Believe in the Evidence for God

Evidence for God

Today’s Christian students can be certain of enrolling in at least one course in college with an atheistic professor whose goal is for them to give up their faith by the semester’s end. They will be slammed with arguments against the existence of God, the historicity of Jesus, and the reliability of the Bible. They would be called to embrace the dogma of Darwinian Evolution, or be vilified as “bigots” or “fundamentalists.” Evidence for God: 50 Arguments for Faith from the Bible History, Philosophy, and Science (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 2010) is a resource for the Christian student to give an answer for their faith (1 Pet. 3:15).

What is helpful about Evidence for God is it offers responses that are concise and straight to the point. One does not have to wade through extended discussions but can easily get the essential core of the issue being discussed. Since the book is divided into four sections: The Question of philosophy, The Question of Science, The Question of Jesus, and The Question of the Bible, users can easily find information they seek.

David Wood in his chapter on the explanatory power of theism and atheism puts things into perspective in stating: “If atheists expect theists to take the denial of theism seriously, they must offer a hypothesis at least as powerful as theism. Yet atheism can’t explain even the most basic facts about the world” (46). Not only does Atheism fail to offer reason to abandon Christian belief in Christ and the reliability of the Bible, but it also is unable to offer explanations for the origin of the universe, the fine tuning earth for life, the origin, diversity, and complexity of life, human consciousness, and objective moral values.

One of the specific challenges for the Christian church is to have their students grounded and equipped to meet the spiritual challenges in colleges and universities. In many instances, Christian students entering into college are unprepared for this spiritual battle. In what ways can the body of Christ help equip students to stand for truth? What advice would you give to a student or a senior high school youth leader?

— CRI Research Staff

For more information about Evidence for God, click HERE.

Journal Topics

Making friends in Utah a different experience

I live in Utah. That’s not earth-shattering news for several million people who live in a state most known for its skiing and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, of which 70% of all residents are members. Yet there are a number of cultural differences between living here and the other 49 states.

For one, they celebrate July 3 and October 30 when the actual holiday lands on a Sunday. It was unique to have a busy July 3rd this year, complete with a parade down our street, two picnics, and fireworks going off everywhere. July 4th was just a quiet Sunday, and unless you looked at the calendar, you would have never known this was the actual holiday.

Speaking of Sundays, many stores are closed. Great deals at restaurants and entertainment venues can be had around town on Monday nights because it’s typically the day Mormon families gather together for “Family Home Evening.” And instead of hearing cursing everywhere you go, “heck” is the typical four-letter word they use to show exclaim.

As far as our neighborhood, most neighbors have been very friendly, including my next door neighbor who has gone out of his way on a number of occasions. For example, when we realized that our swamp cooler wasn’t working, he took it upon himself to come to our rescue. Together he and I inspected the unit that is on top of our roof and discovered that a new motor and pads were in order. Three hours and two trips to Home Depot later, it was now possible to make our house cool. “No problem,” was his aw-shucks response. Lately, whenever there has been a heavy snow the previous night, he lets me borrow his snow blower. I feel that I could ask him for anything and he would oblige.

In December, he came over, excited to tell me about how his local LDS congregation was joining hands with a Methodist church to perform a Christmas musical program. Although I do not think it’s biblical to join together in worship services with Mormons, I could see that this event meant a lot to him. Besides, his wife was in the production. Afterwards, he told me how much he appreciated my effort to come.

The term “friendshipping” was coined by Mormons as an evangelistic tool. Show them by our love, is the idea, and perhaps the recipients of the friendly efforts may want to join “the Church.” I’m not saying that this is what my neighbor and his wife are officially doing. To the contrary, they honestly seem to want to be friendly for friendship’s sake and not because they see my family and me as a conversion project. Yet I know that friendshipping has been greatly encouraged by LDS leaders as a way to bring people into Mormonism—just watch the LDS-produced movie Mobsters and Mormons.

Which brings me to the question: Is this idea of “friendshipping” wrong? In other words, is the desire to want somebody to have a relationship with God allowed as part of a legitimate motive for pursuing a friendship? This is a tricky one, especially for those of us who believe evangelism is more than just being a good neighbor.

