Book Review: A People’s History of the United States

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This book takes a fresh look at the history of the United States. Instead of focusing on great men, it instead focuses on the marginalized and overlooked. So, instead of looking at history from the perspective of wealthy and famous white European men, we hear the stories of poor African slaves, poor whites, harassed Native Americans, and oppressed women. There is also a clearly Marxist bent to Zinn’s interpretation. The determinative factors in the course of American history are not ideas, but material forces. People behave in ways that best serve their economic interests. They do not act in accordance with high ideals, but in accordance with what will make them the most money and protect what they already possess. Ideals are just disguises. Words like liberty and equality are just devices meant to motivate naïve people into following the schemes of the rich. Zinn often mentions income inequality. Of course, this is always an economic indicator of great interest to a Marxist because a Marxist thinks capitalism is on the verge of collapse. If only a small subset of the population has the bulk of the wealth, resentment will clearly be generated.

Zinn begins by contrasting the land-grabbing, greedy Spaniards, led by Christopher Columbus, and the naively hospitable Native Americans. The Native Americans believe in sharing, and so they welcome their eventual conquerors. Native Americans eventually get wiped by disease and the restless acquisitiveness of European settlers, who kept asking them to move westward.

The rebellion against Britain during the American Revolution, often depicted in history books as the battle between a cruel imperialist power and high-minded American leaders, is actually the product of the machinations of wealthy American men who wanted, for selfish reasons, to rid themselves of British interests. To do this, they invented a myth that would motivate the common man, since if the common man knew the truth that the real motivation is just greed, they of course would not fight.

White male settlers of European descent also were thoroughgoing sexists, according the Zinn. The noble promises of the Declaration of Independence, i.e. that everyone is entitled to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, extended only to white males with property. Women were not permitted to interpret the Bible for themselves in some early Puritan colonies.

Zinn’s history is actually very depressing. History is a complex reality and I wonder if you can find information to support any overarching interpretative framework. The question is, did Zinn’s interpretative framework come before the evidence, or did the evidence provide grounding for the framework? If we already accept a doctrine, it is natural to see evidence of that doctrine everywhere. Apart from being self-confirming, reading this history is upsetting because it tends to sap patriotism out of one. The vision of America that Zinn presents is of a land once possessed by indigenous peoples who were eventually brutally displaced. The Native Americans lost their lives at the hands of capitalistic Europeans who also took advantage of free labor provided by millions of African slaves. One is led to conclude that the American government and its founding document, the Constitution, is illegitimate. This book has had a remarkable influence and forms part of the backbone of contemporary progressivism.

Evaluación de Una Pelicula: Abre Los Ojos

 

 

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Esto pelicula es sobre un grupo de adultos jovenes que estan vinculado en una situación romantica muy complicada. Con la paso de eventos, los situacciónes son aún mas surrealisticas. Cesar esta enamorada con Sofia, un mujer de gran belleza, de hecho, casi perfecta (Penelope Cruz). Pero, también, Cesar hubo tenido relaciones con un otra mujer, se llama Nuria. Nuria no es tan bonita que Sofia, y es claro que Cesar no se gusta mucho. Ademas, Pelayo, un amigo de Cesar, también tiene sentimientos romanticos por Sofia.

Uno dia, Cesar es en un coche mientras Nuria maneja. De repente, Nuria se pregunta, “Crees en Dios?” Antes de la respuesta, Nuria gira el coche desde la calle y el coche baja una colina y, al fin, choca con un muro. Despues del accidente, Cesar esta desfigurado. Su cara se ve muy feo. El tiene miedo que Sofia no le quiere nunca mas.

Pero, los problemas de Cesar son mas peor que el puede imaginar. Cesar no puede identificar la differencia entre realidad y suenos. En algun momento, el esta dando un abrazo muy calido a Sofia. En el momento siguiente, el da cuenta que no es Sofia en sus brazos, sino Nuria. Cesar habla con un psicología sobre sus problemas. El hecho que su rostro se dano le enfada mucho. Y, en el segundo lugar, Sofia aparece con mucho amor y pasión, pero en el siguiente momento desaparece, en una manera sin explicacción.

