inclusivism and the theological discussion are closely related, but in order to present the ideas in a more logical progression he breaks them up into separate chapters.  The first, and possibly the most important, theological issue Dr. Nash mentions is the idea of “general” or “natural” revelation.  Defined by Dr. Bruce Demarest in the Evangelical Dictionary of Theology: “The divine disclosure to all persons at all times and in all places by which humans come to know that God is and what he is like.  While not imparting truths necessary for salvation …” (emphasis added).  Dr. Nash seems to do Dr. Pinnock a disservice aiming at what he sees as an inconsistency in the inclusivist position when it comes to evangelicalism.  Dr. Nash seems to set his sights, in this chapter at least, on the argument in inclusivism that says one need not know about the particulars of Jesus’ work and person to be saved.  However, in a sense, Dr. Nash does not seem to address the main thrust of the inclusivist’s argument, which revolves around the question, “What must one know to be saved?”  It seems that Dr. Nash does not completely address the question of what salvation means to prior to the work of Christ.  The argument Dr. Nash seems to offer against the inclusivists with regards to “holy pagans,” seems to be an argument from silence.  The Scripture does not say that Melchizedek, Job, Jethro, etc. ever participated in the sacrifices of the Old Testament Hebrews.  If faith, evidenced through obedience, in the one true God is all that is required for salvation (Heb. 11).  Why would that not  to Old Testament heroes Deuteronomy?  Is not God the same in all times for all people?  It does not seem that Dr. Nash responds to this particular argument very thoroughly.

Another particularly weak point in this chapter is in Dr. Nash’s critique of the inclusivist’s use of God’s love for all as an important argument for the universal availability of salvation.  Dr. Nash claims that Dr. Pinnock’s argument: “If God really loves the whole world and desires everyone to be saved, it follows logically that everyone must have access to salvation,” is both counter to other Arminian theological points and is logically fallacious.  Dr. Pinnock’s argument may run counter to Arminian theology, but that seems a non sequitur.  The goal is to find the truth, not necessarily that which is in agreement with a particular theological view.  Also, Dr. Nash does not clarify what logical fallacy Dr. Pinnock’s argument commits.  The argument seems perfectly logical: P1) A loving God that wants all to be saved (2 Pet. 3:9) P2) God can establish a logical system wherein salvation is available to all C) God would make salvation available to all.  It seems that Dr. Nash’s phrasing of Dr. Pinnock’s argument is not very clear and dismisses quite a few suppressed premises that could completely change the argument’s effectiveness.

Probably one of the worst sections of the whole book falls in this chapter (chapter eight).  Dr. Nash turns his critique not towards the ideas of inclusivism, rather towards Arminianism, and a misrepresented form of the Arminian position at that!  Dr. Nash lumps Dr. Pinnock’s view of God’s sovereign foreknowledge in with Arminianism, though Dr. Pinnock’s book calls it “process theism” and in many circles the rather new term “Open Theism” has recently gain some prominence.  It sounds as if Dr. Nash’s argument in this section is something like this: P1) Dr. Pinnock’s (and other Open Theists’) view of God is incorrect C) Inclusivism is incorrect.  That may not be the best way to phrase the argument presented in the text, but with the phrasing and tone of this section that is how Dr. Nash’s arguments sound.  The characterization of the Arminian view of salvation is also poorly represented in this section.  It is not that salvation is “ultimately up to that person” it is more in response to the Calvinist view of irresistible grace, saying that each person has the ability to reject or accept salvation.  The Arminian position does not emphasize mankind’s will over God’s will, more it does not view God as forcing, even against their will, people into salvation.  Also, there are many other philosophical and theological positions that reconcile God’s sovereign foreknowledge with free will namely, Molinism.  None of the different views of sovereignty and free will necessarily directly relate to the inclusivist position.  Even the Calvinist position can be made to fit an inclusivist view.  For example: God through His abundant grace provides irresistible grace to the elect not based on any conditions (unconditional election), therefore God could elect any number of people that have never heard the name of Jesus for salvation.  If one’s soteriological position relies solely on the unconditional election of whomever God wills, one cannot question whom God elects.  To summarize this section (chapter eight), Dr. Nash aims his critique in many odd directions and never truly hits home with the inclusivist’s position.

Now in chapter nine Dr. Nash turns his critique more directly towards the biblical passages used in support of inclusivism.  The first clear issue with this section is in this quote, “Morally and spiritually [Cornelius of Acts 10] was in precisely the same condition as any faithful and believing Jew of that time who had not yet encountered Jesus.  We could go so far as to say that his relationship to Yahweh was similar to that of an Old Testament believer.”  There are several issues here.  First off, the text does not directly say but rather implies, that Cornelius and his household was not circumcised, which was (and still is) a religious requirement (Gen. 17:9-14; Ex. 12:48) of Judaism.  Apparently Cornelius was not circumcised, so none of the Old Testament sacrifices should have applied and he had apparently not acted on his faith in wholeheartedly following Abraham and his descendants in obedience to the Lord.  So, he would not be in the same moral and spiritual situation as Old Testament believers.  Again, the whole argument of inclusivism does not necessarily rest on this one text, despite Dr. Nash’s clear assertion as such.  This chapter, both the verses taken in defense of inclusivism and those taken against, seem tantamount to cherry-picking or prooftexting.  Dr. Nash presents an argument against the usage of the words “all men” and “world” to defend inclusivism in various texts (1 Tim. 2:3-4; Tit. 2:11; 2 Pet. 3:9; and 1 Jn 2:2).  The same type of criticism can and has been levied against the verses Dr Nash gives in defense of exclusivism.  To his credit Dr. Nash does mention in a footnote that there is more to this argument than will fit in the context of this section of this one book, but it seems as if he proceeds with critiquing inclusivism as if that point has been won.  To illustrate the ineffectiveness of this type of prooftexting here is a counterexample using Rom. 10:9.  “[I]f you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved;” though Dr. Nash gives Dr. Sanders’ argument that this does not exclude the possibility of being saved without confessing “Jesus as Lord,” one can take an even more basic track to derail this prooftext.  What about a person who is unable to speak?  Since that person is incapable of confessing anything with his or her mouth, is that person not able to be saved?  Clearly, this verse is not as exclusive as some might want to make it.  Though this chapter is rather effective as an argument because of its reliance on the Scripture, it runs contrary to good biblical study to take one (or even ten) verses out of their context, quote them, and claim that they support a certain position.

