Critique of 'Reasons Skeptics Should Consider Christianity'
From still@rintintin.Colorado.EDU Sun Oct 30 10:03:29 1994
Date: 6 Oct 94 03:18:27 GMT
From: James Still still@rintintin.Colorado.EDU
Subject: Reasons Skeptics Should Consider... (critique)
Yas, I'm wasting bandwidth, but what the hell... I've just finished
my modest critique of Reasons Skeptics Should Consider Christianity
by Josh McDowell and that other guy :) Any comments are
welcome since I want to avoid severe gaffs!
Critique of 'Reasons Skeptics Should Consider Christianity'
Josh McDowell, organizer and minister to the Campus Crusade for
Christ, co-wrote with Don Stewart, the infamous book Reasons Skeptics
Should Consider Christianity. The introduction states that Reasons was
"written to give various reasons why we believe in the inspiration of
the Bible as God's message to man." Almost in anticipation of, or
perhaps in guilt of their deception, the authors go on to explain that
it is "not meant to be a scholarly treatise, rather is has been written
to increase the understanding of the average person." This disclaimer
should forewarn any serious reader right away, not because all
arguments must be presented in some kind of highbrow "scholarly" manner,
but because the risk for fallacy is much higher when the material is
"played down" right in the introduction. As we shall see, Reasons
scarcely addresses the real concerns of skeptics at all, and the book
can hardly be called apologetic in this regard.
McDowell's Reasons has been cited often in Christian circles as a
definitive work deserved of serious consideration before the skeptic
dismisses Christianity a priori. Mr. McDowell is a graduate of Wheaton
College and Talbot Theological Seminary. His background is pure
apologetics, bible inerrancy, and evangelism; he is particularly weak
in the areas of solid biblical criticism and expected scholarly
inductive reasoning. But he has gained a powerful reputation as a
national speaker and leader of the Campus Crusade for Christ, a
ministry that focuses on converting college students to Christianity.
In the Christian community his prowess for apologetics is such that
many Christians feel completely justified in throwing the man's name
around as proof of biblical truths. Because McDowell desires to reach
out to the skeptic and Reasons often pops up in conversations among
skeptics and believers alike, a critique of the book is long overdue.
Reasons is written in two parts. The first part devotes 98 pages to the
Bible and the second part just over 125 pages to the theory of evolution
with a smattering of astrophysics. McDowell presents his apologetics in
a highly readable, informal, Q/A style followed by a short list of
additional suggested references for the reader who wishes to read what
other apologists have to say on the question. Each of McDowell's
questions will be critiqued in the same manner so that the reader
familiar with Reasons may reference the topic.
What does it mean, The Bible is inspired?
To what extent is the Bible inspired?
How could fallible men produce an infallible Bible?
How do you know that the writings of the Apostle Paul were inspired?
Since Jesus was human, was He not also fallible?
How did Jesus view the Old Testament?
Didn't Jesus accommodate His teachings to the beliefs of His Day?
Many interpret the Bible allegorically. Why do you interpret it literally?
Is everything in the Bible to be taken literally?
Which version of the Bible should I use?
Is there a supernatural character to the Bible?
Is Noah's Ark still on Mt. Ararat?
"What does it mean, The Bible is inspired?" (p. 14)
2 Timothy 3:16 says that "(a)ll scripture is inspired by God and
profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training
in righteousness." Inspired means God-breathed. Therefore, although
the authors of the books of the Bible were human, their words were
not merely the words of men, but divinely inspired by God Himself.
Non sequitur. (It does not follow) The premise made here is that because
the author of Second Timothy believes that all scripture is "God-
breathed" then all of the other books of the bible are divinely inspired
too. However, no attempt is made to support the latter statement, and
the former non sequitur engages in circular reasoning saying only that
the bible is true because the bible says that the bible is true.
