Thursday, 13 August 2015

GUNNING FOR GOD by John C Lennox

Gunning for GodGunning for God by John C. Lennox
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

BOOK DESCRIPTION: Atheism is on the march in the western world, and its enemy is God. Religion, the "New Atheists" claim, "is dangerous", it "kills" or "poisons everything". And if religion is the problem with the world, their answer is simple: get rid of it. But are things really so straightforward? Tackling the likes of Richard Dawkins, Stephen Hawking, Christopher Hitchens, and Daniel Dennett head on, John Lennox highlights the fallacies in the their approach, arguing that their irrational and unscientific methodology leaves them guilty of the same obstinate foolishness of which they accuse dogmatic religious folks. Erudite and wide-ranging, Gunning for God packs some debilitating punches. It also puts forward new ideas about the nature of God and Christianity that will give the New Atheists' best friends and worst enemies alike some stimulating food for thought.

MY REVIEW: There is much to like about this book. But there are also some significant problems which means it doesn't really pack the 'debilitating punches' that the description on the book suggests. Firstly, I love a fiery debate. And, while GUNNING FOR GOD does not contain contributions by the so-called "New Atheists", John Lennox has been involved in debates with a number of them. And Lennox's rhetoric in the book is fiery and witty. I enjoyed that aspect of the book. Secondly, many of the points the author makes about the arguments of some of the atheists he is responding to are good. Polemicists like Richard Dawkins and (the late) Christopher Hitchens often offer arguments that are not evidence-based and, particularly in Dawkins' case, appear ignorant of some of the nuances, range and complexity of some Christian beliefs.

There are areas, however, where the book is inadequate. One of these is in the chapter entitled "Can we be good without God?". The answer is obviously "yes". Millions of people live ethical lives without believing in the Christian god (which is what Lennox is debating). The problem with Lennox's approach is that he argues over whether it is possible to have ABSOLUTE moral standards without God. The focus on absolute morality is really a straw man argument because no atheist I know of wants to argue for absolute morality. Most atheist arguments around morality promote the idea of a more pragmatic approach to morality, suggesting that ethical guidelines are required for humanity to live together in ways that promote their well being. So, in some ways, Lennox's focus on absolute moral standards misses the point.

The last third or so of the book becomes an apologetic for miracles and Christ's resurrection. The best part of this section is Lennox's critique of Hume's arguments against miracles. Very insightful and worthy of consideration. The chapter on the reliability of the New Testament text, the historical reliability of the New Testament Gospels, and the evidence for the resurrection of Christ are pretty much traditional arguments offered by most Christian apologetics and not entirely convincing.

So GUNNING FOR GOD is uneven in its quality from my perspective. It's worth reading for those interested in the contemporary debates going on between high-profile atheists and high-profile Christian apologetics. But the average reader who is unaware of, or doesn't much care for this debate, probably won't find it of much value.

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