In the penultimate chapter Dr. Nash takes on two important points relating to some inclusivist opinions.  The first is the concept of postmortem evangelism; the second is various concepts of Hell.  On the topic of postmortem evangelism Dr. Nash discusses the importance of 1 Pet. 3:18 - 4:6, though it seems unnecessary to carry the reference out to 1 Pet. 4.  It seems clear from 1 Pet. 3:19, that in some sense Jesus preached to spirits in prison.  The Roman Catholic catechism and the Apostles’ creed both speak to this concept, and Dr. Nash seems to overemphasize the break between chapters three and four in 1 Peter, when in the original there was no break.  It does not seem to be as big an exegetical leap as Dr. Nash seems to say to claim that 1 Pet. 4:6 is referencing the same situation as 1 Pet. 3:19.  Also, Dr. Nash seems to dismiss without explanation why Jn. 5:25 “Truly, truly, I say to you, an hour is coming and now is, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear will live.”  Does not matter in the discussion of postmortem evangelism.  It requires one to translate “dead” to mean spiritually dead, to which the text does not necessarily lend itself.  The last section of this chapter Dr. Nash devotes to a short discussion of Hell and the various implications for the exclusivist’s position.  Primarily the issue is, that if the exclusivist’s position is true, then billions of people who have never had the opportunity to hear about Jesus will be, indeed are right now, burning in intense eternal torment in Hell.  Both the annihilationist view and the segregated levels of hellish torment stand in favor of the exclusivist’s argument.  If Hell is non-literal, or if the souls of the non-elect are annihilated some time after death, the exclusivist position is no longer so difficult.  The un-evangelized are not tormented for eternity just because they happened to be born thousands of miles from where Christianity had reached, they are simply destroyed.  Dr. Nash does not employ this type of argument (perhaps because he has a literal view of Hell), but it might have served to strengthen this section of his work.

In the final chapter of this text Dr. Nash presents some basic reasons why he is not an inclusivist.  He starts with an important statement that many dogmatists of all types would do well to consider.  That is, one should be willing to honestly answer that one cannot fully know what salvation means to those that have never heard.  An interesting note here though, Dr. Nash says we cannot know what names will be in the Lamb’s book of life mentioned in Rev 20:12ff, but he neglects to address this small line: “And I saw the dead, the great and the small, standing before the throne, and books were opened; and another book was opened, which is the book of life …” (emphasis added).  What are these other books that are opened here?  One pastor in this area claims that this is a possible reference to books that have the names of those that are not in the Lamb’s book of life, but are nonetheless saved.  Dr. Nash is right in saying that inclusivism can be dangerously close to pluralism, but it does not have to be.  One can square inclusivism with theology, philosophy, and biblical texts.  The arguments may not be strong, but Dr. Nash would do well to take his own comments to heart about the details of salvation referencing Deut. 29:29, God has not directly or overtly declared His plans concerning those that have not heard, neither the inclusivist nor the exclusivist should claim to know otherwise.

Personal Conclusion

In general the arguments in this section of Dr. Nash’s work are clearly not as powerful nor as pointed as in the first section (against pluralism).  Honestly, this topic is quite difficult, and this critique could have continued for many more pages.  Time and space are limited however, and this critique needs to come to a close.  One passage from CS Lewis’ classic children’s book series came to mind in defense of inclusivism.  In the Last Battle the characters pass through a figurative death into Aslan’s country (the Christ figure).  One such character was a young enemy soldier who had a passionate desire to meet his idea of God (Tash in the story), and after finding himself in Heaven face to face with Jesus worships Him, and says that he does not belong there.  When that character, Emeth, is telling his story later he speaks of the words of Aslan: “For I and he are of such different kinds that no service which is vile can be done to me, and none which is not vile can be done to him. Therefore if any man swear by Tash and keep his oath for the oath’s sake, it is by me that he has truly sworn, though he know it not, and it is I who reward him. And if any man do a cruelty in my name, then, though he says the name Aslan, it is Tash whom he serves and by Tash his deed is accepted. Dost thou understand, Child? I said, Lord, thou knowest how much I understand. But I said also (for the truth constrained me), Yet I have been seeking Tash all my days. Beloved, said [Aslan], unless thy desire had been for me thou wouldst not have sought so long and so truly. For all find what they truly seek.”  Obviously, one cannot hold CS Lewis to speak for God in such terms, but it is an interesting argument nonetheless.

