Answering Jihad: A Better Way Forward by Nabeel Qureshi. A Review


Nabeel Qureshi is a former Muslim, now a Christian, and author of three books Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus: A Devout Muslim Encounters Christianity, and No God But One: Allah or Jesus and the work under review. He holds an MD from Eastern Virginia Medical School, an MA in Christian apologetics from Biola University, an MA in Religion from Duke University, and is currently pursuing a doctorate in New Testament Studies at Oxford University. Qureshi is also an itinerant speaker for Ravi Zacharias International Ministries. His desire in writing this book is encourage people to think carefully about Islam, responding without naiveté or undue fear.


Answering Jihad is organized into three categories, in which Qureshi answers the 18 most common questions he is asked regarding Islam and Christianity. Part 1 gives an introduction and historic overview of the concept of jihad. Part 2 addresses the practice of jihad today, and Part 3 deals with the differences between Islam and Christianity with respect to violence. The end of the book contains some appendices that explain more about Islam in general, as well as the particular sect to which Qureshi’s family belongs.


In Part 1, Qureshi offers a compelling argument for the idea that those who practice violent forms of Islam are far more consistent with the teachings of the authoritative, foundational documents and the actions of the founder of Islam. He shows from historical context, as well as the documents themselves, that jihad is properly understood as violent warfare.

In Part 2, Qureshi explores the resurgence of jihad in modern times. His explanation of how moderate Muslims receive their traditions, which is far different from the Protestant tradition of Sola Scriptura. For Muslims, their Imams carry far more authority than an equivalent leader in Christianity. Therefore, if the Imams are teaching Islam as peaceful, then Islam is peaceful. This is especially helpful in light of claims made by some that all peaceful Muslims are merely employing Taqiya, or deception. However, with the advent of the Internet, Muslims have unprecedented access to their foundational documents, the Quran and the Hadiths, which teach a more aggressive Islam. Qureshi notes that exposure to these documents leads to a crisis of faith for these Muslims. They must choose apostasy, violence, or to live in cognitive dissonance.

In Part 3, Qureshi responds to questions and challenges about the seeming similarities and differences between Islam and Christianity. Here he does a good job of differentiating jihad from Old Testament warfare. I thought, however, he could have done a little more research into Jesus’ teaching on “turning the other cheek.” Qureshi claims this is an injunction against even self-defense. However, as J. Warner Wallace points out, “When Jesus told His followers to “turn the other cheek,” He was referring to personal retaliation rather than to responses related to criminal offenses or actions related to military force.” Wallace’s comment was in response to the idea that “turn the other cheek” was a command to be pacifist, but I think it can be applied to self-defense, though not retaliation. One other issue I would take would be with Qureshi’s response to the Crusades and the reports of the taking of Jerusalem. As Rodney Stark points out, “the commonly applied ‘rule of war’ concerning siege warfare was that if a city did not surrender before forcing attackers to take the city by storm (which inevitably caused a very high rate of casualties in the besieging force), the inhabitants could expect to be massacred as an example to others in the future.” (God’s Battalions, 168.) This is not to argue that Christians are to behave this way, but to expect Christians sent to war in medieval times and expecting them to conduct themselves by modern standards is unrealistic. That simply was how wars were fought. It was not a uniquely “Christian” practice.

Qureshi concludes by reminding us that we need to realistic in our view of Islam, while charitable toward Muslims. If we wait until our Muslim neighbors reach that “three-pronged fork in the road” to reach out to them, it may be too late. This point cannot be overemphasized. As Christians, we need to see Muslims as people for whom Christ died.


Despite my nit picking, I highly recommend this book. It is accessible for anyone from late middle school and meaty enough for a graduate student. It is a must read for anyone hoping to have a meaningful interaction with their Muslim neighbors.


Philosophy In Seven Sentences By Douglas Groothuis: A Review

The author

Douglas Groothuis is professor of Philosophy at Denver Seminary. He earned his PhD at the University of Oregon and he specializes in Philosophy of Religion, the History of Philosophy and other areas. Dr. Groothuis is the author or editor of 13 books including

Christian Apologetics: A Comprehensive Case for Biblical Faith, Truth Decay: Defending Christianity Against the Challenges of Postmodernism, and In Defense of Natural Theology: A Post-Humean Assessment in addition to the title under review here. Groothuis is passionate about careful thinking as an element of worship.