Additionally, 2 Timothy was anonymously written, hence we have no
information on who the author was, let alone whether we should take his
word for books written by other authors. Due to historical errors in
the Bible, e.g., Mark's report of John the Baptist's execution where
Herodias is said to be the wife of Philip (historically it was Antipas)
and Herod was said to be king, rather than tetrarch of Galilee and Perea,
lead us to conclude that some of the Bible is error-prone.
There are many examples like these in the Bible where facts are reported
which do not agree with agreed-upon history. This does not make the
Bible "wrong" or "false" merely human, since humans do make mistakes.
"To what extent is the Bible inspired?" (p. 16)
The Apostle Paul says in 2 Timothy 3:16 that "all Scripture is
inspired of God." Also the entire Bible is inspired, not just
certain parts, because it ends by saying, "I testify to everyone
who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: if anyone adds
to them, God shall add to him the plagues which are written in
this book; and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of
this prophecy, God shall take away his part from the tree of life
and from the holy city, which are written in this book."
Revelation 22:18, 19.
The bible must be the invention either of good men or angels, bad
men or devils, or of God. Good men or angels would not be physically
able to make a book that put words into God's mouth and bad men or
devils would not make a book that damned themselves to eternal hell,
so it must be the third alternative; the Bible must be given by
Trifurcation. This "trilemma" fallacy occurs when a very complex issue
is being presented with only three (tri) alternative solutions when in
fact many alternatives may be possible. The bible may have been composed
by many different people over a period of hundreds of years, many without
the knowledge of the other's actions, and hence without a motive for evil
or for good. Many books in the bible, such as the Song of Solomon, were
written for pleasure and not to advance an agenda or a "truth."
"How could fallible men produce an infallible Bible?" (p. 20)
While men may be fallible, it is not necessarily true that they
cannot produce an infallible document and they do not necessarily
have to make mistakes. And because the Bible says in 2 Timothy 3:16
that the scripture is God-breathed and Titus 1:2 says that God
cannot lie, these men had to produce an infallible Bible.
Ad hoc. McDowell provides an argument instead of a reason or a premise
to his overall argument. It has not been established that the Bible is
infallible, only alluded to circularly. The argument that it is possible
to produce a document error-free is a red herring to the issue at hand.
This statement relies heavily on the ignorance of the reader and assumes
that they do not know about the history of how the various books of the
canonized Bible were written, translated, amended, and formulated over
the centuries preceding the early Church's final approval and
canonization of the 66 books that now make up the Bible. We know that
dozens of varying and sometimes contradictory Gospels existed during the
first two centuries of the Common Era (for instance Marcion's early
Gnostic texts) before the "final four" were approved of by Church
authority and intimidation.
"How do you know that the writings of the
Apostle Paul were inspired?" (p. 23)
We can accept the twelve letters of the Apostle Paul as true
because the apostle says that he received a unique revelation from
God Galatians 1:11.
Paul did not pass on his revelation incorrectly because Paul writes
in Titus that "God cannot lie" and therefore Paul cannot put
incorrect words into God's mouth. Also, Paul's revelation was a
"yardstick" given to him in order to measure the truth of other
scriptures as he says to the Galatians (1:8).
Further, Paul's message bears the stamp of divine authority when he
says "If anyone thinks he is a prophet or spiritual, let him
recognize that the things which I write to you are the Lord's
commandment." 1 Corinthians 14:37 Lastly, Simon Peter, a disciple,
confirmed that Paul's writings were of divine authority.
Non sequitur ans ad hoc fallacies. Much is assumed prima facie in
McDowell's argument. He assumes that Paul cannot lie because God will
not allow it; that God gave truths to Paul as a "yardstick" to measure
those very same truths; and most absurd, Paul is not lying because Paul
tells us that he is not lying. The believer (for whom McDowell's book
was written) having been conditioned to accept these crucial premises,
will not even think to question these fallacies, but the skeptic for
whom the book is supposedly written for, cannot get past these problems,
let alone discuss anything further.
