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Theistic Arguments: Reviews/Critiques

Formal debates between theists and nontheists on topics relating to the theistic arguments:








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Argument from Holy Scripture:

Book Review: The Jesus Puzzle (2000) by James Still

Still reviews the work by Earl Doherty, a “Christ mythicist” for whom Jesus existed as a Pauline invention rather than an historical figure. However, rather than taking the traditional approach of embedding Jesus in pagan mythology, Doherty turns to the Hebrew Scriptures and to the theological forerunner from which the young movement emerged.

Challenging the Verdict: A Cross-Examination of Lee Strobel’s The Case for Christ (2001) (Off Site) by Earl Doherty

Doherty critiques Strobel’s book, in order “to expose the fallacy, distortion of evidence, and basic misrepresentation inherent in the “case” for Christian orthodoxy as presented by this consortium of reactionary scholarly opinion.”

Critiques of Josh McDowell [ Index ]

Links to critiques of Josh McDowell’s books. See also Borchandt’s review of The Resurrection Factor, below.

Did Jesus Exist? Earl Doherty and the Argument to Ahistoricity (2002) by Richard Carrier

This is a critical review of The Jesus Puzzle: Did Christianity Begin with a Mythical Christ? Challenging the Existence of an Historical Jesus, by Earl Doherty. (Canadian Humanist Publications: Ottawa, Canada; revised edition, 2000).

A Comment on Richard Carrier’s “Review of The Jesus Puzzle: Did Christianity Begin With a Mythical Christ?” (Off Site) by Earl Doherty

Did ‘Top Psychics’ Predict Jesus? (1999) by Robert M. Price

Robert Price critiques chapter nine of Josh McDowell’s Evidence That Demands a Verdict. Price argues that contemporary biblical scholarship has thrown fundamentalist appeals to the “proof from prophecy” so seriously into question that it can no longer be used to defend the true messiahship of Jesus. (For a critique of the other chapters of ETDAV, see The Jury Is In.)

The Jesus Papyrus–Five Years On (1999)  (Off Site) by Dr. J. K. Elliot

A book review of The Jesus Papyrus by Carsten Thiede and Matthew d’Ancona addresses this claim in detail, finding that it is groundless. The papyri in question all date from around 200 C.E. The U.S. edition of this book is called Eyewitness to Jesus

The Rest of the Story (2002) by Jeffery Lowder

Lowder reviews Lee Strobel’s The Case for Christ, and concludes that “Strobel did not interview any critics of Evangelical apologetics. He sometimes refutes at great length objections not made by the critics (e.g., the claim that Jesus was mentally insane); more often, he doesn’t address objections the critics do make (e.g., the unreliability of human memory, that non-Christian historians do not provide any independent confirmation for the deity of Jesus, etc.) Perhaps this will be a welcome feature to people who already believe Christianity but have no idea why they believe it. For those of us who are primarily interested in the truth, however, we want to hear both sides of the story.”

Review of A History of Man (1996)  (Off Site) by Dave Bird

Bird reviews this work of L. Ron Hubbard. In writing his review, Bird tries “not to dwell on a few isolated absurdities … but rather to cover the whole sweep of the book–especially the evolutionary incidents of the Genetic Entity in chapter four, and the weirder SciFi incidents of the Theta Being in chapter eight–so as to give a better idea, in context, of the whole sweep of its absurdities.”

A Review of Have You Lived Before This Life? (1999) (Off Site) by Rod Keller

Keller reviews this Scientology text comprising of 43 stories of “past lives” testimonies, written as either Preclear Reports by the person remembering the past life, or Scientologist Reports, written by the auditors.

Review of “The Brainwashing Manual” (Off Site) by Martin Hunt

Hunt reviews L. Ron Hubbard’s 1955 textbook on psychopolitics. “Hubbard’s dreams of setting up a totalitarian state with himself as sole dictator are visible in the text … [t]he reader almost needs a rag at times to wipe off Hubbard’s drool over his palpable lust for power.”

