Monday, March 03, 2014

True Reason -- now out!

(Writing from Hong Kong, where I'm renewing my visa.)

Well, our new book, True Reason, is now out.  The book has about two dozen reviews on Amazon already, in just a few days (Tom Gilson's hard work, no doubt), and seems to be selling pretty well, so far.  One of the nice things about the book that the reviews demonstrate, is that different chapters appeal to a variety of readers -- lots of chapters are described as "my favorite," appealing to people with various interests.  That must be gratifying to the editors. It shows they did an excellent job of finding good writers and balancing interesting and important topics.  Reviews also show that so far most readers have also really liked the book.

I think you probably will, too!

This version is frankly much better than the e-version we put out two years ago, for two reasons: (1) It includes two new chapters, including one by Tim McGrew and myself on how early Christians understood faith and reason; (2) The other chapters were also mostly updated and improved.  (I helped edit them myself, as a matter of fact -- including adding a bit of a response to John Loftus' reply to my chapter rebutting his Outsider Test for Faith, and showing why the Gospel passes that test four times over.  Truthfully, John didn't offer my arguments too much of a challenge, but there were other things that needed improving, anyway.)

So far, my OTF chapter has attracted quite a bit of attention from reviewers, both positive and negative.  Here are most of the comments to date.  I especially appreciated David Hedges' critical comments, and hope to respond to them in more detail later -- see also his comments on the Amazon site.  He really tries to understand my position and represent it accurately -- not always the case with my critics!  But of course he's still wrong. :- )

Of course I also greatly appreciate the favorable comments -- they are very encouraging.  Thanks!

Anyway, here are some of the comments on my chapters:

True North: My favorite contributor to this book is David Marshall. He is a very engaging defender with a unique sense of humor, a down-to-earth writing style, and reasoning that is really easy to understand. In "John Loftus and the Insider-Outsider Test for Faith," Marshall points out that he actually gave Loftus the very tools Loftus used in formulating his Outsider Test for Faith! Marshall also authored "The Marriage of Faith & Reason," showing how the Christian concept of faith is intellectually exciting, and explains the complex world we live in. Marshall co-wrote an article with Timothy McGrew, "Faith & Reason in Historical Perspective," wherein they reason that Christianity compels itself to the rational mind.

David Hodges: I do admit to not being entirely satisfied with David Marshall's contribution to this category, since its effort to show wide agreement in non-Christian religions with Christian truths is phrased in such a way as to risk suggesting that Christianity is less exclusively "the true faith" than it is, or suggesting that false religions are not the culpable efforts to evade the whole (Christian) truth that Scripture seems (notable in Romans 1) to say they are. My difficulty with Marshall's piece is more rhetorical than substantive, though of course bad rhetoric can lead to substantive errors if left uncorrected.

Jason Livingstone: At its best, it boasts impressive scholarship, thoughtful evaluation of the arguments to which the authors are responding, and an invitation to the reader to do his/her own thinking (the contributions of David Marshall and Randall Hardman fit this description well).

Writer Rani: Chuck Edwards, David Marshall, Peter Grice, and the other Christian authors did such a wonderful job of presenting the information that lay-people and scholars alike will be able to learn a lot from their essays.

I was very surprised when I read the quotes from Loftus, and others on how weak their arguments were. They seemed to have nothing to base their arguments on and they contradicted what they were saying. The Christian authors had facts and history to support their ideas. It shows me that the New Atheists claim of reason is truly a weakness. Christianity has a lot more going for it.

