Thursday, December 31, 2015

Book Review: Know Why You Believe by Paul E. Little

This review was originally posted on Goodreads.

Image Credit: Amazon. I actually read this 1968 version.

I read this book because it was on a "most influential books on evangelicals" list. I can see why it rightly was on that list. First, I'll briefly go over some positives; and then, some negatives.

"Are Miracles Possible?" was filled with tons of information that was new to me -- and the book is over 40 years old. This attests to either the author's creativity or to this reader's ignorance: I'd like to think it is the former.

The political scientists and analysts at the libertarian think-tank The Cato Institute often talk about the states (all 50 of them in the U.S.) as being "laboratories of democracy." Maryland has high taxes; Florida doesn't. New York has ridiculous rent control laws; other states don't. Through these legislative experiments we can see the effect on people. Some people move away from the states with high taxes, and so on.

In a passage Little briefly recalls atheist philosopher John Stuart Mill's view of divine justice via a quote from Hugh Evan Hopkins. If God were just, or if there was a thing as divine justice, then that justice would look like everyone getting their just reward according to their good deeds and bad deeds.

Little then says the most interesting thing to me in the book: "To see the logical consequences of Mill's "exact reward" concept of God in his dealings with man, we need only turn to Hinduism."

And by turning to Hinduism, and the lands effected by Hinduism, we are looking at "laboratories of theology." What are the results of this "exact reward" atheological experiment when the people believe that the god of the universe creates a system based on the thought of John Stuart Mill?

He continues: "The law of Karma says that all of the actions of life today are the result of the actions of a previous life. Blindness, poverty, hunger, physical deformity, outcastness, and other social agonies are all the outworking of punishment for evil deeds in a previous existence. It would follow that any attempt to alleviate such pain and misery would be an interference with the just ways of God. This concept is one reason why the Hindus did so little for so long for their unfortunates."

Then he presses in even more: "Some enlightened Hindus today are talking about and working toward social progress and change, but they have not yet reconciled this new concept with the clear, ancient doctrine of Karma, which is basic to Hindu thought and life."

In short, modern Hindus speak of reform.

But like with reforming Islam, to reform Hinduism its adherents would have to ignore their scripture.

At one point, in the lands given up this to religion, where one doesn't interfere with another person's karma, we saw people in poverty. Moreover, we also saw these countries taking a lot of time to catch up in wealth to Western countries. In contrast, in Christian U.S.A. we see all of the above social agonies being alleviated rapidly, because the Christian worldview allows for charity and entrepreneurship.

"Do Science and Scripture Conflict?" was golden, but it was not flawless. Little mentions certain presuppositions are necessary to science. This is good. However, the doesn't clamp down on the fact that only under the Christian worldview does science work.

Second, the chapter on archaeology and the Bible was a snooze. But I don't think I should be so crass as to say it was a worthless effort. There are people who attempt to discredit the Bible with archaeology, so it is only right that archaeology be covered.

To have written a book on apologetics 40+ years ago and still have insights that are fresh to a seasoned apologetics consumer (meaning I've watched a lot of debates and read a lot of articles on the subject) is an accomplishment.

Stylistically, this book was immensely quotable: I wanted to tweet every other paragraph. The book also simply ends. There is no final review of the cumulative case for Christianity or a concluding chapter.

I'd keep this book on the influential books list.

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