Hay una mezcla de temas en este pelicula. Me parece que los temas no estan en armonía. Por ejemplo, el tema de la existencia de Dios se combina con el tema de la differencia entre suenos y realidad. Tambien hay una empresa que ofrece a Cesar un opportunidad para vida eterna, a traves un metodo que consta en un proceso en que un cuerpo se congeala.

Al fin, la situacción de Cesar no es mas claro por nosotros. El grita, “Quiero despertar, quiero despertar!” Pero, nosotros no sabemos si el esta despertando de un pesadillo, y meramente esta entrado un sueno de nuevo.

 

This film is about a group of young adults who are linked in a very complicated romantic situation. With the passing of events, the situations are even more surrealistic. Cesar is in love with Sofia, a woman of great beauty, in fact, almost perfect (Penelope Cruz). But, also, Cesar had had relations with another woman, his name is Nuria. Nuria is not as pretty as Sofia, and it’s clear that Cesar does not like it very much. In addition, Pelayo, a friend of Cesar, also has romantic feelings for Sofia. One day, Cesar is in a car while Nuria drives. Suddenly, Nuria asks, “Do you believe in God?” Before the answer, Nuria turns the car from the street and the car goes down a hill and, at the end, it collides with a wall. After the accident, Cesar is disfigured. His face looks very ugly. He is afraid that Sofia does not love him anymore. But, Cesar’s problems are worse than he can imagine. Cesar can not identify the difference between reality and dreams. At some point, he is giving Sofia a very warm hug. In the next moment, he realizes that it is not Sofia in his arms, but Nuria. Cesar talks to a psychology about his problems. The fact that his face is hurt makes him very angry. And in the second place, Sofia appears with much love and passion, but in the next moment disappears, in an unexplained way. There is a mix of themes in this movie. It seems to me that the issues are not in harmony. For example, the theme of God’s existence is combined with the theme of the difference between dreams and reality. There is also a company that offers Cesar an opportunity for eternal life, through a method that consists of a process in which a body freezes. In the end, the situation of Cesar is not clearer for us. He shouts, “I want to wake up, I want to wake up!” But, we do not know if he is waking up from a nightmare, and merely a dream comes again.

 

Book Review: The End of Eternity, by Isaac Asimov

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Warning, this review contains plot spoilers, it is meant to be read after having finished the book

I read this book not only because Isaac Asimov is a renowned writer, but also because someone told me it is very similar thematically to my own novel, The Realm of Possibility. It does have the same basic idea at its heart. In Asimov’s novel, there are a group of people with various roles in a realm known as Eternity. The people are referred to as Eternals, and the have different titles. The main character, Andrew Harlan, is a technician. A technician is someone who makes Reality Changes. This means that, from the perspective of eternity, which is outside of time, a technician can intervene in history and adjust circumstances in the name of the prosperity and wellbeing of humanity. So, let’s say that in history the human race finally gets involved in nuclear war and most of civilization is destroyed. A technician like Harlan would intervene so that such a catastrophe would never happen. There are Computers in Eternity as well, who have an encyclopedic knowledge of events and their possible ramifications. In order to intervene properly in reality, there has to be knowledge of how the ramifications will play out. For instance, it wouldn’t be good if someone prevented a nuclear war with a reality change only to set things up for a more serious catastrophe later.

The source of the drama in this book begins when Harlan falls in love with a woman named Noys Lambent. There are strict rules governing Eternal’s interaction with people living in time. When Harlan learns that there is an imminent Reality Change planned and Noys will be involved, he rebels, knowing that after the Reality Change Noys will not be present anymore or will be different from the women with whom he fell in love. In an act of desperation, Harlan undoes the circumstance that is essential to creation of Eternity in the first place: he prevents an individual named Cooper from being sent back to an earlier century. Cooper is important because he is sent from Eternity to be the inventor of Eternity. At one point, humanity was not able to enter Eternity to adjust reality. If Harlan blocks Cooper from going back to the specific earlier time, eternity will never be invented. Harlan will get to keep Noys, but there will no eternity by which humanity can rectify it’s problems.

