Kenneth R. Samples is the resident philosopher and theologian at Reasons To Believe, a Christian think-tank primarily devoted to science apologetics. Samples' latest book, 7 Truths that Changed the World, is an apologetic for the Christian faith's central beliefs and values. The New Atheism movement says that Christianity did indeed influence philosophy and morals, but that those ideas are harmful. Is it true that the ideas of Christianity are bad for people? Ken Samples takes on the question of Christianity's "dangerous ideas" and says, "If as a Christian you find that these dangerous ideas don't rock your worldview, then maybe your faith has become far too safe." Samples' book is organized into seven main sections (one for each "dangerous idea"), consisting of two chapters each.
1. Not all men stay dead
Number one on Samples' list of "dangerous ideas" is that Jesus Christ was executed, but did not remain dead. Modern secularism maintains that all people die and remain dead forever. Likewise, the ultimate fate of the universe is that it will suffer a similar fate, as all life, consciousness, and knowledge is eternally destroyed. However, Christianity says Jesus is alive and that His followers will live forever with Him after death in a completely new universe. Samples provides the evidence that Jesus rose from the dead in the first chapter:
- Jesus' empty tomb
- Jesus' postmortem appearances
- Short time between events and eyewitness claims
- Extraordinary transformation of the apostles
- Paul's conversion
- Emergence of the Christian Church
- Emergence of Sunday as a day of worship
The second chapter deals with objections to Jesus' resurrection, and how those objections lack logical consistency, explanatory power, fidelity to the known facts, and often use unwarranted assumptions and claims that lack any objective support. The first "dangerous idea" is a very concise defense of the resurrection of Jesus Christ and rebuttal to alternative explanations.
2. God walked the earth
The second "dangerous idea" examines the different religious views on the nature of God. Although many that religions share much in common, they are very contradictory about who God is. Christianity claims God took the form of a man (Jesus of Nazareth) and lived on earth. So, Jesus was no ordinary man, but the God-man. Is there evidence Jesus was God incarnate? Samples provides the biblical evidence (mostly in the form of tables) showing that Jesus claimed divinity and possessed the divine nature, in addition to His human nature. The second chapter examines alternative claims about the life of Jesus, including:
- Jesus, the legend.
- Jesus, the learned man.
- Jesus, the liar.
- Jesus, the lunatic.
- Jesus, the lama.
- Jesus, the alien.
Samples shows that the biblical explanation is superior to all alternative hypotheses. The chapter concludes with an examination of how this second "dangerous idea" profoundly altered the course of human history.
3. A fined tuned cosmos
The third "dangerous idea" is that God created the universe ex nihilo (out of nothing) and finely tuned it for our benefit. The biblical claim contradicts many of the other prevalent worldviews, including pantheism, absolute naturalism, and the idea that matter (or the universe) is eternal. Samples goes on to show how the biblical claim produces 20 worldview distinctives that refute many of the speculative claims of naturalism and other religions. The second chapter examines divine providence and the emergence of science, answering such questions as
- Why did God create?
- What about the existence of evil?
- What kind of world is necessary for science to work?
4. Clear pointers to God
The fourth "dangerous idea" is that Christianity provides clear pointers to God. In his first chapter, Samples discusses the explanatory power of atheism compared to Christian theism. Included in this section are discussions of the existence of the universe, beginning of the universe, the order and design of the universe, the ability of human beings to investigate the universe, abstract, nonphysical entities (e.g., mathematics, logic, moral values, etc.), and the existence of conscious beings. The second chapter goes on to examine the reality of objective moral values, human beings' desire for purpose and significance, our innate sense of the divine, the enigma of mankind (i.e., his greatness and wretchedness), the extraordinary life of Jesus Christ, and the meaningful realities of life. Samples argues that the Christian worldview provides the best explanation for why the universe is the way it is.