"Since Jesus was human, was He not also fallible?" (p. 25)
Jesus was asked about the time of His second coming and responded,
"But of that day and that hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels
which are in heaven, neither the Son, but the Father." (Mark 13:32)
Other instances such as with Mark 5:30 5:9 and 6:38, Jesus appears
to not know the answers to questions he asks. Although these
passages make Jesus look fallible, he was truly God as well as truly
He was the God-man. As a man there were some things he was ignorant
of, but as God He possessed all knowledge. As noted in Philippians
2:5-11, there were certain rights that He voluntarily laid aside to
become human, but He still led a sinless life. When Jesus appears to
not know the answer and asks questions (as in Mark) it is only from
a rhetorical viewpoint or for the conversant's sake. There is not
indication from the Gospel record that Jesus' finitude deterred his
ministry or teaching, and whatever those limitations might have
been, they were still far above the normal man.
Finally John 12:48 states that Jesus will be the final arbitrar on
all matters of judgment so our lives need to be based on His word.
This answer uses ad hoc and asks us to take the word of the Apostle Paul
who never knew Jesus personally, but insists to the Philippians that
nevertheless Jesus was infallible. Additionally, even if Jesus'
limitations did not deter his mission (to preach repentance and the
coming of the Kingdom of God upon earth) this does not address the issue
of infallibility. McDowell argues by equivocation by using man/God
interchangeably and insisting that Jesus was both, all without offering
the skeptic a reason for believing this to be the case.
"How did Jesus view the Old Testament?" (p. 29)
The narrative of Noah and the great flood not only is authenticated
by Jesus Matthew 24:37, but it is also used as an example of His
Also, the most unbelievable of all--the account of Jonah and the
great fish--is used by Jesus as a sign of His resurrection in
Matthew 12:39ff. To conclude, Jesus saw the OT as being God's word.
Jesus' attitude toward the OT was nothing less than total trust.
Red herring. The opinions of the NT Jesus regarding the OT scriptures
has no bearing on why a skeptic should consider Christianity. All we are
informed of here is what Jesus thought of the scriptures; not so
relevating since it is well known that Jews observed the Law and
regarded the OT scriptures as holy.
This question and answer is almost completely irrelevant to the
questioning skeptic and perhaps is only included in order to make an
argument against a rival Christian sect that views the OT as obsolete or
non-pertinent. In any case, the skeptic is not impressed about what Jesus
may or may not have thought of the OT when he or she is still questioning
the basic truths of whether or not Jesus even existed historically.
"Didn't Jesus accommodate His teachings
to the beliefs of His Day?" (p. 31)
We cannot allow for the Theory of Accommodation. (The theory states
that Jesus "dumbed" down his ministry in order to appeal to the time
and place of first century Palestine, and was therefore not applying
his words to a later time, such as the present.) The theory is
impossible because it destroys the entire thrust of the Bible which
asserts that all events and miracles recorded did indeed occur
If these Gospel accounts have no factual basis, then any objective
meaning to the biblical comparisons is gone and the door to
agnosticism and atheism swings wide open. Moreover, if we allow for
some of the historical statements to be an accommodation, why not
allow some of the ethical statements to be merely an accommodation
to a primitive Jewish belief?
It is easy to see how one could be led to agnosticism by following
this theory to its logical end, for eventually one would be hard-
pressed to come up with some standard to determine what is the real
belief of Jesus and what is only an accommodation to the people of
His day. We could never be sure exactly what Jesus believed.
Furthermore, this idea contradicts everything we know about Jesus,
who, when confronted with error, quickly refuted it. (Matthew 15;
Finally the theory of accommodation gives a very low view of Christ
who said that "I am the truth." (John 14:6)
While one can empathize with McDowell's position, just because he "cannot
allow" the theory of accommodation, does not make it go away or any less
His argument regarding the damage to the "thrust" of the Bible if Jesus
was accommodating is also highly questionable since the concept of Jesus
as the Messiah does not play an all-encompassing part of the 66 books of
The biggest fallacy that McDowell makes is assuming that by accepting
accommodation, agnosticism or atheism is the slippery-slope result. One
can be an atheist and believe that Jesus existed as a historical figure,
just as one can believe in God, but not the divinity of Jesus. Atheism is
not the logical result of discounting the divinity of Jesus as millions
of Jews, Muslims, and Hindu can attest to.