In Philosophy In Seven Sentences, Groothuis seeks to make philosophy a little less intimidating and esoteric to the uninitiated, while demonstrating the need to think well in order to live a good life. He does this by introducing the work of seven philosophers with quotes that embody their work. Each chapter fleshes out the ideas behind the sentences, as well as some background information on the philosophers to whom they are attributed.



In chapter 1, Protagoras’ claim “Man is the measure of all things: of the things which are, that they are, and of things which are not that are not” is examined. Groothuis notes how this idea has some merit, but pressed to its logical conclusion, it leads to the inability to know anything.

In chapter 2, we hear from Socrates, “The unexamined life is not worth living.” Groothuis notes that this is a hyperbolic statement, urging the hearers to seek truth by which to live, which requires comparing one’s life to that truth.

In chapter 3, Aristotle tells us, “All men by nature desire to know.” In service of this belief, Aristotle formulated the laws of logic, especially the Law of Noncontradiction. Groothuis points out that knowledge is impossible if we cannot escape contradiction.

In chapter 4, Augustine’s quote, “You have made us for yourself, and restless is our heart until it comes to rest in you” is examined. Augustine came to this realization, which he wrote in Confessions, as he reflected on his life and the process through which he became a Christian. He argues that humans feel a real guilt, stemming from an awareness of objective morality, and since the only remedy for this guilt is in God’s provision, rest can only be found in him.

In chapter 5, Groothuis analyzed Descartes’ quote “I think, therefore I am.” Descartes was searching for something he could know with certainty, and he found one such item in the realization that thinking requires a thinker. Descartes also devised an argument for God from the fact that the idea of God is innate and therefore implanted by God. Groothuis also notes Descartes’ contribution to the mind-body problem.

In chapter 6, Pascal’s quote “The heart has its reasons of which reason knows nothing” is unpacked. Like many references to “the heart” in older (and even ancient) literature, this one is often misunderstood. Rather than pitting emotion against intellect, Pascal was pointing to basic beliefs, and first principles on which all other beliefs depend.

In chapter 7, Kierkegaard warns us, “The greatest hazard of all, losing one’s self, can occur very quietly in the world, as if it were nothing at all.” Groothuis points out that for Kierkegaard, an adequate self-awareness leads to despair, and one must come to terms with that despair such that they throw themselves on God’s mercy.




Philosophy In Seven Sentences serves as an excellent primer on philosophical thought. In fact, it ought to be required reading before any undergraduate takes and introduction to Philosophy course. Far too many take these courses and hear and read the opinions of philosophers when the students lack the tools of philosophy. This books shows how even the most brilliant philosophers’ opinions require careful consideration. This book is accessible to anyone with at least a high school education. Reading it made me wish I had the time and resources to pursue a degree in Philosophy.


The Crusades: Just War or Just War? An Afterthought

How then should we understand the Crusades?

Jesus commands his disciples, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.  Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (Matthew 28:18-20) At no point does Jesus ever command us to promote the Gospel by force of arms. The Crusades were called and executed in the context of 700 years of conflation between ecclesiastical and political power. The Christian faith, which began as the faith of individuals who came to the faith and joined a community in the face of resistance from the governing authorities, had been reinvented as a community whose membership was mandatory, even on pain of death. In this context, and in the absence of access to the Scriptures by common people, it is not hard to imagine how people who cared deeply about such things as relics and holy places could be motivated to endure great hardship to carry the fight to Palestine. Such people, lacking sound leadership, could even be persuaded to commit heinous acts and think they were rendering service to God. All this is a valid criticism of Christendom, if by this you mean the church/state body that led much of medieval Europe. To use the crusades as a critique of Biblical Christianity is to attack a straw man.

The Crusades: Just War or Just War? Part 2

Happy New Year!

