Interviewed for Truth Matters

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Recently I was able to interview James Miller, author of the new apologetics book Hardwired.

Me: What moved you to write Hardwired?

James Miller: I have a real passion for students who grow up in the Church but who aren’t prepared to answer the tough questions that will come their way in college.  My prayer is that Hardwired will help engage some of their deepest quandaries.  I already have two agnostic friends who are reading it.

Me: You wrote, “No one has to convince you that you’re home”. I believe that this sums up Hardwired. Could you briefly explain this statement?

JM: There’s a feeling of resonance…

Read the rest here.

The Bestselling Jesus

A review of Killing Jesus, by Bill O’ReillyImage

By James W. Miller

The Last Temptation of Christ witnessed lines of moviegoers and waves of bookbuyers when it was released, largely because Christians threatened to boycott it.  The Passion of the Christ made over $611 million dollars from the hands of the passionately faithful and the militantly opposed.  Zealot, a book that depicted the historical Jesus as something less than the Messiah of God, raced to the bestsellers lists this year, though critics say it offered no new twist on the historical retelling of the life of Jesus.  Bill O’Reilly’s new book, Killing Jesus, is not bound for that kind of glory, for one simple reason: it doesn’t say anything controversial.

Released on September 24th, Killing Jesus, by O’Reilly and cohort Martin Dugard, hovered around #4 on the Amazon bestseller list in the days leading up to it.  By the end of the first day, it was still at #3, standing behind the latest Stephen King and the fourth installment in a young adults science fiction series.  Then on his evening Fox TV show he proclaimed that his book is creating controversy, and that some people think he’s “going to hell for writing it.” Who are these critics?  A few unnamed letter writers.  O’Reilly had a priest and a pastor on the show.  He told them he was getting a lot of heat from evangelicals.  The pastor told O’Reilly that evangelicals “ought to love this book.” O’Reilly replied that “the anti-Christian people” don’t want anyone to read this book.  The priest told O’Reilly that people won’t like the book because it defends the Bible’s accuracy.  O’Reilly assured the audience that the book is footnoted with the facts.  The ordained yes-men assured him he was right.   “I learned a lot,” said the priest.

Finally made it to #2.

But honestly, there’s no controversy here.  The book alternates between a fairly straightforward retelling of the biblical story with only minor narrative expansion, and a fairly unsurprising retelling of the details of the Roman Empire.  As to the latter, the authors hone in on that which is most violent and most sexually depraved, without any particular exploration of the psychology of the Caesars.  The story runs from Herod’s slaughter of the innocents, through the assassination of Julius Caesar, through bloodthirsty stories of Roman military conquests to vile sexual exploits of the subsequent Caesars.  None of this contributes meaningfully to the story of the life of Jesus.  And apparently it’s not scary enough to top Stephen King.

What the book does rightly is to show insistently that Jesus’ life and teachings are inextricably interwoven with the claim to his deity.  This isn’t just a demythologized, historical Jesus narrative, despite the fact that the authors tend away from the miraculous (the disciples “claim” to have seen him walk on water).  And there is an evangelical quality to the book for that reason.  There may be some stragglers who don’t read the serious literature about Jesus but pick this one up from the airport newsstand and end up in some kind of serious exploration of faith.  The Lord works in mysterious ways.  If you just wanted some superficial historical details about the first century world, it’s a fairly painless way to get them.  But the book’s popularity won’t come from a serious literary merit.

Of course, the drawback is that the rising population of Millennials will no longer take the story of Jesus from the hands of Caucasian men in their 60s who talk more about their political agendas than their faith.

