Category Archives: apologetics

Guest Post from Sarah Etter, 8th Grade Author, on C.S. Lewis’ Trilemma


Sarah Etter with her editors, Ned Bustard and Greg Thornbury

Sarah Etter is a dear, dear friend of mine. Actually, I’ve known her all of her life. She is the daughter of one of my very best friends, Bruce Etter, who faithful readers of TBYFA will remember recently included me in some interviews for a history series. He interviewed me on Jean-Jacques Rousseau, and also hosted a roundtable discussion with John Fea and me on whether or not America was founded as a Christian nation.

Sarah is thirteen years old, and finishing up her eighth grade year as a student at Wilson Hill Academy where her father serves as head of school. What is really special about Sarah is that she is a contributor to Bigger on the Inside: Christianity and Doctor Who, edited by Gregory Thornbury and Ned Bustard. She is one of the most impressive students I’ve ever seen–truly. She is the only eighth grader I’ve ever known to contribute to a work edited by such towering figures as Thornbury and Bustard. I am honored to share this essay that she wrote especially for us here at the blog.

bigger on the inside cover

Sarah writes about C. S. Lewis’ famous Trilemma, but she gives us a fresh and very interesting perspective on it. Here’s Sarah–read and enjoy.

The enchanted world of Narnia has brought charm to the world since 1950. It is a world of silver seas, growing lampposts, and valiant mice. C.S. Lewis’ story has impacted the world internationally, selling over 100 million copies in 47 different languages. Outside of literature, Lewis was also a world-renowned Christian philosopher, writing dozens of theology books on ultimate issues, arguing from a Christian perspective. In Mere Christianity, he explained his famous theory, the “Trilemma”, which states that when it comes to answering the question, “Who is Jesus?” we have three choices: Jesus is a Liar, a Lunatic, or Lord. Later on, the idea of “Legend” became a fourth “L” option.

The Chronicles of Narnia are well-known for their powerful Christian allegories. They are clear, fresh, evident, and enjoyable. Lewis clearly meant to communicate deep theological meanings. One example has to do with three main villains of Narnia. A closer look reveals that these notorious bad guys resemble the three views of Lewis’ Trilemma. Whether or not Lewis intended such a connection is not clear, but Jadis, Miraz, and The Emerald Witch correlate with Liar, Legend, Lunatic.

In what is likely the most famous Narnia story, The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe, we watch Aslan, (an allegorical figure representing Jesus), die for Edmund. This has become one of the most famous allegory to the crucifixion and substitutionary atonement in all of children’s literature. However, maybe The White Witch represents more than just Satan. In The Magician’s Nephew, we learn The White Witch’s (Jadis) back story and character. One of the most revealing scenes in this area is Narnia’s birth, where Aslan’s sacred voice creates a blooming life to an infant Narnia. As Digory and Polly look on Aslan with humbled and perplexed eyes, Jadis is repulsed. She throws her lamppost at Aslan’s head in an act of defiance, loathing the life and magic that Aslan is performing. Later on in the book at the garden, she declares that Digory has a false view of Aslan. Jadis is essentially saying that Aslan is a liar. It’s very common today to divide ourselves up into those who believe Jesus existed and those who don’t. Lewis says that is not legitimate. He says that out there, in the world, there are people who wouldn’t doubt Jesus’ existence for a second. A man named Jesus walked the earth? That’s right. But he was a liar. Son of Mary? Sure. Son of God? Certainly not. Jadis wants to plant doubts in Digory’s mind about who Aslan truly is. She seeks to plant thoughts into the back of his mind and toys with his desires. What has Aslan ever done for you? What about your mother? She is pinning deceit onto Aslan. People like Jadis want to turn us against God, and it is often difficult not to listen to them. But, as all heretics do, Jadis makes a mistake when she tries to turn Digory against Polly.