The coup de grace of McDowell's argument is a circular reference to Mark
and Matthew as proof of the decisiveness of Jesus when confronted with
error. Aside from the circular reference to Jesus in the gospels, the
notion That Jesus has a low tolerance for error has little to do with
accommodation. A Messiah to the Jews (of which there were many in Jesus'
time) can be a perfectionist and still be bound to the ideas and
philosophies of his era. McDowell's flaw is assuming beforehand that
Jesus is divine and then working back from there reasoning why Jesus
couldn't possibly be bound to ideological and philosophical context of
his time period.
If we agree that, as depicted in the Gospel accounts, Jesus behaved
within the context of Palestinian Judaism, then there is no need to apply
a "superman" label and assume that Jesus was omniscient unless we have
already decided that he is divine beforehand. This is clearly what
McDowell has done, but he has failed to show reasonable evidence to the
skeptic for why anyone should take the propagandist's viewpoint (Paul or
the Gospels) when so many other claims of divinity for other Man/Gods
exist as well.
"Many interpret the Bible allegorically.
Why do you interpret it literally?" (p. 35)
When God spoke in the Bible it was in real-life situations, not
fantasy. The Bible views itself as non-fiction; the scriptures
interpret Scripture literally. God wants to communicate with His
created, so would do so plainly and not through "strange" or
"hidden" allegory. It is just not true that the Bible can be
understood in many different ways and that everyone has their own
interpretation. The Bible must betaken literally.
Wishing something to be so does not necessarily make it so. There is
absolutely no reason given for the motives or decisions of God to "want
to communicate with His created" and it leads the skeptic to wonder how
McDowell has arrived as such a unique understanding without any
evidence. It is only McDowell's opinion that God wants to communicate
with humans at all, many cultures consider God to be inherently
unknowable and noncommunicative.
This position is also the single most damaging piece of doctrine that
McDowell can advance if he wants to destroy his argument with a skeptic.
It would be impossible to take the Bible literally and have it still
make sense or be infallible. Contradictions such as those mentioned in
various other places here and historical mistakes mark the Bible as
A wonderful, delightful piece of literary achievement but human-created
and fallible nonetheless. McDowell's wishing otherwise doesn't change
"Is everything in the Bible to be taken literally?" (p. 37)
Not necessarily. A good rule for interpretation is that if the
literal sense makes good sense, then don't try to change the meaning.
One should always seek to interpret literally unless the text is
clearly figurative, poetic, metaphorical, or hyperbolic. Figurative
language does have a place in the scriptures but only when the
passage is obviously not meant to be taken literally.
This is another example of how McDowell's book was written for the
believer and not to convince the skeptic to convert. The skeptic wants
to critically examine the Bible and discover if what it promulgates
regarding Jesus and Christianity is the truth, not whether or not
passages should be taken literally or symbolically.
Nevertheless, it gives us a hint as to how McDowell wants us to read
the Bible, a technique that will come back to haunt him in such passages
as Isaiah's "four corners" and Joshua's "sun that stood still." These
passages, read in context and following McDowell's rules for literal
reading, damn the supernaturalism of the Bible. Some apologists have
attempted a very embarrassing argument which goes something like, "If
the passage is historically and scientifically accurate, then it is to be
read literally, but if the passage is obviously wrong, then the passage
is to be taken allegorically.
