THE TWILIGHT OF ATHEISM – Alistair McGrath (2006)

The Twilight of Atheism: The Rise and Fall of Disbelief in the Modern World by Alistair McGrath is a book that deserves to be read.  The author maintains that the “rise and decline of atheism is framed by two pivotal events, separated by precisely two hundred years: the fall of the Bastille in 1789 and that of the Berlin Wall in 1989.”

McGrath skillfully guides readers through a detailed  tour of intellectual thought and demonstrates the corresponding rise and decline of atheism.

Part One: The High Noon of Atheism

Part one includes an excellent overview of the French Revolution.  Voltaire and Marquis de Sade are given special consideration and given special credit in the rise of atheism in France.

McGrath explores the intellectual foundations of atheism in Marx (God as an opiate), Freud (God as an illusion), and Feuerbach (God as an invention).

Atheism is seen through the eyes of science with a superb overview of atheism’s advance primarily through the pen of Charles Darwin.  McGrath demonstrates the rise of the so-called face value dichotomy which has contributed to the rise of secularism: “Science proves things, whereas religion depends on the authoritarian imposition of its dogmas, which fly in the face of evidence.”

Part Two: Twilight

The second half of the book picks up on the theme that Nancy Pearcey has so skillfully described in her book, Total Truth, namely the bifurcation of the sacred and the secular.  McGrath surveys the history of intellectual thought up through the Protestant Reformation and discusses the shortcomings of Protestantism.

Next, McGrath narrows his study to the birth of modernity and demonstrates that “atheism was [and is] perfectly suited to this rational and logical worldview.”

Postmodernity grew out of modernity, which according to McGrath seriously “undermines the plausibility of atheism.”  The reason: “Postmodernism is a cultural mood that celebrates diversity and seeks to undermine those who offer rigid, restrictive, and oppressive views of the world.”  And since atheism proves an incredibly intolerant worldview, the prospects of its growth do not bode well given the presuppositions of postmodernism.  McGrath suggests the reason for the incompatibility of atheism with postmodernism: “For postmodernity is intolerant of any totalizing worldview, precisely because of its propensity to oppress those who resist it” (which in the final analysis excludes atheism).

The book concludes by discussing the “fading appeal of atheism.”  McGrath discusses the shortcomings of this hopeless worldview and leaves the reader wondering what the future holds.  The author maintains, “Western atheism now finds itself in something of a twilight zone.”

The Twilight of Atheism is a welcome addition to an ever-increasing list of books on apologetics, worldviews, and evangelism.

4 stars

HOLLYWOOD WORLDVIEWS: Watching Films With Wisdom and Discernment – Brian Godawa (2009)

Whenever a book is dedicated to Francis Schaeffer, I usually stand at attention.  Brian Godawa’s book Hollywood Worldviews: Watching Films With Wisdom and Discernment is no exception.

Godawa presents the purpose of the book in to introduction: “I want to inform the reader of the nature of storytelling and analyze how worldviews are communicated through most Hollywood movies.  As readers sharpen their understanding of movies, they will be more capable of discerning the good from the bad and avoid the extremes of cultural desertion (anorexia) and cultural immersion (gluttony).

This work is divided into three parts and  are summarized below:


The first section includes a survey of movies that are laden with violence, profanity.  Also included are movies that stress stories, myth, and redemption.  The author is quick to point out that “every story is informed by a worldview.  And so every movie, being a dramatic story, is also informed by a worldview.  There is no such thing as a neutral story in which events and characters are presented objectively apart from interpretation.”

The author challenges readers to watch movies with a discerning eye and avoid generic responses such as “I liked it” or “I didn’t like it.”


In section two, the author presents a wide assortment of movies that promote existentialism, postmodernism, romanticism, monism, evolution, humanism, and Neo-paganism.  He honestly and thoughtfully interacts with and dissects dozens of movies and contrasts them with the Christian worldview.


Godawa explores the identity of Jesus in the movies and how Christianity is represented (usually poorly) in contemporary films.  He rightly alerts the reader to the fact/value dichotomy that emerges in many movies.

