Grand Theft Worldview: “Stealing From God: Why Atheists Need God To Make Their Case” by Frank Turek

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Stealing from GodBook Review

Stealing from God: Why Atheists Need God To Make Their Case by Frank Turek

One thing you have to say for Frank Turek: he knows how to put a provocative title on a book. He did it with I Don’t Have Enough Faith To Be an Atheist. He’s done it again with Stealing from God.

Other than a catchy title, though, does he have a point? Consider this:

  • Richard Dawkins calls God “evil,” but tells us evil doesn’t exist. (He’s half right: “Evil” is meaningless without God.)
  • Sam Harris wants to hold people accountable for their actions, but tells us we have no free will. (He’s half right: if the world is strictly natural and material, free will is impossible.)
  • Lawrence Krauss pursues science as the causal explanation for what we see in nature, but tells us the cause of the universe was “nothing.” He thinks his loose definition of “nothing” resolves that obvious tension.” (He’s stuck there: without God as creator, the explaining where the universe came from requires some creative thinking.)
  • Atheists claim to be the true representatives of reason, but have no good explanation for where reason came from, and (trust me, I was there at the “Reason Rally,” and I have a chapter about it in True Reason) resort to ridicule and emotion to make their “reasoned” case. (Are they stuck, too? Is that why they do that?)
  • They claim their reason is about reality, but as atheists Thomas Nagel and Alex Rosenberg have cogently argued, they can’t explain how a strictly material brain can be about anything at all. (That requires something else. God, for example.)

Atheists often argue against the biblical God’s supposed evil, and Christianity’s supposed unscientific, unreasoning nature. They really are stuck, though: they need something a lot like God in the picture in order to explain what evil is, what reason is, and even how science makes sense. They’re stealing from God to make their case against him.

It isn’t just a provocative title, in other words.

Nor is it just about atheists. The book makes a strong positive case for belief in God, which really is its major purpose, in spite of its title. (You have to get a person’s attention before you can make your point with them.)

One of the things I like most about Frank Turek is how honestly he presents a case. In debate with Michael Shermer he granted Shermer’s good points, and pressed him on his weak ones. In this book he faces tough issues head-on, including the problem of evil, the Bible’s supposed support for antebellum slavery, and God’s alleged misbehavior in the Old Testament.

Since we’re talking about being provocative, though, I want to share part of his perspective on the problem of evil:

Does God Exist?
YesNo
Beginning of the UniverseFine-tuning of the Universe

Consistent Laws of Nature

Reason: Laws of Logic and Mathematics

Information (Genetic Code) and Intentionality

Life

Mind & Consciousness

Free Will

Objective Morality

Beauty and Pleasure

Old Testament Prophecy

Life and Resurrection of Jesus

Evil

If you hadn’t guessed, this table serves as a good list of the topics Turek covers in the book. It also shows where he thinks the problem of evil belongs in perspective of other questions about reality. But then again…

This chart shows that evil is a problem for Christianity, and everything else is a problem for atheism. But as we’ve seen, evil turns out to be an even bigger problem for atheism. Christianity has a reasonable explanation for evil and a solution to it…. Ultimately it winds up on the left side of the chart. It’s on the left side because, as we saw, evil is a deficiency in good and good requires God.

Clear enough? Wait, I’m sorry, that wasn’t a fair question. I’m sure it’s not totally clear from that small snippet alone. I’m not trying to present Frank Turek’s argument, I’m trying to persuade you to read it for yourself. It’s clear enough there in his book.

It’s clear enough, in fact, that I could easily see this book being used for a small group study at church, or a weekly series at a Ratio Christi campus chapter. It would stretch an apologetics beginner’s thinking, but for most people, most of it would be well within reach. I’m looking forward to when I’ll have the chance to use it that way.

Christians, I highly recommend this book as a robust and readable overview of apologetics, and as a good source of answers for the atheists in your life. Atheists, I can only hope I’ve picked up on Frank Turek’s intentions and provoked you enough that you’ll read it, too. I’m sure you don’t want to be stealing. Especially from God.

