The book is separated into three parts and spans pages. Part 1: Antitheism Is Alive And Deadly Chapter 1: Anguish in Affluence Zacharias begins the book by setting a foundation for the reason behind the book and his philosophical method. If they get their understanding of God incorrect, then their beliefs and actions will be antithetical to reality. He also shows that he believes philosophy takes place on three levels: through logic- and reason- based arm-chair theory, through the emotional artistic productions, and through everyday, practical, "dinner table" application.
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He concentrates on some of the more prounounced problems with atheism, as he perceives them, and in the course of this review I will show why some of his approaches fail. A thorough refutation of all of the mistakes in his page book would require another pages or more, as these sorts of things are short in the telling and long in the refuting.
Dallas, TX: Word, Ravi Zacharias, the former Hindu-turned-Christian apologist, is President of Ravi Zacharias International Ministries, an organization dedicated to "presenting the credibility of Christianity as the only reasonable option by which people should live.
Can Man Live Without God? Yet Zacharias offers absolutely no substantiation for this sweeping claim. Even if we assume that secular universities are antitheistic and not just nontheistic--which is itself debatable--it does not follow that all or even most secular professors are trying to justify an immoral lifestyle.
Yet Zacharias never even acknowledges, much less discusses, that possibility in his book. Zacharias describes atheistic critiques of theistic arguments as "linguistic trickery and distortion of truth" p. Zacharias also describes atheist philosophers this way: "every now and then there arises on the educational landscape some new antitheistic voice, arrogantly sounding forth with an air of omniscience, mocking religion and debunking the sacred" p. He even calls atheists "God-killers" p.
At this point, I was tempted to close the book and never open it again. I reluctantly continued, but I did so only because of the sheer amount of praise the book has received from Evangelicals.
Word publishing compares Zacharias to C. Lewis and Francis Scheaffer. The book received the Gold Medallion award for "best book in the category of doctrine and theology. Given these endorsements, I felt a review was in order. Not only does Zacharias misdefine the key terms of the discussion, he misdefines the wrong words! First, he misdefines "atheism" by equating it with materialism p. This is false; a person can consistently deny the existence of God while affirming the existence of abstract objects.
Second, he states that he prefers to use the word "antitheism" over "atheism. He claims that "antitheism" is often a better description than "atheism" p.
Like so many other crucial points in the book, he offers no support for this assertion. I suspect though I cannot prove that the real reason Zacharias prefers the word "antitheist" is because of its negative connotations.
I also wonder if Zacharias--whose first two consecutive books attack atheism--is "better described" as an anti-atheist. Zacharias next declares that atheism is a worldview p.
However, as Christian philosopher Ronald Nash points out, "A well-rounded world-view includes what a person believes in at least five major topics: God, reality, knowledge, morality, and humankind. As I read him, Zacharias then proceeds to state three objections to atheism. I shall briefly comment on each of those objections.
Yet he never explains why atheism entails nihilism. He simply asserts that to be the case and then--for rhetorical effect--quotes vivid passages from the works of Nietzsche in support. The fact of the matter is that atheism does not logically entail any theory of ethics.
To be sure, an acceptance of atheism means the denial of all theistic interpretations of morality, but that still leaves the door open to all of the various secular theories of ethics.
If atheism is true, any one of a number of ethical theories--including nihilism, relativism, and, yes, even objectivism--could be true, in the sense that all such theories are logically compatible with atheism. Here it is worth noting that Swinburne accepts a naturalistic account of objective morality,[ 5 ] whereas Zacharias seems completely unaware of such accounts in contemporary scholarship. At this point, three natural questions arise.
First, to the extent that atheism is logically compatible with nihilism, would widespread atheism lead to an increase in immorality?
Zacharias thinks so; he even blames atheism for the "large-scale slaughters" committed by Hitler, Stalin, Mussolini, and Mao p. At any rate, as Sagi and Statman note, the claim that immorality is the result of atheism is an empirical hypothesis that must "be confirmed or refuted by empirical research," using a suitable control group.
Second, if atheism does not logically entail a theory of ethics, how can atheists settle debates about the nature of ethics objectively? Zacharias claims that the atheist "is hard pressed to adjudicate between conflicting ethical norms" p.
Yes, ethical disputes are often notoriously difficult to resolve, but atheists do not have a disadvantage in this sense. Theists may appeal to a transcendent moral law in order to justify their morality, but such appeals do little to "settle" the dispute if different theists have competing interpretations of the revealed ethical system. Third, if there is no ultimate purpose to life as atheism seems to imply , would that rule out the possibility of a coherent theory of ethics? Zacharias asserts that a "reasonable and coherent ethical theory" is impossible if life has no ultimate purpose p.
However, Zacharias never explains why life must have an ultimate purpose in order for ethics to be "reasonable and coherent. Thus, Zacharias ignores the work of nontheistic philosophers in considering the case for atheism, yet he appeals to theistic philosophers to establish a case for theism.
Zacharias presents two objections to AE. First, he suggests that it is incoherent for atheists to appeal to evil as evidence of the nonexistence of God since objective moral evil could not exist if there is no God p. Yet, as I argued above, objective moral values are logically possible even if there is no God. And the atheist need not postulate the existence of objective moral values in order to use evil as evidence for atheism.