The Lady of the Green Kirtle, the Emerald Witch, the malicious Queen of the Underland, is the villain who makes all of us cringe at the sound of her name in The Silver Chair. Though she appears less often than Miraz or Jadis, her impact on Narnia is just as powerful. Sly, cunning, and gorgeous, she very much reminds us of Jadis. But just as compelling as her character is the theological meaning embedded in her character. When Eustace and Jill boldly claim their belief in Aslan, the witch shuts them down, declaring this as lunacy. Aslan is not a lion; that is insanity. Jesus was not the Son of God, that is madness. We know this is not true. But Eustace, our great hero, whose skin was torn from him by Aslan’s own paw, whose dirt and monstrosity were washed away, who treaded the Silver Sea and touched the end of the world, to this heresy he succumbs. He collapses. Not by physical force, just by a pretty face and some sweet sounding spell and he is useless. What a depressing depiction of how easily we break. The Lady of the Green Kirtle claims Aslan is essentially a lunatic, and Eustace falls right at her feet. It’s not just in Narnia that Christians are confronted with this view, and it’s just as life threatening here as it was for Eustace and Jill.

In Prince Caspian, we read of Miraz’s ancestors, the Telmarines, who invaded Narnia in year 1998, the last year of the Dark Age, the first year of the Telmarine Age. This was 983 years after the Pevensies left Narnia in 1015. In approximately 2263, Miraz killed his brother, Caspian IX and took the throne, and then in 2303 attempted murder on his nephew, Caspian X. Miraz thinks his greatest strength is rationality. Miraz mocks the fairytales of Old Narnia. This sounds strangely close to the part of the Trilemma that others added later on. “Legend” represents the people who think that Jesus never existed. This is clearly the view Miraz has of Aslan. These people are everywhere in our world today. Just look at Miraz, he, the great Telmarine king, he, who laughs in the face of legends, he, who is rational and intelligent. He cares nothing for Narnia, but forbids anyone around him to speak of it. He firmly denies the existence of the kings and queens of old, and yet is hesitant to duel Peter. He declares it all as legend, which matters not, he doesn’t care for it all, and yet the very name of Aslan makes his blood boil. In our society, and Lewis’ as well, people claim God is dead.They are skeptical of God’s existence, but God still infuriates them. Miraz is a picture of those who claim Jesus is a legend.

Lewis depicts these heretics as witches, tyrants, and snakes, each one attacking Aslan with a different weapon. It would be unwise to take that depiction for granted. In Aslan’s story, these people are villains, and line up too well with Lewis’ opposing beliefs against Jesus. Of course, there is one more category Lewis believed in that I have not spoken of. Now that we have observed the violent Jadis, the dictatorial Miraz, and the cruel-hearted Emerald Witch, there is one more. And while the first three have been constant in our time and in Lewis’ day as well, in the fictional realm and the real realm, this one is more eternal, more impenetrable, and more triumphant than any of the others. While Jadis is slain, and Miraz is killed, and the Emerald Witch is slaughtered, this one stands tall and vibrant, and remains victorious when all others fail. And when the earth shatters and the stars rain down from the heavens, when all others recoil in fear, they will not falter. These are they who believe in that Jesus is Lord and not a liar, not a lunatic, and not a legend.


Are the Resurrection Accounts in the Gospels Contradictory? Part IV


Let’s summarize our findings in this last part of the series on whether or not the gospel accounts of the resurrection are contradictory.

I am going to list all the events that are pertinent to the resurrection in chronological order. You can use the key below to reference each event as narrated in the gospel accounts.

Directions: Each event is listed in chronological order according to the gospel accounts. References are cited by the following code

a—Matthew 28

b—Mark 16

c—Luke 24

d—John 20-21

e—Acts 1

f—I Corinthians 15

g—Acts 9

The appropriate citations that correspond to the specific reference are given in superscript following the event.

  1. Mary Magdaleneabd, the other Maryab, Salomeb went to the tomb at early dawnabcd on the first day of the week.abcd

2-4 occur while the women were en route to the tomb.

  1. There was an earthquake.a
  1. An angel descended from heaven, rolled away the stone, and sat on it.a
  1. The guards were afraid and became as dead men.a
  1. As the women were drawing near to the tomb, they wondered who would roll away the stone for them.b
  1. They saw that the stone had already been rolled away.bcd.
  1. They entered the tomb and did not find Jesus’ body.bcd
  1. Mary Magdalene left the tomb to find Peter and John and tell them that Jesus’ body was missing.d The other women stayed behind while Mary Magdalene left in despair, confusion and grief.

9-11 takes place while Mary Magdalene is absent from the tomb, looking for Peter and John.