God is goodness personified, and while the Bible clearly states that no one measures up to God’s holy standard (Rom. 3:23 and others), Lewis is saying that one cannot do good in service of the Devil.  And vice versa, one cannot do evil truly in the service of God.  It may seem like the Bible teaches that unbelievers cannot do good at all, but that is primary from a Calvinist view of total depravity which seems to take the depravity of sin beyond what the Bible actually teaches.  Personal experience teaches, that though unbelievers are often sinful and often exchange the truth of God for a lie (Rom. 1:25), it does not necessarily follow that an unbeliever cannot at least try to act in accordance with their conscience and the prompting conviction of the Holy Spirit of their sin.  It seems that though Dr. Nash references various theological points against inclusivism and various biblical references against the idea, he does not defeat it nearly as completely as he seems to think.  This shortcoming is particularly clear in the concluding chapter when Dr. Nash directs his criticism to the inclusivist’s rationale for missions.  Interestingly, the same critique can and is levied against strict Calvinist views.  If God has already chosen whom He has elected to be saved, what point is there in evangelism?  As if our human efforts in evangelism somehow effected the will of God in whom He has already elected for salvation.  The question may also apply to the inclusivist, but it seems much easier to answer.

Another important issue that Dr. Nash does not seem to take into account at all throughout this second half of his book.  When one is investigating these claims, one must be careful to not let one’s feelings influence one’s conclusions on both sides of the discussion.  Though the inclusivist’s claims are much easier to swallow emotionally, that does not have any bearing on the truth of that claim, and vice versa, despite one’s strong feelings toward a particular theological system, those feelings do not make one right.  It seems that Dr. Nash is rather passionate about Calvinism (or at the least against his idea of Arminianism), which seems to cloud his assessment of Drs. Pinnock and Sanders’ Open Theism.  One other very important thing to keep in mind in this discussion.  These arguments (specifically inclusivism, as pluralism is not Christianity and pluralists need to be evangelized) must be held only within the Christian family.  When it comes to apologetics and evangelism, one should not claim to know for certain one way or another when it comes to the details of soteriological ideas (with some exceptions).  Imagine an exclusivist giving a message at a funeral for a person who had never heard of Jesus giving a message to the deceased’s family that their family member was most certainly in Hell suffering for eternity!  Within Christian circles it is important to discuss these types of theological differences, but when one brings the Gospel, though it is offensive in itself, to the unsaved one must lay aside one’s theological opinions and simply preach Christ’s work.


  1. "Catechism of the Catholic Church - Christ Descended into Hell." Catechism of the Catholic Church - Christ Descended into Hell. Accessed March 6, 2015.
  2. Lewis, C. S. The Last Battle New York, New York: HarperCollins, 2010, 188.
  3. Lockman Foundation (La Habra Calif.). New American Standard Bible. La Habra, Calif.,: Foundation Press Publications, 1977.
  4. Nash, Ronald H. Is Jesus the Only Savior? Grand Rapids, Mich.: Zondervan, 1994, 104.
  5. Ibid. Quoting from: Sanders, John, No Other Name Grand Rapids, Mich.: Eerdmans, 1992, 131.
  6. Ibid, Quoting from: Pinnock, Clark H. A Wideness in God’s Mercy, 130.
  7. Slick, Matt. "What Is Open Theism?" CARM. Accessed March 6, 2015.
  8. “Revelation, General." In Evangelical Dictionary of Theology, edited by Walter A. Elwell, by B. Demarest. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker Book House, 2001.

Book Review: Is Jesus the Only Savior? by Ronald H. Nash Part 1

This is a book review I wrote for my recent theology class.  I highly recommend the book Is Jesus the Only Savior? by Ronald H. Nash

Dr. Nash attempts to present the three main views of salvation in relation to christology, starting with the pluralism made popular by John Hick in the last forty years.  Nash is particularly well suited for this critique as an author and philosophy professor.  Though this text covers the three main views: pluralism, inclusivism, and exclusivism this analysis will only cover the first section (chapters one through six) on pluralism.  It is important to understand the different positions before launching into a discussion about the opponents to exclusivism, so Nash starts out introducing the three views and Hick himself.  He gives a short biography of Hick’s regression from orthodox Christianity to his current view, which should not be called Christian at all.  In this introductory portion Nash also gives a short defense of exclusivism from biblical authority, the New Testament, and theological considerations.  However, as this book is mostly about the two opponents to exclusivism not much is said in defense of that view when compared to the amount of time spent analyzing the alternative views.

There is an important step that Nash points out in Hick’s fall from orthodoxy.  That is, the rejection of the authority of the Scriptures.  Once he rejected the authority of the Bible, Hick had no reason to hold on to any exclusive claims of Christianity.1  The Bible is not God’s message to mankind about His attributes per se, more like the writings of a group of men who, over the years, wrote about their methods for connecting to the Ultimate/Real.  This also leads to a non-orthodox/heretical christology, as Hick treats Jesus like just another man, who happened to be in close contact with the Ultimate/Real.  Jesus may have done some miraculous things as part of His connection with the Ultimate, but He certainly is not God incarnate.  Hick particularly rejects the fourth gospel as something like a sermon about this ordinary man who was in contact with the Ultimate.  In all this rejection of the Scriptures Hick does some outlandish mental gymnastics to try to make his point without contradicting himself.