In my last post, I began to lay out the historical background for and description of the Crusades. This is a continuation of the same.

Although there has been a popular misconception of how tolerant Muslims are of people of other faiths living within conquered territories. As Stark describes it:

In principle, as “People of the Book,” Jews and Christians were supposed to be tolerated and permitted to follow their faiths. But only under quite repressive conditions: death was (and remains) the fate of anyone who converted to either faith. Nor could any new churches or synagogues be built. Jews and Christians also were prohibited from praying or reading their scriptures aloud—not even in their homes or in churches or synagogues—lest Muslims accidentally hear them.[1]


This is in addition to they way Jews and Christians were treated as second-class citizens. Nevertheless, these conditions were tolerable compared to what came with Seljuk Turk conquest.

While the cries of “God wills it!” may have been a response to the reports of what was happening in Palestine, the call for the First Crusade were not. Pope Gregory VII planned to call for the crusade in order to assist the Byzantine Emperor with the defense of Constantinople and the recovery of Byzantine territory from the Seljuk Turks. Byzantines had good reason to fear conquest by the Turks. In 1064 the Turks laid siege to the Armenian capital, Ani. Hoping to spare the inhabitants, the city surrendered. Stark relates the account of “an Arab historian Sibt ibn al-Gawzi (d. 1256), who claimed to be quoting an eyewitness: ‘The army entered the city, massacred its inhabitants, pillaged and burned it…The dead bodies were so many that they blocked all the streets.’”[2] Likely aware of these events, those who heard of the Turks treatment of holy sites and pilgrims in Palestine would have been credible. Rather than a “mandate to destroy the infidel in the Holy Land,” the First Crusade was a call to repel a vicious invader from the Byzantine Empire, and to liberate Jerusalem from an oppressive conqueror.

Haught’s article continues,

Gathering crusaders in Germany first fell upon “the infidel among us,” Jews in the Rhine valley, thousands of whom were dragged from their homes or hiding places and hacked to death or burned alive. Then the religious legions plundered their way 2,000 miles to Jerusalem, where they killed virtually every inhabitant, “purifying” the symbolic city. Cleric Raymond of Aguilers wrote: “In the temple of Solomon, one rode in blood up to the knees and even to the horses’ bridles, by the just and marvelous judgment of God.[3]


Madden relates the Rhine Valley incidents:

The most infamous of the anti-Jewish crusade leaders was Count Emicho of Leiningen. On a rather pronounced detour, he and his followers marched down the Rhine plundering and massacring Jews in the cities of Speyer, Worms, Mainz, Trier, and Cologne. Some local bishops did their best to protect the Jews, but many were killed all the same. In Mainz, Emicho’s men stormed the palace of the bishop, where the Jews had taken refuge.[4]


On these accounts, it would seem that the crusader armies went on an anti-Semitic rampage on the way to Palestine, which met with token resistance from local bishops. What really happened, however, is that three small groups of Germanic knights began to attack Jews. Principal among these was Emicho of Leiningen. In each of the cities mentioned in Madden’s account, the local bishop tried to shelter the Jews with mixed results. Volkmar and Gottshalk committed similar attacks. All three groups were destroyed when they tried to repeat this pattern in Hungary.[5]

As for the “religious legions plunder(ing) their way 2,000 miles to Jerusalem,” they must have been incredibly inept at plundering. As Stark tells us, “Large numbers of the poor noncombatants with the crusaders actually starved to death.”[6] (This incident was in the context of the siege of Antioch.)

Haught’s complaint that the crusaders “killed virtually every inhabitant, ‘purifying’ the symbolic city” needs to be examined in its historic context. As Stark explains

…the commonly applied “rule of war” concerning siege warfare was that if a city did not surrender before forcing the attackers to take the city by storm (which inevitably caused a very high rate of casualties in the besieging force), the inhabitants could expect to be massacred as an example to others in the future.[7]

Stark also argues that “no sensible person will believe Raymond of Aguilers’s report that “men rode in blood up to their knees and bridle reins.” In fairness, however, it does seem odd for a churchman to exult in bloodshed like this. In a similar, Haught claims, “As Saint Bernard of Clairvaux declared in launching the Second Crusade: ‘The Christian glories in the death of a pagan, because thereby Christ himself is glorified.’”[8] This case is a mixture of fact and fiction. Bernard did not say this in relation to the Second Crusade, but he did say it. Such a statement is incompatible with Christianity. Ezekiel 33:11 says “As surely as I live, declares the Sovereign LORD, I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that they turn from their ways and live.”

