Bibliophile: Books and Journals Read

Head Book

I am a bookworm. Yes, I said it. I love reading philosophical and theological books and journals than sleeping or watching TV or Facebook-ing. Since February 2012 my blog posts included bibliography at the end of almost all posts. My aim for doing so is to stir passion for seeking and sharing knowledge by inviting my readers to read further on these issues I enjoy pondering and sharing with the motto “when love comes first, disagreements fall at their right and proper place”.

A  thing I noted after compiling this list is that I read and shared more works of Nietzsche in Philosophy and N. T. Wright’s in Theology  than any other thinkers. It appears that I tend to read and share the works of authors who challenge my thinking on my blog more than those who I agree with.

Here is a growing list of books and journals that I interacted with in my blog posts here at With All I Am since 2012.

Philosophical Books & Journals

Books:

Al-Ghazâli (1947) Bulletin de l’Institut Francais d’Archaeologie Orientale 46 1947: 203) cf Nasr(1993) An introduction to Islamic cosmological doctrines. Trans. Seyyed Hossein Albany : State University of New York Press Continue reading

Wilhelmus Brakel: The Christian’s Reasonable Service

Reasonable Service

The supreme object of God’s servants’ desire and delight is living a life in accordance to the will of God. In order to do so, God’s servants must know God. Systematical knowledge of God and practical application of that knowledge in ordinary Christians’ lives is the heart of Wilhelmus à Brakel’s (1635-1711), one of the less known but most eloquent Reformed minister and theologian, masterwork The Christian’s Reasonable Service.

This masterwork is 17th century’s Didache. Brakel unloaded unmatched practical and systematic theology that would not only lead its readers to delight in God but also to personally apply the biblical truth acquired in their daily conducts.

Brakel is a minister first and a theologian second. He is James first and Paul (in Romans) second. He wrote this tremendously edifying work to lay churchmen and women first and scholars second. Echoing the practicality of the epistle of James, Brakel provided a biblical insight on how ordinary Christians ought to practically conduct themselves in their communities.

The Christian’s Reasonable Service’s contents and the style it was written makes it easy for an ordinary Christians, with only basic Bible knowledge, to understand the core doctrines of Christianity. Repeatedly Brakel introduces each doctrine with short definition and exposition packed with biblical passages’ support. He then raised and addressed possible misunderstanding. Last Brakel provided ways in which Christians can apply that particular doctrine in their daily walk with God and people around them.

Brakel’s masterwork is divided into four volumes. Volume one includes proper theology, anthropology, and Christology. Volume two includes ecclesiology and soteriology.  Soteriology covered the whole volume three and half of volume four.  The other half of this volume four includes eschatology and appendix, which touched some of the issues in ecclesiology that were not covered in volume two.

Logos Bible Software’s features enables you to take Brakel’s systematic and practical theology a step further.  The ability to read cited Bible passages, to view the timeline(see here), and to share notes with other readers is revolutionary.

Thank you Logos Bible Software for a review copy of Wilhelmus à Brakel’s The Christian’s Reasonable Service, given to me for the purposes of review.

Van Til’s An Introduction To Systematic Theology

Tree

The Bible, according to Reformed theologian and apologist Cornelius Van Til, is an absolute authoritative revelation source to which the whole interpretation of life ought to be based. Van Til’s An Introduction To Systematic Theology (1979) merged God-centered Reformed theology with presuppositional apologetic methodology.

In this work Van Til attempted to present what Scripture reveal about God in an organized and unified way. He aimed to explain that the ultimate source of truth and intrinsic value is not found in human beings but in God alone. Van Til combated all other philosophies that seeks to attain true self-knowledge and value in human beings.

Following John Calvin’s understanding that  “man never attains to a true self-knowledge until he has previously contemplated the face of God”(Calvin Inst. 1.1.2) Van Til argued that the knowledge of God as revealed in Scripture is the only standard by which all other conviction should not only be measured but also be based.

This masterwork will help Christians bring different parts of Scriptures into relation to each other forming one unified portrait of God’s nature and His works. It will also help them to be able to give an apologia of the hope that is in them and at the same time be able to confront and challenge nonbelievers’ presuppositions.