Randal Everist: One of the essays I found to be most fascinating was David Marshall’s on John Loftus’ “Outsider Test for Faith” (hereafter OTF). OTF is as follows:

1. “People who are located in distinct geographical areas . . . overwhelmingly adopt and justify a wide diversity of religious faith due to their particular upbringing and shared cultural heritage, and most of these faiths are mutually exclusive.
2. To an overwhelming degree, one’s religious faith is causally dependent on brain processes, cultural conditions, and irrational thinking patterns.
3. Therefore, it is highly likely that any given religious faith is false.
4. In practice, one should hence test one’s religion ‘from the perspective of an outsider, a nonbeliever, with the same level of reasonable skepticism believers already use when examining the other religious faiths they reject.’” (p. 77)

Now, the point of Marshall’s essay is to show that Loftus’ contention that OTF is opposed by Christians because they know Christianity will fail is demonstrably false, historically. This we will return to in a moment. First, Marshall casually mentions that (3) doesn’t follow from (1-2); I think, however, we can rescue OTF pretty easily from this malady. Consider:

OTF1. If, to an overwhelming degree, one’s religious faith is causally dependent on brain processes, cultural conditions, and irrational thinking patterns, then it is highly likely their religious belief is false.

It’s worth noting Loftus might resent this oversimplification, because he wants to include all other religions as live options for complete pictures. So let’s include that fact in our consideration of (OTF1). Marshall mentions that (OTF1) is nonetheless an example of the genetic fallacy (p. 78). I think this is less than clear. Why? Because Loftus includes, in (OTF1), that irrational thinking patterns have helped causally inform particular religious beliefs. Surely we wouldn’t want to say, given that such-and-such a belief is formed in an irrational manner, that it is just as likely true as false? If I bang my head into the wall four times, and announce that on this basis I now am a devotee of the Easter Bunny, you’re just as likely to suspect I have a concussion as anything else—but surely you (nor I) don’t thereby gain some support for the premise that the Easter Bunny is real. I think that, all things being equal, if a belief is formed for irrational reasons, we can safely say, epistemologically, that there’s no reason to regard it as true, and even some reason to say it is false.

The crucial question then becomes two-fold: Are all things equal?, and Do people form their belief in God in an irrational thinking pattern? The latter question demands that we see reason to think that we have been irrational in our thinking about God. That will require an account of rationality and that our belief in God has arisen from something contrary to rationality (or irrationality). As Alvin Plantinga has argued, it’s not even clear this can be done without appealing to the de facto question of whether or not God exists. The former question is evidential: we can only conclude that our religious beliefs are false or very likely false if we don’t have countervailing evidence (of course, if we already have these evidences, it’s very unlikely we meet condition [2] of Loftus’ argument, and so [OTF] doesn’t really have any application for us).

The rest of Marshall’s essay, however, is an excellent discussion on other world religions and conversions. I was especially happy to see his reference of the great African scholar John Mbiti. One should charitably read Marshall at this point in saying that other world religions do in fact contain shadows of truth; the true God’s witness of Himself in the real world, even if it has been diluted and perverted.

Jason: David Marshall puts ex-Christian John Loftus's "insider-outsider test for faith" to the test and gives it a failing grade while showing how the claim that most people who view Christianity from the outside will reject it is unfounded. I can attest to this as a person who grew up with a secular worldview and did not accept the truth of Christianity until adulthood. Marshall concludes by making a case of how Christianity passes the tests of history, prophecy, transformation, and lo and behold, the insider-outsider test for faith.

David Marshall skillfully expounds upon how faith and reason are the product of a marriage undefiled. After properly defining faith (which has nothing to do with blindness) he unpacks seven different ways that the New Testament ties faith to reason. Touching on topics such as historical investigation, critical accounts of Jesus's life, and the resurrection, Marshal combines logic, philosophy, and careful exegesis to explain how no man can put faith and reason asunder.

David Marshall and Timothy McGrew provide a thorough review of how Christians—including the early church fathers and modern-day scholars—have historically viewed faith. They use contextual analysis to set the record straight against false characterizations of Christian faith as an uninformed, lazy default position.

1 comment:

David B Marshall said...

Apparently not, unfortunately. The publisher of the ebook was quite stubborn about not selling rights for a reasonable price.