In spite of the documented rationale for the Crusades, which was one of defense of territory and the protection of pilgrims, there is still a popular notion that it was a war of one religion against another. I have argued above that this was the case for the Muslim, but it is not clear this was the case for Christianity. This is not to say there were no Christians who joined the crusades in order to fight Islam. There may have been an anti-Muslim attitude among a majority of crusaders. The goal of the crusades, however, was not the defeat of Islam, but the liberation of Christian territories. Nevertheless, Emran Qureshi and Michael A. Sells argue:

The crusade was, at least at its inception, the war of Christendom against the Muslims. With the Crusades, the Christian attitude toward the Muslims began to differ from Christian attitudes toward other known peoples. What distinguished the Christian attitude toward the Muslims was its fundamentally antagonistic nature.[9]

It is ironic to note that no mention is made here of the jihad that had been waged by various Muslim groups since Mohammed, particularly the invasions which the crusades were called to repel. That being said, it is popular in today’s culture to read any critique of a system, such as Islam, as an “attack” on the adherents. (Unless of course the system is Christianity, in which case it is fair game.) In his treatise On War Against the Turk, Luther is quite clear in his comments that it is Islam that the Christian ought to oppose in his disposition, and the invading Turk that must be opposed militarily.

[1] Rodney Stark, God’s Battalions: the Case for the Crusades, Reprint ed. (New York: HarperOne, 2010), 39.


[2] Ibid., 104

[3] Haught.


[4] Madden, 18.


[5] Stark, 138

[6] Stark, 159-160.


[7] Ibid., 168


[8] Haught.

[9] Emran Qureshi and Michael A. Sells, The New Crusades: Constructing the Muslim Enemy (New York: Columbia University Press, 2003), 206.

The Crusades: Just War or Just War? Part 1

Since Islam has been in the news lately and comparisons made between ISIS and the Crusades, I thought it might be helpful to offer some historical background here. In this post and the next one, I will present a paper I wrote in graduate school.


The crusades were a series of campaigns launched against enemies of Christendom between 1095 and 1291.[1] They have been used as rationale for everything from skepticism and rejection of the gospel to the September 11 attacks. Accounts of the crusades from the period and since tend to either vilify or glorify them, with little in between. Critics often cite the crusades as evidence of the evil of Christianity. Crusades are seen as wars of colonialism against a peaceful Islamic civilization minding its own business until those mean, nasty Christians came to steal, kill and destroy. But is this an accurate picture? How did Muslims come to occupy Palestine, North Africa, Spain, and Anatolia? Did they come on bicycles wearing white shirts and ties, two at a time, bringing their message and winning converts? Did they win over the people through a series of camp meetings that led the masses to repent and accept Allah as their God and Mohammed as His prophet?

Like every war fought in history, the crusades had heroes, villains, beneficiaries and victims. In this paper, I will seek to set the record straight where the crusades are used to discredit Christianity. This is not, however, a defense of Christendom.

The structure of this paper will be to take criticisms offered and respond to them, whether by refutation, or concession where the criticisms are valid.

The Crusades

James Haught, in an article first published in Penthouse magazine, wrote, “The First Crusade was launched in 1095 with the battle cry “Deus Vult” (God wills it), a mandate to destroy infidels in the Holy Land.” [2] One would think from this statement that whoever called for the crusades just arbitrarily decided to tell Christians that they should go and “destroy infidels in the Holy Land,” who are simply minding their own business, because “God wills it.” Reality, as is often the case, is more complicated.