Hollywood Worldviews: Watching Films With Wisdom and Discernment is an excellent overview that clearly outlines the strengths and weaknesses in literally dozens of movies.  The author candidly interacts with worldview themes and carefully summarizes themes that are inconsistent with Scripture.  Godawa’s work is a breath of fresh air as he evaluates film and contemporary culture with a spirit of grace and a clear-headed approach.

4 stars

2010 in review

The stats helper monkeys at mulled over how this blog did in 2010, and here’s a high level summary of its overall blog health:

Healthy blog!

The Blog-Health-o-Meter™ reads Wow.

Crunchy numbers

Featured image

A Boeing 747-400 passenger jet can hold 416 passengers. This blog was viewed about 8,300 times in 2010. That’s about 20 full 747s.


In 2010, there were 123 new posts, not bad for the first year! There were 253 pictures uploaded, taking up a total of 84mb. That’s about 5 pictures per week.

The busiest day of the year was December 21st with 902 views. The most popular post that day was SLAVE – John MacArthur (2010).

Where did they come from?

The top referring sites in 2010 were,,, Google Reader, and

Some visitors came searching, mostly for veritas et lux, kouzes and posner 2007, baldreformer, no creed but christ, and what is vocation.

Attractions in 2010

These are the posts and pages that got the most views in 2010.


SLAVE – John MacArthur (2010) December 2010


THE LEADERSHIP CHALLENGE – James Kouzes and Barry Posner (2007 Revised) March 2010


Dr. David Steele January 2010




MANAGING PEOPLE IS LIKE HERDING CATS – Warren Bennis (1999) August 2010


An incredible little book that explains the essence of the gospel without compromise.  A great evangelistic tool.

A valuable resource for pastors and seminary students. See my review


An assault on the fact/value dichotomy.  Don’t miss this one!

See my review

Classic Piper.

See my review

Excellent summary of neo-paganism and a crisp, clear evangelical response.

See my review.

A terrific biography by a terrific president.

See my review

MacArthur just keeps getting the gospel right!

See my review

Meaty essays in honor of Dr. John Piper.

See my review

A portrait of courage and conviction.

See my review

THE JOURNEY: A Spiritual Roadmap for Modern Pilgrims – Peter Kreeft (1996)

The Journey by Peter Kreeft is a sort of philosophical roadmap for truth seekers.  This allegorical tale which is something akin to Pilgrim’s Progress is a practical tool for travelers.  It is a practical guide to help them choose a life philosophy.  The author is quick to remind readers that every person has a philosophy.  Even a “n0n-philosophy” is a philosophy!  Ten questions are stated in advance by the author:

1. Shall I question?  Shall I go on this quest for truth at all?

2. If I question, is there hope of answers, or should I be a skeptic?  Is there objective truth?

3. If there is any objective truth, is there objective truth about the meaning of life?

4. If there is an objective truth about the meaning of life, is it that life is meaningless?

5. If life has real meaning, is it spiritual and not merely material?

6. If it is spiritual, is it moral?  Is there a real right and wrong?

7. If there is a real right and wrong, a real moral meaning, is it a religious meaning?  Is there a God?

8. If there is a God, is God immanent (pantheism) or transcendent (deism), everywhere or nowhere?

9. If God is both immanent and transcendent (theism, creationism) his prophets, his mouthpiece to the world?

10. If the Jews are God’s prophets, is Jesus the Messiah?

Socrates accompanies the pilgrim throughout this allegorical journey.  He reiterates the point made above, “Remember – you do not have a choice between some philosophy and no philosophy, only between good philosophy and bad philosophy.”

The traveler encounters a wide variety of philosophers, one of which is Protagoras the Sophist.  He maintains, “Truth is subjective, not objective … Whatever you believe is true, is true for you.  Man is the measure of all things.”  Thus Protagoras promotes the lie of relativism so prevalent in American culture.

The next traveler on the path is Diogenes who admits that there is some absolute truth.  He also admits that “it is self-contradictory to say otherwise.”  Socrates confronts the cynicism of Diogenes by showing the futility of the “proving is believing” model.

Gorgias emerges next on the path who represents a nihilistic worldview.  He summarizes his worldview: “First, nothing is really real.  Second, if it were, we could not know it.  Third, if we could we could not communicate it.”

