New Release: Proofs of God

Cover ArtLeading theologian Matthew Levering presents a thoroughgoing critical survey of the proofs of God’s existence for readers interested in traditional Christian responses to the problem of atheism. Beginning with Tertullian and ending with Karl Barth, Levering covers twenty-one theologians and philosophers from the early church to the modern period, examining how they answered the critics of their day. He also shows the relevance of the classical arguments to contemporary debates and challenges to Christianity.

——–

“A splendid survey; ideal for students and for the intellectually curious of every vocation. Levering fits an enormous range of information in a small space without any sacrifice of detail or clarity.”—David Bentley Hart, author of The Experience of God

“This is the best kind of book: intellectually serious, lucid, and covering a topic of great importance and perennial interest….For a reliable depiction of the Christian enterprise of thinking about reason and the question of God’s existence, this is the book to read.”—Paul J. Griffiths, Duke Divinity School

“A careful, scholarly treatment of the history of attempts to argue for and against the existence of God.”—C. Stephen Evans, Baylor University

“Matthew Levering’s panoramic, well-documented Proofs of God is a wonderfully insightful and wisely argued defense of theistic proofs.”—Paul Copan, Palm Beach Atlantic University

“An indispensable point of entry into the seminal texts on God and his existence. No philosophy or theology bookshelf should be without this gem.”—Michael G. Sirilla, Franciscan University of Steubenville

“In this extremely helpful book, Matthew Levering offers what is perhaps the best contemporary historical overview of the major positions on the subject of natural knowledge of God.”—Fr. Thomas Joseph White, OP, Thomistic Institute, Washington, DC

——–

Matthew Levering (PhD, Boston College) is the James N. and Mary D. Perry Jr. Chair of Theology at Mundelein Seminary, University of Saint Mary of the Lake, in Mundelein, Illinois. He previously taught at the University of Dayton. Levering is the author of numerous books, including The Theology of Augustine, Engaging the Doctrine of Revelation, and Ezra & Nehemiah in the Brazos Theological Commentary on the Bible series.

For more information on Proofs of God, click here.

The Surprising Growth of Christianity – an Excerpt from The Patient Ferment of the Early Church

The following is an excerpt from Alan Kreider’s The Patient Ferment of the Early Church.

——–

No one disputes that the early church was growing, but its growth is hard to measure. For a long time scholars assumed that Christian growth was so rapid that in the early fourth century, on the eve of the emperor Constantine’s accession, five to six million people—between 8 and 12 percent of the imperial populace—were Christian. The most confident statement of this approach was given in the 1990s by a sociologist, Rodney Stark, who calculated that for the church to reach this level, it grew across the first three centuries by 40 percent per decade.

Stark’s confidence has attracted wide assent but also withering criticism, not least from ancient historian Ramsay MacMullen, who has demanded solid, archaeological evidence and posited a much smaller Christian number by AD 310. Debates and speculations will continue as scholars study particular areas in detail. For now, we can safely assume three things:

Cover Art• Christian numbers were growing impressively in the first three centuries.

• This growth varied tremendously from place to place. In certain areas (parts of Asia Minor and North Africa) there were considerable numbers of Christians. But in other areas there were few believers. And some cities, such as Harran in Mesopotamia, were known to be virtual “Christian-free” zones.

• By the time of Constantine’s accession, the churches not only had substantial numbers of members; they extended across huge geographical distances and demanded the attention of the imperial authorities.

It is not surprising that this movement—both growing and worldwide—was buoyant and confident.

We tend to assume this growth and to forget how surprising it was. Nobody had to join the churches. People were not compelled to become members by invading armies or the imposition of laws; social convention did not induce them to do so. Indeed, Christianity grew despite the opposition of laws and social convention. These were formidable disincentives.

In addition, the possibility of death in persecution loomed over the pre-Constantinian church, although few Christians were actually executed. In many places baptismal candidates sensed that “every Christian was by definition a candidate for death.” More generally, as Kate Cooper has pointed out, Christians knew that they, as members of a “dubious group,” were vulnerable to being “turned in” by their neighbors or by others who wanted to see them deprived of privileges. In the 240s Origen commented about the “disgrace among the rest of society” that Christians experienced. Christians had to be cautious.

Nevertheless the churches grew. Why? After 312, when the emperor Constantine I aligned himself with Christianity and began to promote it, the church’s growth is not hard to explain. But before Constantine the expansion is improbable enough to require a sustained attempt to understand it. The growth was odd. According to the evidence at our disposal, the expansion of the churches was not organized, the product of a mission program; it simply happened.

Further, the growth was not carefully thought through. Early Christian leaders did not engage in debates between rival “mission strategies.” The Christians wrote a lot; according to classicist Robin Lane Fox, “most of the best Greek and Latin literature which remains [from the later second and third centuries] is Christian.” And what they wrote is surprising. The Christians wrote treatises on patience—three of them—that we will study in this book. But they did not write a single treatise on evangelism.

©2016 by Alan Kreider. Published by Baker Academic. Unauthorized use of this material without express written permission is strictly prohibited.

——–

For more information on The Patient Ferment of the Early Church, click here.

New Release: The Patient Ferment of the Early Church

How and why did the early church grow in the first four hundred years despite disincentives, harassment, and occasional persecution? In this unique historical study, veteran scholar Alan Kreider delivers the fruit of a lifetime of study as he tells … [Continue reading]

Foundational Texts – an Excerpt from Sacred Tradition in the New Testament

The following is an excerpt from Stanley Porter's Sacred Tradition in the New Testament. ——– The importance of understanding the OT background to the NT should not be underestimated. Even though, as we saw in the previous chapter, numerous … [Continue reading]

New Release: Sacred Tradition in the New Testament

Leading biblical scholar Stanley Porter critiques the state of research regarding the New Testament’s use of the Old Testament and sacred traditions. He provides needed orientation for readers interested in New Testament references to themes such as … [Continue reading]

Unity, Plurality, and the Gospels – an Excerpt from The Fourfold Gospel

The following is an excerpt from Francis Watson's The Fourfold Gospel. ——– The present book takes its cue from the fact that the four gospels are also a fourfold gospel. Each text is as it is only in relation to the others. The gospel texts retain … [Continue reading]

New Release: The Fourfold Gospel

This groundbreaking approach to the study of the fourfold gospel offers a challenging alternative to prevailing assumptions about the creation of the gospels and their portraits of Jesus. How and why does it matter that we have these four gospels? … [Continue reading]

BA Books & Authors on the Web – April 15, 2016

Scott Sunquist was interviewed on the Bible Gateway Blog about his book The Unexpected Christian Century. "In 1900 religionists—people following and studying religions—assumed Islam would become the religion of Africa. They were wrong. They thought … [Continue reading]

Founder, Corrupter, or Defender? – an Excerpt from Paul as a Problem in History and Culture

The following is an excerpt from Paul as a Problem in History and Culture by Patrick Gray. ——– While the notion that Paul founded Christianity should not be rejected out of hand as patently ridiculous, neither is it as self-evident as its … [Continue reading]

New Release: Paul as a Problem in History and Culture

As one of the most significant figures in the history of Western civilization, the apostle Paul has influenced and inspired countless individuals and institutions. But for some, he holds a controversial place in Christianity. From antiquity, Paul … [Continue reading]