Saturday, February 28, 2015

Book Review: Stealing from God: Why Atheists Need God to Make Their Case by Frank Turek

It was with great anticipation that I began reading Frank Turek’s latest book, Stealing from God: Why Atheists Need God to Make Their Case. It was just this past October I had the opportunity to hear Dr. Turek speak in Mt. Airy, MD on the topic of “Is Jesus Intolerant?” I walked away from that talk impressed with Turek’s ability to address culturally “hot button” issues with razor sharp logic coupled with winsome grace. I hoped that Turek’s book would offer more of the same and I wasn’t disappointed.

From the very onset of the book, it is clear that Turek has the so-called “new atheists” in his crosshairs and his main contention is that “atheists are using aspects of reality to argue against God that wouldn’t exist if atheism were true. In other words, when atheists give arguments for their atheistic worldview, they are stealing from a theistic worldview to make their case. In effect, they are stealing from God in order to argue against Him.” [p. xviii]

Strengths of the Book
This reviewer found Stealing from God to be an absolute treat to read and I feel the space here inadequate to fully demonstrate the breadth and depth of topics covered in its pages.
While many apologetics books offer a positive case for the Christian faith, Turek goes a step further by aggressively attacking the very foundations that atheists claim as their own.

The author also draws upon his numerous interactions he has had in his I Don’t Have Enough Faith to be an Atheist seminars and this is a clear strength of the work. Not only do these accounts make the book very readable, but they deal with practical issues that can easily be applied to one’s personal apologetic.

Turek’s book is also very easy to read. And while some apologetic works are laborious to work through, this book is easy to read and Turek goes to great lengths to explain his numerous illustrations and explanations throughout the book. This book will benefit both the seasoned apologist and the novice.

Arguments Dealt with in the Book
The author explains that since stealing is a crime, and atheists are stealing from God to make their case, the book will use CRIMES [1] as an acrostic to demonstrate the intellectual crimes atheists are committing. Each letter in CRIMES is representative of “one or more aspects of reality that wouldn’t exist if atheism were true.” [xviii]
They are:
C = Causality
R = Reason
I = Information and Intentionality
M= Morality
E = Evil
S = Science

Turek continues by restating his contention:
It is my contention that these CRIMES not only help show that theism is true, but that the foundational assumptions of atheism make it impossible to make a sound intellectual case for atheism. If atheism is true, there’s no way to know it with any confidence. In fact, if atheism is true, there’s no way to know anything with any confidence. [xviii]
One tactic that modern atheists use is to claim that the theist must exhaustively define what they mean by “God” before a meaningful conversation can be had, so this reviewer was pleased to see Dr. Turek takes the time to do that in the Introduction. He also tackles the popular modern day atheist assertion that an atheist is someone who simply “lacks belief in God.”

In Chapter 1, Turek makes the case that God is the best explanation for the origin of the universe and anticipates the popular “god-of-the-gaps” charge and comes out swinging:
Those of us who conclude that a theistic God is the cause of the universe are not arguing from what we don’t know (a gap), but what we do know. Space, time, and matter had a beginning, we know that the cause can’t be made of space, time or matter. In fact, the conclusion that there is a spaceless, timeless, immaterial, powerful, personal first cause flows logically from the evidence itself.
If anyone is committing a fallacy, it is the atheist. Call it the ‘natural law of the gaps fallacy’- having faith that an undiscovered natural law will one day explain the beginning of the universe. [p. 4]
This reviewer was very impressed with the broad range of objections Turek was able to address in this chapter. He succeeds in taking Lawrence Krauss to task for his erroneous use of the word “nothing,” defending philosophy, addressing multi-verse theory, and shows why Richard Dawkins demonstrates that he misunderstands what theists mean by “God” by the very objections he offers.

In Chapter 2, the author argues that the laws of logic are grounded in the nature of God and that when atheists offer an argument against God or for their atheism, the atheist is stealing from God in order to argue against Him. This reader was also impressed with Turek’s arguments that materialism is self-refuting.