  1. At the tomb, while they were still inside, they were perplexed,c and saw two angels,c one of them on the right side.b
  1. One of the angels spoke, and said, a) Fear not,ab b) I know you seek Jesus,ab c) why do you seek the living among the dead,c d) Jesus is not here,abc e) He is risen,ab f) just as He said,a g) remember how He told you that He would be crucified and rise again,c h) come behold the place where they laid Him,ab i) go, tell the disciples,ab j) He is going before you into Galilee,ab k) you will see Him there.ab
  1. They left the tomb quickly in fear and joy going to the disciples, saying nothing to

By this time, Mary Magdalene had found Peter and John and told them the tomb was empty.

  1. Peter and John arrive at the tomb, John having outrun Peter.d
  1. John did not go in, but stooped down and looked inside—he saw the linen cloths by themselves.d
  1. Peter went inside the tomb and saw how the linens were arranged.d
  1. Neither understood the Scriptures, which said that He must rise again.
  1. Peter and John went to their own homes.d
  1. Mary remained outside the tomb weeping, and she stooped down to look inside the tomb. She saw the two angels, one at the head, and the other at the feet of where Jesus had lain.d
  1. The two angels reappeared.d
  1. They asked her, “Why are you weeping?” She replied that she did not know where the Lord’s body was.d
  1. She then turned around and saw Jesus, but she thought He was the gardener. He asked her the same question, and “Whom do you seek?”d
  1. She answered again, and Jesus said her name, at which time she recognized Him and worshiped Him.d
  1. Jesus told her to go and tell the other disciples that He was alive.d
  1. Jesus met the other women as they were going—they worshiped Him and He told them to proceed on to the disciples.a
  1. Mary Magdalene went to tell the disciples that Jesus was alive, but they did not believe
  1. Jesus appeared to two other believers on the road to Emmaus, who did not recognize Him at first. They told the disciples that Jesus was alive.bc
  1. The disciples did not believe them either.bc
  1. At evening on the same day,bcd Jesus appeared to the disciples.abcd They thought He was a ghostc until they touched Him and gave Him something to eat.c
  1. Christ expounded to them in all the Scriptures and opened their understanding.c
  1. After eight daysd Christ appeared to Thomas in order to disspell his doubts.
  1. Christ appeared to the disciples at the Sea of Tiberias, whereupon He asked Peter three times if he loved Him.d
  1. Christ appeared to five hundred at once, of whom Paul said several were still alive in his own day.f
  1. Christ gives the Great Commission to go into the world making disciples and baptizing in the name of the Father, Son and Holy
  1. Christ appeared to James, as reported by Paul.f
  1. Over the course of forty days, Christ appeared to the disciples, and spoke to them concerning the things of the kingdom of God.e
  1. Christ commanded the disciples not to leave Jerusalem until they had been endued with power from the Holy Spirit.ce
  1. Christ led the disciples out as far as Bethanyc and then was taken into heaven as they worshiped Him.c
  1. Two angels told the disciples that this same Jesus who had ascended would return in like manner.e
  1. Christ appeared to Paul on the road to Damascus.g

Are the Resurrection Accounts in the Gospels Contradictory? Part III


We have considered the questions about what the angels were doing and saying on the morning of the resurrection. Let’s take a look at the troubling apparent contradictions found in Mary Magdalene’s activities, and also those of Jesus himself.

Matthew, Mark, and Luke are known as the Synoptic Gospels. New Testament scholars call them by that name because they are very similar in their content. Anyone who has given a cursory glance at these three gospels can readily see how similar they are.

But John’s gospel is different than the others. It does not contain any parables. And it is more theological than the Synoptics. So, we would expect to see wide agreement between the Synoptics concerning the details of the resurrection—which we do, especially in the sayings of the angels to the women as they perplexedly stood in the empty tomb.

John says that “on the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene came early to the tomb, while it was still dark, and saw the stone already taken away from the tomb” (John 20.1). That comports with what the other gospel writers say—except that John does not mention the other women. Does not that lead us to a necessary contradiction? Not at all. All the gospel writers have Mary Magdalene going to the tomb very early in the morning. Just because John does not mention the others does not necessarily mean they were not there.