Review of The Homeric Epics and the Gospel of Mark (2000) by Richard Carrier

Dennis MacDonald’s shocking thesis is that the Gospel of Mark is a deliberate and conscious anti-epic, an inversion of the Greek “Bible” of Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey, which in a sense “updates” and Judaizes the outdated heroic values presented by Homer, in the figure of a new hero, Jesus (whose name, of course, means “Savior”). His evidence is surprisingly solid and pervasive, and the implications for the historicity of Christ are profound.

Review of The Resurrection Factor by Josh McDowell (1982) by Jerry Borchandt

McDowell’s book, The Resurrection Factor, purports to demonstrate to any “rational” person “the historical evidence that a supernatural event emptied the tomb” of Jesus.  McDowell’s “evidence,” Borchandt explains, amounts to little more than propaganda.

Skepticism and McDowell’s “Proof” (1982) Jerry Borchandt

Josh McDowell is a popular speaker, writer, and champion of biblical literalism, and “perhaps the most read and listened to Christian apologist in the U.S. today.”  In this article, Borchandt dismantles the “legal-historical proof” method used by the apologist to “prove” Christianity and challenge the skeptic in More than a Carpenter, More Evidence that Demands a Verdict, and The Resurrection Factor.


Argument from Miracles:

A Critique of Miracles by C. S. Lewis (2000) by Nicholas Tattersall

Without argument, C.S. Lewis supposes naturalists are committed to views they are not, yet his arguments against those irrelevant views are unsuccessful.

A Response to Nicholas Tattersall’s “A Critique of ‘Miracles’ by C. S. Lewis” (2001) by Darek Barefoot

Barefoot suggests that Tattersall’s own language would not hold up under the “mincing scrutiny” he (Tattersall) applies to Lewis.

Review of In Defense of Miracles (1999, 2005) [ Index ] by Richard Carrier

Review of the latest grand opus of contemporary apologists: a comprehensive case for Christian miracles with contributions from fourteen Christians and two skeptics. Well-composed, with material that all critics should read, but it suffers from major faults, especially that ubiquitous fault of almost all apologists: historical incompetence. Carrier critiques almost every chapter in detail, but also provides both short and long summary reviews of the entire book.

Review of The Resurrection Factor by Josh McDowell (1982) by Jerry Borchandt

Josh McDowell, “fundamentalism’s popular apologist, proselyter, and propogandist,” purports in his book to “demonstrate to any ‘rational’ person evidence that a ‘supernatural event emptied the tomb’ of Jesus.”  McDowell’s evidence, according to Borchandt, relies solely on the reliability of the New Testament.


Argument to Design:

Behe’s Empty Box  (Off Site) [ Index ]

An index of articles, both pro and con, on Michael Behe’s argument from irreducible complexity and his recent book, Darwin’s Black Box.

Creationist Book Reviews [ Index ]

Selection of book reviews related to popular creationist or “scientific creationism” works.

Critiques of Michael Behe [ Index ]

A collection of critical reviews of Behe’s Darwin’s Black Box.

An Extended Review of Phillip E. Johnson’s Darwin On Trial (1999)  (Off Site) by Wesley R. Elsberry

“Johnson’s work has been viewed quite differently by those who seek anti-evolutionary apologetics, and those who have long opposed the intrusion of creationism into science classrooms. To the credulous, Johnson’s easy command of rhetoric and impressive credentials produce an immensely favorable impression … To those who oppose the teaching of creationism as if it were science, Johnson’s Darwin On Trial looks just like more of the same stuff … ”

Lively Answers to Theists: Review of Robin Le Poidevin’s Arguing for Atheism (1998) by Keith M. Parsons

The “book is a logically deft and clearly written introduction to the philosophy of religion. It should be useful for undergraduate courses, though parts, such as the discussion of the modal ontological argument, are quite complex and certain to confuse beginners. The book is also a brief for atheism. In general, it serves both of its functions well. However, the three parts of the book are unequal in value. I found part 3, in which Le Poidevin examines the possibility of religion without God, to be of less interest than the earlier sections. Further, though I regard part 1, ‘The Limits of Theistic Explanation,’ as a nearly complete success, I have some reservations about the treatment of the problem of evil in part 2.”

Review of Darwin’s Black Box, The Biochemical Challenge to Evolution (1999) (Off Site) by Don Lindsay

Lindsay criticizes Behe for his “fuzzy thinking” and weak grasp of evolutionary science.