In Chapter 3, Dr. Turek drew upon the recent words of Dr. Stephen Meyer [2] to argue that the message or code found in DNA is best explained by a messenger or programmer i.e. a mind. He writes:
[Stephen] Meyer shows in Signature in the Cell that no physical or chemical reaction mandates the arrangement of the genetic letters along the spine of your DNA. Physics and chemistry don’t determine the order of those genetic letters any more than physics and chemistry determine the order of the English letters in this sentence. Minds determine messages and codes; natural forces do not. [p. 58]
The author also calls upon Meyer’s work in Darwin’s Doubt to demonstrate that the information found in DNA cannot be explained on the neo-Darwinian paradigm nor can the new life-forms we see in the Cambrian Explosion be accounted for by mutation and natural selection.

Turek ends this chapter by calling upon the words of Aristotle and Thomas Aquinas to contend that the universe is ordered and goal-directed and that the best explanation of these facts is a mind behind it all. Moreover, the atheists are left in the precarious position of arguing that nature is not goal-directed, yet assuming when doing science that nature is consistently goal directed!

In Chapter 4, this reviewer was interested to see how the author would handle the issue of morality. After all, arguments such as the cosmological argument and the argument from information are based upon scientific evidence and philosophical argument, but the moral argument gets personal!

Turek begins the chapter by contending that objective moral values indeed exist and that God is necessary to ground them. He then continues by taking Sam Harris and his book The Moral Landscape to task and points out Harris’ key mistake in assessing the objective morality:
Why does a moral law exist at all, and why does it have authority over us...The Moral Landscape give us no answer. It’s a nearly three-hundred-page long example of the most common mistake made by those who think objective morality can exist without God. Harris seems to think that because we can know objective morality (epistemology), that explains why objective morality exists in the first place (ontology). [p. 100]
The author continues by arguing that evolution cannot explain morality, dealing with the infamous “Euthyphro dilemma,” and contending that for atheists to offer a moral objection against God, they need God to do it.

In Chapter 5, Dr. Turek begins by defining just what evil is and then proceeds by arguing that if atheism is true, all behaviors are merely a matter of preference. He further argues that if evil actually does exist, the existence of evil actually establishes the existence of God.

This reader especially liked the author’s response to the so-called “God is Moral Monster” argument. He argues that when examining such accounts as God’s order to kill the Canaanites, one must STOP and investigate the context of the passage. Turek writes:
In fact, STOP is an acronym I suggest you use to discover the proper meaning of any biblical text. It represents the following four questions:
S-Situation?- What’s the historical situation?
T-Type?- What’s the type of literature?
O-Object?- Who is the object of the text?
P-Prescription?- Is this passage prescriptive for us today or merely descriptive of an historical event? [p. 123-124]
He then breaks down the Canaanite passages using the STOP method and this proves to be extremely instructive and helpful.

He continues the chapter by explaining how evil affects the life of the believer and by addressing gratuitous evil.

In Chapter 6, the author argues that atheism is actually opposed to science and that there are limits to what science can and cannot tell us. He further offers a summary of Chapters 1-6.

In Chapter 7, Turek offers his “Four-Point Case for Mere Christianity.” It is as follows:

  1. Does Truth Exist?
  2. Does God Exist?
  3. Are Miracles possible?
  4. Is the New Testament historically reliable?

This reviewer found the author’s case to be fair-minded and well argued.

In the Concluding Chapter, the author summarizes why he believes atheism is incoherent. He continues by exalting the person of Jesus Christ and giving one of most concise defenses of hell this reader has come across. I have shared that previously here.

Stealing from God: Why Atheists Need God to make their Case is the best book I’ve read since J. Warner Wallace’s Cold-Case Christianity. Turek packs its pages with stories from his own exchanges with atheists and not only demonstrates why we have good reasons to believe Christianity is true, but he positively shows that the new atheists have failed to make their case and if they succeeded, they would have needed God to do it!

I highly recommend this book to anyone that wants to investigate the claims of Christianity or to the atheist who is brave enough to have their worldview challenged.