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11 Responses to “ Grand Theft Worldview: “Stealing From God: Why Atheists Need God To Make Their Case” by Frank Turek ”

  1. @northierthanthou
    Personally, it struck me as more of a truism that bears repeating.

    I suppose that being well-known and being provocative aren’t mutually exclusive categories. The New Atheists seem think they’re being provocative when they repeat less sophisticated versions of things that were said more than a Century ago by Nietzsche or Russell. But I wouldn’t demand that this makes everything Hitchens ever said about theism a “tired cliche”.

    Either way, I suppose the pertinent issue isn’t whether or not it is in fashion this season. So, regarding the content of the statement, it’s obvious enough that the modern view of moral truth (which even atheists take for granted) is both heavily influenced by, and rationally based on, Christian theism.

    Some attempt to dismiss the idea, of course. The passion with which the New Atheists have done so signals that they find it rather scandalous for their position, which is to say, provocative.

  2. When Burns wrote, “My love’s (Luve’s) like a red, red rose” it wasn’t a cliché. When Shakespeare penned “neither rhyme nor reason” it wasn’t a cliché.

    No turn of phrase is born a cliché. They become that way through popularity and repetition. That would be a testament to a phrase’s impact, wouldn’t it?

    Thanks for sharing anyway.

  3. “Christianity has a reasonable explanation for evil and a solution to it….” I don’t see that at all. It has to show its claims are true. It can’t (or it has great difficulties). Therefore no reasonable explanation, and no solution.

    I don’t see too much difficulty with the left column table that is supposedly a problem for atheism. Tom had an evidence for God series that seems to have been abandoned some time ago. I haven’t seen any recent posts, which is a shame, because no evidence for God = no reason to believe.

    Let’s pick one from the list: “Beginning of the Universe Fine-tuning of the Universe” Putting aside that no-one knows if there was a beginning (the Big Bang does not even infer that, if “beginning” is referring to creation ex nihilo), why is that a problem for atheists (or more specifically, naturalism) I wonder?

  4. I am sure that Richard Dawkins would say something like “how can he steal from something that doesn’t exist?”

    Franks arguement is pretty poor, we need a God to explain evil? why exactly? its just a word that means the opposite of good. We could just use ‘bad’ would that make any difference? And God is required for Science? Science has moved forward in leaps and bounds without religious restrictions.

    I wouldn’t read this book its probably another attempt to try and prove a God exist with the same old lack of evidence the rest of them have.

    Provocative title for sure, but I think Richards ‘God Delusion’ is better.

  5. I’m sure he would ask that. The answer would be, “You can steal from something whose existence you dismiss or disbelieve, and in fact the very act of your disagreeing involves a dependence on a rational world order that’s explained far getter under theism than naturalism.”

    We need a God to explain good, too.

    The argument wasn’t that we need religion for science.

    I wouldn’t read this book its probably another attempt to try and prove a God exist with the same old lack of evidence the rest of them have.

    You’re amazingly content to come to that conclusion without inspecting the evidence for it. Ironic.

  6. Tom,

    Thanks for recommending Frank Turek’s book. I’m about a third of the way through it and am thoroughly enjoying it.

  7. @GrahamH

    I completely agree that the question of Christianity’s truth (and, consequently, the support for it) is important.

    However, to say that we need to show that before running this argument is to get things precisely backward. It is an argument for the truth of theism. You may not find it compelling (that is fine), but to say “before you can give that argument, you must show us that the conclusion is true” is not a reason to reject it.

    More than that, one would also have to demonstrate that an alternative view is superior. In the case of the New Atheists, their alternative is Materialism. But this view has at least two problems:

    1) It has not been defended with anything like the evidence that its proponents require for theism.
    2) It contradicts the argument from evil (meaning that Materialists cannot rationally use this argument).

  8. If God didn’t exist Atheists would have nothing to argue against. Since arguing against God is their purpose in life, they’re stealing their very purpose for being from God also. Marketing non-sense they label as “special reasoning enlightenment” is profitable for them. Purpose and profit from an otherwise useless existence. Sounds like a religion to me.