But then John says that Mary ran off to go and get Peter and John. The Synoptics do not mention Mary running off. Does that mean that a necessary contradiction exists here? Again, not at all. We can reasonably infer that all the women went together to the tomb, and when they found it empty, Mary Magdalene was so stricken with grief and perplexity, that she left the others to go and fetch Peter and John. Luke does say that the women were very perplexed. Mary Magdalene must have left the women there at the tomb, before they saw and heard the angels telling them that Jesus had risen from the dead.

So while Mary Magdalene was gone, the angels declared to the other women that Jesus was resurrected. The other women left the tomb in great joy before Mary Magdalene had returned with Peter and John. By the time Mary Magdalene had returned with Peter and John, the tomb was silent and empty, just as it was when all the women had arrived there at the first.

There is an interval of time and events between John 20.1 and John 20.2. From Mary Magdalene’s perspective, the tomb was empty and Jesus’ body had been taken away, by whom she did not know. Peter and John arrived at the tomb to see it was empty. Luke has Peter at the tomb, but not John. But again, if Luke reports that Peter was there but did not mention John, that does not leave us with a necessary contradiction. Remember that Peter was the first to confess Jesus as Messiah, and thus Jesus gave Peter the pre-eminent position among the disciples (Matthew 16.17-19). It was logical for Luke to mention Peter, but not to mention John.

After Peter and John departed the tomb in confusion, John says that Mary Magdalene remained at the tomb, weeping. It is at this time that Mary looks into the tomb and sees two angels. Remember that Mary had not seen the angels yet, because she was not present with the other women when the angels appeared previously. So they ask her, “Why are you weeping?” She answers that she does not know where Jesus’ body is.

It is at this time that Jesus himself appeared to Mary, but she does not recognize him, but thinks he is the gardener. But he reveals himself to her, and tells her to and tell the disciples that he is alive.

Then Jesus appeared to the other women while they were en route from the tomb to Galilee to report back to the disciples, as the angels had instructed them from inside the tomb. How did Jesus get to them so fast, you ask? We know that Jesus had a glorified body—he could appear in unrecognizable forms; he could move through locked doors; and his body still bore the scars from the nails and the thrust of the spear as he hung on the cross three days earlier. So his speedy appearance between two places does no violence at all to the narrative. In fact, it lends it further credibility.

Thus, we see no necessary contradictions in the resurrection accounts in the gospels. As long as we can provide reasonable alternatives to resolve the apparent contradictions, we can demonstrate that no necessary contradictions are present. In fact, we can have reasonable certainty that the gospel accounts offer a coherent narrative of the events of the resurrection.

This means that when we place our faith in Jesus Christ as the resurrected Lord and God, we are making a reasonable epistemic choice. We are not taking an irrational leap of faith into the darkness. We can affirm, with the Apostle Paul as he was reflecting on whether or not Christ was raised: “But now Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who are asleep, for since by man came death, by a man also came the resurrection of the dead” (I Cor. 15.20-21).

In Part IV, we will summarize our findings.

Are the Resurrection Accounts in the Gospels Contradictory? Part II


In Part I, we considered several apparent contradictions in the four gospels’ accounts of Jesus’ resurrection. To recap, if Jesus did not rise from the dead, then the Scriptures have no meaning to us whatsoever, according to the Apostle Paul in I Corinthians 15. If the accounts of the resurrection are unreliable, then we have no reasonable basis to believe the resurrection occurred. So the gospel accounts of the resurrection of Jesus Christ are central to the Christian faith.

An apparent contradiction is not the same as an actual contradiction. To have an actual contradiction, you have to have an assertion that takes the following form:

  1. There is a tree growing in the pasture ten yards from the southwest corner of the fence.
  2. There is not a tree growing in the pasture ten yards from the southwest corner of the fence.

Either there is a tree at the specified location, or there isn’t. Both cannot be true. So these two statements are contradictory.

What makes a necessary contradiction? A necessary contradiction occurs when there are no possible alternatives except the contradiction. The example above is an example of a necessary contradiction because the details are so precisely defined.

Apparent contradictions come along when there are hosts of details that are not specifically enumerated. For example, Matthew’s account of the resurrection does not include every single, solitary detail of the events of that morning. Neither does Mark’s; or Luke’s; or John’s. The gospel writers include certain details, and leave others out. There’s nothing inherently wrong with doing that. You can report on an event truthfully without enumerating every single detail of the narrative.