The plot thickens, though, as a series of startling revelations unfold. Noys is not merely a normal woman from time, but a woman from centuries far in the future. These are centuries that are hidden even from Eternals. The people in the Hidden Centuries have evolved even beyond the Eternals. The formation of Eternity has stalled evolution because there is no more danger or stress that would weed out weaker members of the species. Twissel, a Computer who first broaches the idea of the Hidden Centuries to Harlan, theorizes that people in the Hidden Centuries barred Eternals from travelling “upwhen” to their time because they would prefer to keep separate from beings that are less evolved than they are. Harlan ends up guessing correctly that Noys is from the Hidden Centuries. At the end of the book, Noys reveals that, as a member of the Hidden Centuries, she is against the formation of Eternity because it prevents humanity from developing resources for interstellar travel. Noys says, “Any system like Eternity, which allows men to choose their own future, will end by choosing safety and mediocrity, and in such a Reality the stars are out of reach.”

 

Movie Review: Split

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This is a really gripping film. It is filmed in the Philadelphia area. Most of the action occurs in a basement area of the Philadelphia zoo. This film is a thriller, and the action begins immediately. Three teenage girls are finishing up with a birthday party and their father is about to drive them home. One of the girls is distinctive because she hardly talks and is an outcast in the social circle that attended the party. This girl will end up playing a key role in the film, and also contributes key thematic content. The girl notices, through the side mirror, that something has spilled behind the car. The father was putting presents in the trunk. Quickly, a strange man enters the car and uses a painful spray to render the two girls in the backseat unconscious. This way they cannot scream. The man’s name is Kevin Crumb, and he has a mental illness known as dissociative identity disorder. This means that he has multiple personalities. Many different personalities inhabit Kevin’s consciousness. The man who abducts the girls is Dennis, an authoritarian, grim figure who arose as a protective leader in response to the severe abuse Kevin received at the hands of his mother. Another personality is Patricia, a very strict and proper woman with a British accent.

The three girls try to avoid and/or manipulate Kevin into letting them out of the basement dungeon. Dennis is a pervert who would like to use the girls for his sexual pleasure. Patricia is in league with Dennis in keeping the young women captive. Hedwig is a nine year old boy who wants people to stop making fun of him. Though one of the girls manages to escape through a duct in the ceiling, Kevin later captures her and puts her in solitary confinement. Another girl meets the same fate when she sneaks up behind Kevin and whacks him with a chair. Kevin just chases her down and recaptures her.

While all this drama is proceeding in the basement, Kevin is seeing his psychologist. The psychologist senses that something suspicious is going on, as Kevin keeps calling for emergency appointments. Kevin appears as Barry in his visits with the doctor. Barry is a fashion-conscious, effeminate man. James Mcavoy, the actor who plays Kevin, does an excellent job transitioning through the different characters that inhabit Kevin’s mind. Kevin’s doctor, though sensing that something is wrong, takes action very late, after two of the girls have already been killed.

Dennis, the strict authority figure who is the personality responsible for the killings, keeps referring to the coming of the beast. One of the central ideas of the movie is that people with DID aren’t actually disabled, but are tapping into powers of the human mind of which most are unaware. Kevin’s doctor is the proponent of this controversial theory. She claims that, by believing that they are a certain person, people with DID actually become this person. Kevin has this idea of the personality of the Beast, which has superhuman physical powers–the ability to climb walls, run at extremely fast speeds, etc.  At the end of the movie, Kevin actually becomes the Beast, proving that his doctor’s understanding of DID was correct.