Nash uses chapters two and three to cover two different stages of Hick’s pluralism starting from about 1970 to 1980 for the first stage and the 1980s for the second stage.  This first stage of Hick’s attempt at building a pluralistic view Nash calls, “a dismal failure.”  That is not to say that the second stage is any better, just that in this first stage Hick has not really thought through some of the things he claims.  One particular critique that Hick seemed to have totally missed during this phase was the clear contradiction of an unknowable god, and yet describing that god as loving and kind etc.  It should have been obvious to Hick that if god is unknowable, saying anything about god is contradictory, and yet his move to pluralism was somewhat founded on the idea that a loving god would not condemn people who could not have heard of him.  There are numerous other problems with Hick’s pluralism in this stage, not the least of which is a hubris in calling his movement a “Copernican Revolution.”  While it may be true that Hick has come up with some novel ideas that does not mean that he has discovered some truth that was previously misunderstood.  Moving in a certain direction is not always “progress.”  As C.S. Lewis says in Mere Christianity, “We all want progress. But progress means getting nearer to the place where you want to be. And if you have taken a wrong turning, then to go forward does not get you any nearer. If you are on the wrong road, progress means doing an about-turn and walking back to the right road; and in that case the man who turns back soonest is the most progressive man.”  Hick’s “progressive” view is not progressive as it is on the wrong road and is no longer Christianity at all.

The second stage of Hick’s revolution in pluralism is not really much better.  It seems that Hick started off with a strong orthodox Christian view, then after an emotional appeal seemed to cause him to reject the exclusive views of the Bible, he tries to start a revolution.  After the abysmal failure in the 70s Hick’s newer version is even farther from traditional Christianity and more enigmatic than ever.  Hick’s views sound like New Age/Buddhism sprinkled with Kantian philosophy.  Hick’s concept of salvation has moved beyond anything even remotely Christian, to a version of enlightenment and self-actualization.  Though it is not just Hick’s soteriology that has changed; he has also rejected any traditional view of God.  Instead of the personal God of orthodox Christianity Hick now embraces a more pantheistic view of the “Ultimate-Universal-Real.”

Nash explores probably the most important problem in Hick’s exclusivism, that is the contradictory nature of claiming multiple truths.  Nash pointed out in the introduction that exclusivism is not truly unique to Christianity and there are serious problems with anyone that says that contradictory exclusive claims are actually both true.  Hick’s pluralism is simultaneously offensive to Christianity as well as every other religion.  If Christianity is true, then other religions must be false.  Hick’s pluralism runs into all sorts of logical problems, because the laws of logic dictate that two contradictory statements cannot both be true in the same way at the same time.  Hick does an even bigger disservice to religion as a whole by relegating all religious claims to a form of mythological “truth.”  All religions are myths and misunderstandings or partial understandings of the Ultimate as it is hidden behind a veil of Kantian logic that says we cannot experience the Ultimate/Real as it actually is.  Not only has Hick repudiated the exclusivity of Christianity but of every other religion as well.  The mental gymnastics required to discard the authority of the Christian Bible are nothing compared to the backflips Hick and other pluralists have to do to get around the logical contradictions of calling all religious truths, true, despite their direct contradiction to one another.

As has already been mentioned, Hick has a very low view of Scripture, not just that it forms the foundation of the Christian faith, but particularly so because it maintains the deep exclusivity in the Person of Jesus Christ.  As such, Hick has to fight against the orthodox belief that Jesus is God incarnate.  In order to repudiate the historical view of Christ as God, Hick attacks the incarnation as a myth.  Though he puts a spin on it to get around the fact that the original authors of the Bible obviously did not write it as a myth, saying that the historical claims are myths that seem to be real to the original authors.  Hick denies the resurrection, despite the strong claims in the Bible.  He even goes so far as to claim that even if Jesus resurrected from the dead, that would not prove that He was God.  In order to get around Lewis’ liar, lunatic, Lord trilemma, Hick, not wanting to destroy the reputation of Jesus by calling him a lunatic, and refusing to call Him Lord, calls Jesus in a sense … confused.  This makes absolutely no sense in light of Scripture.  Saying Jesus was some kind of man in close contact with the Ultimate, is a complete denial of both the Gospel of John and the Bible as a whole.  Hick fails in so many ways, but in this he is clearly lacking in his ability to rightly divide the Word of Truth.  The fact that Jesus called Himself God is abundantly clear in the Scriptures, not just the Gospel of John, in actuality Hick has gotten nowhere in his attempts to circumnavigate the liar, lunatic, Lord trilemma.

Chapter five of this book has been all about Hick’s pluralistic views and the rejection of the uniqueness and authority of Christian doctrines, as such it is the most interesting chapter so far, which is also why this analysis has been focusing on that chapter more than the others.  Another method Hick applies to rejecting Jesus’ status as God incarnate is to claim that the Church made up the idea long after Jesus had died.  Using bits of historical, form, and redaction criticism, Hick claims that the New Testament has been altered by the Church over the centuries to say what the leaders of the Church wanted it to say, not what Jesus actually claimed.  Hick follows with the majority of liberal scholars in assuming, despite evidence to the contrary, that the early Church, long after Jesus’ death, made Him into a god.  This denial of Jesus’ divinity is not new, many apostates/heretics over the centuries have made similar claims.  What this view leads to is not difficult to see either, that is, the rejection of the uniqueness of the Christian faith.  Jesus is unique, not that He is God incarnate, but that He is the only founder of the Christian faith.  Christianity itself is unique, not in the claim that it is the only true path to God, but that it is the only religion called “Christianity.”  Neither Jesus nor Christianity are unique in absoluteness or authority.