For the gospel accounts to be necessarily contradictory, there must be no alternative except that a contradiction is present. But as we will see, there are no necessary contradictions. As long as there is a reasonable alternative to a contradiction, it is not reasonable to assume a necessary contradiction. In fact, it is more reasonable to posit the alternative than to posit the contradiction.

Let’s consider Matthew’s account of the angel rolling the stone away and sitting down on it. No other gospel accounts have this detail. And Matthew does not report on the women’s reaction to the angel moving away the stone and sitting on it.

We can infer that the women were not present when the angel moved away the stone. We can infer that they were en route to the tomb, but that they had not arrived yet when the earthquake occurred, the angel moved the stone, and stunned the guards. We can further infer, that by the time the women did arrive at the tomb, the angel departed from the mouth of the tomb, so that when the women arrived, they found the stone rolled away—which is exactly what Mark, Luke, and John affirm.

So how many angels were inside the tomb? Was it only one, as Mark says? Or were there two, as Luke says? Well, if there were two, there was certainly one. Luke saying there were two does not necessitate only one. Mark only mentions the one, presumably because there was only one angel speaking to the women, while the other affirmed what he said by his silence.

What did the angels say? Here we have striking agreement between Matthew, Mark, and Luke. Here is what they said:

  1. Fear not (Matthew and Mark)
  2. I know you seek Jesus (Matthew and Mark)
  3. Why do you seek the living among the dead? (Luke)
  4. Jesus is not here (Matthew, Mark, and Luke)
  5. He is risen (Matthew and Mark)
  6. Just as he said (Matthew)
  7. Remember how he told you that he would be crucified and rise again (Luke)
  8. Come and see the place where they laid him (Matthew and Mark)
  9. Go, tell his disciples (Matthew and Mark)
  10. He is going before you into Galilee (Matthew and Mark)
  11. You will see him there (Matthew and Mark)

Now obviously, not all three include every single one of these affirmations. But when we look at the flow of these affirmations, they all follow one from another. There are no contradictions here in the statements of the angels to the women as they stood inside the empty tomb.

So, we have considered the questions about the angels—how many there were, what they were doing, and what they said to the women. Not every gospel writer includes every detail of the event. But the details they did include fit together nicely. Do we need to infer a few things that none of the gospel writers include in their narratives? Yes, but those inferences are not unreasonable. And if we can infer a reasonable explanation resolving an apparent contradiction, then we have shown that no necessary contradiction exists.

But we are not finished yet. The most troubling difficulties lie ahead.

Let’s consider Mary Magdalene’s role in the narrative, and most important, let’s consider what exactly Jesus was up to. Moving on to Part III. . .

Are the Resurrection Accounts in the Gospels Contradictory? Part I


The Apostle Paul wrote in his first letter to the Corinthians that every assertion of the gospel rests on the truth of Jesus Christ’s rising from the dead on the third day. He wrote, “. . . if Christ is not raised, then our preaching is vain, your faith also is vain. . . . For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised; and if Christ has not been raised, your faith is worthless; you are still in your sins” (I Cor. 15.14, 16-17).

In other words, if Jesus did not, in fact, rise from the dead, then nothing that is affirmed in the New Testament is true. In fact, nothing in the Old Testament is true either, because as Jesus himself said, “[the Scriptures] testify about Me” (John 5.39) and “Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish but to fulfill” (Matthew 5.17). So, if Jesus is not raised from the dead, the entire testimony of God found in the Scriptures is worthless, because the Christian faith rests on that very foundation.

So it stands to reason that the gospel accounts of the Resurrection are not only important; they are indispensable. Everything is riding on the accuracy of the accounts of Jesus’ resurrection found in Matthew, Mark, Luke and John.

But do those four accounts present us with a coherent narrative? If they do, then it is reasonable to believe them, and to accept that Jesus did indeed rise from the dead on the third day, as each of them assert. But if they contradict one another, then their reliability is questionable. If they are contradictory, how would we know which details in the narrative were accurate, and which were not? We would be left guessing, which is a bad place to be.