Apologetics 315 Book Reviewer Chad Gross is a graduate of Frostburg State University (BS) and has a Master's Equivalency in education. He holds an Apologetics Certificate through Biola University and is the founder and director of Truthbomb Apologetics. Chad teaches elementary school while leading Christian Apologetics classes at Faith Christian Fellowship in Williamsport, MD. Chad and his wife, Danielle, live in Hagerstown, MD with their two daughters, Emma and Lily Opal.

1. Dr. Frank Turek actually used CRIMES in his debale with David Silvermen. You can listen to that debate here:
2. Author of Signature in the Cell and Darwin’s Doubt.


Tanya Travis said...

Which God did the athiest steal logic from? Does the author take into account the long line of stealing the idea of the divine for political power and control?

Rick Kasten said...

If this review is an accurate depiction of the book, I can debunk every argument without even reading the book.

Chapter 1: "the conclusion that there is a spaceless, timeless, immaterial, powerful, personal first cause flows logically from the evidence itself."
No, it doesn't, just like the first cause want the actual logical source of light, darkness, lightning, volcanoes, comets or countless other natural phenomena.

Chapter 2: "the laws of logic are grounded in the nature of God"
Prove it. Because in order to prove that, one must first prove there is a God, then prove that God's nature is somehow self-evident. The latter is quite a challenge, considering that God's nature has been the basis of countless wars and atrocities against humanity for thousands of years.

Chapter 3: Meyer's arguments have been debunked numerous times and by far more intelligent people than me. A simple Google search will list at least a dozen authors who have shown that Meyer's argument is illogical and unscientific. Second, there is no "message" in DNA. It isn't a newspaper; it is a chemical. While life derives from it, there's is no life in it.

Chapter 4: Similar argument against Chapter 2. If morality truly comes from God, then why have so many people acting in God's name committed so many heinous atrocities in the past? Why do they do so today? If morality truly comes from God, then why is that fact not blatantly obvious to everyone in history? If Turek is correct, then the burden is on him to explain why we have immorality at all. Finally, even if Harris's position is incorrect, his conclusion that humans can know objective reality MUST be true, because that is the same argument Turek makes! Harris argues that humans figure out objective morality ourselves, Turek says we get it from God, but in both cases we DO end up knowing it. However, Harris can explain why some people don't follow it. Turek cannot.

Chapter 5: Summary: if the slaying of the Canaanites can be justified by an interpretation of the Bible, then every terrorist attack can also be justified by the proper interpretation of their texts, and none of their acts are immoral. They don't become immoral just because Turek says so.

Chapter 6: "atheism is actually opposed to science"
That must explain why religion has been the biggest impedance of science in every culture throughout history.
"there are limits to what science can and cannot tell us"
Without getting into the God of the Gaps argument, let's consider this to be true. How does it become logical to jump to the God Yahweh as being the source of information that science cannot reveal to us? And how is it so at the expense of every other god that had ever existed in every culture in history?

Rick Kasten said...

Chapter 7: as follows:
1. Does Truth Exist?
The question itself is illogical or at least needs a definition of what Truth with a capital T is.
2. Does God Exist?
Unknown, but every argument that has ever been made has been proven to be illogical, so it is unlikely.
3. Are Miracles possible?
Again, what is a "Miracle"? Something that occurs with no natural explanation? Absolutely not. Things can occur for which we do not yet know the natural cause (see God of the Gaps theory), but those aren't actually miracles.
4. Is the New Testament historically reliable?
Absolutely, demonstrably NO. There are no historical accounts in any culture in history to back up the biblical stories of the sun stopping in the sky for a day, of talking donkeys, of Solomon's wealth, of the Exodus from Egypt, of Joshua's or David's military dominance, of Jesus's resurrection, of the census preceding his birth, of the zombies that walked through Jerusalem after he died, of anyone ever ascending into the clouds like Jesus or Elijah, and the list goes on. I'm sure there are parts of the Bible that are historically accurate - the nation's of Egypt and Assyria and Babylonia really did exist - but that does not justify the claim that the Bible in its entirety is historically accurate.

