God is Great, God is Good: Why Belief in God is Reasonable and Responsible edited by William Lane Craig and Chad Meister
by Rich Deem

Introduction

God is Great, God is GoodEditors William Lane Craig and Chad Meister have assembled a collection of the best scholars in Christianity to put together God is Great, God is Good: Why Belief in God is Reasonable and Responsible, one of the best books at refuting the claims of the "new atheists." Authors include William Lane Craig, J.P. Moreland, John Polkinghorne, Michael Behe, Alister McGrath, Gary Habermas, and others. The result is a comprehensive refutation of the arguments of the new atheists, and a thorough apologetic for the existence of God.

Richard Dawkins

William Lane Craig takes on Richard Dawkins' claim that he has refuted all the arguments for God's existence. Although the boys in the choir may think Dawkins has refuted the arguments for God's existence, Craig shows that Dawkins fails to even directly challenge either the moral or ontological arguments for God's existence. Likewise, he fails to challenge the two premises of the cosmological argument (from which the conclusion must follow), but challenges the theological implication of the conclusion. For the teleological argument (argument from design), Dawkins seems out of touch with the cosmological data, suggesting that the universe may be oscillating, although cosmologists have rejected that hypothesis for a number of years. Ultimately, Dawkins settles on multiverse metaphysics (which has no support of observational data), and tries to dance around the problem that such an idea violates Ockham's razor by multiplying entities beyond necessity.

God and physics

John Polkinghorne, physicist and Anglican priest, authored the chapter on God and physics. According to Polkinghorne, the remarkable thing about the universe is that it is so comprehensible. It is remarkable that the equations of mathematics, thought up by human beings, actually apply to the structure of the physical world. Polkinghorne says it is unlikely to be a coincidence, but that it points to the likelihood it was actually designed to be that way. Polkinghorne explains how the laws of physics specifically allow for the formation of life. Although the Big Bang formed only hydrogen and helium, because of the laws of physics, alpha particles can be added to form beryllium, carbon, oxygen, etc. However, beryllium is extremely unstable and would not exist long enough for an alpha particle to be added, but for an anomalous resonance effect that allows this fusion reaction to occur extremely rapidly. Otherwise, no heavy element formation would have occurred, making life of any kind impossible. In addition, some life-requiring heavier elements are only formed during supernova events. The laws of electromagnetism and gravity must be exactly balanced in order to produce just right stars, otherwise star formation would be restricted to either blue giants or red dwarfs. neither of which are suitable to power the energy needs of life on host planets. Dark energy, the vacuum energy of space, must be fined tuned to 10-120 or the universe would be instantly blown apart or collapse on itself before life could form.

God and evolution

Michael Behe takes on the assumption of biological evolution. Charles Darwin's theory of evolution was formulated at a time when living organisms were thought to be simple and the cell was just "a simple little lump of albuminous combination of carbon."1 Ernst Haeckel and Thomas Huxley thought that non-living objects found in sea sludge resembled cells found in living tissues. They assumed that this sludge could spontaneously produce living cells. From this perspective, it was a simple leap to assume that life was easily created and could arise to form complex creatures. Despite the advances in biology and molecular genetics, the philosophical basis of biological evolution have retained these ideas. The "power" of biological evolution is said to come from random mutation and natural selection. However, some of the best examples of natural selection do instill awe as to its supposed power. A textbook example is the human response to malaria. However, natural selection did not pick any of the obvious solutions to the problem—skin that is impenetrable to mosquito bites, an immune system that destroys the Pasmodium sporozoites before they can infect cells, or sebaceous glands that produce DEET or some other mosquito-repelling chemical. Instead, natural selection favored a solution (sickle cell disease) that slightly debilitate the entire population and kills one fourth, since it is advantagous that one fourth die rather than the entire population. Other mutations that give a measure of resistance to malaria include thalassemia, (another hemoglobin mutation) and degradative mutations to glucose-6-phosphate dehydrogenase, Duffy factor, pyruvate kinase and Band 3 protein. The one thing that is common to all mutations is that they reduce to organism's overall fitness in order to prevent death from malaria. Natural selection does not create any new function, but just degrades optimally-designed functioning in order to prevent the population from being wiped out.

The long-term evolution experiment of Eschericia coli bacteria performed by Richard Lenski is yet another example of the "power" of natural selection. Put into a suboptimal medium, these bacteria "evolved" to grow in the medium. However, after several decades of "evolution" it was found that the mutations that helped the bacteria to survive were mutations that broke certain genes and processes. Rather than creating some kind of super-bug, natural selection created a weakened bug that grew better in the suboptimal medium. Altogether, Behe's chapter is a fascinating exposé of how mutation and adaptation work in the real world.

Evolutionary explanations of religion

Another really good chapter is Michael Murray's examination of the claim that religion is a byproduct of human evolution. Numerous scientists have made the claim that the human brain is designed with a hypersensitive agency detection device that attempts to detect agents (or Agents) even when they don't exist. For the Christian, it is not a surprising finding that the human brain is designed to interface with God, since the Bible makes such claims. Even secular psychologists admit, "belief in gods and God particularly arises through the natural ordinary operation of human minds in natural ordinary environments."2

God is good

Part 3 of God is Great, God is Good examines the atheists' claims that religion is evil. Within these four chapters, Alister McGrath's chapter on "Is religion evil?" is particularly good. McGrath shows that the atheistic technique of lumping all religions under that umbrella of "religion" is logically and factually fallacious. McGrath goes on the show how most evil is actually committed for political reasons, including the numerous examples of atrocities committed by atheists.

Why it matters

The fourth part of God is Great, God is Good specifically examines the claims of Christianity. Gary Habermas' chapter on the resurrection is particularly well done, examining the historical background behind the resurrection writings. The analysis shows that those writings are historically rooted in the first century events—not some made-up myth. The book ends with an interview between Antony Flew and Gary Habermas on Flew's "Pilgrimage from Atheism to Theism," and a scathing review of Richard Dawkins's Thee God Delusion by Alvin Plantinga.

Conclusion Top of page

God is Great, God is Good is a very well-written collection of essays by experts in the fields of science and theology. As a scientist, I especially appreciated the chapters on science and faith. However, other chapters have more widespread appeal for those who are interested in the truth of Christianity. God is Great, God is Good is one of the best responses to the claims of the new atheists and a powerful apologetic for the validity of the Christian worldview.

God is Great, God is Good



References Top of page

  1. Quote from Ernst Haeckel in John Farley, The Spontaneous Generation Controversy from Descartes to Oparin, Baltimore, Johns Hapkins University Press, 1979, p. 73.
  2. Justin L. Barrett, Why Would Anyone Believe in God?

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Last Modified September 1, 2011

 

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