"This "catch-all" non-argument is rigged. It allows the literalist to
pick and choose which passages are symbolic or literal depending upon
twentieth-century knowledge. The catch-all has also shown unabashed
hypocrisy over the years as literalists shift and change their position
regarding the Bible as knowledge has advanced which necessitates this
A literal interpretation is also a dangerous game, because on dozens of
occasions over the past 400 years, contemporary discoveries or scientific
advances have contradicted orthodoxy and literal interpretations of the
Whether or not the literalist wants to admit it, their position has moved
more perhaps than the allegorist as, over the centuries, so-called
"literal truths" turn out to be little more than ever-changing dogmatic
disagreements, scientific impossibilities corrected, and ideological
shifts in aesthetics. Hence, the literalist's understanding of a passage
is not so much "what," but "which" of the several throughout time you
choose to believe at any given time since a literalist has no choice but
to understand a passage within the limitations of his own time and place.
Ironically then, Allegorists are Literalists who are tired of playing
this game and desire more stability in their understanding of the
Which version of the Bible should I use?" (p. 39)
McDowell's answer not summarized.
Thirty-four pages of Reasons are devoted to this topic. What is the
justification for allowing so much valuable real estate to be given to
this question when there are skeptics who need reasons to consider
McDowell writes, ". . . we are constantly being asked about the virtues
and limitations of different Bible translations." This question is a red
herring because Reasons is supposed to be a book on apologetics.
The entire section that covers biblical questions is only 98 pages, and
yet of those almost half are wasted on advising believers as to the pros
and cons of English translations of the Bible!
This can be taken several ways but two that quickly come to mind are
first, that McDowell has run out of useful reasons for why the skeptic
should consider Christianity, or perhaps that the book was never intended
to be read by skeptics, and is instead aimed at fellow Christians who
want to be comforted that their own faith is valid.
This latter explanation is the more likely when you consider that the
book is directed at the "average person"(from the Introduction) and not
the skeptic who is usually more educated.
Also, McDowell conspicuously leaves out in-depth explanations in places
that would be taken for granted by the believer, but perhaps raise
important questions in the skeptic, e.g., using the Gospel of Matthew to
validate something written in the Gospel of John, even though the former
was written much earlier than John.
"Is there a supernatural character to the Bible?" (p. 74)
The Bible is more than an ordinary book. It reveals itself to be
the supernatural Word of God. We are driven to this conclusion, not
because of circular reasoning, but because of the evidence which is:
it must fit the criteria of being transmitted to us from God
accurately from the time it was originally written; it must be
correct when it deals with historical personages and events (it
cannot confuse names, dates, and events); and any revelations within
the Bible should be without any scientific absurdities which would
betray human authorship.
The Bible meets these three criteria because it is a very accurate
transmission of the original text judging by the same standards as
used for classical pieces of literature.
It meets the second criterion because the history recorded in the
Scriptures proves to be accurate(as far as we have been able to check
them out) and the names, dates, and events are all recorded
Anyone who says that the Bible is unreliable historically is not a
professional historian. And where the Bible speaks on matters of
science, it does so with simple, yet correct terms devoid of
It is not a book expected from pre-scientific times. Unlike the crude
Babylonian account of creation (the earth was made from a dismembered
part of a god) Genesis is written with restraint and is accurate and
The flood of Noah's day is given in sensible terms too, and is
accurate scientifically. The Bible is of divine origin because of the
magnificent unity of the Scriptures, which tell one story from
beginning (Genesis) to end (Revelation), something that no group of
people could accomplish without divine help.
Therefore this supernatural character to the Bible is one reason why
we believe Christianity to be true.
This is an ad hoc argument in its entirety. The skeptic is not interested
in McDowell's opinion of his three criteria or informal assertions, facts
must be stated to convince a nonbeliever. But even with the ad hoc
premises presented there are flaws that instantly damage the entire
argument. McDowell insists that the bible is scientifically and
Although too numerous to mention, a few inaccuracies such as Isaiah 11:12
(700 BCE) which mentions that the earth has "four corners." It is well
known that the ancient Hebrews believed the world to be flat and held up
by four "pillars" at its corners and Isaiah meant for this passage to be
literally true. Attempts are made to turn this, and other similar
passages, into something symbolic, rather than literal, but if we take
McDowell's own arguments we are supposed to take everything in the Bible
literally unless it is an obvious metaphor or hyperbole (see p.37).
