Paul Copan is a rising star in Christian apologetics and philosophy. He has written a number of excellent titles defending the Christian faith, on both popular and more academic levels. This volume follows two of his earlier works, namely, True For You, But Not True For Me (1998) and That's Just Your Interpretation (2001).
In all three volumes he raises common objections to the faith and answers them with wisdom, learning and clarity. In this volume, he examines three categories of objections: the nature of truth, the broad area of science and scientism, and objections to specific biblical and theological claims.
In the first section, for example, he devotes a chapter to pragmatism, the claim that what is true is what works. Copan offers three strengths of this view, but then offers eleven problems with the position. And these shortcomings are profound. Lying, for example, may "work", but does that make its right, or true?
In section two he lists eight common objections, centered on the supposed clash between science and faith. In these chapters he deals with a number of related themes. Chief among them is the way in which science can tend to overstep its bounds.
Thus Copan distinguishes between science (a helpful discipline when kept in its proper place) and scientism (the idea that science speaks to all truth, and what is not covered by science is not true). The latter is a philosophical position, not testable by the very tenets of science. It is a presupposition that itself is not empirically verifiable.
While science rightly studies the natural world, scientism seeks to say the natural world is all there is: only matter matters. The truth is, as Copan demonstrates, there are many areas of knowledge that go beyond scientific study. The proper domain of science is nature, but we need more than science to understand what may lie beyond nature.
In the third section Copan looks at common complaints about the Christian faith, such as the idea that the church excluded or suppressed certain texts from the New Testament. The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown of course makes such claims. But as Copan demonstrates, the early church leaders did not determine which books would be in or out, they merely acknowledged the authority of existing books.
The various Gnostic gospels that sprang up several centuries after Christ were all seen to be spurious and untrustworthy. Texts like the Gospel of Thomas were clearly at odds with the apostolic writings, and reflected a much different worldview. They also appear on the scene much later.
Thus on a number of fronts, various challenges to the faith are presented and assessed. As with the two previous volumes, these objections are capably dealt with. Not all readers will be convinced by every argument, but at least it becomes clear that there are good answers out there to the host of criticisms leveled against Christianity.
on July 27, 2005
**** In a world where it often seems like the only right some vocal people are willing to grant Christians is the right to remain silent, it is easy to begin to wonder, "am I wrong to believe?" Addressing this question with solid reasons why you are not wrong to believe and what makes Christianity logical, this book will give you the confidence to deal with a world in which Christans are resident aliens. How do we know we have a soul and are more than animals? What about the strange things in the Old Testament that often seem bizarre and harsh? Did a lot of books get left out of the Bible? The answers to these questions and more will give you surety that not only are you, the Christian not wrong, but you are right. ****
Reviewed by Amanda Killgore, Freelance Reviewer.
on December 31, 2010
Kudos to Copan who meets a great practical need to help answer real questions that people ask, instead of arguing against arguments which seem were created out of thin air just to prove a point. Though the questions or statements are as real as they get, sometimes Copan creates a straw man in his arguments. But, overall it is a great book I would recommend as a textbook, and for anyone in the church out outside of it.
I really enjoyed many of the discussions and you can tell that Copan is a well read person. Also, not only well read but usually picks those authors who are well respected in their field.
There are just a few things I would critique. It seems that Copan's passion about abortion caused him to overreact a couple times. When he speaks of Abortion Clinics, he typifies them as profit makers. I happen to have some firsthand knowledge about this. I was a "spy" of sorts for the anti-abortion side and played a boyfriend, and another person played my girlfriend. The goal was to get into the clinic and find out what the staff there would say if my "girlfriend" changed her mind and no longer wanted the abortion. What we found was that the staff defended the woman's right to choose either way, and did not try to persuade at all for her to get an abortion. So it is a mass generalization to say that these clinics only serve the dollar bill.
The second time Copan overreacts concerning this topic is when he compares those who would risk life and limb to save an endangered turtle's eggs, and that these same people could care less about aborting babies. That is a bit unfair I would say, since the turtle is an endangered species and we are not.
