Book Review: How to Be an Atheist

In How to Be an Atheist, Mitch Stokes dissects the scientific and moral arguments of those who embrace naturalism and evolutionary theory. The book is divided into two parts with the first half investigating the scientific evidence and the latter half covering the assertions on morality. The thesis of the book is that naturalists employ a high level of scrutiny and skepticism to those with a religious worldview but do not measure their own claims by the same stringent standards. In other words, because naturalists believe that they have scientific evidence and logic on their side, they find their own perspective to be much more reasonable and common sense than those of creationists. In the first part, Stokes raises many examples showing that despite major advances in technology and science, humans still know very little about our universe and its origins. Although naturalists often use complex theories in disciplines such as quantum physics to explain what goes on in the world, the author states that even the most cutting-edge theories, such as M-theory and string theory, fall short in providing explanations to every phenomenon and occurrence we observe. In the second part, Stokes explains how most naturalists appeal to a form of moral nihilism or moral subjectivism when trying to make sense of how morals and values operate in our world. However, the author warns that when we view morality as a matter of taste or preference, we are treading on dangerous ground as it opens up many undesirable possibilities. Conversely, Stokes asserts that the morals we uphold in society are not based on individual tastes but on the objective morality that can be found in God and His nature. The book is not an outright defence for Christianity but an appeal to naturalists to take a closer look at the substantial deficiencies of their worldview in the areas of science and morality.

I would readily recommend this book to both Christians and non-believers. The contents may be hard to digest at times for those unfamiliar with philosophy and physics but Stokes is diligent in making the material readable by providing simple illustrations and helpful explanations. I appreciate the author’s plea for readers to seriously re-examine science and its claims as we are often prone to simply accept what we are taught in school or media without utilizing proper skepticism and digging deeper into the evidence. Ironically, as more discoveries are being made through modern science, we find that we actually know much less than we thought we knew about the universe. Stokes argues that the faith required for naturalists to believe in science is equal to, if not much greater than, that required of those who believe in God. For Christians who may feel inadequate when discussing scientific or moralistic arguments with non-believers, this book serves as a suitable tool to help believers engage in these conversations. For those who put their faith in naturalism, the contents of this book may provide the motivation to seriously reconsider the assertions that naturalism and evolutionary theory make.

In compliance with Federal Trade Commission regulations, I was provided a free review copy of this book from Crossway.

Peterson on the Saving Work of Christ

“Four points deserve mention. First, all nine events—incarnation, sinless life, death, resurrection, ascension, session, Pentecost, intercession, and return—constitute one saving work of Christ. Each event is important and should be appreciated. Yet Christ’s saving work consists of all nine. We should, then, have a holistic view of his salvation, which includes everything from his incarnation to his return. The nine events constitute his unified saving work. Second, although all nine events are necessary to salvation, it bears repeating that two are central and inseparable. Christ’s death and resurrection are the heart and soul of his saving accomplishment. Sometimes Scripture mentions both together (John 10:17–18; Acts 2:22–24; Rom. 4:25; 10:9–10; 1 Cor. 15:3–4; 2 Cor. 5:15; Phil. 3:10; Heb. 1:3; 1 Pet. 1:11), but usually it uses shorthand and mentions merely one, implying the other. Third, there are two essential preconditions to Christ’s death and resurrection: his incarnation and sinless life. Fourth, there are five essential results that follow Christ’s death and resurrection: his ascension, session, Pentecost, intercession, and second coming.”

Robert Peterson in Salvation Applied by the Spirit

Book Review: Salvation Applied by the Spirit

In Salvation Applied by the Spirit, Robert Peterson focuses on the doctrine of union with Christ and its wide-ranging implications to the Christian life. The author asserts that union with Christ is the foundation by which all the benefits that Christ has gained on the cross are conferred to every believer that puts their faith in Him. The first part of the book (“Union with Christ in Scripture”) aims to analyze the many references that explicitly or implicitly teach this doctrine throughout the Bible. This exercise takes up more than 60% of the book’s length so readers will need to be prepared for the extensive treatment that Peterson employs to show that union with Christ is a biblical and foundational doctrine. I appreciate how the author takes the effort to flesh out the many definitions and contexts in which “in Christ” language is used throughout Scripture. The second half of the book (“Union with Christ in Theology”) attempts to show how union with Christ is integral in understanding the Bible’s story, the works of the Holy Spirit, and the Christian life. In this section, I was encouraged by the author’s point that we are able to receive and enjoy all blessings from the Father only through the saving work of Christ and the unifying work of the Holy Spirit. This intimacy that we have with the Trinity is made possible through our union with Christ.