Another theme I want to touch on is the Beast’s attitude to those who have not suffered trauma. He refers to people who have lived comfortable, sheltered lives as impure and tainted. This is interesting, as I think it’s fair to say that people who have suffered have another dimension to their personality than those who have not. The Beast ends up sparing Casey, the girl who was the social outcast and who was also the victim of sexual abuse at the hands of her uncle, but kills the other two girls, who have suffered no serious trauma.

Movie Review: Denial

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This film is based on the true story of Deborah Lipstadt, a historian who wrote a book attacking and deconstructing Holocaust denial. When her book came out, David Irving, a British man posing as a historian known for his denial of the Holocaust, decided to press charges against her for libel. The case was tried in Britain. Lipstadt was an American and had to adjust to the unusual justice system of the United Kingdom, where, in libel cases, the party accused of libel bears the burden of proof. In America, of course, it would be the accuser who bore the burden of proof that they really are the victims of libel. Lipstadt meets with her British legal team and they consider their various options. One of them was to claim that the defamation with which they were charged is not as damaging as Irving claimed it was. This was not a viable option, because Lipstadt had used harsh language in her book to attack Irving, calling him a Hitler sympathizer who, out of sheer anti-Semitism, had falsified the historical record. Lipstadt and her legal team decide to defend themselves by arguing that the allegedly false and slanderous claims in Lipstadt’s book were actually true.

In a way, then, a historical matter was tried in court, since whether or not Lipstadt’s claims were true depended in part on to what extent Irving’s attempt at history deviated from the historical record. Throughout the trial, Lipstadt has to struggle with some ethical dilemmas. One is whether survivors should be allowed to offer testimony in trial. The legal team strongly rejects this idea, since they do not want to expose survivors to someone like Irving, who, though a deeply misguided historian, is capable of forceful argument and might traumatize someone who had endured the Holocaust. Another dilemma is the issue of free speech. Some argue that people like Irving need to be allowed to air their views, as odious as they may be. Lipstadt, as she is portrayed in the movie, defends free speech but claims that certain ideas should not be dignified with discussion. Ideas like Elvis is still alive, or that the Holocaust did not happen, are not even worth talking about.

This movie was good, but I think the subject matter is so rich and could easily have given rise to more interesting treatment. I want to especially praise the performance of Timothy Spall, who played David Irving. Irving managed to exude an impression of being unhinged, deeply obtuse, and unbelievably and incorrigibly self-righteous. Irving is one of those people who has an agenda and is committed to that agenda regardless of obstacles they may face. After the trial, Irving, as portrayed by Spall, describes how victorious he was, even though the judge delivered a verdict favorable to Lipstadt. Irving, in fact, is in a way very clever, as his main goal is to generate publicity, so even if he loses the libel case, he will have spent a considerable amount of time in the public  eye, bringing his views closer and closer to the mainstream. The more publicity he gets, the more people think that Holocaust denial is not some totally untenable beliefs like Elvis is alive but just an unpopular but viable alternative reading.

Book Review: The 14th Colony, by Steve Berry

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This is a thriller that weaves together historical facts to create an exciting, tense situation. There’s not much substance, though, to this light read. It features Cotton Malone, a James Bond type hero who figures in multiple books in this series. The enemy in this novel is a former KGB agent who longs for the glory days of communism. He seeks revenge against the U.S. and is hatching a diabolical plan. The plan involves using information dug up from an old society of American patriots known as the Society of Cincinnati. This information has to do with the pursuit of the annexation of Canada—hence the title of the book, the 14th colony. The ex-KGB guy is seeking to disrupt a coming presidential inauguration using nuclear warheads that have long been resting in hiding in the United States, unbeknownst to authority figures there. The disruption of the inauguration will be catastrophic because of the thorny legal issues around succession if leading members set to take office end up dead.

As I said, I wouldn’t invest too much time in this book, or other books in the series, because they are just light thrillers. They aren’t even that exciting, as they are thematically and stylistically immature. That said, the book does exercise a pull that I’m almost embarrassed by. It gets kind of fun to follow Berry as he reworks different historical facts into a totally unrealistic and silly plot.