To emphasize the point though I consider this unnecessary , the atheist might even change the name of the argument from "the Argument from Evil" to "the Argument from Unjustifiable Suffering. An AE can be understood as saying something like the following: Look. You theists believe that X, Y, and Z are evil.
You theists believe that God is good. You theists believe that good persons are opposed to evil. Second, Zacharias argues that if atheism is true, the only solution to evil and suffering is death. Therefore, Zacharias suggests that atheists who are in pain but who do not commit suicide are living inconsistent with their atheism pp.
However, Zacharias should have anticipated the objection that atheists will not commit suicide because they sincerely believe this life is the only life they will get, and they want to live that life to the fullest.
Granted, atheists will occasionally commit suicide when the pain is too great, but so will theists under similar circumstances. Yet, in a trivial sense, this is false: whether the atheist has any recourse depends on what turns out to be true.
If, for example, universalism is true, even atheists will go to Heaven. However, Zacharias might reply that atheists--along with other nonChristians--will have no recourse if his view of God is true, so his point cannot be dismissed so quickly.
Nonetheless, there are three objections to this argument. Second, belief is not directly voluntary. To many nontheists, the idea of "deciding" to believe in God is simply no more of a live option than "deciding" to believe that the earth is flat. Third, the atheist might reply that Zacharias will have "absolutely no recourse" if certain other theisms e.
And since neither Judaism nor Islam have any doctrines as a priori improbable as the Incarnation, Judaism or Islam would be a more rational choice than Christianity. According to Zacharias, the fact that each succeeding generation craves meaning is more probable on theism than on atheism p.
However, there are naturalistic explanations for this fact, and Zacharias fails to consider them. Zacharias claims that wonder, truth, love, and security are "essential components for meaning" and that only Christian theism satisfies these conditions pp.
Yet as Christian philosophers Peterson, Hasker, Reichenbach, and Basinger point out, "the burden of proof clearly lies with the believer What the believer must establish is that nonbelievers who deny cosmic meaning but still claim to possess personal meaning are not justified in maintaining this position. First, he fails to show that his four "essential components for meaning" really are necessary for meaning.
Second, he fails to show that those four conditions could not be satisfied if there is no God. As Peterson et al observe, "there appears to be no widespread scientific psychological or physiological or logical support for the claim that one cannot justifiably claim to have personal meaning if one denies cosmic meaning. Yet, as anyone who knows anything about Miller knows, he is not a materialist; he is a practicing Roman Catholic! When I think about all of the living things that have ever existed and what other species could have evolved, I find myself in a deep sense of awe.
Finally, Zacharias appeals to the fine-tuning argument, arguing, "the same data that the Millers of this world use are drawn upon by equally--if not better--qualified individuals who with great academic prowess establish the impossibility of an explanation for this universe--apart from God" p. First, the evidence that leads biologists and other scientists to accept evolution is NOT the same data that theists cite in support of the fine-tuning argument. The evidence for evolution comes from a wide variety of disciplines, including biochemical and genetic studies, comparative developmental biology, patterns of biogeography, comparative morphology, anatomy, and the fossil record; the alleged evidence for fine-tuning is found in the fields of astronomy, physics, and cosmology.
Second, and more importantly, naturalists have pointed out that the fundamental flaw of the fine-tuning argument is its unproven assumption that the values of the physical constants of our universe are unlikely. I think any reasonable person would admit that they have failed at least once--if not several times--to uphold an ethical standard which they recognize. However, this is where our agreement ends. Zacharias claims that no human being wants to be accountable to anyone and that only an acceptance of the Christian God can correct that condition p.
Yet Zacharias offers no support for that assertion. Moreover, there is good reason to believe that assertion is false. Many non-Christians do want to live a moral life and be accountable for their actions. Apparently, by "diversity," Zacharias means not only physical diversity, but also diversities that pertain to "personality, communication, and love" p.
Concerning physical diversity, Zacharias writes, "Atheistic evolutionary theory is hard pressed to explain how the diversity that exists could ever have come about from the unity of primordial slime" p. Now it is certainly a point well-taken that, at present, scientists do not have a naturalistic explanation for how life may have originated from nonlife.
But why should that be a problem for atheism? If there is no God, there is no reason to expect that human beings will have an explanation for how life originated from nonlife. Unlike single and multicellular life forms, they left no imprint of their passing. Finally, to abandon scientific research on a problem and simply claim, "God did it," is to invoke a God-of-the-gaps explanation.
Given the track record of such explanations, I think naturalists are perfectly justified in rejecting a "God-of-the-gaps" explanation for the origin of life. As for Christian theism, Zacharias makes the following howler of an argument: he asserts that Christianity "alone answers the determined philosophical quest for unity in diversity" because the Christian concept of God is a Trinity p. But Zacharias never explains how three can be one--his quotation of C.
Lewis does not even appear to be concerned with the coherence of the Trinity--or how the Trinity answers the "philosophical quest for unity in diversity.
An Emotional Tirade Against Atheism
Can Man Live Without God by Ravi Zacharias
Can Man Live without God
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