Is atheism making a comeback? Authors Sean McDowell and Jonathan Morrow say it is and seek to respond to this very vocal movement in their new book, Is God Just a Human Invention?: And Seventeen Other Questions Raised by the New Atheists. The proliferation of recent books by contemporary atheists with titles like The God Delusion by Richard Dawkins, Breaking the Spell by Daniel Dennett, god is not Great by Christopher Hitchens and Letter to a Christian Nation by Sam Harris, speak to the reality that atheism is back – with a vengeance. These four vocal atheists have been duly named “The Four Horseman” by Al Mohler. To say that atheism is back in somewhat misleading. Atheism has been around since after the Fall in Genesis 3. Throughout history there have been moments of intense efforts by atheists. This is one of those intense moments in atheistic history. There is no denying that these New Atheists are making a public scene in their quest to rid the world of religion(s) and, in particular, Christianity and its belief in God.

As a result of the atheistic outcry against Christianity in particular, there has been an enormous response among the vast ranks of evangelicals. Notable apologists like Ravi Zacharias (author of The End of Reason) and president of SBTS Al Mohler (Atheism Remix) have written more popular level books in response to the New Atheism. Theologians like Alister McGrath (The Dawkins Delusion) and biblical scholars like Paul Copan (Is God A Moral Monster) have given their noteworthy contributions. Pastors like Doug Wilson (Is Christianity Good for the World) and Tim Keller (The Reason for God) have responded to the New Atheism with theological rigor and pastoral care. More philosophical responses have come from the likes of David Berlinski (The Devil’s Delusion) and famed William Lane Craig (God?: A Debate between a Christian and an Atheist) who have shown that the Biblical claims of Christianity can hold their own and more among philosophical doubters. Further, scientists like John Lennox (God’s Undertaker: Has Science Buried God?), Stephen C. Meyer (Signature in the Cell) and Francis Collins (The Language of God) have approached atheist’s attacks from their own world.

With all of these responses from varied fields of Christian Biblical defenders, there is no doubt that Christianity can hold up against charges from any front. All of these books are helpful in their own way and there are many more that provide solid answers to the bold claims of atheists. Whether atheism is actually making a measured comeback or not is an issue that will have to be addressed in the years to come. For now, there is no doubt that many Christians have heard the boisterous claims of the New Atheists and have themselves been asking questions about their own faith and the Bible. For the Christian who may not be able to determine where to begin in their quest to chew through some of the above-mentioned books, the task can feel daunting. There is so much to read and so much material and information to process that it can be easy to take the fideist approach and just believe in God anyways. In step McDowell and Morrow. Amidst all of the beneficial books that are both readable and highly technical, McDowell and Morrow have taken eighteen of the most hotly debated issues among Christians and Atheists. With remarkable ability, they have condensed these eighteen issues in an easy to understand way without being overly simplistic. They have brought out the salient points of contention within each issue and have responded with clarity and forthrightness. No chapter is longer than 15-16 pages and some are as short as 9-10.

McDowell and Morrow state that the central thesis claimed by the New Atheists is that “Christianity isn’t just false; it’s dangerous (p. 14). It is this claim that the authors seek to respond to through the eighteen chosen topics. However, the authors are not alone. The body of each chapter is written by the authors. At the end of each chapter an expert is brought in from the relevant field of study to wrap things up. If that were not enough to make the book well rounded, at the end of each chapter there is a short list of related books the reader can use in order to go deeper into the subject matter of each particular chapter. As stated before, there is a large body of good books out there and McDowell and Morrow have done a great service to the reader on directing them to the best ones to go to next.

Is God Just a Human Invention is broken into two sections. The first section deals with atheistic claims that fall under the scientific/philosophical category. The first issue that is dealt with is the question of whether or not faith is rational. Much of the discussion by atheists that faith is irrational is due to a misunderstanding of the nature and content of faith. Thus they believe that faith is “blind, irrational and stupid (p. 19).” Whether they realize it or not, atheist attacks on the validity and rationality of faith seem to be more aimed at fideism (the belief that faith is independent of reason). “Biblical faith is trust in God because He has shown Himself to be reliable and trustworthy. It is not belief in spite of the evidence, but belief in light of the evidence (p. 21).”

Moving from the rationality of faith they tackle the claim that faith and science are at odds. From the world of science they move on to defend the high possibility of miracles and summarize their claim by saying, “In short, the possibility of miracles depends upon the existence of God. If God exists, miracles are possible (p. 46).” Issues of origins are discussed in terms of the origins of the universe and human life as well as the Christian answer as to why the universe is just right for life. When God is cited by Christians as the original source of all things atheists always bite back with the question, “But who made God!?” To this classic question the authors rightly respond by saying, “The claim is not that everything has a cause. Rather, everything that begins to exist has a cause (p. 78).”

One of the most intriguing and thought provoking chapters of the book is chapter eight in which the debate over whether or not humans have souls is discussed. Daniel Dennett wants us to believe that the mind is not and is merely “an illusion created by the brain (p. 109).” To this claim the authors offer several arguments:

If there is no soul, then free will does not exist…….if materialism is true, you do not have any genuine ability to choose your actions……if you were solely your body, then your identity would be constantly changing (p. 112-13)

Part two of the book deals with moral and biblical challenges. First up the authors respond to the harsh claims of Christopher Hitches that religion is dangerous. Hitchens sees all the major evils of the world stemming not from people but their religions. The authors state, “Upon reflection, most would agree that people are the problem, not religion. There are deeper issues at work. The human heart is corrupt (p. 137).”

Specific issues within the Bible that are addressed include the ethics of slavery, whether the idea of hell is moral, how do we understand Israel’s conquests in the book of Joshua, does Christianity suppress human sexuality and why should one believe in Jesus over the flying spaghetti monster? All of these issues and more are dealt with clarity and honesty.

The only real criticism I have of the book is the undefined frequent appeal to the freedom of man and how certain atheistic claims would take it away. I would have liked to see the authors at least their definition and understanding of it given how often they appealed to it.

McDowell and Morrow have done a great service to those wanting answers to the above claims but who don’t know where to turn first to find them. I would recommend this book to new and seasoned believers who are unfamiliar with these issues.

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