A Critical Review of the Book, "In Defense of the Bible," Edited by Steven Cowan and Terry Wilder

Beginning today I’m planning on reviewing select chapters in the new evangelical anthology, In Defense of the Bible: A Comprehensive Apologetic for the Authority of Scripture, edited by Steven B. Cowan and Terry L. Wilder.[To read other entries in this series as I write them, just click on the "Defending the Bible" tag below this post].

In this first post I'm going to introduce the editors and make some general observations/criticisms about the book as a whole.

Steven B. Cowan
Steven B. Cowan earned a B.A. in Sociology from the University of Southern Mississippi; an M.Div. from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary; and an M.A. and Ph.D. in philosophy from the University of Arkansas. He has served as an Associate Professor of Philosophy and Apologetics at Southeastern Bible College, and was an Associate Director for the Apologetics Resource Center. Presently he is an Associate Professor of Philosophy and Religion at Louisiana College in Pineville, Louisiana. He is also the general editor of several of the Zondervan Counterpoints Series. Cowan blogs here.

Terry L. Wilder
Terry L. Wilder holds a Ph.D. in New Testament Exegesis and Interpretation from the University of Aberdeen, Scotland, a M.Div.BL. from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, and a M.A. and B.A. from Dallas Baptist University. He previously served as Academic Acquisitions Editor for B&H Publishing Group (2007-2010), and also as the Research Professor of New Testament and Greek at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary (1997-2010). Presently he is a Professor of New Testament at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. He is a prolific contributor of papers to theological conferences and has written several articles and authored or edited a number of books.

Folks, these two men have impeccable evangelical credentials. They are also well-connected with other evangelicals. If they don't represent the best of the best in evangelical scholarship then few others do. So we should have high expectations that if evangelicalism can be defended at all then they have gathered together in this book the best defenders of it. If it fails miserably and this book is the best they've got, then they've got nothing. Agreed? You should. Otherwise, tell me who best represents evangelicalism if they don't.

You can look inside the book to see the contributors and the topics that were selected for chapters. It's hard to second-guess why some topics were not selected, since there are space limitations (the text is already 463 pages). Still, here is a list of topics off the top of my head that were not chosen as chapters in this book:

What About Child Sacrifice in the Bible. For a primer see this.

Are the Creation Accounts Historically Reliable? On this read Evolving out of Eden

Are There Two Yahweh's in the Old Testament? For a primer see this.

Was Yahweh Originally Part of a Pantheon of Deities? For a primer see this.

If Yahweh had Sons Then Didn't He Have a Wife? For a primer see this.

What About the Documentary Hypothesis? For a primer see this.

There are many others. Perhaps the editors will argue that some of these issues don't directly reflect on the reliability of the Bible. After all, if child sacrifice was commanded by Yahweh, or if the creation accounts in the Bible are myths, or if Yahweh was part of a pantheon of deities, then the Bible accurately reflects these things. However, the question then becomes what this does to their view that God is best represented by the classical theology of Anselm and Aquinas. You cannot adopt them both. Still the best single resource on the incompatibility of Yahweh in the Bible and the God Christians believe in is Jaco Gericke's chapter, "Can God Exist if Yahweh Doesn't?" in The End of Christianity.

So a noteworthy fact about Cowan and Terry Wilder's book is that it has 463 pages of text, and yet, it still doesn't cover the number of topics it needs to do in order to provide a "Comprehensive Apologetic." Even granting that it covers all the essential topics, they are not long enough in length to do them justice. I cannot expect an anthology to do this, and neither do they. So the authors refer to other works in the footnotes that help flesh out this "Comprehensive Apologetic." But let's say we read one of these chapters and are still not convinced. Are we then to read those other works too? Let's say we need further argumentation to some of the other chapters. Are we then to read those other referenced works too? If so, we would be required to read a library of books! Yep, a library of books is what a comprehensive apologetic requires.

The important question left unaddressed by any author in this book is why a work like theirs requires 463 pages, complete with a further reading list equaling a library of books? Why does the Bible need such a defense? Why has their God produced a sacred book that requires a defense at all, or to be fair, why did he produce a sacred book that looks so incompetent, so barbaric, so inconsistent, and so thoroughly a man-made creation that it takes a library of books to defend it? I for one think an omniscient God could have done much better, if he exists. The claim that the Bible is God's word, as these authors make, is therefore inversely proportional to the amount of work it takes to defend it from objections to the contrary, and it requires way too much work to suppose the Bible is God's word. In other words, the less work required to defend the Bible then the more likely the Bible is God's word, while the more work required to defend the Bible then the less likely the Bible is God's word. And from the size of this book of theirs, complete with further references for reading, it is a strong indicator all by itself, before even reading it, that it's not likely the Bible is God's word.

Got it? You should. It's the most reasonable conclusion to reach given the work required to defend the Bible.

Another noteworthy fact is that implicit in the need for such a big apologetics book is that the authors are writing to confirm for other believers what they previously came to believe on other grounds. If believers buy it they have already come to evangelicalism before reading it. So what are the real reasons why evangelicals come to believe? Are those grounds justifiable? And if they are justifiable, like the supposed inner witness of the Holy Spirit, then this book is not needed at all.

If Christians really want to know if the Bible is defensible they should read first-hand what the critics have written, like these books I've recommended. But they won't. 99% of evangelicals (just a guess) will never read what the critics have written because they only seek to confirm what they already believe. They will hardly ever take seriously the idea they were raised to believe incorrectly, even though we know an overwhelming number of believers in different religions learned their religion in the exact same way, on their mama's knees. And we know that honest evangelical scholarship is a ruse. So why trust them? Go to the source and see for yourselves.