TRUE PARADOX: HOW CHRISTIANITY MAKES SENSE OF OUR COMPLEX WORLD, by David Skeel

Published on March 9, 2017 by Steve West

IVP, 2014 | 175 pages

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About the Author

David A. Skeel Jr. is S. Samuel Arsht Professor of Corporate Law at the University of Pennsylvania Law School. He has authored several books and has been interviewed on major television shows and networks. He is a frequent speaker at Veritas Forums.

Introduction

In True Paradox, Skeel argues that Christianity makes more sense than any other worldview or religion out of the inescapable tensions and complexities of our universe and human experience. He explores key areas of complexity where Christianity offers the best explanation for what we find. Christian truth does not minimize or simplify complex realities—on the contrary, it embraces them and expects them.

Table of Contents

Introduction: Arguing about Origins
Chapter 1 Ideas and Idea Making
Chapter 2 Beauty and the Arts
Chapter 3 Suffering and Sensation
Chapter 4 The Justice Paradox
Chapter 5 Life and the Afterlife
Epilogue

Summary

Introduction: Arguing about Origins

Part of the human condition is a desire to understand ourselves and the universe in which we live. As time has gone on, we have begun to see that there are great complexities in the world. A worldview, philosophy, or religion needs to be able to offer an accounting for the complexity of reality. Many Christian apologists are appealing to simple logic and deductive reasoning to construct their cases for God. Ironically, this apologetic appeal to philosophy and logic is coming in the generation that has moved away from philosophical reasoning. Today, many people simply reject conclusions that they don’t like and that don’t agree with their views. They simply assume that something in the argument was wrong, or that the conclusion just isn’t true. Logic and philosophy are important, but they are not sufficient. Other apologists have tried to defend Christianity on the basis of law court argumentation. In legal defenses, the aim is not to find the truth, the aim is to present a case, using selective evidence and testimony, to make one’s side look as good as possible and the other side as weak as possible. When applied to Christianity, this can mean that only certain lines are followed, and that complicating realities can be ignored or minimized. Atheists also tend to choose techniques that limit evidence and argumentation. Materialists have a very difficult time with human morality, but they cannot step outside of naturalistic explanations for it, even though such accounts are very unsatisfactory. Cosmology is not enough—we need to explain the way world is now and the features we find in it.

Chapter One: Ideas and Idea Making

Consciousness is the most mystifying part of our existence. Our idea-making capacity is a central part of our human experience, as are our moral values and theories. Materialists love to unravel the adaptations required to form complex systems, but they have very little to say about how consciousness could have developed. Many evolutionists suggest that human beings began to believe in God because of the application of a “false-positive” agent detection system to large scale phenomena. The step from thinking there is a lion in the grass when it is just the wind, however, to the conclusion that there is a Creator of the heaven and earth is not a small one. It is difficult to believe that the rest of our bodies are adapted for a purpose, but our consciousness and agency detection that causes us to believe in God is merely an accidental by-product. It is strange that an accidental by-product is so central to what we think about ourselves and what it means to be human. In Christianity, people were created in God’s image with rational minds, and they were placed in a rationally-governed and discoverable universe. Our ability to work in abstract numbers—of no use on the African savannah—has allowed us to understand incredible things about the structure of the universe. Our idea-making capacity also allows us to tell stories and narratives that shape our lives and interpretations of ourselves and the world. Moral values are ubiquitous, and a plausible worldview will teach moral values that resonate with people across cultures and times, while simultaneously challenging certain societal norms. Since materialism doesn’t come with any one set of values, it is not surprising to find that the values of materialists tend to fit with the educated elite of society. Christianity espoused a radical equality and human rights in a cultural milieu that had no room for such ideas. Christianity balances a healthy view of the positive benefits of sexual intercourse with a restriction that such sexual expression take place only in the covenant of marriage. All kinds of evidence suggests that the home life envisioned in biblical ethics is healthier than alternatives. Christians fail to live up to these ideals, but this is a failure against Christian morality, and not an upholding or example of it. Testimonies concerning the positive impact of Christianity are not just found in the West—they are found in countries and cultures all over the globe. When such a large number of people from such diverse backgrounds share their stories about the power of Christianity, we need to listen.

Chapter Two: Beauty and the Arts

A deep sense of joy and an accompanying profound sense of sadness is a common experience for many people at different times when they are confronted with beauty. People may disagree over exactly which works of art and which pieces of music are beautiful, but the sense of beauty touches everyone. This is a major feature of our experience that requires explanation. Some materialists believe that our sense of beauty is merely a by-product; others hold that an aesthetic sense helped humans locate good lands in which to flourish. Still others maintain that art is beneficial for social cohesion. None of these answers, however, is satisfactory or capable of providing an accurate and comprehensive explanation. Pantheists believe that God is in everything, but this fails to explain why our experiences of beauty are intermittent and do not attach to everything. It also fails to account for ugliness and evil. Beauty gives us. . .

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True Paradox: How Christianity Makes Sense of Our Complex World

IVP, 2014 | 175 pages