Next, the traveler and Socrates come face to face with Democritus the materialist (Darwin, Marx, and Freud’s predecessor).  Socrates makes mince meat of Democritus’ arguments and “unquestioned faith.”  The author (who speaks through the Socratic character) clearly delineates the reason for the popularity of materialism as a worldview: “It offers exculpation from guilt … only a self can be guilty, because only a self can be morally responsible.  If we are nothing but clever apes, as Darwin says, or pawns of our economic system, as Marx says, or bundles of sex urges, as Freud says, then there is no free moral agent to blame, and no one to feel guilty.  Morality becomes a myth.”

The thoughtful friends continue their philosophical journey and eventually encounter the relativistic worldview of Thrasymachus.  His worldview that embraces the notion that “there is no natural law of good and evil” is immediately exposed.

Xenophanes is the next philosopher to appear on the trail who magically transforms into Nietzsche, the quintessential atheist.  The travelers are unimpressed with the antics of Nietzsche, so they scurry down the path.

Parmenides, who some consider to be the first philosophical pantheist appears next alongside Aristotle, the “first philosophical deist” (Kreeft compares him to John Locke and Immanuel Kant).

The travelers continue their philosophical quest and bump into Moses who quickly turns the discussion Godward!  He reveals the essence of man’s problem: “Sin.  Rebellion against God, and his will, and his law.  Sin blinds the mind.  Sin makes us forget God, and his will, and his law.  It makes us rationalize instead of reasoning.”

Moses directs his new friend to the creative power of God: “Our God gave the universe not just its shape or its motion but its very existence.  He created it out of nothing, not out of something.  Matter itself is his creation, not just form.”

The journey ultimately leads to the foot of three old crosses.  The middle cross pointed to the “King of the Jews.”  C.S. Lewis appears and reveals that his responsibility is to point people to the truth.  Lewis turns the attention of the traveler to the Messiah: “His claim on you is to be more than your teacher, like Socrates, and more than your prophet, like Moses.  His claim is to be your God.”  Lewis continues his dialogue with the traveler and unpacks the gospel message in a way that is theologically correct and philosophically pleasing.

Kreeft brings the journey to an end in an epilogue that finds its culmination in the life, death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.  He points readers to Christ, the true source of freedom and forgiveness!

Most people would immediately turn away upon seeing some of the philosophers presented in Kreeft’s book.  And people are generally intimidated by emerging worldviews.  However, Kreeft’s work enables readers to interact with ancient worldviews that have surfaced in our culture and effectively dismantles erroneous arguments and unbiblical presuppositions.  His narrative forces readers to choose between worldviews when faced with a fork in the road.  As usual, Kreeft’s work earns high marks for creativity and clarity.  The book is both educational and witty.  Postmodern pilgrims (and college students) need Kreeft’s book in their arsenal, especially in the difficult days ahead.

4 stars

FOR THE FAME OF GOD’S NAME – Sam Storms and Justin Taylor, Ed. (2010)

Three years ago, Sam Storms and Justin Taylor came up with a great idea.  They would collaborate on a book that honored the life and ministry of John Piper.  Anyone familiar with Piper’s pastoral ministry and prolific writing will recognize the mammoth undertaking that stood before Storms and Taylor.  But they went to work, securing an army of pastors and theologians who agreed to write on their assigned topic.

This is an almost impossible book to review.  Each chapter stands alone and appropriately honors the life and legacy of John Piper.  The book is composed of seven parts:

Part One: John Piper

Part Two: Christian Hedonism

Part Three: The Sovereignty of God

Part Four: The Gospel, The Cross, And The Resurrection of Christ

Part Five: The Supremacy of God In All Things

Part Six: Preaching and Pastoral Ministry

Part Seven: Ministries

Readers familiar with Piper will immediately recognize these emerging themes and consider each theme an accurate reflection of his life, theological passion, and ministry.

Looking back through the book, I think Jon Bloom’s comments concerning John Piper is probably an accurate reflection of every contributor: “John Piper’s influence on my life is incalculable.  Because of John I am more deeply in love with Jesus and his church.  My marriage, my children, my prayers, my love of Scripture, my vocation, my possessions, where I live, how I lead, what I read – all have been profoundly influenced by him.”