Using Logos Bible Software to reading Van Til’s An Introduction To Systematic Theology, Van Til’s apologetic theology is taken to the next level. Logos Bible Software enables you to easily read Bible passages in your favorite Bible version and explore in depth most of the original sources¹ cited in this Van Til’s work.

Thank you Logos Bible Software for a review copy of Cornelius Van Til’s An Introduction To Systematic Theology, given to me for the purposes of review.


[1] This is possible only if you own that particular resource in your Logos Bible library. You often can buy a missing resource at Logos Products. You can add  The Works of Cornelius Van Til (40 vols.) in your Logos Bible Software library.

The Truth about the God of the Old Testament

Copan Is God a Moral Monster

The God of the Old Testament is arguably the most unpleasant character in all fiction: jealous and proud of it; a petty, unjust, unforgiving control-freak; a vindictive, bloodthirsty ethnic cleanser; a misogynistic, homophobic, racist, infanticidal, genocidal, filicidal, pestilential, megalomanical, sadomasochistic, capriciously malevolent bully.

Atheist Richard Dawkins’ infamous description of Yahweh in his book The God Delusion is enough to make most Christians’ blood boil. Unfortunately, we are not always well-equipped to calmly and reasonably respond to such vitriol. Dr. Paul Copan, a well-respected professor of philosophy, author, and speaker, notes that Christians shouldn’t ignore the charges of Neo-atheists like Dawkins. Rather, “As people of the Book, Christians should honestly reflect on such matters.”

Copan’s recent book, Is God a Moral Monster?, is one of my new favorites. Written for a lay audience, the provocatively titled work responds to atheists’ most frequent attacks against the Old Testament God:

  • God’s supposed arrogance and jealousy
  • The binding of Isaac
  • Strange Levitical laws
  • “Imaginary crimes” and excessive punishments
  • Treatment of women as inferiors
  • Slavery in Israel
  • The killing of the Canaanites

Right away Copan exposes a hole in atheists’ arguments: a tendency to skim the surface of biblical topics without looking deeply at the whole text and its historical context. He writes,

The Neo-atheists are often profoundly ignorant of what they criticize, and they typically receive the greatest laughs and cheers from the philosophically and theologically challenged….Their arguments against God’s existence aren’t intellectually rigorous—although they want to give that impression.

Misunderstanding God’s intentions and the nature of the ancient Near East, as well as failure (deliberate or otherwise) to constructively integrate passages throughout Scripture can lead people—both skeptics and believers—to develop a lopsided and fallacious view of God.

In going deeper, Copan demonstrates that the Old Testament reveals an infinitely patient and kind God who metes out justice fairly and vigorously defends the weak, oppressed, and alien. One of the things I appreciate most about Copan’s book is that he not only responds to atheists’ accusations, he helps readers better see God’s goodness and kindness. I wish I could share with you every gem I’ve come across in Is God a Moral Monster? but, I’ll stick to one example: the position and treatment of women in the Old Testament.

Sadly, chauvinism has reared its ugly head within the church—but is such behavior condoned and supported by Scripture? No, it is not. As Copan points out, from the very beginning, God established the equality of men and women as an ideal state. Both genders bear His image (Genesis 1:26–27). Following the Fall and the rise of patriarchal societies, God established laws in Israel that granted women rights and protection unprecedented in the ancient Near East. What may seem like unfair regulations at first glance (to modern eyes) are rules that prevented Israelite men from taking advantage of and abusing women. (Copan addresses several particularly difficult passages to show how, on closer inspection, they support a positive view of women, not negative.)

Mosaic laws aside, the Old Testament is replete with examples of strong female characters (think Sarah, Rebekah, Deborah, and Esther—just to name a few). Proverbs even portrays wisdom as a woman. Yet God never places women on pedestals; they are to be held responsible for their own actions, too. As a woman myself, it means a lot to me to see evidence of God’s regard for His daughters throughout the entire Scriptures. He values us highly and accords us respect and dignity.

In a recent interview with Reasons to Believe’s own philosopher, Kenneth Samples, Copan says he was inspired to write Is God a Moral Monster? in response to the accusations of atheists like Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens, Daniel Dennett, and Sam Harris:

I’m trying to not shrink from the issues; I’m trying to be straightforward and frank about some of the challenges, some of the misunderstandings of these texts, and looking at the toughest texts that people will level at the God of the Old Testament.