Review of Dean L. Overman A Case Against Accident and Self-Organization (1999) by Graham Oppy

Oppy reviews Dean L. Overman’s case against naturalistic explanations for the origin of life.

Response to Massimo Pigliucci’s Review of The Design Inference (1999) by Mark I. Vuletic

Vuletic laments that Pigliucci’s review “reads for the most part like an extended diatribe against the intelligent design (i.e. creationist) movement,” and “lacks substantive comment” about the book itself.

Review of Moreland’s The Creation Hypothesis (1998) by Graham Oppy

Moreland’s book is a “better than run-of-the-mill” attack on evolutionary theory, Oppy remarks. However,” … [i]t’s hard to see how claims about what ‘theistic science’ can explain can be justified unless someone, somewhere, has a well-worked-out theory of this kind. It’s time for creationists to give us their positive views in the same kind of textbook format in which evolutionary theory is often presented, so that these views can be subject to proper criticism.”


Cosmological Arguments:

Bad Science, Worse Philosophy: The Quackery and Logic-Chopping of David Foster’s The Philosophical Scientists (2000) [ Index ] by Richard Carrier

Lengthy critique of David Foster’s creationist book The Philosophical Scientists. Many different sciences are discussed, especially physics, thermodynamics, biology, and evolution by natural selection. Slightly improved from 1998 edition of this same review.

Beck’s Argument for God (Review of In Defense of Miracles) (1999) by Richard Carrier

The errors in David Becks’ arguments for God in the book In Defense of Miracles are examined. The first of three arguments is the modern incarnation of the cosmological “first cause” argument, which fails to be a proof of anything but the limitations of human imagination.

Cosmology for Beginners (1997) by Finngeir Hiorth

A Review of Pirani’s and Roche’s Universe for Beginners.

Critical Notice: Frank J. Tipler (1995) The Physics of Immortality (1998) by Graham Oppy

“Some people have wondered whether this book is an elaborate joke. Others have suggested that it is merely a cynical attempt to cash in on the current craze for pop physics treatments of ‘the big questions’ … I shall ignore these kinds of speculations, and proceed under the assumption that the author is serious and in good faith. It would be very disturbing were this assumption mistaken. Some on the religious right have made, and will make, capital from the mere existence of this book, even if the strict letter of its doctrine provides no comfort to them.”

Review of Beyond the Cosmos (2nd Edition) by Hugh Ross (1999) by Michael Hurben

In his book, Beyond the Cosmos, Hugh Ross argues that science proves the existence of the God of the Bible. But does it? In his review of Beyond the Cosmos, Michael Hurben considers two questions. First, does Ross successfully present the relevant evidence so that laymen can understand it? Second, does extra-dimensionality solve theological dilemmas like the problems of divine foreknowledge and evil?

Review of Miller’s From Existence To God (1994) by Graham Oppy

Oppy concludes that “From Existence To God is well worth reading (for those with a reasonable amount of interest in natural theology).”

Review of Moreland’s The Creation Hypothesis (1998) by Graham Oppy

Moreland’s book is a “better than run-of-the-mill” attack on evolutionary theory, Oppy remarks. However, ” … [i]t’s hard to see how claims about what ‘theistic science’ can explain can be justified unless someone, somewhere, has a well-worked-out theory of this kind. It’s time for creationists to give us their positive views in the same kind of textbook format in which evolutionary theory is often presented, so that these views can be subject to proper criticism.”

Review of R.C. Sproul’s Not a Chance (2000) by Graham Oppy

Oppy reviews Sproul’s book about the role of causation and chance in modern science, and, in particular, in modern cosmology.

Review of The Creator and the Cosmos by Hugh Ross (1998) by Vic Stenger

According to Stenger, “This book by High Ross does great damage to the need for an open, non-dogmatic discussion of the issues. As a PhD physicist and astronomer, he does not merit the benefit of the doubt that he is writing from a position of ignorance.”

Stephen Hawking and the Mind of God (1996) by Antony Flew

Hawking’s Brief History remained on The New York Times best seller list for fifty-three weeks due in part, the author believes, to the book’s much-vaunted final sentence. Flew critically examines the book’s supposed theological implications, and finds that Hawking “fails to make any of the distinctions needed for their fruitful discussion.”