For the Fame of God’s Name is an inside look at what makes John Piper tick.  But more important, this work magnifies the sovereign plans and purposes of a great and majestic God – the God who is “most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in him.”  This work is a feast for the intellect and a boon for the soul.  Pastors and parishioners alike will benefit from this treasure trove.

5 stars

Slave – John MacArthur (2010)

John MacArthur has been churning out quality Christian books and resources for over thirty-five years.  He has been defining and defending the biblical gospel in books like The Gospel According to Jesus, Faith Works, Ashamed of the Gospel, Hard to Believe, and The Truth War. Each of these books, beginning especially with The Gospel According to Jesus has had a profound effect on my life and pastoral ministry.

Slave, MacArthur’s newest book continues to articulate the biblical gospel, the very same gospel that was preached by the apostles, Reformers, and Puritans.   The uniqueness of this book is that the author seeks to “pull the hidden jewel” as he says, “all the way into the sunlight.”

MacArthur’s concern is that what is means to be a Christian has been and is being redefined by many evangelicals.  But the New Testament clearly delineates the meaning of what is means to be a Christian, namely, a “wholehearted follower of Christ.”  MacArthur picks up the same theme he began in The Gospel According to Jesus when he argues that Christian discipleship “demands a deep affection for Him, allegiance to Him, and submission to His Word.”

The Greek term doulos is at the heart of MacArthur’s concern.  While English translations have been notorious for mistranslating this term as “servant,” the proper translation is “slave.”  He notes this glaring error and insists that while many Greek words can be translated “servant,” doulos is certainly not one of them!  The author highlights the key distinction between a servant and a slave, namely, “servants are hired; slaves are owned.”

Therefore, Christian disciples are defined in a biblical sense as slaves of God.  MacArthur adds, “He [Christ] is the Master and Owner.  We are His possession.  He is the King, and the Lord, and the Son of God.  We are His subjects and His subordinates … True Christianity is not about adding Jesus to my life.  Instead, it is about devoting myself completely to Him – submitting wholly to His will and seeking to please Him above all else.”

MacArthur argues convincingly that Christ is Lord and Master over his church (Eph. 5:23; Col. 1:18).  Indeed, Christ is sovereign over every person and everything in the universe.  John Hus is cited as a model of one who fully gave his life “to the sovereign lordship of Christ and the supremacy of His Word …”

The author demonstrates the folly of a watered-down version of Christianity: “To diminish the dominating role of Scripture in the life of the church is to treat the Lord of the church as if His revelation were optional … Nonbiblical ministry, non-expository preaching, and non-doctrinal teaching usurp Christ’s headship, silencing His voice to His sheep.”

MacArthur presents the biblical portrait of man apart from Christ, namely, “bound, blind, and dead.”  The backdrop of depravity sets the stage for grace to rule and reign in the hearts and minds of sinners.  For “it is from slavery to sin that God saves His elect, rescuing them from the domain of darkness and transferring them as His own slaves into the kingdom of His Son” (Col 1:13).  The author continues, “Freedom in Christ, then, is not freedom to sin but freedom from sin – freedom to live as God intends, in truth and holiness.”

MacArthur presents an excellent summary of particular redemption, a doctrine that has been neglected for years in the church.  He argues, “Christ’s death on the cross actually pays the penalty for the elect sinner, redeeming him from sin and rescuing him from God’s wrath … the saving benefits of Christ’s redemptive work are applied only to those whom God has chosen for Himself.”

The author sets forth the biblical teaching concerning adoption.  The historical precedent for adoption is shown in the Old Testament.  And the New Testament reality of adoption is explained in detail.  All of God’s elect are thus “simultaneously sons and slaves.”  MacArthur adds, “Like justification, adoption rests on the loving purpose and grace of God.”

Finally, the author presents four compelling paradoxes that relate to the overall theme of the book:

1. Slavery brings freedom.

2. Slavery ends prejudice.

3. Slavery magnifies grace.

4. Slavery pictures salvation.

John MacArthur just keeps getting the gospel right.  Ever since he wrote The Gospel According to Jesus, he has been warning the church to define the gospel biblically and keep Christ at the center of the gospel.  He continues to remind the church to steer clear from the no-lordship position that is promoted by the Free Grace Movement, which is, in the final analysis, a different gospel.

