Why Apologetics Books? Reviewing Mittelberg's "Confident Christianity" Part 2

Mark Mittelberg is a bestselling author, sought-after speaker, and the Executive Director of the Center for Strategic Evangelism, in partnership with Houston Baptist University. He wrote the book Confident Faith: Building a Firm Foundation for Your Belief (2013)—which won the Outreach Magazine's 2014 apologetics book of the year award. Yet, it appears his book has been flying under the atheist radar—so far. I aim to rectify that with a few posts offering my thoughts and criticisms of it.

Mark begins by telling us what he aims to do. Is this an investigative book giving the pros and cons of Christianity, letting reader decide? No, of course not. It's a polemical book. Does it aim to convince nonbelievers and people of different faiths? Again, no, not primarily anyway. As the subtitle says, it aims to build "a firm foundation for your belief (i.e., your Christian belief)." I know publishers have a big influence on the titles of books. Yet Mark says he's writing mainly for Christians, and only secondarily for others. He says, "if you're a Christian, how certain are you that your faith is based on reliable information--that it's really true? This book will help you answer that question. And if you believe something other than Christianity, how can you test your beliefs if they square with reality? We'll address that issue too." (p. xi)

In the first chapter Mittelberg defines the word faith, which I find to be yet another example of Orwellian double-speak. Given his definition it stands to reason we all have faith (pp. 1-14)! In the first section of the book Mittelberg discusses and evaluates six different paths people take in getting to their faiths, arguing that the sixth path of logic and evidence are the best ways to get there (pp. 15-158). In the second section Mittelberg attempts to shoot twenty arrows of truth that point to Christianity (pp. 161-219). In the third and final section he attempts to deal with ten barriers to confident Christian faith (pp. 223-264).

Let me argue for a three important matters before we tackle the first section on the "Six Paths to Faith". I'll deal with two of them here, saving the third one about faith for later. The first important matter is to wonder why Christians write apologetic books like this at all? In my book How to Defend the Christian Faith: Advice from an Atheist, I ask this question in the first chapter, calling it the most important one of all. I introduce it with these words:
In this chapter I’m going to address the most important question of all for would-be Christian apologists. It’s the obvious elephant in the room, not seen by apologists because they don’t have the eyes for it. My argument is that God, if he exists, failed to effectively communicate his will. He failed to provide the sufficient evidence we need to believe. Since he failed us, apologists have been given a tremendous work load, bigger than any one of them can bear up under. But if God had done a better job, there would be little, if anything, for apologists to do. In fact, God didn’t even need to hire apologists at all for this most important job. He could have done all the work himself. Thus the most important question of all: Why is it necessary to defend the Christian faith at all?

....

If God supposedly gave up Jesus to die on the cross for our sins, which is the greater deed by far, then why has he failed (and continues to fail) to do enough to reach nonbelievers, which represents the lesser deeds? I mean really, if God did the greater deed then why doesn’t he also commit himself to doing the lesser deeds? Isn’t that backassward for an intelligent being? It would be like preparing an extravagant delicious banquet, with enough food to feed all the starving people in a refugee camp, but not caring enough to send out workers to tell them about it—-or hiring incompetent workers he knows won’t do it. If you think God is doing the lesser deeds then read onward Christian soldiers.

Why has God given the most important task of them all to Christians, according to their own theology? They are still sinners on this side of heaven, lacking complete sanctification and consequently lazy, self-absorbed, greedy, lying, lustful, fallible, ignorant, finite human beings. Most Christians who attend church services are much more interested in networking with others, finding a mate, being entertained, or learning lessons from pop-psychology on how to be a good person (because for some reason they need reminding weekly), than in reaching out to people who, according to their own theology, are headed straight for an eternal conscious torturous hell.