In my view, Dr. Copan does an excellent job of addressing Old Testament difficulties with fair-mindedness, gentleness, and respect. I’d recommend the book to anyone, especially Richard Dawkins.

— Maureen

Resources: Be sure to catch Ken’s interviews with Paul Copan on Straight Thinking.

About Guest Contributor

MaureenMaureen Moser is an editor and blogger for Reasons to Believe (RTB), an organization dedicated to integrating science and faith. She is the managing editor for RTB’s print newsletter and scholar blogs and has completed editorial work on numerous RTB resources, including Christian Endgame and the Impact Events devotionals. A blessed wife and mother, Maureen is also an adventurous cook and a lover of Star Wars, Jane Austen, and peppermint tea.

Maureen’s article originally appeared at Reasons To Believe  and Take Two Blog.

Book Review: Jesus The Messiah

 Jesus The Messiah

“Classical exposition of messiahship” is my four words review of Herbert W. Bateman IV, Darrell L. Bock and Gordon H. Johnston’s 528-paged Kregel Publications coup d’état work,  Jesus the Messiah: Tracing the Promises, Expectations, and Coming of Israel’s King (2012)

Answering who Jesus, the Messiah is, Johnston broke dawn by trace messianic trajectories from the Old Testament, Bateman captured the anticipations of this messianic figure and Bock took captive the twilight of coming messiah, leaving no stone unturned.

Jesus the Messiah is divided into three parts. In part one, Johnston went in a great detail through the Old Testament tracing the royal dynasty of the Israel King. Part two, Bateman pick up the expectation of the of this Israel eschatological King. Part three, Bock contended how Jesus is the Israel eschatological King.

In addition, Johnston delves into Proto-Evangelion (The promise in Genesis 3:15) in appendix. Johnston exposited Genesis 3:15, as he answered what the author of Genesis intended his original audience to understand. Although he agree that Genesis 3:1 has messianic potential, Johnston argued: “The conscious object of the faith of ancient Israel was not the expectation of the coming “head-crusher,” but Yahweh alone as their Deliverer and Lord”(p. 460)

The authors’ main aim,

[I]s […] to help those who fail to see any connection between promise in the First Testament and fulfillment in the Second Testament about messiah, as well as to nudge others to consider moving beyond the notion that all First Testament readings about “messiah” were fixed and only spoke directly about Jesus.(p. 35)

Colored charts, maps, graphs, figures et cetera made Jesus the Messiah not only informative but humdinger. I will recommend this work to those who are fascinated by the character of Christ Jesus. It is a heavy book, but worth reading and turning to again and again when needed.

Thank you Laura Bartlett at Kregel Academic & Ministry for proving me with a free PDF copy of this book in exchange for an unbiased review.

Concise Atheists’ Books Review: Monton + Sheiman

GlassesIn December-January, I finally read Brandley Monton’s and Bruce Sheiman’s works. It is encouraging, in midst of angry books of new atheists, to read Monton and Sheiman as they bring in light, instead of heat, in the ongoing debate on the place of science and religion.

Bruce SheimanBruce Sheiman, in a 256 pages-Alpha published book,  An Atheist Defends Religion: Why Humanity Is Better Off with Religion(2009), went head on against the popular myth of new atheism movement that religion is evil and at war with science, and thus should be erased, to show that humanity is better off with religious beliefs.

As an atheist, Sheiman contend not for the existence of God but for the belief in God. He wrote, “I want to believe this[that God exists, humans are made in Imago Dei etc] but, alas, I cannot. Thus, even though I cannot believe in God, I still feel the need for God.”(ix)

Religion, particularly Christianity, contended Sheiman, offers a transcendent moral values and duties, human rights, altruism, mental healthy, happiness and longer life, and gave birth to science.

There is much to agree with Sheiman, as a Christian theist, and little to disagree e.g. he makes couples of classical errors e.g. confusing epistemology with ontology as he went through researches that showed both believers and nonbeliever grasp same moral values and duties, tagging Intelligent Design as Creationism and seem to hold a belief that the universe somehow was impregnated with life, thus we can find meaning and values from this notion.