Book Review: Denying the Holocaust, The Growing Assault on Truth and Memory

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In this book, historian Deborah Lipstadt describes a growing movement to defend the idea that the Holocaust never happened, or that it was not as severe as it is purported to be (for instance, some deniers claim that what the Allies did to the Germans is as bad as the Holocaust, or that it is impossible to kill six million Jews because it was mathematically impossible to do so given the number of Jews that existed prior to the Holocaust). This is a fringe movement that utterly lacks credibility. An equivalent belief is that the earth is flat. Holocaust deniers are driven by anti-Semitism and claim that the Holocaust is a hoax perpetrated by Jews to build up the state of Israel or to earn money in the form of reparations.

It was difficult for Lipstadt to decide to write about Holocaust denial. One of the themes of this book is that there is a danger that, just by giving the deniers a platform and seriously engaging with their ideas, they can steadily carve out a space as the “other side,” people who just provide another viewpoint on historical reality. The fact is though that Holocaust deniers cast aside methodological constraints and do whatever it takes to advance their anti-Semitic ideology. They are therefore not to be taken seriously as historians.

A big dilemma is created on college campuses. Free speech is a hot issue right now especially in relation to college campuses. Violent protests erupting over the presence of various speakers on college campuses have led some to chastise overzealous social justice warriors. But, does a commitment to free speech also mean allowing Holocaust deniers a platform in a school paper or a speaking event? Lipstadt does not think so. She criticizes school newspapers who published ads created by Holocaust deniers in the name of free speech. Sticking to a very literal interpretation of the first amendment, Lipstadt claims that the first amendment only prevents government from restricting speech. It is okay for a private organization, therefore, like a campus newspaper, to ban certain viewpoints from their publications.

As we move farther and farther away from the Holocaust and the remaining survivors die off, the deniers attempts to sway public opinion become more and more dangerous. Recently, the Trump administration came under fire for failing to mention, when paying respect to victims of the Holocaust, that Jews were the specific targets of the Holocaust. When pressed, people in the administration stood by their omission. This is problematic because the Jews were singled out by the Nazis as in particular deserving of extermination. Also, there have revisionist renditions of history that claim that Jews were not the primary target of the Holocaust. For instance, some Communists have claimed that Communists were the main target of the Holocaust.

Holocaust deniers engage in every kind of logical fallacy and sophistry imaginable in order to avoid plain facts. For instance, it is a fact that Jews had to wear a yellow star; if they were found not to be wearing one, they could be killed. Holocaust denier Robert Faurisson recognizes this fact but explains it away, claiming that it was a necessary measure to protect Germans. Jews, Faurisson claims, were involved in dangerous activities like espionage, terrorism, and arms trafficking. Another fact is that even Jewish children had to wear a yellow star. Surely, these children couldn’t have been dangerous? But, Faurisson, in the grips of an evil ideology, maintains his theory, Even the Jewish children were dangerous and Germans needed an immediate way to identify them.

Holocaust deniers are committed to their ideology and it is impossible to debate with them. Debating them can actually backfire, as the very act of debating someone implies a certain level of credence for their view. If it has to be refuted, there must be some merit to it. One doesn’t have to refute the idea that 2+2=5. Still, there is a need to defend those who perished so tragically in the Holocaust. As Lipstadt writes, “The still, small voices of millions cry out to us from the ground demanding that we do no less.”

Book Review: The Great Divorce

 

This is another great book in C.S. Lewis’s rich body of work. It depicts his imagination of the afterlife, and a struggle between the forces of good and evil for the human soul. The character is walking through a surreal landscape and is privy to a number of intriguing conversations between the inhabitants. There is symbolism in the arrangement of the landscapes. In one scene, we see a town that is full of people but remains extremely lonely. This is because, with each new influx of inhabitants, the people already living there move farther out to the fringes of the town. Over time, a telescope is required to see the inhabitants of the town at the outskirts, which are millions of miles away. This town is clearly an image of hell, where self-centered decisions have broken apart any communal bonds.