In the same page, page 143, and in other places in the book, Copan uses an argument that when I first read it, I had a hard time believing that anyone would actually agree with his assessment of the analogy as fair. As I found out, with at least, Peter Singer, a Princeton professor he mentions, Singer would never say that while someone is sleeping, because they are not conscious of the future, that they could be justifiably killed. Singer answers this characterization of his beliefs in his FAQ section of his homepage. Singer would only agree to terminate someone who is alive who has a permanent condition and was hopefully agreed on by the person that it would be okay to terminate if they became incapacitated as such. Not that I would agree with Singer, but for Copan to use the analogy of a sleeping person as equivalent to someone with Alzheimer's is pretty lame.
Also when Copan speaks of Exodus 21 and the meaning of the word "yalad" in Hebrew, he overstates his case. It is true that the word simply means "to come out", but 90% of the time if a woman is hit when she was pregnant back then, the premature birth would end up in a miscarriage.
When Copan talks about homosexuality this is one spot in the book he should have done more reading. Robert Gagnon has written the definitive conservative book on this book and should have been consulted, for Gagnon's arguments are better than Copan's. To build a comparison between the wrongness of the act of homosexuality and the emphasis Scripture places on the humanness of slaves is weak indeed. One needs to compare similar things, the acts. A better analogy would have been between the act of homosexuality and the act of bestiality or incest. Most people find bestiality and incest repulsive, so it would be a good analogy, as well as them both being acts.
The O.T. Laws section was decent but was not researched well enough. Unfortunately as of now in OT research, the more research done in the area of some OT laws seems to only complicate things more. Hopefully this will come to an end soon. For instance, the law about not wearing clothing with two types of material is made more complicated by the fact that the priests' garments were supposed to be made from two different materials! According to Copan's logic, the priests would be the first ones to NOT wear two different types of material.
Also Copan says that the split hooves and the chewing cud clearly identifies an animal as one who belongs on the land. I understand the chewing cud part, but why would a split hoof clearly mean an animal was a land animal. What about a horse?
Copan calls snakes and eels swarmers!? Since when do snakes and eels hang out in packs?! The Hebrew word for "swarmers" or "creepers" is not so easy to translate. Copan says that all swarmers are unclean. But that is not true. Lev. 11:21,22 say that among "swarmers", grasshoppers, crickets, and locusts are clean to eat. What makes is confusing is that the LXX translates "swarmers" as reptiles, but this cannot be the best translation for Lev 11:29 puts the weasel and the rat in this category! And even more confusing is that "swarmers" is used for animals in the water as well! The verbal idea of this word seems to mean "to boil over", "to break out", as in boiling water, or body sores, or maggots. It might have something to do with animals that can multiply and get out of hand quickly.
With regard to Copan's emphasis on the idea that originally God wanted every Israelite to be a priest, this is not easily proven. The Bible says, "kingdom of priests" and can easily be taken as a nation who is special to God and helps other nations come to Him. In other words, it can be taken as a metaphor, not literally every single person being a priest.
My reviews normally include this much detail and it could make one think that the book is bad, but I tend to pick on those things that I like the best. Usually if it's really bad, I do not say much other than putting out a couple comments and a warning.
on November 14, 2011
Copan does an excellent job at thoroughly tackling a number of issues that come up in Christian vs. Non-Christian debates. I found his chapters on the Old Testament especially informative and insightful as they addressed common questions that come up where the Old vs. New Testament practices are concerned, especially the "Why" aspects of some of the seemingly arbitrary Old Testament practices. The book definitely deserves a place on the Christian's bookshelf and also deserves an honest read by the Non-Christian who wants good answers to the questions they have in the areas the book addresses.
Paul Copan (born 1962) is a Christian theologian, philosopher and apologist, who is currently a professor at the Palm Beach Atlantic University; he has written many other books such as True for You, But Not for Me: Overcoming Objections to Christian Faith,That's Just Your Interpretation: Responding to Skeptics Who Challenge Your Faith,When God Goes to Starbucks A Guide to Everyday Apologetics, etc.