For Muslims, war was part and parcel with Islam, claims by George W. Bush that Islam is a “religion of peace” notwithstanding. Madden explains:

Traditional Islamic thought divided the world into two spheres, the Dar al-Islam (“Abode of Islam”) and the Dar al-Harb (“Abode of War”). The Dar al-Islam consisted of all of those lands directly ruled by Muslims and subject to Islamic law. Dar al-Harb, which included the Christian world, was the place in which Muslims were enjoined to wage jihad against unbelievers, capturing their lands and subjecting their peoples.[3]

Consequently, Muslims did not come to control the Holy Land, or Egypt, or Syria, or Persia through immigration, or friendship evangelism. They had conquered these lands by military force. This does not necessarily justify the first crusade, but the historic context needs to be considered as we evaluate it. Even at this point no call went out to expel the Muslim. Muslim treatment of Christians in the conquered territories did not seem to warrant such a response. It should also be noted that the cries of “God wills it!” came from those who answered the call, not those who issued it. It was a response to the reports of what was happening to the churches and pilgrims in the Holy Land.

In my next post, I will explain what changed and how it led to the first Crusade.

[1] Thomas F. Madden, The New Concise History of the Crusades, Updated ed. (Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, 2005), xvii.

[2] James Haught, “Holy Horrors,” The Secular Web, entry posted 1997, (accessed December 6, 2012).


[3] Madden, 3.

Balancing Safety with Security: Another Perspective

There has been a lot of discussion about the Syrian refugees and whether Christians should support allowing them to come to the U.S. Many of the concerns raised stem from the possibility that there may be terrorists mixed in, and the idea that Christians are underrepresented among them. (Jonathan Witt addresses this here.) Unfortunately all of the focus seems to be on these two issues. Maybe there is a third issue we are overlooking to our shame.

Syria is a Muslim nation, and under the best of circumstances, it is hostile to Christian missionary work. Add to that the current civil war, and you have a recipe for near certain martyrdom for any Christian who wants to go there to bring the Gospel. In this, I am reminded of a story I heard Ravi Zacharias tell about a man named Sami Dagher. As I recall, Sami Dagher was in Lebenon when Syria invaded in 1976. Dagher told Zacharias that he was complaining in his prayers about the Syrian occupation, when he felt God telling him that he had always complained that he could not bring the Gospel into Syria, and now he sent him 25000 Syrians and he was still complaining. (Paraphrased from memory. I could not find a link on the site. I am sure I heard in in a  Let My People Think podcast.)

The point is, we can point out how the Muslim nations in the region are not welcoming any refugees if we want, but none of us are planning any missions trips to Syria any time soon. What we have is an opportunity to share the love of Christ with these refugees in a place where they can safely receive it. (I know there are still hazards from within their community.) Is that safe? Maybe not, but we are not called to be safe, we are called to be faithful. We can push for due diligence with respect to vetting the refugees, but they will probably come, and we need to be prepared to welcome them.

The mosque denied today could be the church denied tomorrow.

WXYZ in Detroit is reporting that the town of Sterling Heights has denied a building permit for a mosque. Now, I am not a Muslim, and I don’t live in Sterling Heights, so I have no direct stake in the matter. However, the reasons given by the planning commission to deny the permit can easily be used against Christian churches (and already has in a number of cases.) It’s a residential neighborhood. So what? People who pray five times a day, preferably at a mosque, should have to commute?

What was even more troubling to me was the reaction of the people there to the decision. The Independent Journal Review published a post about the crowd’s joy at the decision. I find it disturbing, as people were reacting to the mosque out of fear. Having a mosque in the neighborhood does not mean you are inviting a terror cell to set up shop. Moreover, if Muslim terrorists wanted to set up shop there, they could do it without the mosque.

Finally, Muslims are living in these communities. Do you really think denying permits to build mosques is going to make them go away? Maybe we can try something that seems to be lost. How about being good neighbors?