Conversations take place between people of varying solidity and brightness. Some people are solid and bright–these are clearly the souls who have repented and gone to heaven. Other people are insubstantial and dim, to the point that they are ghostlike. These souls have made poor decisions and are often stuck in self-defeating patterns of thought. The insubstantial souls find the reality of heaven intolerably hard–literally. The rain in heaven feels to them like bullets. One ghost says, “First of all tantalize you with ground you can’t walk on and water you can’t drink and then drill you full of holes.” One conversation is between a man who has committed murder and another man who employed the murderer while they were both alive. The employer feels as though he is more deserving than the murderer and refuses to accept salvation on the pretext that he won’t put himself on the same level as the murderer. The murderer has repented, and, according to Christian theology, can still go to heaven so long as he confesses that he is a sinner. But, this offends the sense of justice of the employer. He feels a sense of humiliation about being seen as equal to a murderer. He says, “And what I don’t see is why I should be put below a bloody murderer like you.”

There is another ghostlike character who is overweight and has a cultured voice. It seems he is guilty of sins of the intellect. He takes a critical approach to traditional theological doctrines. For instance, he questions the idea that there is a literal Heaven and Hell. He also rejects the doctrine of the Resurrection. This individual fell prey to these ideas because, while he was maturing, they were fashionable. He said what would allow him to be a successful and popular intellectual. The intellectual questions whether all knowledge can be revealed in heaven. “For me there is no such thing as a final answer.”

The damned souls would rather cling to their vice than admit their sinfulness and allow themselves to be saved. Lewis quotes Milton: “Better to reign in Hell than to serve in Heaven.” At some point, after the initial thrill of sin has worn off, people still hang onto their sins out of sheer pride. They’d  rather be in charge of their own lives, even if they have ended up as failures.

Book Review: The Reason for God, Belief in an Age of Skepticism

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Timothy Keller tackled a seemingly insurmountable problem and has had tremendous success. He wanted to start a Christian church in New York City. He was able to convince the sophisticated, educated young people of this great city that Christianity is viable, in spite of all the objections they had against it. In this book, Keller, who has an encyclopedic and broad grasp of philosophy and literature, as well as other disciplines, Keller breaks down a series of objections he has continually encountered in his ministry. I really enjoyed the depth and scholarship of this book, and Keller’s extremely thoughtful Christianity.

The book is structured in two parts: first, a part devoted to the defense of Christianity against a series of objections, then the second and final part of the book is devoted to reasons why one should be a Christian. In the first part of the book, Keller takes objections from people he has actually met in his ministry. These are sophisticated young professionals living in Manhattan who have been exposed to Christianity while growing up but who later ended up leaving the faith.

The first objection is, there can’t be just one true faith. It’s arrogant to say that one religion is true and all the rest are false. This is such a common objection. Many people have absorbed cultural relativism. This is the idea that there is no absolute truth. Truth is defined according to the standards of one’s culture. This idea is prevalent in anthropology, a discipline where people prefer to study another culture without the patronizing assumption that the worldview they had formed in their own culture is the correct view. This objection, though, is illogical because one cannot really have a religion without rejecting other religions. If one is to have a religious belief at all, one must reject other beliefs that conflict with it. To be a Christian, for instance, means taking a certain stance on who Jesus was. Taking such a stance would necessarily put one in conflict with Judaism and Islam. Furthermore, some people who are motivated by a wishy-washy sense of fairness like to claim that each religion has a part of the truth, but none has the entire truth. The famous image for this position is blind men touching different parts of the elephant. But, this position itself presupposes an absolute vantage point, i.e the vantage point from which one is able to see the whole truth and so can tell that each religion only has a partial grasp of the truth.