Chad said...

Hello Rick,

Thank you for taking the time to comment.

I think that if you want to attempt to "debunk" this work, you should actually read Turek's arguments rather than attacking quotes from a book review. In the book, he goes to great lengths to defend his arguments.

Further, I imagine that if you wrote a book, you would want someone to actually read it before hand-waving the arguments therein.

Happy Reading!

Chad said...

Hello Tanya,

Thank you for taking the time to comment and I hope you are well!

Turek writes from the perspective of a Christian theist and defends that position throughout his work.

The fact that some have used the idea of God or the "divine" to advance political ideologies or power is in no way related to the case the author is making; therefore, it is not addressed.

Thank you

dwigmaster said...

Thanks for the review, I can't wait to read the book!

A. Uvenio said...

you can see Frank debate morality here:

Art Klym said...

I listen to Turek's Cross Examined podcast regularly. He would be a great salesman. He's glib and fast-talking, but I'm not convinced that he really believes all that he asserts. He makes some ludicrous claims. I've also read part of "I Don't Have Enough Faith to Be an Atheist," the book he co-authored with Norm Geisler. I was not impressed nor was I convinced.

Turek loves to ask atheists if they would become followers of Christ if it were true. I am one atheist who would. I prayed for many years for such evidence. I labored into my mid-30's trying to convince myself it was true. It isn't.

Mike W. said...

Art, why do consider your own thoughts to be true if you're just a bag of molecules? Atheism destroys the possibility of reason. You can reason only because you are made in the image of God.

Art Klym said...

Mike W., that's not an argument. A claim unsupported by evidence or argument is only an assertion. It will take more than that to convince this particular bag of molecules.

Chad said...

Hello Mr. Klym,

I hope you are well and thank you for taking the time to read the review. Question- What would you consider convincing evidence for God's existence?


Art Klym said...

That's a good question. I'm not sure. I'll set forth a partial list. 1. If there was convincing evidence that prayer actually worked. 2. If God ever healed an amputee. 3. If Christians (other than charlatans like Benny Hinn) worked actual miracles by the Spirit and if frauds like him were actually called into account by the Christian establishment. 4. If I didn't perceive outright deceptions by many apologists. 5. If God revealed himself to me after my years of praying for such an experience.

A huge barrier is that a very large number of Christians claim to be born again. The born again experience is said to be transformative. The Holy Spirit then indwells the follower of Christ. Yet, God appears to be of many different opinions as those led by him interpret the Bible in so many varied ways. One could conclude that the Spirit only indwells one denomination, but how to determine which one?

Many apologists claim that the Bible is inerrant. From my years of reading the Bible, it seems obvious to me that there are various (and contradictory) positions in scripture on important topics. I tire of the apologetic re "apparent contradictions" that borders on (and often includes) outright dishonesty.

I work in a field where I deal with many people who are going through divorces. I've also lived long enough to observe dozens of friends and acquaintances who have divorced. My personal experience and observations (combined with those of many others) suggests that being "born again" or transformed by the Holy Spirit does not affect marital commitment or behavior. If those people are truly "born again" and transformed by the Holy Spirit I would expect the "new man" to behave in a certain way. I am an atheist who has been married once to the same woman for 34 years. I tire of being witnessed to by born again Christians who have been married multiple times after they became born again.

Sorry for the convoluted answer. I could go on and on. One fact that has bothered me for years is that scripture portrays in many parts a God who is actively involved in world, national, and personal affairs. God's involvement, as portrayed in scripture, shrinks with the passage of time. God's role and utility as an explanation for almost anything seems in inverse proportion to our knowledge. I am unsatisfied by the claim that since we have scripture we don't need his active and actual intervention.

To sum it up, what I observe in the world around me seems better explained by the absence of a god than by the presence of one.

compassioninpolitics said...

Excellent book. Also quite accessible.

Excellent summary.

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