This passage in Isaiah is definitely not an obvious metaphor or poetic
play on words, and was widely believed as the truth by many people in the
ancient world. Just because this myth is now known to be wrong, doesn't
mean we can retroactively apply symbolism to the original author's
Another notable passage is where the writer of Joshua is (understandably)
unaware of the heliocentric nature of the sun and earth. He writes:
And the sun stood still, and the moon stayed, until the
people had avenged themselves upon their enemies. Is not
this written in the book of Jasper? So the sun stood still
in the midst of heaven, and hasted not to go down about a
whole day. (Joshua 10:13)
During the centuries preceding, and even into the Common Era after
Joshua, it was common knowledge that the earth was immovable and that
the sun and moon rose and set over the earth.(The geocentric cosmology
survived until Copernicus in the sixteenth century.) When the author
of Joshua wrote this passage he meant for it to be taken quite
There is no reason not to take it that way in fact, and it would have
seemed ridiculous to an ancient Hebrew to have Joshua 10:13 taken in
any other way in the same sense that we would hesitate if someone were
to ask us today if we really thought that the earth revolved around the
sun. This passage has been swept aside by apologists as a mere metaphor,
but the skeptic knows the context, history, and scant astronomical
knowledge of the ancient Semitic peoples and realizes that this passage
was meant to be taken quite literally.
All literature and philosophy of the ancient world took it for granted
that the earth was motionless and that the sun revolved around the earth.
Again, to explain it as symbolic is to retroactively apply modern
cosmological knowledge to an ancient peoples understanding of their
universe - a hasty excuse that just doesn't fit common sense or the
See the critique for "What does it mean, The Bible is inspired?" above,
for historical facts that contradict the biblical account. Briefly some
other problems are: Matthew's genealogy conflicts with Luke's, Matthew
2:23 says that the prophets referred to a "Nazarene" but no such
reference was ever made or is found in the OT, and Matthew tells the
story of Herod's slaughter of the innocents even though no such event
occurred historically as chronicled exhaustively by Joseph's in Book 18
of Antiquities of the Jews.
A few more worth mentioning, even if only in passing, are: Matthew
claims that Jesus was born in the reign of Herod (who died in 4 BCE)
and Luke says that Jesus was born during the Syrian governorship of
Quirinius (who was not governor until 6 CE); Matthew says that Jesus
healed two blind men as he was leaving Jericho (20:29) but Mark and
Luke mention one blind man and Luke says that Jesus was approaching
Jericho. (18:35 );
The Centurion of Capernaum goes out to speak to Jesus in person in
Matthew (8:5-13) but in Luke the centurion stays at home and sends
out elders to speak to Jesus (7:1-10).
Many attempts have been made to reconcile the gospels with each other,
and to apologize for the lack of basic scientific knowledge in the
Bible. But these attempts are usually "what if's" and "could have
been's" and are obvious stretches of the imagination the typical
nonbeliever who understands the motives of the apologist. For McDowell
to make the sweeping claim that "the history recorded in the Scriptures
proves to be accurate" indicates that he assumes his reader too lazy
to verify this claim or too trusting to disagree with it.
The escape hatch that McDowell did put in his answer ("[the Scriptures
are accurate] as far as we have been able to check them out") shows
further that he knows of these discrepancies and has chosen not to
address these problems or share them with his skeptical audience, perhaps
in the vain hope that no one will bring them up.
Alternatively, it may indicate that McDowell never intended Reasons to be
read by skeptics at all and was instead engaging in good old-fashioned
"preaching to the choir." As noted before, this is the most probable
reason why McDowell plays "fast and loose" with his arguments and denotes
so little space to questions and answers that would address the concerns
of a real skeptic.
The believer does not concern himself with extraneous details such as
the supernaturalism or infallibility of the Bible; it is a given that
the Bible is all of these things and more.
Reasons is a work designed to strengthen the faith of the believer by
presenting arguments in a pseudo-scholarly fashion that have the
appearance of irrefutability.
