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Book Review: “A Shot of Faith (To the Head)”

24 Apr

I’ve read a lot of Christian apologetics works, particularly over the last several years. Yet again and again, I’ve found them somewhat deficient: few contain a robust philosophical component that adequately addresses the best objections to belief. And in some sense, this is understandable – it’s certainly easier to rattle off a list of “Reasons to Reject Evolution” than work through serious metaphysics and epistemology. Against the most cogent arguments of atheists and skeptics, however, reliance on outmoded claims often falls flat.

Dr. Mitch Stokes’ recent book, “A Shot of Faith (To the Head)” is an outstanding example of mature Christian philosophical apologetics. In an erudite yet accessible format, he systematically dissects skeptics’ chief arguments and offers an eminently compelling case for belief.

The book is divided into three categories: epistemology (which convincingly exposes the weaknesses of pure evidentialism), science (which mercifully avoids the “evolution-isn’t-true” morass, and instead breaks fresh ground), and the problem-of-evil (which adroitly summarizes Alvin Plantinga’s definitive rebuttal). In many ways, Stokes’ work is revolutionary: “A Shot of Faith (To the Head)” bridges the gap between popular apologetics and sophisticated academic discussion.

Again and again, Stokes hits the core issues of the Christianity/atheism debate. Every time I found myself envisioning a potential objection to Stokes’ methodology, he proceeds to demolish it persuasively. In my experience, a book that manages to cover the crucial arguments so comprehensively is rare indeed. Stokes draws on a rich tradition of Western philosophy – employing arguments from Aristotle, Locke, Chomsky, and countless others –

As a relatively hardcore evidentialist (one who predominantly relies on empirical arguments to justify belief), I was challenged by this book. Without falling into the trap of Kierkegaardian fideism or Van Til’s presuppositionalism, Stokes offers an alternative conception of the faith/reason dichotomy that resonates on both an intellectual and spiritual level. Shades of both Cartesian and Humean thought are present throughout, but Stokes neatly draws these disparate elements into a persuasive defense of theism.

Some other reviewers have criticized this book for its difficulty. Indeed, “A Shot of Faith (To the Head)” is not particularly accessible to those without a background in philosophy. This, however, is also its greatest strength: upon receiving this book, I expected it to be merely a rehashing of familiar points. Instead, I was pleasantly forced to reexamine several of my fundamental presuppositions – which I most certainly did not anticipate.

Is it worth reading? Absolutely. While it’s not the easiest book for lay readers, Christians looking for a deeper reservoir of apologetic material will find much food for thought here. If nothing else, the rise of the New Atheists has brought out the best in Christian apologetics – this is strong stuff, and well worth contemplating.

VERDICT: 9/10
An exceptional, challenging contribution to mainstream Christian apologetics. Very highly recommended.

* I received this book free from Thomas Nelson Publishers as part of their BookSneeze.com book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

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Posted by on April 24, 2012 in Contemporary

 

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