I would recommend this book for Christians looking to learn more about the important doctrine of union with Christ. However, I would caution that the book is advanced reading and presupposes the reader to have a good grasp of Scripture and doctrine (especially Christology). I certainly found it quite challenging going through the first part of the book although the effort is definitely worth it when one realizes how the Bible is replete with references to union with Christ. The second part is much less demanding and provides practical applications of how this doctrine impacts our daily lives. After reading this book, I encourage all believers to earnestly reflect on their union with Christ. Peterson reminds readers that our union with Christ is a present reality and foretaste of the fullness and joy that we will enjoy when Christ returns and we will be together with Him forever.

In compliance with Federal Trade Commission regulations, I was provided a free review copy of this book from Crossway.

 

Book Review: After Acts

In After Acts, Bryan Litfin attempts to reconstruct the life of the apostles and other significant New Testament figures beyond what is recorded in the Bible. After the book of Acts, the Bible contains very little information about what happened to these individuals. Those who wrote some of the New Testament books provide a clearer picture but the details of others such as the disciples Bartholomew and Andrew are scant. Thus, Litfin uses a variety of extra-biblical resources from both within and outside of Christian circles to surmise what could have happened to these believers after Christ’s ascension. Written for readers of all backgrounds, the author compiles the evidence to sort through what is fact and fiction as historical accounts tend to become mythologized and exaggerated over time. The characters chosen in the book include eleven of the disciples (Judas Iscariot is excluded), Mary the mother of Jesus, Mark, Luke, and Paul. Litfin is careful to consider source documents that are relatively reliable and offers a concise summary on each character along with a “report card” on the veracity of a few highlighted points. I appreciate how at the end of each chapter, Litfin deliberately adds a personal touch reminding readers that despite not knowing exactly what happened to each individual, there are some qualities of each that we can learn from to help grow our Christian faith. The book is brisk and light-hearted with some humour included so readers will find the material fairly engaging.

I would gladly recommend this book to anyone who enjoys some light history reading. The author intends to give readers a brief summary of what can be gleaned from historical records to give a more concrete image of these characters we read in the Bible. It is often easy to forget that the Bible records the details of living human beings that actually left a mark in history. It is remarkable that God has chosen to use mere mortals to bring forth the message of the Gospel to the ends of the earth. Let us be reminded that we are also living and breathing characters taking part in God’s story as we join these believers of the New Testament in proclaiming the Good News to the nations.

In compliance with Federal Trade Commission guidelines, I received a review copy from Moody Press in exchange for a book review.

 

Book Review: The Gospel at Work

In The Gospel at Work, Sebastian Traeger and Greg Gilbert hope to engage readers in rethinking their theology of work. The main premise is an argument against idleness and idolatry that easily plague Christians in the workplace. Instead, Christian should be exhibiting faithfulness and fruitfulness in their work regardless of what type of work they are called to do. For those who see work as a necessary evil, work becomes laborious which easily leads to idleness and boredom. For those who view work as irreplaceable, their career consumes every free moment of their lives resulting in other priorities in life such as family and church to languish. The authors repeatedly urge Christians to understand that work is fruitful and godly only when we put God at the centre of it. When we aim to please God and serve others in our daily jobs, we are fulfilling God’s purpose for us in our careers. Although our current jobs may not be the most satisfying in our eyes, Traeger and Gilbert urge readers to remain faithful in their current situations while looking for God to open up new opportunities. After laying a theological framework of work in the first half of the book, the latter half contains much useful advice such as pointers on how to discern whether if a job is suitable for a Christian to undertake, how to evangelize in the workplace, and how to handle situations in which one’s employer is hostile. For example, the authors’ remind Christians that we need to actively point to Christ in our daily actions and conversations at work instead of waiting for non-Christian coworkers to ask about our faith.

I would happily recommend this book to those who may be struggling to find meaning in their work. I remember when I used to waste much time trying to figure out which career path would ultimately make me satisfied. However, the authors wisely point out that work is only 35% of our lives and the other 65% is just as important. We need to be faithful in the other roles we have in life such as spouse, parent, church member, or citizen. Moreover, no matter what work we find ourselves in, the important point is that we work for God. When we have this mindset, we will be careful in the attitude, motivation, and approach we take when we negotiate contracts, fill prescription orders, or pour concrete on the sidewalk. Instead of thinking about how a particular job makes us happy, wealthy, or satisfied, we should look to see how we can glorify God and help others in our careers. Let us not fall into the temptations of seeing work as evil or worshipping work as an idol. Rather, work is God’s command, blessing, and means of grace by which we seek to proclaim Christ.