5. Not by works
Of all the things that distinguish Christianity from other world religions the most striking is the Christian claim that a person cannot become acceptable to God on the basis of one's own good works. According to Samples, "Christianity at its heart is a religion not of self-help but of divine rescue." So, although human beings grade each other on the basis of a curve or passing percentage, God judges on the basis of His own moral perfection. However, the good news of Christianity is that God has created an option for us to opt out of the final exam by His grace through faith in Jesus Christ and His substitutionary sacrifice on our behalf. Christianity's fifth "dangerous idea" radically changes the way we see God. Jesus is not merely a good moral example and teacher, but the means by which people can received the free gift of salvation and eternal life with Him.
6. Humanity's value and dignity
One of the greatest differences between the naturalistic worldview and the Christian worldview comes from their understanding of humanity. According to naturalism, human beings are merely advanced apes. However, Christianity says that human beings were the only creatures created in the image of God—setting them apart from the rest of the animal kingdom. The assertion has huge moral implications. In fact, the Bible declares that murder is evil because humans beings are created in God's image. This underlying claim is why Christians believe human life must be protected against artificial ending of human life in abortion and euthanasia. In his second chapter, Samples outlines seven ways in which humans are distinct from all other of God's creatures:
- Have an inherently spiritual nature
- Possess unique intellectual, cultural and communicative abilities
- Conscious of time, reality, and truth
- Possess a conscience and legislate morality
- Are uniquely inventive and technological
- Possess a curiosity to explore and understand nature
- Appreciate aesthetics and art
Although these characteristics are thought to be good, because human beings are fallen and sinful, these traits can be used to perpetrate even more hideous acts of evil. The paradox of human greatness coupled with human depravity is best explained by through the Christian worldview of the dual nature of human beings. Since the image of God is one of Ken Samples' areas of expertise, these chapters do a great job of presenting Christianity's sixth "dangerous idea."
7. The good in suffering
Christianity's seventh "dangerous idea" is that evil and suffering can lead to a greater good. Samples describes the two main things that contribute to evil and suffering—natural evil and moral evil—and describes two of his own personal experiences with each. Then, he goes on to examine how other worldviews handle the concept of evil and suffering. Many worldviews just ignore the issue or say it is not the main problem in the world. Atheists say that there is too much evil in the world for God to be both omnipotent (completely powerful) and omnibenevolent (perfectly good). Samples points out that the atheists' assumption that God would want to eliminate all evil right now is without justification. According to the Bible, God will destroy all evil at the end of the world. In the meantime, God allows evil for the possibility of a greater good that His creatures might choose. One of the dilemmas atheists face is it is impossible to adequately define or quantify evil from an an atheistic perspective. Atheists tend to borrow definitions of evil from theists, since nature would never declare as evil much of what human beings have defined as such. Why does God allow evil and suffering. Samples gives examples where greater good results from suffering. In addition, God can use suffering to get the attention of nonbelievers (this happened to me). Virtually all of the natural evil is required to make the earth a habitable planet. Ultimately, God's sovereignty will be displayed when evil is conquered and eliminated once and for all.
7 Truths that Changed the World is a good book to get Christians and non-Christians thinking about the big questions of life and how one's worldview addresses those questions. The book shows how Christianity has influenced the world for good, at a time when atheists are claiming that all religions are evil. One might say that 7 Truths that Changed the World is a "dangerous" book for atheists. My only complaint would be that Samples doesn't provide a summary chapter on the influence of Christianity's "dangerous ideas". Since there are many more "dangerous ideas" within scripture, Samples challenges Christians to examine how those ideas have influenced the world for good. To God be the glory!
7 Truths that Changed the World: Discovering Christianity's Most Dangerous Ideas (Paperback)
by Kenneth R. Samples
Publisher: Baker Books
Date published: May 1, 2012
- Book Review: A World of Difference: Putting Christian Truth-Claims to the Worldview Test
- Reflections blog by Ken Samples
- Putting on the Glasses of Truth by Kenneth Richard Samples
- Is Christianity True? Evidence for the Truth of the Christian Religion
- The Hope of Atheism and Humanism: The Ultimate Fate of Life, the Universe, and Everything
- What Will Heaven be Like?
- Where is God When Bad Things Happen? Why Natural Evil Must Exist
- Rich's Testimony for Jesus Christ
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