Stephen Hawking’s Cosmology and Theism (1994) by Quentin Smith

“Stephen Hawking has recently argued that there is ‘no place for a creator’, that God does not exist. Yet theists have jumped all over this statement, claiming it blatantly fails as an argument for God’s nonexistence. Specifically, they have argued that even if Hawking’s physical laws are true, that fact does not entail that the God of classical theism does not exist or even disconfirm the classical theistic hypothesis. It seems to me that a case can be made that Hawking’s physical laws are inconsistent with classical theism … Although this argument is not explicit in Hawking’s writings, it is arguably implicit in or based upon his theory … [T]he proposition, ‘Hawking’s wave function law obtains’, entails the proposition that ‘God does not exist.'”

On Some Alleged Consequences Of ‘The Hartle-Hawking Cosmology’ (1997 )by Graham Oppy

In the above article, Quentin Smith argues that ‘the Hartle-Hawking Cosmology’ is inconsistent with classical theism. Oppy argues that a central premise in Smith’s argument is incoherent.

Book Review: Theism, Atheism, and Big Bang Cosmology (1996) by Graham Oppy

“The book is composed mainly of previously published pieces. […] Given the cost of the book and the accessibility of the prior publications, it seems to me that this is not exactly value for money.”


Moral Argument/Divine Command Theory:

Why I Believe in Moral Absolutes” (1995) from Commentary on D. James Kennedy’s Why I Believe by “Anachronist”

Anachronist critiques Chapter 7 of D. James Kennedy’s book, Why I Believe, which makes a “fairly good case, with only a few glaring weaknesses, for the moral system offered by Christianity.” Anachronist then offers his own secular challenges to Kennedy’s main arguments.


Religious Experience

Can Mystical Experience be a Perception of God? A Critique of William Alston’s Perceiving God (1999) by Keith Augustine

William Alston’s Perceiving God argues that some mystical experiences should be regarded as perceptions of God analogous to the perception of physical objects in sense experience. I conclude that there are several reasons for doubting that mystical experience generally–or Christian mystical experience specifically–can be a form of perception, even given Alston’s epistemic commitments.

Peering at Faces in the Clouds (1996) by Sally Morem

A review of Stewart Elliott Guthrie’s Faces in the Clouds: A New Theory of Religion.


Other Theistic Arguments:

The Case Against Faith: A Critical Look at Lee Strobel’s The Case for Faith (5th ed., 2020) by Paul Doland

Lee Strobel’s The Case for Faith aims to answer the “toughest objections to Christianity” through interviews with well-known Christian apologists. In the introduction, Strobel lists what he calls Christianity’s “Big Eight Conundrums”–including many of the questions that I continually asked myself when I was still a Christian. Though Strobel generally does a good job of explaining the objections, the more I contemplated his interviewees’ responses, the less satisfying I found those responses to be. This point-by-point critique aims to explain why I found each of these responses to be weak at best or preposterous at worst, and I am consequently forced to conclude that Strobel may have actually produced a case against faith.

Commentary on Paul Doland’s Critique of Strobel’s Case for Faith (n.d.) by Avue (Off Site)

While Paul Doland’s critique of Lee Strobel’s The Case for Faith shows a decent understanding of current issues within the Christian Church and the socio-religious issues surrounding the Church, he does not show a good understanding of Christianity itself. He shows this, for example, in his discussions of God as heavenly father, original sin, and salvation.

No Better than Strobel: A Reply to God and Science’s Case for Faith (2020) by Paul Doland

In his earlier Secular Web critique of Lee Strobel’s The Case for Faith, Paul Doland concluded that by raising tough questions for Christianity but failing to adequately respond to them, Strobel (and his interviewees) inadvertently ending up producing a strong case against faith. A rejoinder to Doland’s critique was subsequently published on the God and Science website. In this response to that rejoinder, Doland defends his original conclusion that neither The Case for Faith in particular, nor Christianity in general, provide believable and coherent answers to the sorts of questions that Strobel originally raised. Nor, for that matter, does the attempt by the God and Science website to rehabilitate Strobel’s answers to Christianity’s toughest questions.