The two Catholic authors previously partnered on bestsellers Killing Lincoln, which was criticized for factual inaccuracies, and Killing Kennedy, which the New York Times called “gerund-happy” while accusing the authors of “word mangling.” Both of them stayed on the bestsellers lists for months, the first one for more than a year.  Killing Jesus will be a bestseller as well.  The O’Reilly Factor has around 3 million viewers, and if history serves, he’ll spend the coming months promoting it on a daily basis.  Plus, it’s just hard to get around the fact that Jesus is still a subject that everyone wants to hear about.  But the book won’t be remembered for contributing anything new to conversations about Jesus, either historical or theological.

hardwired cover  Check out Hardwired:Finding the God

  You Already Know (Abingdon 2013)

Advance Praise for Hardwired

I’m so thankful to the scholars and ministry leaders who have given my new book Hardwired a thumbs up.  After the investment of years of work, it’s nice to have someone else enjoy it.  And when you write, you’re never sure that it will happen….

JWHardwired is for all of us who live with doubt and uncertainty about the Christian faith. With wisdom, insight and clarity Jim points the way for anyone struggling with insecurity and disbelief to firmly grasp the idea that what they already know is the perfect place to realize a belief in God. This is a book I will recommend to every young adult wrestling with core and fundamental truth. It is a book I will recommend to every mature and older adult looking for a path forward through doubt, frustration and seasons of distress. It is a book I will recommend to anyone open to the idea that God exists and that He loves them and wants them to know Him. In fact I recommend Hardwired to you. I am certain it will open your understanding of God and deepen your belief in God.”

Jon Wallace, President of Azusa Pacific University

TS“I like Hardwired a lot. It’s smart, confident and quite funny. Miller drills to the core of detached claims to neutrality about God. I can’t wait to give this book to friends of mine.”

Tim Stafford, author of Miracles and Senior Writer for Christianity Today

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TC“A fascinating and highly readable argument for God. Miller avoids the complicated jargon of much contemporary apologetics, and argues in conversational style reminiscent of Lewis and Chesterton that many of our deepest held convictions about the world point unavoidably to a personal God. The book will be of great help to those struggling with doubt. I warmly recommend it.”

Thomas M. Crisp, Chair of the Department of Philosophy at Biola University and Associate Director of Biola’s Center for Christian Thought

JS“Miller’s book is going to provide a map for readers who are yearning to understand how we know what we know to be true regarding faith and life.  There will be lots of insight for who cherish the line by Pascal – ‘The heart has its reasons that reason knows not of.'”

Rev. Dr. Jim Singleton, Jr., Associate Professor of Pastoral Leadership and Evangelism, Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary

SD“Here is a fresh and original look at religious unbelief. In Hardwired, James Miller surprisingly argues that we all—atheists, agnostics, and believers alike—latently believe that God exists and that we depend on God. The book is clever, well-written, and convincing. I recommend it highly.”

Dr. Stephen T. Davis, Russell K. Pitzer Professor of Philosophy, Claremont McKenna College

DG“Rather than gathering evidence that demands a verdict, James Miller plumbs the depth of the human heart, showing us that the things we take for granted provide a sure foundation for deep, abiding faith. The whole approach is surprisingly fresh and compelling. Add to that Miller’s gift for just-the-right analogy and his clear, spare style, and you’ll know why I’m excited to recommend this book.”

Dr. Diana Pavlac Glyer, author of The Company They Keep: C. S. Lewis and J. R. R. Tolkien as Writers in Community

AM“…he [Miller] has the mind of a scholar, the heart of a pastor, and the ability to synthesize those features in a way that few leaders can. In this book Jim challenges many of the intellectual assumptions of traditional apologetics, which start with what we don’t know, and suggests that the most compelling and heartfelt case for the Christian faith starts with what we do know. Just like in his preaching, he takes apologetics out of the ivory tower and brings it to the streets where people live.”

Adam S. McHugh, author Introverts in the Church: Finding Our Place in an Extroverted Culture

PC“James Miller’s book is a very readable reinforcement of the fact that God has placed eternity in each of our hearts. It helpfully supplements various contemporary apologetical arguments by highlighting the personal, practical, and existential themes familiar to all humans—themes that can touch the heart and move it in a Godward direction.”