Not only does Hick cast off the traditional truth statements about the divinity of Jesus Christ, he rejects good New Testament scholarship that supports the traditional doctrines with textual criticism.  Hick uses a type of historical skepticism in claiming that we cannot really know anything about Jesus historically because it all happened about two centuries ago.  Apparently Hick is either ignorant of or consciously dogmatic in rejecting literally thousands of years of Christian scholasticism that has deeply analyzed both the texts of the New Testament and the historical context and confirmed the orthodox theology and the trustworthiness of the documents that form the New Testament.  The rather outmoded style of form-criticism is just one of the views that Hick somewhat espouses in rejecting the authority of the Scriptures.  Form critics have tried to insist, despite many statements to the contrary, the New Testament was largely just practical teachings of the Church’s view of Jesus.  The Gospel has nothing to do with actual eyewitness testimony, they are little more than collected ancient sermons which the Church approved and collected.  The redaction criticism is not much different in its conclusion, it just uses different phrasing to conclude that the New Testament writers were not writing as they witnessed, rather they simply collected, sorted, and inserted their views in the New Testament when it suited them.

In the most ironic twist, Hick levies the rules of logic against the Christian Theology of Kenosis, claiming that Christianity violates the laws of logic in claiming that Jesus is both God and man at the same time in the same way.  Hick should understand these foundational theologies, but has apparently cast them off completely.  He should understand the differences between essential and nonessential properties.  He should understand the idea that being fully man does not entail a logical contradiction with being fully God.  Though the theology of the Trinity is somewhat mysterious, it certainly does not entail any logical contradictions.

By way of summary Nash discussed the often misunderstood idea of tolerance.  Much like Ravi Zacharias teaches, Nash points out that tolerance does not mean a plurality of truth.  It does not mean that all statements, whether contradictory or not, are to be treated as true.  Nash divides tolerance into two sections, moral tolerance and a form of relativism.  The former says that regardless of a person’s views or opinions one must treat all people the same morally.  The latter is much more strict in that one must never criticize any view as being wrong, ever.  The conundrum being self-defeating; is the converse view that one can criticize other views as wrong, wrong itself?

Personal Conclusions Regarding Pluralism

It seems that Nash could be more critical of Hick’s pluralism.  He seems to gloss over some of the obvious contradictions in the pluralist view.  First off, Hick still seems to claim to be a Christian.  But, if we analyze what Hick teaches we see that he really does not believe the Bible to be authoritative in any way.  It is merely a collection of writings over thousands of years about how people have sought the Ultimate.  It really is not, as it so clearly claims to be, a record of God’s various interactions with mankind as well as His special revelation of Himself to the world through the Incarnate Christ.  Even the term “Christian” cannot apply to Hick as it means “little Christ,” or “follower of Christ.”  Hick does not believe that Jesus was the Christ, the Messiah sent into the world to save us, so how can he claim the title “Christian,” if he is not a follower of Christ?  Nash does point that out in the chapter six concluding remarks on pluralism, but it could have been made more clear throughout the text.  Just claiming to be one, does not make Hick a Christian.  His teaching and various apostasies have made it clear that he no longer follows Christ.

Another point that Nash brings up but does not emphasize enough is the importance of a high view of Scripture.  Without Scripture as a guide for truth, Hick has been floundering about in the sea of philosophies, gaining only a semblance of a foothold in the quicksand of Buddhism/New Age spiritualism and Kantian philosophy.  After rejecting the authority of Scripture Hick has gone down a terrible path of complete uncertainty to the point where there is no such thing as religious truth in Hick’s views.  It is of utmost importance to maintain a firm grasp on the truth of the Bible as God’s authoritative Word, which is applicable to all cultures throughout time.  Probably the weakest and yet strongest argument against exclusivism is in the geographic and cultural validity of the Christian message.  It is a weak argument in that, clearly truth is not determined by location.  The truth that God came to earth as the God-man, Jesus Christ, does not change if you are living in a different area of the world.  However, it is a strong emotional argument in that; how can God condemn to Hell people merely because they were born in a different area and have not heard of Jesus.

So far, the only clear conclusion that a Christian can come to, is that Hick’s pluralism cannot be accepted.  To accept pluralism is to not be a Christian at all.  Or at least, to be an mentally deluded, illogical person who claims to follow someone in whom they do not truly believe.  It will be interesting to see how Nash deals with inclusivism in the next section of the text.  Pluralism must be rejected but it seems that some form of inclusivism can still fall within orthodox Christian views.


  1. "A Pluralist View." In Four Views on Salvation in a Pluralistic World, edited by Stanley Gundry, Dennis Okholm, and Timothy Phillips, by John Hick, pg. 33. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Zondervan Pub. House, 1996.
  2. Lewis, C. S. Mere Christianity. New York: MacMillan Pub., 2002.

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Short Review of the Book True Reason

True Reason is a great offering of reasoned responses to the "New Atheists." With the popularity of these anti-theist writers, it's good to see them called out on their irrational positions. As a Christian myself it's an insult to read these anti-theists' books and be called irrational, delusional, etc. When, if one really takes a good hard look at the arguments, the converse is actually true. The Christian Apologist has much more reasonable answers than these New Atheists. This book does a great job collating and responding to the many fallacious arguments throughout the New Atheists' writings. I highly recommend this book for the apologist looking for reasonable responses to brash New Atheists' claims. It's also great for any ordinary lay person that has heard these New Atheists spouting off with bold claims of truth or anti-truth etc. and wants to hear more about these extraordinary claims. The entire text is filled with great arguments and powerful blows to poor arguments offered up in New Atheists' writings but to be the best chapter is the eighth chapter, The Explanatory Emptiness of Naturalism. Most of the other chapters respond to specific issues in specific arguments, but this chapter combines several components of theistic arguments and the huge holes throughout naturalism. My favorite simple argument is in chapter eight.
1. If science explains things, then naturalism is false.
2. Science explains things.
3. Therefore, naturalism is false
Secular humanists/atheists/naturalists will try to claim 1. If science explains things, then naturalism is true. However, and the chapter explains this quite thoroughly, Naturalism itself if full of holes for which it will never find answers.