Compared with an all-knowing God, even the best Christian defenders are bumbling idiots and incompetent fools. Compared with an all-loving God, even the best Christian defenders are utterly self-centered and completely unconcerned that people are going to hell. Compared with an all-powerful God, even the best Christian defenders are totally lacking any energy to help people believe. Surely it stands to reason that many people have not accepted Jesus as their savior because Christian defenders lacked the motivation, the energy, and the necessary smarts to do so. Christians who lacked the smarts haven’t even known where to look for the needed evidence to believe, much less found it. This doesn’t make any sense at all, especially if there’s a flaming hell to pay for those who are not convinced to believe and be saved.

Surely a God like the one Christians believe in could have been more concerned for the lost than hiring the church to do this most important job, surely. If Christians have been incompetent with this task then God was incompetent in hiring them to do it. God should have cared for the lost more than that. As the CEO of his corporation his hiring practices are a failure. God should fire them and do the work himself. (pp. 20-21)
[Dr. Chad Meister, one of the premier Christian apologists of this generation said: "In this book John Loftus provides some insightful criticisms of arguments by Christian thinkers, including those having to do with the problem of evil." I wonder if this question has haunted him since hearing of it? For he and other apologists must answer it before writing their books.] I go on to argue that God, if he exists, should do all the work himself—-without needing any apologists-—thereby attaining much better results than apologists could ever possibly get, and I show how he could have done so with four different reasonable scenarios.

On a practical note, having co-written an apologetics book with Randal Rauser titled, God or Godless?, Christian publishers pay very well. We were given an advance of 10K to split. Just think, I would get the whole advance if they published a book written by me alone. That's just the advance. Christians are lapping these books up by the thousands and thousands. So they take those initial advances up and beyond as the royalties accrue. Surely THAT helps drive up the number of apologetics books!

A second important matter that comes to mind is to wonder why Christians lap up books like this? That's because there's a perceived need for them. Self-help books, successful marriage books, raising children books, and managing money books abound because they meet needs too. So there's probably no better self-help book but one written to help believers be more confident in their faith, since faith--of even the smallest mustard seed kind--can move mountains, or we're told anyway. Do you have problems in your life? With greater faith in God your prayers will be answered. That's the takeaway promise. Only it turns out not to be the case at all as Valerie Tarico shows us in the most detailed four part series on the failure of prayer available.

Christians are doubting their faith so they look to the "experts" to help them through it. In this age of doubt the increasing number of apologists, wannabe apologists and apologetics majors in colleges are indicative of the fact that Christianity is taking some big hits. As this continues trending apologetics has become a cottage industry! Some apologists have even warned that the internet is killing Christianity. [*turns to take a bow with a wink and a smile*] The youth are leaving the fold in record numbers, at the same time there is a rise in apologists. The need follows the demographics.

The future looks bad despite the rise of more apologists.

"In the next decades we will see a massive decrease in evangelical influence politically, economically, culturally, and financially" writes John S. Dickerson, in The Great Evangelical Recession: 6 Factors That Will Crash the American Church...and How to Prepare (p. 26). "260,000 evangelical young people walk away from Christianity each year. Of that number 35% will find their way back, and 65% do not find their way back. Why are they leaving? They don't believe anymore." [Dickerson, pp. 98-102]. "This is not a blip. This is a trend. And the trend is one of decline," said Ed Stetzer [as quoted in Dickerson, p. 32]. Other books are sounding this alarm. We are watching the demise of evangelicalism, and the data comes before the Trumpster President reveals just how ugly these evangelical "deplorables" can be!

I've said it before and will say it again, if all Christians read are Christian defenses of your faith then you're not really interested in the truth. It would be like a Mormon who read nothing but the Book of Mormon, or Mormon defenses of the Mormon faith. It would be like a Muslim who read nothing but the Koran, or Muslim defenses of the Muslim faith. Get the picture? So if you don't read the books recommended by those of us who have rejected faith then you're not interested in the truth. I say this to jolt Christians into making a conscious choice. Either start reading the books we recommend, the ones that led to abandoning our faith, or admit you really are not interested in the truth. I've proposed several in the Debunking Christianity Challenge 2017. Go ahead work your way through them if you truly want to investigate your faith.

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