Monday, May 11, 2009

New from Bethany House: True for You But Not for Me

True for You but Not for Me is an excellent introduction to answering many of the objections to the Christian Faith. Paul Copan is the Pledger Family Chair of Philosophy and Ethics at Palm Beach Atlantic University. In this revised edition Copan has significantly revised all of the chapters of the first edition and added several new ones. Among the new topics treated are “It’s all a matter of perspective,” That’s just your opinion.” And “You can’t legislate morality.” The book is divided into five segments: 1) Absolutely Relative, 2) The Absolutism of Moral Relativism, 3) The Exclusivism of Religious Pluralism, 4) The Uniqueness of Jesus Christ: Myth or Reality? And 5) “No Other Name”: The Question of the Unevangelized.

Copan’s gift is in getting to the heart of an objection and providing clear responses. Many will object that he makes the issues seem simplistic as if once you throw out Copan’s suggested response the skeptic will be left speechless. Copan is not blind to this. He says, “These responses are not intended to be given as what cynics might call ‘sassy answers to stupid questions,’ but rather as encouragements to reopening conversation in an engaging, relational setting” (13). He continues, “An atheist or a relativist has a deeply engrained worldview. Moving from atheism to agnosticism is progress—an indication of God’s grace at work! Go slowly and prayerfully, and then let the discussion begin” (16). This book should be viewed as helpful ways to get the dialogue going and not being shut down by favorite skeptic one liners.

The “Further Reading” sections are invaluable. Because of the brevity in which the topics are dealt these sections guide the reader to more in-depth treatments. This could have been made a little better with some annotation. Some of the books suggested are quite advanced and others are good popular treatments. A small note indicating which books would be the next best step would avoid the reader going from this book to, say, Moral Relativism by Paul Moser and Thomas L. Carson which would be quite a leap (75). Copan recommends Paul Eddy and Gregory Boyd’s book The Jesus Legend which is an excellent reference work (165). But it would have been nice if he had also mentioned the popular (condensed) treatment by the same authors in Lord or Legend?: Wrestling with the Jesus Dilemma (The omission may be explained due to the fact that the book is regrettably out of print). Other materials can be found in the many footnotes which are replete throughout the book. This may be an introductory volume but it provides a wealth of other material for the interested reader.

I found Copan’s discussion of morality to be particularly strong. He wisely observes, and this is an important point Christians must hear, that “belief in God isn’t a requirement for being moral” (98). On the other hand “one can’t be a moral being unless God exists” (98). The distinction is crucial to understanding the importance of the existence of God as the ground for objective moral values. Given naturalism what is the basis of the value of human life? We are just the result of the random collision of matter plus time. This is a valueless process and “from valuelessness, valuelessness comes” (99). These chapters should be read carefully by every high school student.

Calvinist readers should be aware that Copan’s preferred answer on the question of the unevangelized is the Molinist doctrine of middle knowledge as popularized by the Christian philosopher and apologist William Lane Craig. This solution has enjoyed more acceptance among Arminians though some Calvinists have attempted formulations of it within a Calvinist structure most notably Terrance Tiessen and Bruce Ware. See the recent discussion by Paul Helm who does not believe middle knowledge is a valid option in our understanding of God's knowledge. This is but a small caveat to a great book.

Youth Pastors should give True for You but Not for Me to graduating seniors or better yet go through it with them while in high school when many of these issues are raised by some of their skeptic friends. My repeated references to youth should not be misconstrued. This would also be a good book for any small group study. To help you with this, questions are available online at http://www.paulcopan.com/.

1 comment:

inchristus said...

Thanks, Louis. Copan has been an inspiration for years and is worth every minute reading him carefully and thoughtfully.

I see you mention "Terrance Tiessen." His book on prayer Providence & Prayerwas penetrating. Care to comment on it some time?