Hire Your Neighbor As Yourself 

As I listened to one of my favorite podcasts this morning, the issue of doing business with companies that support causes with which I disagree came up. As I reflected on the question, the thought occurred to me that maybe we hold these businesses to a double standard. We think we are standing for what is right if we withhold our business because we don’t want our money going to these causes, but what if the tables were turned? Suppose your employer called you in and said, “I hear that ten percent of our money we pay you goes to your church. We don’t support churches here, so, you’re fired.” Most of us would be outraged. We might even sue the employer for violating our rights. 

This is not to say that companies that support these causes have a right to our business, but maybe we are a little hypocritical in our approach. At the very least I think we are under no obligation to refuse to buy goods and services from them. 

Finding Truth Study Guide: Chapter 2

P R I N C I P L E # 1

Twilight of the Gods

Building Immunity

  1. Summarize the sociological research on young people who report having doubts or questions. Do you know anyone with doubts who is struggling to find answers? Are you struggling yourself?

The research showed that about a third of those surveyed reported abandoning Christianity because of unanswered questions, feeling as though the questions themselves are out of bounds. I was recently in a dialogue with one young man who seems to be struggling to find answers to his doubts. However, knowing human nature, it occurs to me that it is simplistic to think this is purely a matter of unanswered questions. Often these questions coincide with temptations of this world, sometimes along with new freedom to indulge these temptations. The unanswered questions become a way to justify the ensuing behavior.

Principle #1 Identify the Idol

  1. How is the biblical word heart often misunderstood? What is its correct meaning?

In contemporary usage, heart is used to refer to emotions. Its biblical meaning is the innermost being, the mind, will, emotions, character, and spiritual commitments.

  1. “Atheism is not a belief. Atheism is merely the lack of a belief in God or gods.” Because this is a common line among atheists today, you should know how to respond. Based on the text, what could you say?

Based on the text, I would point out that the atheist, like everyone else, holds something to be of ultimate concern. For them, it is not God. However, based on the advice of Greg Koukl, I would ask, “On the proposition ‘God exists,’ what do you say? Is it true, false, or do you withhold judgment?” If they say “true,” they are theists. If they say “false,” they are atheists. If they withhold judgment, they are agnostic. Note that if they are atheists, they have a belief about God. It is that there is no such being. The problem comes from an equivocation on what it means to “believe in God.” Classically understood, this meant more than merely assenting to the fact of his existence. It meant faith, or trust. Now it has come to mean “I acknowledge God exists.” This would be a good place to practice Columbo tactics and ask what they mean when they say they are atheists.

  1. What are the two advantages of using the biblical term idols for both secular and religious worldviews? (The second one is under the next subhead.)

One advantage is that it levels the playing field by showing that every worldview has to have a self-existent starting point. The other is it shows how even the most secular worldview serves as a religious commitment.

Religion without God

  1. As you read through the rest of this chapter, fill out the following diagram. On the left side, write the features that most people associate with religion. On the right side, explain why that feature is not a necessary part of the definition of religion. Give examples.

Common Definitions of Religion

Why Isn’t That Definition Adequate?

Belief in a Deity Several religions are non-theistic
Moral code Some religions are amoral and even immoral.
Worship rituals. Epicureans and Aristotle thought God took no interest in humans.
  1. Why are Buddhism, Taoism, and Confucianism described as atheistic religions?

They are neither founded by, nor identify any deity.

Religion without Morality

  1. Give examples of amoral and even immoral religions.

Buddhism and Hinduism are amoral religions, as they deny moral distinctions. The gods of Greco-Roman mythology were given to greed, adultery, etc, and were actually immoral. Moreover, some ancient religions involved human, even child, sacrifice.

Search for the Divine

  1. What is the one thing that characterizes all religions as well as all secular philosophies? Can you think of any exceptions?

All religions and secular philosophies hold something to have the status of divinity, that is, something that needs no explanation for its existence.

Philosophers and Their Gods

  1. As you read through the rest of this chapter, fill out the diagram below. On the left side, write the name of each ism discussed. On the right side, identify its idol. Go back and start with the section titled “Search for the Divine.”



What Is Its Idol?

Earth, air, fire, water

Pythagoreans number
Plato/ Aristotle Rational form
materialism matter
Marxism Economic conditions
empiricism The senses
  1. What does the Greek word arché mean? Do you agree that the early Greek philosophies qualify as idols under the definition in Romans 1? Give your reasons.

