Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Blog Tour with Fred Von Kamecke - Busted!

Today we are doing a blog tour with author Fred Von Kamecke and his new book Busted: Exposing Popular Myths about Christianity. To see the participating blogs go here. Also, Zondervan informs me that the author of Mad Church Disease, Ann Jackson, will be giving away copies of Busted on her blog (FlowerDust.net) this Thursday, July 16th. Be sure and give her a visit this Thursday.

Busted is a popular level book on apologetics. Why do we need another book on apologetics? Fred hits the nail on the head: “People say a lot of things about the Bible and Christianity that are simply not true. Such statements are spoken as if they are take-it-to-the-bank facts, even though they’ve been debunked a million times (give or take a few) in scholarly literature. The myths are common knowledge; the responses are not. This book is about getting some of those responses in your hands.” (18, emphasis mine) Fred says that apologetics is avoided for three basic reasons: apathy (whatever!), its perceived militant nature (It’s just a bunch or arguing and not always so friendly.) and the lack of ability (I can’t do it.) He responds with you should care, you should present your case with a godly disposition and, yes, you can do it! With that we get to the meat of the book.

Busted is divided into four parts: Myths about. . . 1) the Bible, 2) Jesus, 3) God and 4) the Christian faith. The logic of the book is that it makes the “case for the trustworthiness of Scripture, to clarifying its testimony about the identity of Jesus and the triune God, which then puts us in a position to discuss the Christian faith more accurately.” (27) Each part has five chapters which cover five different objections. Each chapter concludes with a “Going Deeper” section which directs the reader to further reading (both print and online resources) on that subject.

Fred writes in a winsome manner. The chapters are brief but substantive. In humble recognition of the limitations of the book Fred says “I don’t want to leave you with the impression that all that can be said has been said. No, this is just a modest beginning. You will quickly find the skeptics aren’t likely to yield ground easily, especially if the alternative to their views entails anything that smacks of surrendering to Jesus.” (267) This is an important caveat especially for the beginner who engages in apologetics. The issues are complex but that complexity should not hinder us from at least starting a conversation. Fred provides the nuts and bolts to get that conversation off the ground and to point in the direction where solid answers can be found. Some skeptics are not really interested in answers. They just want to play “stump the Christian.” Your time is better spent on those who have genuine questions and are seeking honest answers. But there is a second benefit to the book. Many skeptics writing today are advocating theories which are troubling to Christians who are not educated on the more intricate matters of the Bible and theology. I’m thinking primarily of Bart Ehrman but there are plenty of others. Fred’s book is a good resource to provide the basis to properly understand where Ehrman and others are coming from and to adequately respond to them. Fred’s PhD is in New Testament and as such he excels in his discussions that have direct bearing on New Testament. He also has a good grasp on areas outside his speciality.

I want to highlight two chapters that I found especially interesting. Chapter six discusses the myth that says Jesus traveled to India during his youth and there studied Hinduism or Buddhism. This stuck me as odd at first since I don’t hear this much anymore. My guess is that Fred has encountered this myth more than I have. The more popular skeptic materials I’ve encountered focus much more on Jesus being part of the mystery religions and the “dying and rising gods”. Also common myths are the parallels drawn between Jesus and the first-century wonder worker Apollonius of Tyana or Honi the Circle Drawer. (The best treatment on these issues is The Jesus Legend by Paul Rhodes Eddy and Gregory Boyd, Baker Academic, 2007.) With that said I’m glad that Fred addressed this myth because it is hard to find materials that address it that are accessible to laymen. Fred’s response boils down to two points 1) the New Testament isn’t as silent as is alleged regarding Jesus’ youth. And, 2) Jesus’ teaching bears no resemblance to Hindu or Buddhist teaching and no self respecting Jew would have left the Promised Land to train under someone who was not basing their teaching on the Old Testament. Such a person would have been “branded a heretic.” (91) I would add a resource for “Going Deeper” although it is now regrettably out of print. Doug Groothuis has an outstanding discussion of this in his book Revealing the New Age Jesus, IVP, 1990 (pp. 147-73).

The second chapter I want to highlight is chapter 19: “I can worship God under a tree: I don’t need the church.” This chapter seems to leave the intended target audience of skeptic to address an in-house debate on the role of the church for the believer. Perhaps the thought is once a skeptic becomes a Christian it isn’t wise to try to be a lone ranger at living the spiritual life.
Fred says next time you hear someone "pining for the early church, you need to ask, 'Which one?' (256) Contrary to popular thinking the early church was not problem free for precisely one reason: people! (256) As we look at Paul's writings to several messed up churches (most notably the church at Corinth) he never advised them to just go sit under a tree. Paul exhorted them time and time again to "live up to who they are in Christ." (258) I would love to tear this chapter out and give it to many of my customers but I don't think my boss would take to me tearing up books.

My question for Fred is this: Which of the myths in your book have you seen to be the most troubling for the youth of today’s church? How important is it that youth groups cover some measure of apologetics before college?

Thanks Fred for a wonderfully written book. If there's one thing your book proves it's this: apologetics does not have to be boring!


Andrew Rogers said...

Great review, Louis. I especially appreciate your point (or Fred's point, rather) about the Church.
Thanks for such a thorough review!

Fred von Kamecke said...

Thank you, Louis, for your helpful and gracious comments. I think the most troubling myths covered in Busted for the youth of today’s church concern the trustworthiness of the Bible and the exclusive message of the gospel. These ideas run contrary to the relativism and skepticism of our current culture. To say “this is true” and “it's right here in an ancient book” sound excessively narrow to those who have been nurtured in our postmodern world. Jesus warned that his message would be opposed as we navigate a narrow path. --Fred von Kamecke