MacArthur hits the Christological target with this book.  With the skill of a theologian-marksman, he exalts and magnifies Christ.  In the final analysis, Slave is a primer on Reformed theology and is written with humility and great erudition.  It should receive a wide reading for years to come and make a significant difference in the body of Christ.

I received this book free from the publisher through the <> book review bloggers program.

CAN SOMETHING COME FROM NOTHING?: Teaching Intelligent Design to Children

Charles Darwin published The Origin of Species in 1859 and set forth his theory that all living organisms, including humans descended from a single primordial form.

Evolutionists bombard students with the erroneous notion that we are a result of a cosmic accident; that human life arose by chance.  Indeed, evolutionary theory teaches that man is an evolving animal.  Human destiny is “an episode between two oblivions,” says Ernest Nagel.

The logical end of this river of sludge is hopelessness.  Any consistent evolutionist must admit the utter futility of the human condition.  Jean Paul Sartre faced this dire set of circumstances with intellectual honesty.  The French Atheist admitted, “Every existing thing is born without reason, prolongs itself out of weakness and dies by chance.”

My family is in the process of studying the Westminster Shorter Catechism which addresses this issue directly.  Q: What is the work of creation? A: The work of creation is, God’s making of all things of nothing, by the word of his power, in the space of six days, and all very good.

I began with a dinner time bombshell: “I want to teach you about the uniformity of natural causes in a closed system” (Francis Schaeffer’s catch phrase for the theory of evolution).  “Do you know what this means?”  Two blank faces.  I continued by drawing two pictures on a paper napkin that represented two prominent worldviews in our culture, namely, a closed system and an open system.

We began with a closed system (the uniformity of natural causes in a closed system).  In a closed system, man exists and God does not exist.  Since God does not exist in a closed system, there is no distinction between the creature and the Creator.  Then I asked my kids, “What are the consequences of living in a closed system?”  We learned together that in a closed system, miracles are impossible.  Knowledge and morality are impossible in a closed system.  And meaning becomes meaningless in a closed system.

I set my watch on the table.  “What are some things you know about my watch,” I said.  Both children chimed in.  “Your watch is silver.  It has an hour hand and a minute hand.  It shows the date.  It includes the words, ‘Swiss Military.'”  I asked my eight year old, “What would you say if I told you that this watch appeared out of nowhere … Poof!”  He responded, “Dad, that would be crazy.  That would be impossible.”  My eager learners understood an important lesson.  They grasped the law of causation, namely, every effect has a cause, a reality that is impossible in a closed system.

We continued to examine the implications of living in an open system.  In an open system that is set in a biblical framework, God exists.  God created the universe ex nihilo (out of nothing).  His ability to create is as as Al Mohler notes, “not dependent upon any preexistent matter or conditioned by any external force” (For the Fame of His God’s Name).  God not only exists, but he has revealed himself.  He has spoken through his Word and through his Son (Heb. 1:1-3).  Therefore, there is a distinction between the Creator and the creature.  He is God.  We are not.  Therefore, we are accountable to God.  Because he is God, we have an obligation to obey his commandments.

Children and adults alike need to be reminded of Augustine’s motto: Ex nihilo, nihil fit, out of nothing, nothing comes.  In other words, something cannot come from nothing.  Children and adults need to be reminded that the uniformity of natural causes in a closed system is one of the biggest lies that has been weaved into the fabric of public education.  We all need to be reminded that a personal God created all things and holds all things together by the word of his power.

“For by him [Christ] all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities – all things were created through him and for him.  And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together” (Colossians 1:16-17, ESV).

WOODEN ON LEADERSHIP – John Wooden and Steve Jamison (2005)

John Wooden is in the minds of many the greatest basketball coach of all time.  He won 10 national championships and tallied 88 consecutive wins at UCLA.  Wooden on Leadership explores the inner workings of Coach Wooden’s approach to coaching and his approach to life in general.