Paul Copan, Professor and Pledger Family Chair of Philosophy and Ethics Palm Beach Atlantic University, West Palm Beach, Florida

JRHardwired has flipped my traditional thinking of Christian apologetics upside down with sound and logical intellect, peppered with Jim’s quiet humor and personal vignettes. Our hearts are indeed “God’s Positioning System” – the case for Christ has been and is made, we just need to discover it!

Dr. John Reynolds, Executive Vice President – Azusa Pacific University, California and Chancellor, Azusa Pacific Online University

DC“In a world of debate and challenge to the Christian way of thinking, this book is a breath of fresh air in giving guidance and principles of understanding of how faith really works and pulsates in one’s life. Offbeat, different, creative, it’s a new way of looking at how faith is given, nurtured and survives.”

Rev. Dr. Dan Chun, Pastor of First Presbyterian Church of Honolulu, co-founder of Hawaiian Islands Ministries

CC“Jim Miller does an excellent job of turning our questions upside down and helping us know how much we didn’t know we knew.  He suggests a major shift from trying to prove things to people to helping them realize what they already know.  He helps us examine our assumptions and discover what has been missing in our thinking.  This is an engaging and thought-provoking book.  I highly recommend it.”

Rev. Dr. Clark Cowden

Explore the book in paperback or ebook here:hw

Hardwired (Amazon)

Hardwired (Barnes and Noble)

Is There Hope For Apologetics?

by Dan Stringer

reposted from The Common Loon

July 31, 2013

The Common Loon BooksChurchTheology 4 Comments

HardwiredI remember attending a debate in college between a Christian and an atheist.

Before it started, the room was abuzz with anticipation, like a stadium before kickoff. After the competitors were introduced to applause and scattered boos, they each proceeded to argue forcefully for their belief system, trading punch lines and other rhetorical jabs. Along the way, they interrupted, misquoted and belittled each other’s views. They called each other names and triumphantly scoffed at how misguided the other person was. In their concluding remarks, both sides claimed to have scored the most points, which was curious given the absence of a scoreboard.

I don’t recall anyone being officially declared the winner that night, or if anyone left the room with different beliefs than when they entered. I wonder if the real losers were members of the audience, or at least those of us who had hoped for better.

Over a decade later, I now find myself as a pastor, a vocation predicated on the existence of God. Yet I still have mixed feelings when the subject of apologetics arises. Perhaps I’ve seen it done poorly too many times. Or maybe I’m turned off by the defensive, almost desperate, salesmanship that belittles opposing viewpoints. Or it could be that I can’t stomach the dissonance between apologists’ typical form (rhetorical flourishes and deductive “proofs” designed to score points for God) and their content (the message of God’s love, grace and hope for the world).

Apparently, my friend Jim Miller, also a pastor, has a few mixed feelings about apologetics too. In the opening chapter of his new book Hardwired: Finding the God You Already Know (Abingdon), Jim writes:

Most people who believe in anything, religious or otherwise, did not get there by listening to a debate, and meaningful beliefs do not often rest on academic research. That isn’t to suggest faith and reason are unrelated. There are those who think that God gave reason to humanity the way a father gives a BB gun to his son, telling him, “You can play with that thing all you want. Just don’t point it at me.” To the contrary. In fact, the Scriptures say that God intends for people to come looking for him. He isn’t afraid of our reasoning.

If God isn’t afraid of our reasoning, perhaps he intends for us to search without fear of what we might find (Matthew 7:7-11). While I’m generally not a huge fan of apologetics, I look forward to reading the rest of Jim’s book because he understands that a rational, academic case for God’s presence can only take you so far, especially when everyone uses a different scoreboard. A philosophy buff with an eye for the accessible, Jim doesn’t blast his readers with data and argumentation, but instead helps us catch glimpses of God in our everyday assumptions.

So maybe it’s not a stretch to hope for a better, redeemed approach to apologetics. Rather than trying to dissolve the conversation with a litany of airtight rebuttals to all possible objections, we can set our sights on becoming a different kind of people, the kind of faith community with a capacity to offer helpful responses in the context of authentic relationships when the big questions hit.

Who knows? We might even keep the conversation going.