Bradley MontonBradley Monton’s, who dearly remind me of Alvin Plantinga in the manner he addresses issues, 177 paged-Broadview Press book: Seeking God in Science: An Atheist Defends Intelligent Design(2009) worked out a possibly better definition of Intelligent Design(ID) and succeed in refuting popular rejections and objections gunned towards it.

He, as an atheist philosopher, is challenged by teleological argument for existence of God(TAG) and he is less certain of his atheism as he find this argument some what plausible but not having enough evidence to make him stop being an atheist. He wrote,

“I think that there is some evidence for an intelligent designer, and in fact, I think that there is some evidence that that intelligent designer is God. The arguments I’ll consider in Chapter 3 make me less certain of my atheism than I would be had I never heard the arguments. The evidence isn’t enough to make me stop being an atheist, though”.(p.39)

Monton is a good example of a clear thinking gentlemen who is after truth no matter the cost. This is a brilliant book, both to show that popular objections against TAG and the rejection of ID as science are unwarranted.

I will give a fuller chapter by chapter review of each book in near future. Have you read one or both books? Let me know your thoughts.

Nagel’s Review Of Dawkins’ The God Delusion

Nagel's Review

Richard Dawkins’ The God Delusion, a book that attempted to expose logical faultiness of religion and its’ cause of much suffering in the world, is the most read atheistic literature in our times. In this series of articles, I explored different prominent atheists and agnostics’ reviews of The God Delusion.

If you missed my first atheist reviewer, evolutionary geneticist H. Allen Orr, I welcome you to read: Dawkins The Missionary. Second in line of atheists’ reviewers is an American philosopher Thomas Nagel. His review, “The Fear Of Religion”, appeared in The Republic on October 23rd 2006, page 25-29. I explored Nagel’s length review in two parts.

The God Delusion: World-flattening Defensive Reductionism

Thomas Nagel correctly remarked that Richard Dawkins “is the most prominent and accomplished scientific writer of our times”. Dawkins, observed Nagel, view religion as the enemy of science. In The God Delusion, a book that aimed to “both dissuade believers and to embolden atheists”, Dawkins assemble all arsenal to tear down religion.

As a result of Dawkins attacking religion with all the weapons at his disposal, Nagel pronounced The God Delusion as “a very uneven collection of scriptural ridicule, amateur philosophy, historical and contemporary horror stories, anthropological speculations, and cosmological scientific argument”.

Unlike The Selfish Gene, The Blind Watchmaker, and Climbing Mount Improbable, Nagel noticed that Dawkins was swimming outside his field, and as a result “The God Delusion lacks the superb instructive lucidity of his books on evolutionary theory […]”

Commenting on the foci of The God Delusion, “Why There Almost Certainly Is No God”, where Dawkins’ gave his central argument of his book, Nagel wrote that “Dawkins sets out with care his position on a question of which the importance cannot be exaggerated: the question of what explains the existence and character of the astounding natural order we can observe in the universe we inhabit”. Two explanations sided by Dawkins, observed Nagel:

On one side is what he calls “the God Hypothesis,” namely that “there exists a superhuman, supernatural intelligence who deliberately designed and created the universe and everything in it, including us.” On the other side is Dawkins’s alternative view: “any creative intelligence, of sufficient complexity to design anything, comes into existence only as the end product of an extended process of gradual evolution. Creative intelligences, being evolved, necessarily arrive late in the universe, and therefore cannot be responsible for designing it.” In Dawkins’s view, the ultimate explanation of everything, including evolution, may be found in the laws of physics, which explain the laws of chemistry, which explain the existence and the functioning of the self-replicating molecules that underlie the biological process of genetic mutation and natural selection.

Nagel sighted that the topic of Dawkins’ central case is not institution religion “based on scriptures, miracles, or the personal experience of God’s presence”, but the reflection on natural theology namely the existence and nature of God.

“[W]ith contemptuous flippancy”, explained Nagel, Dawkins shelve away the tradition arguments from existence of God presented by Aquinas and Anselm. Nagel wrote,

I found these attempts at philosophy, along with those in a later chapter on religion and ethics, particularly weak; Dawkins seems to have felt obliged to include them for the sake of completeness.

