While this book brought great clarity to the logical arguments atheists may make against the concept and legitimacy of the existence of God, the treatment offered by Geisler and McCoy was by no means exhaustive. As I saw this book to be an introductory primer on the subject, this is not detrimental to the content and delivery.
I found the content of the book relatively engaging – especially in light of the vast amount of philosophical reasoning opposed to Christendom in the current age. Essentially, the authors seek to show that all the Christian must do is allow the atheist to expose their own arguments via direct contradiction.
The general premise of the atheist hangs upon the presupposition that God does not exist. However, even if God were to exist, His character and means by which He operates are inadequate at best. The atheist would argue that God is unjust for not intervening, yet also the methods by which the scriptures declare that God does intervene, are unjust, as they remove genuine autonomy.
For example: in the realm of Moral Evil, God is unjust for not intervening to stop high level immorality (murder, rape, etc.) – yet also unjust if He does intervene because He infringes upon autonomy. In regard to guilt and rules, He is immoral by assigning guilt upon man for breaking rules, yet they would argue that it is entirely beneficial for guilt to be assigned on the premise of breaking certain societal, moral rules. The main problem, again, is that these things infringe upon true autonomy. They would argue that the man acting within the scripture’s realm of morality is simply being coerced to do so, thus, it is not only disingenuous, but immoral and infantile.
Geisler and McCoy break down the book into ten chapters, seven of which deal with the framework by which atheists have made logical fallacies; the remaining three treat their content in light of the logical inconsistency. Here is where I would make an interjection, in feeling that the content could be better organized by including these inconsistencies at the end of each chapter for clarity and consistency.
The authors pull quite a few quotes from many leading atheistic thinkers, both from our current times and the Age of Enlightenment. However, I saw this as both a great strength for the book as much as a weakness. Nearly 60-70% of the first seven chapters consisted of direct quotations. Some of these were incredibly adept in representing the driving point of the chapter, yet to mine through them all was exhausting. Had they chosen roughly half – and selected the most powerful, such quotations could have served to greater influence the desired impact.
The content of the book had me puzzled a few times, not at the depth of the topic, but at the inclusion of some statements made from the authors. I will simply include a couple found and noted, one being a statement devoid of full research, the other being a dangerous theological proposal if carried to its logical end.
“What is most surprising to atheists, and even to Christians, about hell, is who came up with the idea. It was Jesus” (pg. 99).
While Jesus spoke extensively on the nature of Hell and of it being a literal place of torment, the Old Testament is not void of reference to eternal punishment for the wicked (Dan. 12:2; Isa. 66:24). It would seem simply to be an honest mistake of the authors in either being misinformed, or simply not giving due research behind the statement. Regardless, it is now published as a verified statement, though it is not.
The second, and more troublesome statement comes just three pages later, picturing God as a panting, frenzied, desperate wreck in regard to sending people to Hell. We know it to be true from scripture that He takes no pleasure in the death of anyone – but desires that they would repent and live (Ezekiel 18:32; 1 Tim. 2:4). However, it cannot be stated that He is in such emotional disarray as to be “panting, frenzied, and desperate” as He executes wrath.
We must ask the genuine question: does God take pleasure in executing justice? Though He desires that all would be saved, this desire is not effectual. If it were, all would be saved and the heresy of Universalism would be dogma. The logical, and perfectly biblical deduction, is though God takes no pleasure in those who do perish, He does take pleasure in executing His justice. To be sure, we ought to clarify the meaning of “pleasure” as something altogether different than sadomasochistic joy; it would seem more prudent to show the progression that in punishing the wicked, He is brought glory, thus, manifesting pleasure in Himself – as He is utterly worthy of all glory.
Directly after this statement, the authors write, “What we know is that the Christian God was so intensely against sending the atheist to hell that he went to hell himself, like a fireman to the rescue.” While the context speaks of the sacrifice made on the cross, this statement might allude to a popular, yet unsubstantiated notion that Christ descended into Hell after His death upon the cross.
If they were not alluding to Christ literally going to hell, one might allegorically say that Christ endured hell upon the cross – yet even this is unsubstantiated. Christ bore the fullness of God’s wrath against those whom would be saved– not hell. Hell is the place of torment in which the fullness of God’s wrath is poured out upon the unregenerate.
The one massive problem I had with this book though is not in some of the poor theology that I came across. The authors never make a grand appeal to the gospel. I will argue, time and again, that it is the foolishness of the gospel that saves. Not Apologetics; not rhetoric; not exposing contradictions. The gospel. While we may win an argument, employing such means does little to cut to the heart to expose the idol that the atheist has built up in place of God: himself. I am convinced that nothing save the gospel of Jesus Christ and Him crucified will do this.
Disclosure: I received this book free from Baker Books through the Baker Books Bloggers www.bakerbooks.com/bakerbooksbloggers program. The opinions I have expressed are my own, and I was not required to write a positive review. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 http://www.access.gpo.gov/nara/cfr/waisidx_03/16cfr255_03.html.