There are questions being asked today that we can’t afford to ignore. Is faith irrational? Are miracles possible? Can people be good without God? These are just a few of the philosophical and biblical questions being asked by people who want intelligent answers. The problem is the people willing to answer these questions are not always the ones inside the church. There is a strong voice outside of the church that has crept into popular culture and is avidly proposing that there is no God, no biblical worldview, and no truth found in the Scriptures. In Is God Just a Human Invention? And Seventeen Other Questions Raised by the New Atheists, Sean McDowell and Jonathan Morrow take a look at the logic and reasoning behind this New Atheist movement, set out to show their error, and provide truth from a biblical standpoint.
This book is both timely and practical as it engages the New Atheist movement. This movement is a 21st century surge that proposes the idea that atheists no longer need to take a tolerant approach towards religion. Instead they use evidence, mostly scientific, to discredit religious truths. McDowell and Morrow engage in 17 of the more popular questions raised by the New Atheists. “It seems a growing number of people-on both sides of the God question-are no longer content to ‘play church.’ Either what people believe is true and they are going to attempt to live out their faith in all areas of life, or it’s false and people shouldn’t waste their time going through the motions of their childhood faith if it really doesn’t make any difference. . . . This is both an opportunity and a challenge for people of faith” (12). McDowell and Morrow rise up to this challenge as they systematically explain and breakdown the arguments raised by the New Atheists.
Is God a Human Invention? is split into two parts. The first part responds to scientific and philosophical challenges, while the second part responds to moral and biblical ones. Each chapter is structured in a way that explains the perspective from the New Atheists’ side, deconstructs their perspective, and provides fodder for an educated biblical perspective by the addition of a “why it matters” section. The first part of the book starts with the foundation of faith. Taking into account the rationality of faith, it then takes a turn to the scientific questions such as how the universe began, how life began, evolution, and the relationship between science and Christianity. McDowell and Morrow stress the important distinction that “naturalism and theism are at odds, not science and Christianity” (37). McDowell and Morrow’s ensures the reader that scientific questions can be asked (should be asked) and addressed from a solid biblical viewpoint.
The second part of the book ventures into the moral and biblical realm. The questions in this section directly relate to our understanding of God, ourselves, and our human nature. A lot can be said about people’s theology based on the way they live their life. This is clearly seen in the way that McDowell and Morrow respond to questions such as What good is Christianity? Is evil only a problem for Christians? Is God a genocidal bully? One of the most important points raised in this section is proper hermeneutics. The authors consistently point out how the New Atheists do not afford consistent interpretation when it comes to handling the biblical text. The logic that governs the understanding of their naturalistic viewpoint somehow does not uphold to their understanding of the Bible. “[W]e need to remember a fundamental principle of communication: every medium of communication has rules and must be understood within the context of those rules if the message is going to be accurately interpreted. . . . Unfortunately, the New Atheists don’t bring the same level of cultural understanding to the Bible and seem to forget their interpretations should be governed by normal rules of literature” (61).
There are a number of strengths to this book that make it an excellent addition to anyone’s collection. Not only is it thorough, but it is practical and engaging. This book is accessible to anyone, from the pulpit to the pew. It is designed not only to teach but also to provide further study as seen in the conclusion and three apendicies. In the end, I wouldn’t hesitate recommending this book. The authors ask hard questions, but they are questions that cannot be ignored.