I do have more to say about the text but I haven't the time!  This review is posted on Goodreads as well as Amazon.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

The God Delusion Book Review Part 2 Ch. 4-6

Sorry for the delay in getting to this next section of my review of The God Delusion but I've been busy editing a new book by the author of Notes from Afghanistan.

Back to The God Delusion by Richard Dawkins.  If you're interested part one is here.

First off, in my review of the first three chapters I talked about how there's no real argument given, or at least not much of an argument given.  Mostly just blustering and casually brushing aside arguments for god, well, in chapter four Dawkins finally gives his argument for "why there almost certainly is no god."  He attacks the "Ultimate Boeing 747" concept as fallacious, citing Natural Selection as NOT blind chance, rather a step-by-step ascent of "mount improbable."  He also, rightfully attacks the concept of "god of the gaps."

I don't hold to Dawkins' intimation that theists/religious people are afraid of or somehow all have enmity towards science.  He says again and again that theist love these gaps in scientific knowledge and that theists cling to things that science cannot (yet) explain.  Again, bad logic in over-generalization/stereotyping.  Just because there have been instances of people that feel that way and their foolishness has been put on display doesn't mean that theists are all foolish when it comes to science.  I don't claim any special knowledge when it comes to science/mathematics I've never had an interest in them (above a cursory curiosity).  I prefer philosophy, logic, language, linguistics, etc.  Just because I have faith doesn't mean that I'm afraid of a scientific explanation, but that's not what Dawkins gives.  He doesn't give "scientific" explanations for these "gaps" he gives atheistic speculations.  The gaps that even Dawkins admits science cannot bridge are the formation of life, the formation of the eukaryotic nature of cells, and the emergence of consciousness.  But, in answer to all these gaps, his argument is the Anthropic Principle.

So, if you're not familiar let me sum up the anthropic principle as Dawkins describes it, though he calls the principle to action in all the cases where science cannot give an answer.  It's something like this, given the number of stars we know exist, even with a one in a billion chance for life to evolve on a planet (though I've read the odds are actually in the trillions), given the estimate of a billion-billion planets in the universe it had to happen, not once but many times.  There are several problems with this idea.  I'm not a mathematician so I could be wrong on this, the issue is probability.  Take a coin toss.  If you flip a coin 100 times you should get 50 heads/50 tails.  However, you could flip a coin 1,000 times and get heads every time.  Odds don't mean that if you do something enough times all the options will present themselves, just that they should or are like to present themselves.  So, it holds that even with a billion-billion possibly earth-like planets, life could have only happened one time and only here on this planet.  Philosophically the anthropic principle is even more fallacious.

The anthropic principle set out as a philosophical idea sounds something like this:
1) It is highly improbable that life could exist without outside intervention
2) We're here, alive, thinking about that probability
3) It must have happened
Really?  Putting it another way: life could exist without god, we're alive, therefore it did.  The amazing thing to me is that he doesn't just use this principle for the alignment of planets to set up a planet on which life might evolve (the so-called, Goldilocks zone).  He applies this principle to all the mysteries of science!  Like the Big Bang, why are the cosmological constants in perfect setting to allow for a universe that is capable of producing planets that are capable of producing life?  As a side note I watched an interesting (banned) TED talk that claims they might not be constant after all.  There's no need to ask "why" because we're here, therefore it must have happened.  This particular use of the principle might strike people as odd, because think about it, to apply the principle there must be millions to billions of options, or at least enough that the odds are overcome; this means that there must be millions upon millions of universes, either in the past, or multiverses/parallel universes.

Moving on to chapter five about the roots of religion Dawkins again displays his prejudice: " only raises the question of why a mind would evolve to find comfort in beliefs it can plainly see are false" (pg. 168).  He then tries to give his Darwinian evolutionary explanation of how religion could have come about.  He starts off with the idea that we've evolved in such a way that obedience of one's elders is a good thing.  The older people obviously know how to survive and if one listens to the elders' advice one will (presumably) survive better but here's how religion comes into play from that notion.  "The child cannot know that 'Don't paddle in the crocodile-infested Limpopo,' is good advice but 'You must sacrifice a goat at the time of the full moon, otherwise the rains will fail,' is at best a waste of time and goats" (pg. 176).  One of the many problems with this theory, is where did the elder get that idea?  There cannot be an infinite regress.  Someone accidentally sacrifices a goat on the full moon and the rains came, or someone didn't happen to have a goat on a full moon and there was a drought?  How could a primitive mind, that can't recall enough data to make even basic tools be asked to recall and relate one day with a whole season wherein the person probably would have died.  How does that lead to survival?  Someone who accidentally sacrificed a goat and then lived through a season with rain survives and passes down this superstition?  I have serious doubts in all these kinds of speculative answers because I see this kind of statement all the time, not just in Dawkins' writing.

The problem in this whole bit about the evolutionary source for religion, which he gives similar guesses in later portions of the text for other questions, but I'll deal with the idea in general here.  All these guesses or theories about evolutionary processes bringing about X result, boil down to this type of argument: 1) this is how X trait could have been passed on through evolutionary natural selection ∴/therefore 2) it was passed on through natural selection.  Basically, if I can explain how something could have happened without god, that's how it must have happened.  I saw this in two different YouTube (two links "You" and "Tube") videos about the beginnings of the universe (though neither mentioned god).  They basically laid out how the universe could have expanded from a subatomic particle that popped into existence from nothing with such and such characteristics, then ballooned out to become the entire universe.  They (both videos) seemed to be speaking authoritatively about these theories, like, this is a possible explanation of how it could have happened without citing god, therefore it must be correct.