Nagel rightly detected Dawkins’ true concern is the design argument because it there were the religious belief clashes with atheism. Which view is “most plausible explanation of the observable evidence” is  where the clash is.  Dawkins argued, explained Nagel, “that contemporary science gives us decisive reason to reject the argument from design, and to regard the existence of God as overwhelmingly improbable.”

Nagel expounded the William Paley’s type of argument from design which contends that some organism are irreducibly complex that “could not have come into existence by chance, but must have been created by a designer”. Nagel expounded,

The two inferences seem analogous, but they are very different. First, we know how watches are manufactured, and we can go to a watch factory and see it done. But the inference to creation by God is an inference to something that we have not observed and presumably never could observe. Second, the designer and the manufacturer of a watch are human beings with bodies, using physical tools to mold and put together its parts. The supernatural being whose work is inferred by the argument from design for the existence of God is not supposed to be a physical organism inside the world, but someone who creates or acts on the natural world while not being a part of it.

He explained that the “first difference is not an objection to the argument.” He explained,

Scientific inference to the best explanation of what we can observe often leads to the discovery of things that are themselves unobservable by perception and detectable only by their effects. In this sense, God might be no more and no less observable than an electron or the Big Bang.

The second difference, according to Nagel, is more challenging because the “idea of purposive causation–of design–by a non-physical being on analogy with our understanding of purposive causation by a physical being such as a watchmaker” is unclear.

Nevertheless Nagel reckoned this “need not be fatal to the theistic argument” because “science often concludes that what we observe is to be explained by causes that are not only unobservable, but totally different from anything that has ever been observed, and very difficult to grasp intuitively.”

Nagel commented that a theist holding this argument “could say that the evidence supports an intentional cause, and that it is hardly surprising that God, the bodiless designer, while to some extent describable theoretically and detectable by his effects, is resistant to full intuitive understanding.”

Dawkins offered one positive response, which had third alternative different from chance and design, and negative response, “[a] designer God cannot be used to explain organized complexity because any God capable of designing anything would have to be complex enough to demand the same kind of explanation in his own right” to rebut the argument from design.

Nagel believed that Dawkins negative response depends “on a misunderstanding of the conclusion of the argument from design, in its traditional sense as an argument for the existence of God.” He wrote,

If the argument is supposed to show that a supremely adept and intelligent natural being, with a super-body and a super-brain, is responsible for the design and the creation of life on earth, then of course this “explanation” is no advance on the phenomenon to be explained: if the existence of plants, animals, and people requires explanation, then the existence of such a super-being would require explanation for exactly the same reason. But if we consider what that reason is, we will see that it does not apply to the God hypothesis.

“God, whatever he may be, is not a complex physical inhabitant of the natural world” remarked Nagel. Dawkins understanding of God existence namely “ a chance concatenation of atoms is not a possibility for which we must find an alternative, because that is not what anybody means by God”. He clarified,

If the God hypothesis makes sense at all, it offers a different kind of explanation from those of physical science: purpose or intention of a mind without a body, capable nevertheless of creating and forming the entire physical world. The point of the hypothesis is to claim that not all explanation is physical, and that there is a mental, purposive, or intentional explanation more fundamental than the basic laws of physics, because it explains even them.

If I may add my own remark on top of what Nagel pointed out.  Even if we grant the incorrect Dawkins’ notions of “a designed complex” designer, since he confuse the complicity of mind’s ideas with the simplicity of the mind itself, contrary to what Dawkins believe, for design argument to succeed, it defender does not need to offer an explanation of an explanation to know that “this designed complex” designer is a best explanation. As for Nagel, “[a]ll explanation comes to an end somewhere”.

Next: More of Nagel’s Review of Dawkins’ The God Delusion

Disclaimers: I am  terribly biased and unfairly hard on Dawkins’ The God Delusion.   My aim is for us to critically examine Dawkins’ case against the existence of God. Whether we agree or disagree with Dawkins’ conclusions, I believe we ought to wrestle with strength and weakness of his arguments. As far as Nagel is concerned, he found The God Delusion’s case  particularly weak. Dawkins could and I believe can do better.