He wrote in the Introduction to this 2005 book, "In my previous writings, I've mentioned a basic threefold strategy for defending and dealing with objections to the Christian worldview. First of all, we can't escape the objectivity of truth and the REALITY, to which truth-claims correspond... Second, if... people see that truth and reality are inescapable, then we can deal with the next level---worldviews... Third, if theism is the best option among competing worldviews, then WHICH theistic option is the most viable---Judaism, Islam, or Christianity?... It's my hope that this material will encourage Christians in general, but particularly Christian students in high schools and universities ... who regularly face skeptical challenges to their faith." (Pg. 11-12)
He suggests, "the very strong evidence for near-death experiences (NDEs) or out-of-body experiences (OBEs) taking place suggests that body and soul are different substances. During a four-minute time period of being clinically dead, the late atheist philosopher A.J. Ayer was aware of an 'exceedingly bright and also very painful' red light. Ayer concluded that 'death does not put an end to consciousness.'" (Pg. 103; Ayer's article is included in Does God Exist?: A Believer and an Atheist Debate.)
He argues, "PETA engaged in a (false) advertising campaign claiming that 'Jesus was a vegetarian.' He wasn't. Besides eating lamb every year at Passover, he, being a good Galilean, certainly ate fish on a regular basis (cf. Luke 24:42-43). Jesus also helped some of his fishermen-disciples catch fish (Luke 5:1-9; John 21:1-12)---a legitimate livelihood. He also would provide fish for his disciples to eat (John 21:9, 13). He miraculously fed fish to over five thousand people on one occasion (Mark 6:33-44) and to over four thousand people on another occasion (Mark 8:1-9). The celebration at the return of the prodigal son in Luke 15 calls for a feast---a killing of the fatted calf---a portrayal of the fact that Jesus 'receives sinners and eats with them'..." (Pg. 126-127)
He states, "We should avoid referring to our 'nature' as 'sinful' (unless we clarify that 'nature' is being used in a philosophically IMPRECISE manner). God made human nature to be good---even though it has been deeply damaged by the fall. But because God has created human nature as good, it isn't INTRINSICALLY sinful. And if it were, then Jesus couldn't truly identify with human beings as the divine-human mediator, and therefore he couldn't bring about salvation for us." (Pg. 206)
This book deals with an entirely different range of objections than Copan's previous books, and it will be of keen interest to Christians studying apologetics.
on July 24, 2008
Copan's book provides a primer in basic logic and reasoning when confronting objections that Christians often hear regarding their religious beliefs. The opening chapters deal with slogans related to truth and reality (such as "whatever works for you"); the next seven chapters deal more with slogans related to worldviews (such as proving things scientifically and animal rights); the final six chapters deal solely with slogans related to Christianity and the Bible.
I enjoyed studying philosophy in college and Copan's book makes for an interesting read for those people who enjoy logic and reasoning. He systematically takes apart every slogan and shows how many of these fail under the harsh scrutiny of logic. Chapters 9 and 10 deal specifically with animal rights and it's from my reading of this that I learned how big of a hypocrite PETA member Pete Singer is. Reading this book made me wonder why anyone takes Singer's writings seriously.
In the Bible, philosophy is linked with "empty deception" and based on some of these slogans, it's easy to see why. Philosophy can and should be a search for truth and wisdom but too often it takes a detour into beliefs that have no real value
on January 26, 2007
This book is a wonderful addition to "True For you, But Not For Me" and "That's Just Your Interpretation." And kudos to the cover designers for keeping that ingenious design of the crazy road signs that was used on the second book. The first book's cover is funny in its own way, but for illustrating the idea that all roads do not lead to Mount Fuji (much less Mount Zion), the crazy road signs is a stroke of genius.
Being the third in a series, Copan has the freedom to deal with many of the side questions that were not covered in the first books. Get the other books if you want the basic questions, and do this one for the deeper and the side questions.
I thought the discussion on the mind-body problem was insightful, and Copan rightly fingers Descartes as main culprit in the miscommunication. The discussion in chapters 3-5 on the nature of scientism versus science was even better. We are not dealing with science (which is merely correlated data), but scientism (not only an assumed philosophical framework for managing data, but also an outlook on ethics, economics, politics, and includes a robust social-political-academic agenda).
On thing I would have liked so see in the discussion is Thomas Aquinas's statement in his Five Ways. Back in the 1200's, Aquinas pointed out that one possible argument against God was naturalism: "It is superfluous to suppose that what can be accounted for by a few principles has been produced by many. But it seems that everything we see in the world can be accounted for by other principles, supposing God did not exist. For all natural things can be reduced to one principle which is nature."