The same fallacious thinking is apparent in Dawkins' writing, here's how it might have happened without god, therefore that's what happened.  I like the original Ockham's Razor argument as it was explained to me many years ago: you walk into a room and the window is open, you ask yourself why the window is open.  There could have been a microburst of wind that happened to blow at just the right angle to open the window, or there might have been an earthquake that shook in just the right manner to rattle the window open, or on and on, but the most basic answer, that is someone left it open, is the correct answer.  So, I ask you, in all this theorizing, if such and such variables might have come aligned at just the right way to bring about X trait is the more simple answer, or is it more simple to say, Someone put them that way?  Not that postulating a Supreme Being is more simple in every instance, but in this particular argument, it seems to be straightforward.

Sorry for the length but I only have one more chapter to cover!

In chapter six Dawkins seeks to provide an answer to the idea of mankind being good without God.  As such, he starts off with pointing out the evil in the letters that he and fellow atheists have received from religious people.  Don't get me wrong I hate seeing things like this and I wish I could have worked with those people on how to rewrite their grievances without insults.  Nevertheless, they're out there.  I'm not going to argue that religious people are all civilized that's clearly not true.  I'm not even going to try to narrow the definition of "true religion" that's just a no-true-scotsman fallacy.  The only thing I have to say is to not judge religion by the outspoken few that give it a bad name.

There is one letter that Dawkins attempts to address that claims that evolutionary theory leads to nihilism.  He rebuffs the claim by throwing out there that natural selection is not random.  I think he's missing the point of the issue.  It's not whether the evolutionary process is random (which by the way it requires at least random mutations, so there is an element of randomness in the whole theory) or not; the issue is whether it's a guided process or unguided.  It's about purpose, meaning, and goals.  Not about randomness.  Natural selection has no goal, no guiding principle other than basic survival.  As such it is hopeless despite how Dawkins brushes that claim aside.

Dawkins offers a guess about how natural selection could lead to kindness to one's kin, but then kills his goal of giving meaning within the natural selection schema by likening any altruism outside one's own kin to an accident.  I ca't that one could accept this kind of argument.  Basically, he's saying that while we're not produced via random processes our kindness to anyone other than kin (which is logical), is accidental.  Tell me how this doesn't have a nihilistic conclusion?  "We can no more help ourselves feeling pity when we see a weeping unfortunate (who is unrelated and unable to reciprocate) that we can help ourselves feeling lust for a member of the opposite sex (who may be infertile or otherwise unable to reproduce).  Both are misfirings, Darwinian mistakes: blessed, precious mistakes" (pg. 221).  Tell me how a mistake is better than random when it comes to showing purposefulness.

On thing occurred to me as I was reading his claim about determining that we all have a shared moral compass because of the evolutionary process, I thought of the "famous violinist" argument for abortion.  Based on simple moral tests, we see that everyone agrees one should submit to helping the helpless.  The analogy holds absolutely no weight in the argument about abortion, but it does point to the idea that people often agree on ethical dilemmas.  I love the mention of Harvard biologist Marc Hauser mentioned on page 222 and following.  It's proving C.S. Lewis' arguments from Mere Christianity one survey respondent at a time.  Again Dawkins shows prejudice and dogmatic thinking and shows why he and most of those he references should not be trusted: "For Kant it was a moral absolute.  For Hauser it is built into us by our evolution" (pg. 224).  If one starts off with the dogmatism that there must be no god and that everything is explicable by evolution/natural selection, of course your conclusion is going to agree.

Plantinga calls this sophomoric philosophy (I didn't read that review in full before starting my reading/review, I'll probably read it when I'm done with the book), but here's another example from the latter portion of ch. six: "The main conclusion of Hauser and Singer's study was that there is no statistically significant difference between atheists and religious believers in making these judgements.  This seems compatible with the view, which I and many others hold, that we do not need God in order to be good - or evil" (pg. 226).  So many problems with this and I've taken up way too much of your time so I'll try to be brief.  First, attacking religion is a strawman.  The issue isn't religious faith, it's the existence or non-existence of a deity.  So, saying that either side of the issue is good or bad has nothing to do with the actual question.  Secondly, and he attempts to make some response to this, is that the question isn't about the ethical or unethical behaviour of people.  The issue is moral objective standards.  He takes a stab at that question, but more or less brushes it away as not really at stake here.  He claims to answer it in the following chapter but after a small sneak peak, he's more or less going to stay on the track that religious people do bad things therefore religious belief is actually negative towards being good.  He's already hinted at that conclusion by pulling out statistics relating the conservative states in the US versus the liberal states in crime statistics.  Wow, talk about twisting statistics to suit one's needs.  Basically, his argument was something like, there is a higher crime rate in certain cities within predominantly contain Republican Party voters, therefore religious people are actually more evil than atheists.  As to the concept of absolutist morality, he basically brushes it aside because he's believes in a consequentialist view of morality, so seeking a moral absolute is unnecessary.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

The God Delusion Book Review Part 1 Ch. 1-3

So, I've read several reviews of this book and I've seen several reactions to this work, but I wanted to get it straight from the horse's mouth in a manner of speaking.  So I'm reading The God Delusion, and I'll give you my notes.