Arché means the first, or dominant principle. For the Greek philosophies that held that one of the four elements, or form, or number had the status of divinity, and therefore fits the Romans 1 definition of idol.

The Church of Physics: Idol of Matter

  1. Dialogue: I once had a Facebook discussion with a young fan of Richard Dawkins, who was outraged that I would suggest secularism had anything in common with religion. To this young man, religion represented blind faith while science stood for reason and facts. Imagine yourself in a conversation with a young man like that. Write a dialogue in which you level the playing field by showing that all belief systems share the same basic structure.

YM: “Science stands for reason and facts. Religion represents blind faith.”

M: On your view, what exists that requires no prior cause?

YM: The universe.

M: So on your view, the universe is divine?

  1. Explain the logical steps that lead from materialism to Marxism’s economic determinism.

If all that exists is matter, and humans are defined by the way they relate to matter, those who control the means of production control political, moral, and religious forces that determine economic conditions, which are the ultimate reality.

Hume Meets the Klingons: Idol of the Senses

  1. Like Data in Star Trek, atheists often charge that Christianity is “irrational” simply because it accepts the existence of a realm beyond the empirical world. Based on the text, how could you answer that charge?

I would ask what empirical evidence do they have that we can only know what we can test empirically?

Inside the Matrix

  1. Dialogue: Explain to an empiricist how his or her philosophy involves a divinity belief.

If all that can be known is what can be experienced by the senses, the senses have the status of divinity. It is an epistemology that starts and ends within the mind with the senses. Pressed to its logical conclusion, since we have no access to another’s senses, we are left with solipsism. We can only accept the existence of the world within range of our senses. If we can trust what others tell us they are experiencing by their senses, then we can know things not immediately available to our senses, therefore empiricism is false.

Go Within, Young Man

  1. One philosopher says that Enlightenment epistemologies set up “the first-person standpoint” as the only path to certainty. They turned the self into “the locus and arbiter of knowledge.” Explain what that means and what the end result was.

The idea is that we can strip away all that we have learned from culture and education and begin from the foundation with the consciousness as the only way to knowledge. Ironically, they expect to accept their attempt to educate us on this and take it on their authority.

Truth Substitutes

  1. Philosophers like Karl Popper and John Herman Randall point out the “religious character” of Enlightenment epistemologies. Explain what they meant.

The authority of divine revelation is replaced by the authority of the senses, or the intellect.

Kant’s Mental Prison: Idol of the Mind

  1. What was Kant’s “Copernican revolution”? What was his God substitute? Define solipsism, and explain why philosophies that start within the human mind end in solipsism.

Kant claimed that all we have are sense perceptions on which our minds impose order. He moved our consciousness to the center of the universe. The mind became the God substitute.

Solipsism is the idea that all that you can know is your own mind. When all that can be known is our sense perceptions, or the ideas that derive from them, all that you have is solipsism.

The Artist as God: Idol of the Imagination

  1. Describe the evidence showing that, for the Romantics, the imagination was their God substitute, and art was their substitute religion.

Describing the imagination as “autonomous, immune, or unchallengeable” shows the view that it is the Romantic’s God substitute. As such, art was their response to that which help the status of divinity.

Cure for Blind Philosophers

  1. Read “The Blind Men and the Elephant” by John Godfrey Saxe on the following pages. How does it illustrate the origin of idols?

“The Blind Men and the Elephant”

It was six men of Indostan

To learning much inclined,

Who went to see the Elephant

(Though all of them were blind),

That each by observation

Might satisfy his mind.

The First approached the Elephant,

And happening to fall

Against his broad and sturdy side,

At once began to bawl:

“God bless me! but the Elephant

Is very like a WALL!”

The Second, feeling of the tusk,

Cried, “Ho, what have we here,

So very round and smooth and sharp?

To me ’tis mighty clear

This wonder of an Elephant

Is very like a SPEAR!”