When we carefully consider the four accounts, do we find a coherent narrative? Let’s consider these details in particular:

  1. Matthew reports an earthquake, and an angel turning the stone away from the tomb and sitting on it. He also has the guards freeze in terror and become like dead men.
  2. But none of the other accounts include these details. In fact, Mark relates that the women who were on their way to the tomb early that morning wondered who would roll the stone away for them. If an angel rolled the stone away, why would the women wonder who would roll it away for them?
  3. When the women arrived at the tomb and found the stone rolled away, Luke says that they saw two angels—but Mark says there was only one.
  4. Matthew, Mark, and Luke each report that the angels the women found declared to them that Jesus had been resurrected. But John does not report this at all. In fact, John says that the angels only asked Mary Magdalene why she was crying.
  5. John says that he and Peter went to the tomb, but Matthew and Mark do not mention their journey to the tomb; Luke says that Peter was there, but says nothing about John.
  6. The biggest difficulty with the Resurrection accounts has to do with Mary Magdalene. She is mentioned as being with the rest of the women—the other Mary and Salome—who all went to the tomb together that morning. But John says that only Mary Magdalene was there at the tomb. He says that the angels were there to ask her why she was crying. And then John says that Jesus appeared to her, that she did not recognize him but thought he was the gardener. But then he revealed himself to her as Jesus, and told her to go and tell his disciples that he was alive. In Matthew, Mark, and Luke, it is the angels that tell the women to report back to the disciples.

Matthew has Jesus appearing to the women as they are en route to report to the disciples, but it was after they had departed the tomb that he appears to them. So Mark and Luke do not mention Jesus at or near the tomb; Matthew has Jesus appear to the women while they are heading back to tell the disciples about the empty tomb; and John has Jesus appear only to Mary Magdalene at the tomb itself.

It would seem that there are serious contradictions in the gospel accounts as to what exactly happened on Resurrection morning.

  1. How many angels were at the tomb? One or two? Was the angel on the rock, or inside the tomb?
  2. What did the angels say to the women? Did they declare the resurrection, or did they wonder why Mary Magdalene was crying?
  3. Who was actually present at the tomb? Was Mary Magdalene with the other women, or was she by herself? Did Peter come to the tomb by himself, or did he come with John?
  4. And what about Jesus? Did all the women see him? Did they see him at the tomb or en route back to Galilee? Did they recognize him? What did he say to them? Was he present at the tomb at all?

These questions reveal what appear to be fatal contradictions in the gospel accounts. The stakes are very high. If the resurrection accounts are contradictory, then their credibility is seriously undermined.

The good news is that the four gospel accounts of the resurrection can indeed be harmonized. We can indeed have confidence that the gospels do not contradict themselves, that the accounts are completely reliable, and we can know that Jesus did indeed rise again from the dead.

Let’s look at Part II to see how.

An excellent go-to reference on apologetics

     The New Dictionary of Christian Apologetics is a reference work for scholars and laypersons published by InterVarsity Press. The work seeks to serve as a resource as Christians enter the marketplace and present their faith to non-believers. The work also presents a comprehensive treatment of contemporary issues that relate to apologetics in the twenty-first century. The topics covered in the dictionary are arranged in such a way as to encourage the reader to make connections between the topics, not seeing them in isolation, but as parts of one whole discipline devoted to the defense and explanation of the faith. This is done as a reflection of the biblical worldview the editors and authors embrace—“seeing all of reality and existence through biblical revelation, the chief focus of which is the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ” (vii).
     The dictionary is introduced by six introductory articles on apologetics, pertaining to 1) apologetics in the 21st century, 2) various approaches to apologetics, 3) legitimacy of apologetics, 4) viability of apologetics, 5) relationship between apologetics and theology, and 6) apologetics outside of the West. Each of these articles presents some important contemporary issues, laying them out and giving clear explanation. These introductory articles are helpful in keeping the current state of apologetics in view, as well as understanding the reasons why the articles themselves were included in the dictionary.
     The greatest strength of the dictionary is the range of topics covered by the contributors, which is quite wide. Alongside the article on the Dead Sea Scrolls is an article on depression; next to the article on Bonaventure is a treatment of boredom; cyberspace can be found among the articles, as can piercing. The article after piercing is entitled, “Plato.” So, a brief perusal of the dictionary shows that the contributors have certainly commented on a wide range of topics, with the goal of comprehensive treatment of topics relating to apologetics at the start of the new century.
     Many of the articles betray the particular biases of the authors. For example, the article entitled “Determinism, Chance and Freedom” written by John Frame, is written from his reformed perspective. His treatment of libertarian freedom is there, but he spends a great deal of time refuting the idea, and concluding with the statement, “these considerations lead to the conclusion that the Bible teaches theistic determinism. . .” (220). Such statements do not seem consistent with the goal of the work, which is not to provide direct answers to the issues involved, but to present the issues as objectively as possible and to show them as part of a unified response to the unbelieving world.
     This dictionary will, however, undoubtedly prove to be an invaluable resource. The contributors to the dictionary are many, and they have sought to identify as many issues that relate to the defense of the faith as possible. Recognizing that mundane issues that are accepted in everyday life by most people can have profound theological meaning and limitless potential in bringing the lost to faith, while at the same time treating issues one would expect to find in a book like this, the contributors have offered a resource that is truly unique. The twenty-first century most certainly offers challenges that cannot be met in the old ways, i.e. with the assumption that everyone has the same general presuppositions about religion. The work represents a strong effort on the part of Christian scholars to offer a balanced and informed approach to providing a resource to help the body of Christ defend the faith.