His reply was not reductionism as used by Copan (53), but the obvious teleology in the world: "Since nature works for a determinate end under the direction of a higher agent, whatever is done by nature must needs be traced back to God, as to its first cause." Everyone believes in ecology or the "Circe of Life." Well, where did this come from? As he aaerts, if animals have rights, where did they come from?
I was let down with the discussion on Abraham. Isaac was an obvious symbol of Christ ("he received him in a figure" Heb. 11:17-19), but Copan never mentions this. His explanation is Jewish, but not Christian. Abraham was being taught a vital lesson: faith in the Atonement.
The section on the Fall of Adam was an eye-popper. Copan's view of the Fall of Adam is essentially the position of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Here are the data:
* "Our deeply sinful condition should be understood in terms of damage/consequences rather than guilt reckoned to all of us as the result of Adam's sin. Otherwise, what do we make of those who die in infancy or who are mentally retarded?" (202)
* (Quoting Gordon Lewis and Bruce Demarest) "None will suffer the execution of the penalty who not themselves responsibility sinned." (205)
Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints:
* "We believe that men will be punished for their own sins, and not for Adam's transgression." (Articles of Faith 2)
* "Hence came the saying abroad among the people, that the Son of God hath atoned for original guilt, wherein the sins of the parents cannot be answered upon the heads of the children, for they are whole from the foundation of the world." (Moses 6:54)
* "But little children are alive in Christ, even from the foundation of the world; if not so, God is a partial God, and also a changeable God, and a respecter to persons; for how many little children have died without baptism! Wherefore, if little children could not be saved without baptism, these must have gone to an endless hell. Behold I say unto you, that he that supposeth that little children need baptism is in the gall of bitterness and in the bonds of iniquity; for he hath neither faith, hope, nor charity; wherefore, should he be cut off while in the thought, he must go down to hell." (Moroni 8:10-14)
* "Adam fell that men might be; and men are, that they might have joy." (2 Nephi 2:25)
In 1974, Truman Madsen wrote a paper called "Are Christians Mormon?" (BYU Studies, Vol. 15, No. 1, p.73). He showed that many churches are slowly modifying their doctrines. The shocking thing is that they are looking more and more like Mormonism. Maybe this idea needs to be revisited.
on February 20, 2015
Great service and a very good apologetics book.
on September 3, 2008
The best sections of the book are the first two parts. Copan has a very good analysis of materialism, naturalism and determinism. He shows the problems and limits of science better than many other critics of scientific pretensions. I also agree with him that the difference between humans and animals must be clear. If humans are lowered on the level of animals that will hurt them, too.
The third part, which mostly concerns Old Testament, was not as persuasive for me. I think the God-concept in the early part of the Old Testament reflects the cultural values of those times. Copan tries to make the Old Testament God look better than he/she is. I feel there is great change in the way God relates to human beings even in the Old Testament. This must reflect the human mind which was not ready for love. Perhaps this opinion reflects liberal theology, but that's what I think.
on January 2, 2014
This book was very poorly written, showed little understanding of science and the scientific method, and misrepresents other authors in citations. I found the arguments in this book very difficult and sometimes impossible to follow. Paul Copan frequently interjects useless information in an overabundance of parentheticals. For example, at one point, while arguing in favor of religion, Copan felt it necessary to include a personal aside about a lake from their past just because it had a very long name (page 22). This lake had no relevance to the argument being presented. This is just one example of a parenthetical inclusion that muddied whatever point the author was attempting to communicate. It added nothing to the argument but just made the book more difficult to read than it could have been.
At many instances Copan attempts to include scientific facts to bolster their argument; however, they often misrepresent the science. In one instance, Copan seems to suggest that Kepler’s elliptical orbit hypothesis of planetary motion “had the same results” (page 64) as the epicycle hypotheses of planetary motion. These hypotheses did not have the same results; Kepler developed the elliptical hypothesis because the epicycle hypothesis did not describe actual observations of the planets!
The final straw for me with this book was when I repeatedly observed the author misrepresenting other author’s works. After having difficulty with a few of the chapters, I began researching works cited by the author. After reading the cited works, not only could I better understand the cited author rather than Copan, but I disagreed completely with how Copan interpreted the cited material!
In the end, I did not find this book helpful nor persuasive in making the argument for believing in a religion. The book was poorly written and is not a credible source of information. If you are looking for persuasive arguments for religion, look elsewhere.