An Examination of Josh McDowell’s Book, More Than a Carpenter (1997) (Off Site) by Todd M. Pence

Believers often invoke the name of Josh McDowell, whose works wield influence in Christian circles, especially among groups such as the Campus Crusade for Christ and similar organizations. Other than being “characterized by errors in both fact and logic as well as a legerdemain use of rhetoric,” Pence states,” … [McDowell’s] books do not offer any significant new ideas in the field of apologetics, and they are targeted for a more general audience than is usually associated with books on Biblical scholarship.”

Commentary on D. James Kennedy’s Why I Believe (1995) by Anachronist

“Why I Believe is a concise, easy-to-read book containing most of the typical Christian arguments about the subjects below, in one convenient place – making it an excellent instrument for use as a jumping-off point for critical and honest commentaries on these subjects.”

Hugo Meynell’s Is Christianity True? (1998) by Michael Martin

Meynell’s book contains a brief, superficial treatment of some relevant issues and a complete neglect of others. I suspect that it will be hard to find even a moderately sophisticated person of good will who, having serious doubts about Christianity, will be persuaded by this slender volume.

Not a Very Big Bang About Genesis (2001) (Off Site) by Mark Perakh

This article critically discusses three books by Gerald L. Schroeder, books which have gained a substantial popularity and have often been acclaimed as very successful clarifications of how to reconcile biblical stories with scientific data: Big Bang and Genesis : The discovery of the harmony between modern science and the Bible, The Science of God : The Convergence of Scientific and Biblical Wisdom, and The Hidden Face of God: How Science Reveals the Ultimate Truth.

Objections Sustained! (2001) by Kyle J. Gerkin

A thorough and detailed critique of Lee Strobel’s The Case For Faith: A Journalist Investigates the Toughest Objections to Christianity. This review actually ranges across almost all the issues between Christians and atheists, and Gerkin directs readers to all the relevant sections of the Secular Web, making this an excellent introduction to our website and arguments for unbelief.

Still Failing the Bar Exam (2002) by J. P. Holding (Off Site)

J. P. Holding (aka Robert Turkel) responds to Gerkin’s critique of Lee Strobel’s The Case for Faith.

Holding Overruled (2002) by Kyle J. Gerkin

Gerkin responds to Holding’s critique, “Still Failing the Bar Exam.”

Objection Dismissed on Appeal (2006) by James Hannam

Though Kyle J. Gerkin’s critique of Lee Strobel’s The Case for Faith has a great deal to recommend it, and probably even represents the conventional wisdom in skeptical circles, his reply to objection #7 contains a number of factual errors. While earlier historians would have agreed with many of Gerkin’s points, current research in the history of science and religion that has yet to percolate into the public consciousness casts doubt upon much of what he says. In this essay Hannam outlines Gerkin’s various errors of fact, distinguishing his own views from the relatively uncontroversial conclusions of historians.

Patrick Glynn’s God: The Evidence (1998) by Michael Martin

“Glynn’s God: The Evidence presents no persuasive evidence for God and the soul. His evidence from cosmology, psychology, and medicine do not add up to an all-but-incontestable case. Indeed, the evidence he puts forth can be challenged, his arguments are deficient, his presentation of alternative theories is unjust, and his grasp of the relevant material is defective.”

Review of Miller’s From Existence To God (1994) by Graham Oppy

Oppy concludes that “From Existence To God is well worth reading (for those with a reasonable amount of interest in natural theology).”

Review of Schroeder’s The Science of God (1998) by Graham Oppy

Oppy reviews Gerald Schroeder’s The Science of God, which claims that modern scientific discoveries converge with Old Testament wisdom on issues such as the Big Bang; the appearance of life after the appearance of water; the existence of archaeopteryx, dinosaurs, and prehuman hominids; quantum indeterminancy; the age of the universe and the origin of life. Oppy questions whether the Old Testament accounts really converge with modern scientific discoveries on any of these issues.

Seeking Purpose in a Universe of Chance (1998) by Victor J. Stenger

Physicist and Anglican priest John Polkinghorne cannot accept the possibility that mindless chance operates in the universe. So he joins those who seek evidence for top-down causality in a scientific system where bottom-up causality continues to rule.

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