Campbell-Jack, W. C., Gavin J. McGrath, C. Stephen Evans, and Steve Carter. New Dictionaryof Christian Apologetics. Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2006.

Helpful Resource on the Problem of Evil

     John Feinberg sets out to defend seven independent, but related, theses in The Many Faces of Evil. These thesis are divided into two categories. The first category covers the notion of the problem of evil. Feinberg’s point is that, rather than there being such a thing as the problem of evil, there are several problems of evil. There is a religious problem of evil (dealt with autobiographically in the last chapter) and the theological/philosophical problem of evil. Even with this distinction, there are other sublevels of problems of evil: there is the existence of moral evil and natural evil, which Feinberg treats at length in his study. There are also the issues of quantity, intensity, and gratuitousness of evil. Also, there is the problem of animal suffering, and the problem of hell. Finally, the theological/philosophical problem of evil must be addressed in terms of the logical and evidential forms. Thus, Feinberg makes the point that both theists and atheists must clearly define which particular problem is being addressed before any progress can be made in the debate. He writes, “An acceptable solution to one problem of evil isn’t nullified because it doesn’t solve any or all other problems.” (27) The second category covers the ground rules for treating the logical problem of evil. Feinberg states that “the most fundamental rule for handling [the logical problem of evil] is that any problem of evil posed in its logical form is about the internal consistency of a theological position.” (27) Thus, theists must construct arguments do not contradict themselves. Atheists must “specify a problem that actually arises withinthe views of the system they attack.” (27)
     The first half of the book is devoted to presenting the logical problem of evil as well as to showing the various forms of the theological-philosophical problem of evil. Feinberg lays out the differences between theonomy on the one extreme and Leibnizian rationalism on the other extreme, with modified rationalism in between. He then summarizes several different theodicies (soul-building, greater good, free will), and then presents his own “defense” (note: not theodicy) which he describes as moderately Calvinistic. Feinberg, like others, takes a middle ground between theonomy and Leibnizian rationalism, and embraces modified rationalism. His position is that God cannot remove evil without being responsible for creating greater problems. He outlines his own position in chapters six and seven.
     The second half of the book treats the evidential form of the problem of evil. Feinberg does a thorough job of presenting both atheistic and theistic treatments of the problem, and presenting his own position in chapter twelve. The problem of hell is addressed in chapter thirteen, with attention given to both the logical and evidential forms of the problem. Feinberg’s position is that it is possible to defend the traditional doctrine of hell based on the seriousness of sin and the holiness and majesty of God. Finally, after a thorough discussion on the theological/philosophical problem of evil, Feinberg addresses the religious problem of evil from his own perspective as someone in the midst of a profound struggle with what seems to be excessively intense anguish. His goal is to approach the problem pastorally first and intellectually second, which, he says, is the appropriate way to treat the religious problem.
Feinberg, John S. The Many Faces of Evil: Theological Systems and the Problems of Evil.Wheaton: Crossway, 2004.