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A rational critique of Christianity

The Case Against Christianity

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Michael Martin

"Martin has said something fresh and fruitful that theologians and philosophers of religion simply cannot afford to ignore....Every serious student of Christian doctrine would do well to spend time on Martin's insightful chapters."
Free Inquiry

In this systematic philosophical critique of the major tenets of Christianity, Michael Martin examines the semantic and epistemological bases of religious claims and beliefs. Beginning with a comparison and evaluation of the Apostlesí Creed, the Niceno-Chalcedonian Creed, and the Athanasian Creed, Martin discusses the principal theological, historical, and eschatological assumptions of Christianity. These include the historicity of Jesus, the Incarnation, the Second Coming, the Virgin Birth, the Resurrection, Salvation through faith in Jesus, and Jesus as a model of ethical behavior.

Until now, an adequately convincing criticism of Christianity did not exist. Martinís use of historical evidence, textual analysis, and interpretations by philosophers and theologians provides the strongest case made to date against the rational justification of Christian doctrines.

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Excerpt

Read an excerpt from Chapter 1 (pdf).

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Reviews

"A thorough, logical examination of the major tenants of Christianity by a professional philosopher (not a theologian).... [This] is the best book for the intelligent reader that examines the case for and against Christianity.... The book is must reading for all who discuss (or defend) Christianity from a critical point of view."
American Rationalist

"An insightful and provocative rational analysis of the major doctrinal claims of Christianity.... While a creative critique in its own right, this work is in the tradition of Friedrich Nietzsche, Bertrand Russell, Paul Kurtz, and Edmund Cohen among others...."
Choice

"This book is a joy to read. It brings together not only Martinís thoughts about Christianity, but important views, pro and con, from important writers in the field from Russell to Aquinas, Kaufmann to Augustine, Robertson to Kierkegaard, etc.... Martin Ďs presentation of points of view on a topic, in every case, are to the point, detailed, and insightful."
Peter A. Angeles, Santa Barbara City College

"Martin is one of the very few first-rate philosophers who have had the fortitude and patience to carefully read much of the truly staggering amount of non-philosophical literature on Christian topics."
Peter H. Hare, SUNY Buffalo

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Contents

Preface
Introduction

1. The Basis of Christian Belief
Christian Belief and Epistemic Reasons • Christian Belief and Beneficial Reasons • Christian Doctrines and Faith • Christian Doctrines as Basic Beliefs • Conclusion

2. The Historicity of Jesus
The Problem • Skepticism and the Historical Jesus • Wellsís Argument in Brief • The Argument Expanded and Defended • Criticisms of the Wellsian Thesis • Conclusion

3. The Resurrection
Initial Obstacles to Belief in the Resurrection • The Evidence for the Resurrection • The Purposes of the Gospel Writers • The Inconsistency of the Resurrection Story • The Lack of Eyewitnesses • The Reliability of the Eyewitnesses, the Reporters, and the Scribes • Lack of Independent Confirmation • Habermasís Defense of the Resurrection • Conclusion

4. The Virgin Birth and the Second Coming
The Virgin Birth • The Story • The Evidence • The Coherence of the Virgin Birth with Jesusí Genealogy • Belief in the Virgin Birth and Improbabilities • The Relevance of Virgin Birth to the Truth of Theism and the Incarnation • The Second Coming • The Evidence: What Did Jesus Teach? • The Evidence: Was Jesus Correct and What Difference Would it Make? • The Second Coming and Faith • Conclusion

5. The Incarnation
The Conceptual Problems of the Incarnation • Four Conceptual Problems • Morrisís Solution • Evaluation of Morrisís Solution • Conclusion on Conceptual Problems • The Truth of the Incarnation • Morrisís Defense • The Evidence Needed • Conclusion on the Truth of the Incarnation

6. Christian Ethics
What Ethical Principle Did Jesus Teach? • The Ethical Teaching of the Synoptic Gospels • The Moral Practices of Jesus • What Jesusí Practices and Teachings Neglect • Evaluation of Jesusí Ethics • The Love of God and Faith in Jesus Commandments • The Purity of Heart and Language Commandment • The Commandment of Humility • The Love Your Neighbor Commandment • Conclusion

7. Salvation by Faith
Biblical Doctrines of Salvation • Evaluation of the Doctrine • The Dependency on Other Christian Doctrines • The Incompatibility with Belief in an All-Good God • Conclusion

8. Christian Responses
Nonliteralism • The Symbolic Meaning and the Virgin Birth • Demythologizing and Eschatology • Noncognitivism and Agape • Other Possible Responses • Rationalism • Historical Subjectivism • Extreme Fideism or Irrationalism • Moderate Fideism • Christian Foundationalism • Liberal Reductionism • Conclusion

Appendix A: The Divine Command Theory
Varieties of the Radical Divine Command Theory • Evaluation of the Radical Divine Command Theory • The Semantics Problem • Moral Problems • The Epistemological Problem • The Conceptual Problem • A Modified Divine Command Theory • Conclusion

Appendix B: The Atonement
Major Theories of the Atonement • The Ransom Theory • The Satisfaction Theory • The Acceptance Theory • The Penal Theory • The Government Theory • The Moral Theory • The Christus Victor Theory • The Mystic Theory • Conclusion

Biblical Index
General Index

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About the Author(s)

Michael Martin, Professor of Philosophy at Boston University, is the author of The Legal Philosophy of H.L.A. Hart and Atheism: A Philosophical Justification (both from Temple).

Subject Categories

Religion

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