-Eric Johnson

Eric Johnson lives in Utah and works full-time with Mormonism Research Ministry. He also teaches college classes and is an associate editor for the Apologetics Study Bible for Students (Holman, 2010). He has written an in-depth article on Mormon Friendshipping for the current issue of the Christian Research Journal. Read his full article by subscribing at Eric will also be on the Bible Answer Man broadcast in Jan. 2011 to discuss this topic with Hank.


Burning Down the Shack- Review by Warren Nozaki

Burning Down “The Shack:”
How the “Christian” Bestseller is Deceiving Millions
(NY: WordNetDaily, 2010)
James B. De Young

William Paul Young’s self-published novel The Shack (Newbury Park, CA: Windblown Media, 2007) grabbed the attention of the masses, and became a “#1 New York Times Bestseller.” The story’s about a fellow named Mackenzie Allen Philips (Mack), who comes to grips with his “great sadness” as the result of a peculiar meeting with God inside a shack located in the Oregon wilderness. The book narrative conveys Young’s theodicy on the tension between God’s goodness and the existence of evil. Many Christians were impressed with Young’s story. Eugene Peterson, for example, declared, “This book has the potential to do for our generation what John Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress did for his.” Other Christians rightly raised concerns about the book’s theology. One notable critique is Burning Down “The Shack” (NY: WorldNetDaily, 2010) by James B. De Young.

What sets Burning Down “The Shack” apart from the rest is the fact that James De Young and William Paul Young are well acquainted with one another. In fact, together they co-founded a Portland, Oregon based Christian think tank in 1997 called the M3 Forum (p. xiii). Burning Down “The Shack” thus offers an assessment from a capable Christian thinker with unique insights into the heart and mind of The Shack creator.

De Young’s book confirms the same theological problems others have observed. Namely, The Shack errs in personifying the Trinity as a Black female housekeeper, a big nosed Jewish man, and a mysterious Asian woman (13–22). It errs in depicting Papa (the first person of the Trinity) with crucifixion scars, implying the Father suffered on the cross (patripassianism), which is a way modalism distorts the distinctions of the persons in the Godhead (25–28). It errs again in suggesting the incarnate Christ never drew upon his divine nature to do anything (22–25). It errs, moreover, in its teaching on the salvation of sinners (135–139). It is on this last point that De Young’s close association with Young proves most valuable.

In April of 2004 Young presented the M3 Forum a 103-page single-spaced paper on his embracement of universal reconciliation, which is a form of universalism that holds all must come to God through Jesus Christ either before or after they die (xiv). Two years later, while still holding this heresy, he completed the manuscript for The Shack. Young’s friends saw potential in the story and encouraged him to have it published, but since they opposed the universalism embedded in it, they spent a little over a year trying to remove it. When the manuscript was rejected by mainline Christian publishers, Young started Windblown Media to distribute the book (xviii–xix). De Young notes, “in 2008, [Young] claimed that he has moved away from this position by stating that he does not want to be pinned down, that he is a person in flux, that he is not ‘a universalist,’” but maintains that “many of the beliefs of universal reconciliation remain in the novel” (xx).

De Young offers clarity to statements in The Shack suggesting universalism. For example, when the Jesus of The Shack says, “Those who love me come from every system that exists. They were Buddhists or Mormons, Baptists or Muslims…I have no desire to make them Christian, but I do want to join them in their transformation into sons and daughters of my Papa,” and “I’ll travel any road to find you,” Young can still honestly say The Shack does not teach universalism—that is, universalism in the form of religious pluralism, albeit not universal reconciliation. De Young observes, therefore, that these statements “may reflect universalism’s teaching that Jesus may even go a thousand times to hell to bring out the wicked who repent there” (139). When The Shack was written, Young did not believe all religions would lead to heaven (religious pluralism); rather, he believed Jesus Christ would eventually save everyone, even souls already in hell (universal reconciliation). Universal reconciliation, therefore, is another form of universalism.

Storytelling is a powerful medium of communication, and Young’s book capitalizes on this principle. So when The Shack portrays God as saying, “I am not who you think I am,” one must understand, “Young is seeking to have Mack (and all readers of The Shack) question his understanding of God, to ‘change the way we think about God forever’” (57). However, Young ultimately “skates along the edge of the precipice of heresy but denies that he is indulging in it” (145). Since there are many Christian readers who have read or plan to read The Shack, my challenge would be for readers of The Shack to also interact with Burning Down “The Shack, which offers helpful insights into the ideas being communicated.

— Warren Nozaki