A review of How Do You Know You’re Not Wrong?: Responding To Objections That Leave Christians Speechless. By Paul Copan.
Paul Copan is a rising star in Christian apologetics and philosophy. He has written a number of excellent titles defending the Christian faith, on both popular and more academic levels. This volume follows two of his earlier works, namely, True For You, But Not True For Me (1998) and That’s Just Your Interpretation (2001).
In all three volumes he raises common objections to the faith and answers them with wisdom, learning and clarity. In this volume, he examines three categories of objections: the nature of truth, the broad area of science and scientism, and objections to specific biblical and theological claims.
In the first section, for example, he devotes a chapter to pragmatism, the claim that what is true is what works. Copan offers three strengths of this view, but then offers eleven problems with the position. And these shortcomings are profound. Lying, for example, may “work”, but does that make it right, or true?
In section two he lists eight common objections, centered on the supposed clash between science and faith. In these chapters he deals with a number of related themes. Chief among them is the way in which science can tend to overstep its bounds.
Thus Copan distinguishes between science (a helpful discipline when kept in its proper place) and scientism (the idea that science speaks to all truth, and what is not covered by science is not true). The latter is a philosophical position, not testable by the very tenets of science. It is a presupposition that is not itself empirically verifiable.
While science rightly studies the natural world, scientism seeks to say the natural world is all there is: only matter matters. The truth is, as Copan demonstrates, there are many areas of knowledge that go beyond scientific study. The proper domain of science is nature, but we need more than science to understand what may lie beyond nature.
In the third section Copan looks at common complaints about the Christian faith, such as the idea that the church excluded or suppressed certain texts from the New Testament. The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown of course makes such claims. But as Copan demonstrates, the early church leaders did not determine which books would be in or out, they merely acknowledged the authority of existing books.
The various Gnostic gospels that sprang up several centuries after Christ were all seen to be spurious and untrustworthy. Texts like the Gospel of Thomas were clearly at odds with the apostolic writings, and reflected a much different worldview. They also appear on the scene much later.
Thus on a number of fronts, various challenges to the faith are presented and assessed. As with the two previous volumes, these objections are capably dealt with. Not all readers will be convinced by every argument, but at least it becomes clear that there are good answers out there to the host of criticisms leveled against Christianity.