The next objection is the all-too familiar one that there cannot be a God, because there is too much evil in the world. There are many possible ways to address this alleged contradiction. One is to note the intellectual arrogance the claim presupposes. People who think the problem of evil holds water conclude from the fact that there seems to them to be no good reason for evil in the world that there is no good reason. But, the human intellect is obviously finite. The human intellect has no ground to stand on when it tries to make grandiose metaphysical judgments about whether or not there is a good reason for the presence of evil in the world.

The third objection is, Christianity is a straitjacket. This to me is a more interesting, because more compelling, objection than the previous two. If there is one truth, then there is no room to think for oneself. What if the ethical restrictions make some people uncomfortable? There really is no way out, because Christianity is presented as universally true. Keller cites instances of Christianity grafting onto different cultures in a way that creates a nice blend of the original culture and the incoming Christian doctrine. Keller writes, “When Africans began to read the Bible in their own languages many began to see in Christ the final solution to their historic longings and aspirations as Africans.” It is true that Christianity can fit into some pre-existing cultures, but the moral restrictions are presented as blanket statements in a way that is sometimes unhelpful. Is abortion an intrinsic evil, such that it is never alright to have one? This seems dogmatic and inflexible. What about situations in which the mother might die through pregnancy? Can people use contraception when there is risk of spreading serious congenital defects through something like the Zika virus?

Keller gets kind of annoying in his constant appeal to new literary and philosophical references. He brings in, it seems, five or so different quotes and references per page. This creates breadth, but also a lack of depth, since his reference to any of these thinkers is superficial. But, this book is a great start for anyone who seeks to be an erudite Christian or who wants to engage in philosophical speculation about issues related to Christianity.

Movie Review: The Case for Faith

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Lee Strobel has spent a large part of his career defending Christianity against some of its most sophisticated objections. This movie is framed around Charles Templeton, a former Christian preacher who was a rising star at one point along with Billy Graham. Templeton, however, became consumed with doubt and came to abandon the ministry along with his Christian faith. There are two major objections that drove Templeton away from his belief in Christianity. The first is, by what right does Christianity claim to have an exclusive hold on the truth, making it superior to other religions? The second objection is, how can there be a good God, given the overwhelming presence of evil in the world?

Strobel interviews various scholars and gives cogent answers to both of these questions. The upshot of the movie is that neither of the objections seem compelling at all. The first objection comes from a vague sense of fair-mindedness. If Christianity alone is true, then all the other religions, at least in part, are false, and this is unfair. The fact is, though, that the various religions–Islam, Judaism, Hinduism, etc.—make contradictory claims. Unless we water down each one of them to the point that they are unrecognizable, then they all make exclusive claims to having the truth. Islam cannot accept the doctrine of the incarnation because its notion of divine unity forbids any attempt to associate God with something that is not God, e.g. flesh. Judaism cannot accept that Jesus was the Messiah since for them the Messiah is an earthly ruler and not someone who ended up being crucified at a relatively young age. In sum, there is nothing wrong with a religion making an exclusive claim to truth. This is what religions do. People like to adopt a relativism these days in order to appear tolerant, but they can only maintain this at the cost of losing any robustness with which they hold their religious convictions.

As for the second objection, I am beginning to think that the problem of evil is really a pseudo-problem, at least as far as its alleged conflict with religious belief. Strobel’s panel of experts go through the standard and compelling ways for dealing with this issue. One of them is that we have free will. Without free will, we would not be able to genuinely love God. We would just be puppets. The downside of free will is that we can abuse it and do evil. But, this cost is worth it when one considers the great good of people who are able freely devote themselves to love of God.

A great moment occurs when Strobel discusses the objection of the famous atheist philosopher Bertrand Russell. Russell claimed that no one who had knelt besides the bed of a dying child could still believe in God. But, the Christian actually has a lot of resources with which to cope with this tragic circumstance. He can think about the afterlife, for instance. He can think of he Resurrection, by which Jesus defeated death. The atheist, on the other hand, has nothing to offer to those who witness the death of the child. All the atheist can say is, this is the way things are, deal with it.