Even in the preface Dawkins has already shown his prejudice.  Obviously the title says a lot, "Delusion."  He even mentions that psychologists asked him to change it because the word delusion is a scientific term and to apply it to the millions of people that believe in god wouldn't do justice to the word.  Of course that doesn't seem to faze Dawkins and his writing about that almost seems boastful, like he's proud of the fact that he's insulted the majority of the world.  How about this quote?  "... I believe there are plenty of open-minded people out there: people whose childhood indoctrination was not too insidious, or for other reasons didn't 'take,' or whose native intelligence is strong enough to overcome it" (pg6).  In case you didn't catch that, if you're open-minded or intelligent you'll give up anything you were taught about God in your childhood and be an atheist, like all the other smart people in the world.

How about this "gem"?  Quote from a Roman Catholic bishop who wrote to Einstein, "...He is all wrong.  Some men think that because they have achieved a high degree of learning in some field, they are qualified to express opinions in all."  Of course, Dawkins' retort is a false analogy based on his presupposition that God is just as fanciful as fairies.  Dawkins claims that theology isn't a "proper field" at all.  I find this particularly interesting because I've heard a very similar comment levied against Dawkins.  He's a world-renowned ethologist and evolutionary biologist, not a philosopher or theologian yet he's written extensively and authoritatively on subjects he has no (formal) education in.  No offence to his brilliance in his fields, but what expertise does a animal behaviorist and evolutionary biologist have in the fields of philosophy of religion, theology, philosophy in general?  Being brilliant in one particular field of knowledge doesn't give one authority to speak to all other fields of knowledge.

The biggest problem I have so far is that there haven't been any arguments (yet, he keeps hinting that they'll be proven in later chapters).  Chapter one, the first section is simply a childish foot-stomping raving that when atheists say "god" they don't mean the word "god."  Something akin to a child throwing a fit saying, "I did not say what you think I said!"  Alright!  When Dawkins and other atheists say "god" they really mean, uh, well... nothing really, they apparently mean force or nature or the universe, or whatever they want it to mean at that particular moment, but they most certainly do not mean a personal intervening god that is worthy of worship.  Dawkins talks about how Einstein was NOT a theist as some theists claim, that he was actually a deist or pantheist.  The only acceptable belief in god, to Dawkins, is the deists' god that creates the universe then leaves it alone and never interacts with it again; an invisible, intangible, inactive, uncaring, uninvolved, person-less, unintelligent being with no human characteristics at all.  The deists' god is the same as the pantheists' god, an impersonal force that has nothing to do with humanity, that's the only acceptable god, one that has nothing to do with the universe.

Then in chapter one, section two, Dawkins offers a half-hearted attempt at an (advance) apology, which comes too late since the only thing he's said so far is that only intelligent people believe in either an impersonal god or that the universe is god, and by extension only idiots believe in a personal god.  It's almost comical, Dawkins makes this claim that theists are always trotting out scientists, especially Einstein, that believe/believed in god and then dismisses it as a bad argument.  Then, he turns the same fallacious argument around and uses it, saying that this or that brilliant scientist is atheist and the vast majority of Nobel prize winners in science have been atheists, on and on.  I'm sorry, but if an argument is fallacious for one side of an argument, it's equally as fallacious for the opposing side.  Think about it; if I say, "Thousands of people believe in pink unicorns, therefore I'm a pink unicorn."  You cannot say, "Thousands of people don't believe in pink unicorns, therefore there's no such thing as pink unicorns."  An appeal to the people or authority is a fallacy for either side.

In chapter two the insults just keep coming.  Not only does Dawkins attack those that believe in a personal god, but he begins attacking anyone who believes that we cannot know whether or not there is a god, agnostics.  As part of his disdain for agnosticism he attacks the concept of NOMA (Non-Overlapping MAgisteria).  He, who has been continuously accusing God of evil acts and intentions, seems to be calling on god to prove himself.  It's like Dawkins is calling upon god to submit to scientific inquiry or proof.  It's like Dawkins is saying he expects this wicked, sneaky, conniving, evil, all-powerful entity to answer this puny ant's call.  Reminds me of a quote from the 2012 Avengers movie, "The ant has no quarrel with the boot."  (Don't misunderstand me, I'm not saying God is the boot looking to crush ants like us, merely that Dawkins is making god out to be this crushing, killing, evil boot character then complains when that entity doesn't kowtow to his demands for proof.)  Dawkins, who is much less than an ant, is shaking his puny fist at a god he doesn't believe exists saying, "How dare you not prove yourself to me!  How dare you presume to break the laws you set by performing miracles, but when I ask you're silent!"

I just finished reading Jenna Miscavige Hill's book about getting out of Scientology, and she had a quote that Dawkins would do well to listen to: "My parents were aware it was my choice to remain in [Scientology], but they also knew I was brainwashed.  The last thing you want to tell a person who is brainwashed is that they are brainwashed."  If Dawkins really wants to get through to us poor brainwashed theists, telling us we're brainwashed is definitely not the way to go.

Then on pg. 83 Dawkins quotes Norman Malcom in relation to Anselm's ontological argument, which seems to have a loophole in it about existence being more perfect than non-existence.  "The doctrine that existence is a perfection is remarkably queer.  It makes sense and is true to say that my future house will be a better one if it is insulated than if it is not insulated; but what could it mean to say that it will be a better house if it exists than if it does not?"  The answer to this riddle seem painfully obvious.  If you need/want shelter, it's much better to have a house that exists than one that doesn't.

In summation: the first three chapters and preface do nothing in the way of arguing against God; hopefully the actual arguments will begin in chapter four.  The first three chapters have been nothing but blustering and casually brushing aside arguments for god.  Even Aquinas' eloquently framed ways to God were poorly treated and no real arguments or counter-arguments have been made.  These first three chapters can be summed up as such: Anyone who believes there is a God and anyone who believes that we cannot know if there is or isn't a god, is an idiot.