The Third approached the animal,

And happening to take

The squirming trunk within his hands,

Thus boldly up and spake

“I see,” quoth he, “the Elephant

Is very like a SNAKE!”

The Fourth reached out an eager hand,

And felt about the knee

“What most this wondrous beast is like

Is mighty plain” quoth he:

“’Tis clear enough the Elephant

Is very like a TREE!”

The Fifth, who chanced to touch the ear,

Said: “E’en the blindest man

Can tell what this resembles most;

Deny the fact who can,

This marvel of an Elephant

Is very like a FAN!”

The Sixth no sooner had begun

About the beast to grope,

Than seizing on the swinging tail

That fell within his scope,

“I see,” quoth he, “the Elephant

Is very like a ROPE!”

And so these men of Indostan

Disputed loud and long,

Each in his own opinion

Exceeding stiff and strong,

Though each was partly in the right,

And all were in the wrong!

It shows how idolatrous worldviews see some part of reality as the totality of reality and deny all else.

The Joy of Critical Thinking

  1. How does Christianity affirm what is good and true in these


Materialism: God created a good material universe and made it discoverable. Therefore, even materialistic scientists can tell us useful things about it.

Rationalism: Since God is a rational being, he made a rational world and gave us rational faculties by which we can understand it.

Empiricism: God created us with sensory faculties, and gave us sense experiences that lead us to truth.

Romanticism: As created in the image of God, we have some creative capabilities that ought to be used for his glory.

“To an Unknown God”

  1. “Paul was making the astounding claim that Christianity provides the context of meaning for the Greeks to understand their own culture.” Explain what that means. Choose one example from our own day, and explain how the same principle can be applied.

            Paul was using the true parts of the Greek understanding to build a bridge, showing how the Christian worldview filled in where their view lacked. In our day, there are people arguing for same-sex marriage on the view that it is only fair. Fairness is a moral category that is best explained by the Christian worldview.

Why You Think the Way You Do: The Story of Western Worldviews from Rome to Home by Glenn Sunshine A review

Glenn Sunshine is a Professor of History at Central Connecticut State University, while also serving on the faculty of the Centurions Program of the Colson Center, and as the faculty advisor for Ratio Christi at CCSU. He has a BA in linguistics from Michigan State University, an MA in Church History from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, an MA in Reformation History from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and a PhD in Renaissance-Reformation History from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. As a Christian and a historian, Sunshine has a passion for helping Christians see how worldview affects culture, and vice versa.

The thesis of Why You Think the Way You Do is that the history of Western Civilization can be traced according to its changing relationship to Christianity. Moreover, the successes and failures of Western culture can be linked to its acceptance or rejection of a Christian worldview.

The book opens with an explanation of the idea of worldview, and how it affects individuals and societies as a whole. It then traces the trajectory of Western culture from the Roman Empire, its transformation by the spread of Christianity, and the periods that followed. The chapters address major periods from the Middle Ages to the renaissance, to the modern “enlightenment” era, to the post-modern period to today. Sunshine shows how changes in worldviews impacted major events such as three great revolutions in England, France and America. This section was especially helpful to understand why the American Revolution succeeded where the Glorious Revolution, and the French Revolutions failed.

As history unfolds in more recent decades, we see the consequences of elevating personal autonomy to the point where ultimate freedom for all means little freedom for some. We see where the only thing considered immoral is considering something immoral. Moreover, we see how struggles for equality have become struggles for privilege by claiming victim status. We see tolerance become meaningless since tolerance entails disagreement, but disagreement is considered intolerance.

Sunshine has painted a clear picture of the consequences of the absence of the Christian worldview in the public square. While the history of Christendom is checkered with its wars of religion, Sunshine gives fair treatment of the issue, acknowledging excesses while noting where these diverge from Christian teaching.

It is not only society, however, that has lost a conscious Christian worldview. This is also missing in much of the Church. We in the church need to read this book and take its lessons to heart if we hope to have an impact on our culture.

This book is accessible to middle-school students, while being rich enough to not bore those with advanced degrees. Church youth leaders and students would do well to study this book. Our future as a nation may well depend upon it.

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