Wooden summarizes his view on leadership: “Helping others to achieve their own greatness by helping the organization succeed.”  While Wooden was wired to compete, national championships were not first and foremost on his mind.  He told his players, “When it’s over, I want your heads up.  And there’s only one way your heads can be up – that’s to give it your best out there, everything you have.”

Part one unpacks Wooden’s famous “pyramid of success.”  Originally conceived before Wooden became of head coach of the UCLA Bruins, the pyramid describes the heart and soul of Wooden’s leadership style.  The foundation includes  the cornerstone qualities of industriousness (hard work) and enthusiasm.  Also included in the foundation of the pyramid are friendship (respect and camaraderie), loyalty, and cooperation.

The blocks in the second tier of Wooden’s pyramid of success includes self-control, alertness, initiative, and intentness.

Next, Wooden describes the heart of the pyramid of success which includes condition (mental, moral, and physical), skill (lifelong learning and executing one’s job properly), team spirit (sacrificing for the sake of others), and poise.  Faith and patience are the “mortar” in the pyramid which leads ultimately to success.


Part two, which makes up the bulk of the book includes miscellaneous lessons that Coach Wooden has learned as a result of his coaching career.  Wooden stresses the importance of values and good character.  He warns against unchecked emotion.  He encourages good teaching skills: “… Effective leaders are, first and foremost, good teachers.”  Teamwork is a must.  The little things matter.  Time must be mastered.  Make adversity an ally.  Make decisions rooted in integrity.


The final section includes excerpts from Coach Wooden’s notebook – “notes, observations, reminders, suggestions, and lists of relevant goals and how to achieve them.”  Wooden also includes detailed descriptions of what he expected from his players.

Coach Wooden writes, “Your ability to bring forth – maximize – the potential and abilities of those under your leadership marks you as a great competitor and leader.”  This seems to capture the essence of Wooden’s leadership philosophy. 

Wooden on Leadership is an inside look at one of the greatest coaches to step on the hardwood.  The lessons that Wooden taught his players on the basketball court may be directly applied to the real world.  Perhaps this is what made Wooden such an effective coach – he was tuned into the real world and transferred his practical knowledge and leadership to young men who would in turn become leaders in their communities.

4 stars

THE WORKS OF JONATHAN EDWARDS: Directions for Judging of Persons’ Experiences – Volume 21


I cannot think of anyone better than Jonathan Edwards to evaluate the testimonies that were offered during the Great Awakening in 1734-35.  Nothing has changed in the church when it comes to experiences – some are legitimate and some are sham.  Sang Hyun Lee, editor of Volume 21 holds that this short essay contains “raw material that Edwards could use in constructing his treatises on conversion, affections, and the signs of grace.”

Edwards is concerned that a particular experience “be solid, not operating very much by pangs and sudden passions, freaks and frights, and capriciousness of mind.”  His concern his miles away from the current lack of discernment that exists in the church.  Imagine a  contemporary pastor or theologian setting forth these concerns in the postmodern church.  The criticism would be and is devastating!  I hear the constant echo in my ear, “Who are you to judge a someone’s experience.”

Edwards is less concerned with his critics.  He is more concerned with genuine religious experience.  So he cites several benchmarks for evaluating whether a given experience is genuine or not:

  • That they long after HOLINESS, and that all their experiences increased their longing.
  • Let ’em be inquired of concerning their disposition and willingness to bear the cross, sell all for Christ, choosing their portion in heaven, etc.
  • Makes ’em long after perfect freedom from sin, and after those wherein holiness consists; and by fixed and strong resolutions …
  • Whether, when they tell of their experiences, it is not with such an air that you as it were feel that they expect to be admired and applauded …
  • Inquire whether their joy be truly and properly joy in God and in Christ; joy in divine good; or whether it ben’t wholly joy in themselves, joy in their own excellencies or privileges, in their experiences; what God has done for them, or what he has promised he will do for them; and whether they’ve been affected with their own discoveries and affections.

Edwards sets forth a more comprehensive evaluation of experiences in his powerful work, Religious Affections. This short piece is yet another reminder and a corrective in our culture that is bent on narcissism and subjectivism.