"Is Noah's Ark still on Mt. Ararat?" (p. 78)
McDowell's Answer: McDowell's answer not summarized.
Non sequitur and red herring fallacy. Third-party speculation on
pseudo-scientific theories of the Bigfoot or UFO variety, while
entertaining, do not speak to the tenets of Christianity or whether
or not Christianity is true.
Suspending credibility for a moment and assuming that an ark were
on Mount Ararat, it would only show that Yahweh, the Hebrew god of
the OT, may indeed exist and caused a great flood at some point in
The Christian faith has nothing to do with Hebrew mythological
accounts, even if those mythologies had some basis in fact. This
section is a prelude of the next section of Reasons where McDowell
digresses into a Creationist critique of the Theory of Evolution.
Just as the ark has no bearing on Christianity, the refutation
of evolution has nothing to do with Christianity either. Evolution,
as a theory concerning the origins of life on earth, was hypothesized
given the data obtained via the scientific method.
The theory should be subject to scrutiny and constant reevaluation,
but a critique of certain ideas concerning evolution is not the same
as advancing reasons why a skeptic should consider Christianity.
Most Christians have no conflict between the theory of evolution
and their faith, so McDowell's assertion is not typical of
Christianity. A thorough refutation of the evolution section of
Reasons is beyond the scope of this deconstruction, but the section
suffers from major flaws.
It does not advance a single reason why Creationism should be
accepted as a valid scientific theory, rather seeks to bring down
a "competitor" by picking at nits, or misrepresenting the competitor
(evolution) through context-dropping and fallacy.
Even if we were to become completely and totally convinced of
McDowell's nit-picking and throw out the entire evolutionary theory,
it does not address the truths of Christianity. Once again, we must
conclude that the section (which comprises over half of the book) is
meant as a strengthening of the Christian adherent's faith, and not
as a serious argument for why the skeptic should consider
If evolution were not true and the universe were created, the only
question to ask would be which god (of the hundreds worshipped) created
it. We would not be asking whether or not Jesus was a divine Messiah of
Yahweh who died for the world's redemption.
Reasons is not really a book on apologetics. It is a book for the
believer who wishes to know that, although they themselves never "looked
in up" someone of the faith has and all of the tenets of Christianity
fit into the cosmology of science, and the historicity of the world.
The book is a useful simulacrum for the Christian who needs to fill the
gap created by the skeptic who asks embarrassing or offensive questions
about the very foundations of the faith. Whether or not McDowell intended
for it to be taken that way, in most skeptic/believer conversations and
debates, Reasons is a baseball that is thrown by the believer to the
skeptic both to buy time and in the hope that, although the believer
knows very little about the issues involved, the skeptic will be
sufficiently placated enough to drop the issue or to even accept the
validity of McDowell's arguments prima facie.
The hope is that by the time the skeptic gets around the obtaining the
fringe book from a local Christian bookstore and digesting it's
arguments, the issue at hand will have been forgotten. (C.S. Lewis is
often used as a deus ex machina in exactly the same way.)
Some Christians even go as far as to assert that even suggesting the
names of McDowell or Lewis in casual conversation is enough to prove
the tenets of Christianity, even though they themselves have never
investigated the books that they are recommending.
This becomes painfully obvious when the skeptic takes up an issue
concerning something that was addressed by McDowell in one of his books
and argues against it only to then be told to "read McDowell for the
answer to what you just said."
Hopefully this (admittedly far from exhaustive) deconstruction will have
touched on the major themes addressed in McDowell's Reasons. Most of
these fallacies have been well-known by skeptics for a long time and are
obvious to the reader with common sense after a casual glance through
Reasons, but it is sometimes helpful to formalize such a deconstruction
for the sake of clarity and reference. Hopefully it will also be
instructive for the many Christian name-droppers who feel that the mere
mention of Reasons is sufficient proof for the truths of Christianity.
Copyright 1995 Internet Infidels.
Electronic Reproduction Permission.