SPIRITUAL PERSPECTIVES


RECOMMENDED READING: A PLACE TO STAND

GARY W. SUMMERS

   
The subtitle of this book is "Apologetics in an Uncertain Age." The title is explained by the opening paragraph on the book jacket:

"Give me a place to stand and I will move the earth." These words are attributed to Archimedes, the third century BC Greek mathematician, physicist and inventor who proved the law of the lever by geometry. Every person needs a place to stand to be effective in life. Christ and the Bible gives one a place to stand.

So writes Ferrell Jenkins, editor of the book and Chairman of Biblical Studies at Florida College, the school that noninstitutional brethren operate. This book was published earlier this year; its 228 pages sell for $13.95 and may be ordered from the Florida College Bookstore (1-800-423-1648).

The first chapter, "'Be Ready Always': The Biblical Ground for Apologetics," provides some definitions that are needed to understand current philosophical thought. Post-modernism, Deconstructionism, and Pluralism are key concepts in the academic world, as well as in our culture (6-8).

"The Real Jesus" takes a look at Modernism (the forerunner of Postmodernism). The author mentions the Jesus Seminar, which is the culmination of over a century of modernistic thought, and includes a quote that gives an accurate assessment of The Five Gospels? which is the end product of their work. This infamous group, which included men such as the Episcopalian Bishop John Shelby Spong (who wrote the blasphemous book, Rescuing the Bible from Fundamentalism), determined that Jesus said only about 19% of what the Scriptures attribute to Him. This book contains an accurate assessment of this group's level of "scholarship" (18).

The final introductory chapter is "The Apologetic Value of a Godly Life." The emphasis upon a good example in the way we live cannot be overstated; it may be the only apologetic that some will ever see or be interested in.

"The Rise in Unbelief" offers a panoramic view of the current state of everyday thought in America. The author presents a poem by Arthur Guiterman that takes a humorous look at the changes in society (44). The way many people now think is typical of the white queen in Alice in Wonderland: "When I was young I practiced believing three impossible things before breakfast. Now I can believe anything" (44). Truly, Many Americans are long on appearances and short on facts.

"Classical Proofs of God's Existence" covers: 1) the ontological argument (which is neither the most convincing one nor the one used most often against atheists since its basic idea is that God exists because the mind is able to conceive of a perfect being) (59); the cosmological argument (that since we are here, we had to come from something that was eternal) (60); 3) the teleological argument (design demands a designer) (60); and 4) the moral argument (values must originate from intelligence, since pure matter possesses no morality) (60). The strengths and weaknesses of each of these are analyzed.

"Inspiration and Revelation" deals with what the Bible claims for itself in terms of its inspiration. If, as the modernists conclude, the Bible is just a compilation of the thoughts of various writers, then miracles and inspiration must be explained away, and Relativism becomes the god of this age: "Everyone is right except the one who believes that the Bible is right" (81).

"The Role of Miracles" examines certain philosophers such as Spinoza (1632-77), who "initiated the first major attack on biblical miracles" (87). Some today are as philosopher David Hume, who "admitted that he would not believe any testimony to any miracle, no matter who gave it or how compelling it might be" (88). People who refuse to consider evidence should be excluded from juries, to say the least. Even the enemies of Jesus and the apostles did not deny the miracles, although they did not profit from them, either. The author of this chapter also considers reasons why Jesus did not do additional miracles (for example: Why did He not appear to the high priest after His resurrection?).

"The Challenge of Humanism" includes definitions of the term, a brief history of it, and an analysis of some of its key tenets. Every person should have access to this information and a grasp of it in order to understand what has occurred in recent years to bring society to the point where it now lies (either meaning of lies is applicable).

"The Challenge of World Religions" deals with five questions: 1) Has God revealed Himself in non-Christian religions? 2) Is the truth found in the religions salvific? 3) How is Christ unique and universal? 4) What is the fate of those outside of Christ? 5) What is the responsibility of the Christian to those in other religions? (121-22). These questions were posed first by James F. Lewis in his book, Religious Traditions of the World, and are re-examined in this chapter.

Baptism. Instrumental music. The possibility of apostasy. A generation ago these were the commonly debated issues facing New Testament Christians. For the most part, these issues could be discussed in the context of respect for the integrity of the Bible. This is no longer the case. Now, the issue is not, "What does the Bible say," but rather, "What is the Bible?" (131).

Those words open the portion of the book that deals with "The Problem of the Canon." Many assertions concerning the inspired books of the Bible have surfaced during the past few years. The writer presents excellent information demonstrating the validity of both the Old and New Testaments. He also discusses the Apocrypha and the pseudepigrapha.

The subject of "Fulfilled Prophecy" is always interesting. A large portion of the chapter is devoted to observing the way in which the prophecy concerning the destruction of Babylon was fulfilled (150-55). Some attention is also paid to the prophecies concerning Tyre (156-57).

The chapter on "Faith and Reason" takes another look at the philosophers Descartes, Spinoza, Locke, Hume, and Kant. It includes a concise chart on Premodern, Modern, and Postmodern adherents and their ideas, along with a critique of each.

The chapter that discusses "The Problem of Evil" contains some good material in it as it seeks to explain the reasons for suffering, but we differ from the proposition that the answer to suffering is that there is no answer. (See this reviewer's chapter on "Why Does Evil Exist?" in the 1999 Lubbock lectureship book, Looking Unto Jesus, The Author and Finisher of Our Faith.)

"The Historical Accuracy of the Bible" is a topic that is always interesting; the reader will not be disappointed with this chapter as it substantiates Scriptural facts found in both the Old and New Testaments.

The final chapter treats one of the most crucial and fundamental concepts in the entire Bible: "My Hope Is Built on Nothing Less Than the Bodily Resurrection of Jesus." The writer shows the impact that the resurrection has made in the lives of onetime skeptics such as Lew Wallace, Simon Greenleaf, Frank Morrison, and Sir William Ramsay. As one might expect, he focuses attention on the empty tomb and the various explanations for it. He swiftly debunks the various theories that men have invented to try to deny the resurrection, which forms the basis of Christianity.

The bodily resurrection is important for at least three reasons: (1) The past--to clarify that Jesus was not a condemned criminal rejected by God as a blasphemer; (2) The present--to know our sins are now forgiven; and (3) The future--to give us hope for our own resurrection and a future home in heaven.

One chapter examined the Scriptures and therefore had no documentation, but the other 14 chapters averaged 27 "Works Cited," which makes this volume quite useful as a resource tool. Even if the reader is familiar with some of the material that this book covers, he or she will still find it inspiring and useful for living in a postmodern world.

*Send comments or questions concerning this article to Gary Summers. Please refer to this article as: "RECOMMENDED READING: A PLACE TO STAND (10/24/99)."


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