Book Review - 7 Truths that Changed the World

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As a pastor of a church plant with many new Christians, I found 7 Truths that Changed the World by Kenneth Richard Samples, to be a great foundation for a sermon series on the simple foundational truths of Christianity. The author does a great job of taking very complex subjects and making them palatable for the common reader like me. The book is not overbearing with the amount of information, nor is it too weak in defending the truth. It is a perfect balance between the academic and practical.

The book is built around the seven truths, with a section devoted to each of them.  Samples articulates and defends the specific truth and also explains the positions of other prominent worldviews.   This review will focus on a brief summary of the author’s explanation and defense of each of the seven truths.

Dangerous Idea #1: Not All Dead Men Stay Dead

The hope of Easter is defended quite well by Mr. Samples.  Samples deals with the following seven historical facts: the empty tomb, the postmortem appearances, the short time frame between actual events and eyewitness claims, the extraordinary transformation of the apostles, the greatest conversion in history, the emergence of the historic Christian church and the emergence of Sunday as a day of worship. Each of these points are summarized and a fundamental defense of the resurrection of Christ is advanced. 

In this section, I particularly enjoyed chapter two.  Here the traditional and contemporary arguments against the resurrection are examined.  For example, the legend or myth argument, which simply argues that myth has encrusted the facts of Jesus’ life, is dealt with thoroughly.  Samples insightfully points out that resurrection accounts are not written like other mythological writings of the day, that the apostles knew the difference between fact and legend and that there simply was not enough time for a legend to develop between the resurrection and the penning of early apostolic creeds (i.e., 1 Corinthians 15:3-6) and the gospels.

Other errant theories addressed include the stolen body theory, the wrong tomb theory, the second burial theory, the apparent death theory, the hallucination theory, the twin brother theory, the disembodied visions theory, and the superior explanatory theory.   Even though I had never heard of some of these, such as the twin brother theory, it was helpful to see what is being argued today and what people actually believe as a plausible explanation of the supernatural.

Mr. Samples ends by explaining how this truth changed the world.  The author states, “The historic Christian church has been the most powerful force for good in the history of the world.  Its very existence is an enduring evidence of Christ’s bodily resurrection from the grave” (pg. 40).

Dangerous Idea #2: God Walked the Earth

Clearly the incarnation of God is a uniquely Christian truth that has changed the world.  Samples does a good job summarizing the views of world religions and bringing clarity to an often-confusing subject.  He walks through the hypostatic union and the doctrine of kenosis with brevity.  He makes use of several charts to organize the scriptural and creedal support for the incarnation being a historical truth that is uniquely Christian. 

In this section Samples also details the arguments and answers for Christ’s life.  In this section he covers legend hypothesis, learned man hypothesis, liar hypothesis, lunatic hypothesis, lama hypothesis, and lunar alien hypothesis.  The great thing about this is how the author handles both common explanations and new explanations for the divine. 

Dangerous Idea #3: A Fine-Tuned Cosmos with a Beginning

To be honest I wanted to rush ahead and read this section knowing that there is a rising trend of apologists such as William Lane Craig and Tim Keller who reject young earth creationism for a more compromised position.  Samples seemed to drag his feet before clearly stating the world is nearly 14 billion years old aligning himself with Craig and Keller.  Samples states:

The universe appears to be a contingent reality.  Big-bang cosmology gives powerful evidence that the universe is contingent.  As we saw earlier, this prevailing scientific view of cosmology asserts that the space-time-matter-energy universe had a distinct and singular beginning nearly 14 billion years ago.  Therefore, the universe appears to be an effect—dependent on something outside of and beyond itself (a transcendent causal agent)—unless one affirms the incredible claim that something can come from sheer and utter nothingness. (pg. 100)

Here it is clear that Samples does not except a more literal rendering of dates found in the Old Testament.  Although the author never clearly states his official position or interpretation of the first three chapters of Genesis it is hard to imagine that Samples adheres to a strict literal, grammatical, historical hermeneutic there. 

He does a masterful job, however, in giving other evidences for the need of a creator and explaining the cosmological argument thoroughly.  Even with this strength in mind, truth number three remains the most disappointing part of the book.   To see men like Samples abandoning a literal grammatical hermeneutic is troubling.  I believe they do so partly out of intimidation, and partly out of the false delusion that the academic community rejects the truths of Christianity solely on intellectual grounds rather than from a depraved heart.

Dangerous Idea #4: Clear Pointers to God

To avoid making this review too long the reader should simply know that this truth covered the philosophical arguments for the existence of God.  These are logical (not scientific) arguments, and they are not familiar to your average young earth creationist.  But these truths are powerful, and making oneself familiar with them is highly recommended.

Dangerous Idea #5: Not by Works

In this section, Samples thoroughly explains how all other religions are based on some sort of works based system.  He details the view of the man on the street, demonstrating that most believe in some sort of works based system.  Here the problem and ramifications of sin, both personal sin and the sin nature, are explained. And the author also provides masterful exposition of Ephesians 2:8-9, which was the highlight of this section.  Samples then closes out the section by explaining the full impact of Christ’s death on the cross.

Dangerous Idea #6: Humanity’s Value and Dignity

The author details how humanity’s value and dignity is taught and championed by Christianity.  Most helpful was the clear explanation of what it means to be created in the image of God.  People are spiritual beings like God—personal, self-conscious, rational, volitional, relational, immortal, and powerful.  The author also briefly explains the three major views of what being made in the image of God means: the resemblance view—humans possess a formal nature that serves to resemble God; the relational view—humans are most like God when it comes to their unique relational qualities; and the representative view—humanity is most like God when exhibiting dominion.

Dangerous Idea #7: The Good in Suffering

In this section, one of the greatest arguments against the existence of God—suffering, is revealed as good and as one of the greatest truths that changed the world.  I found Samples’ four reasons why God allows evil and suffering very helpful:

  1. God has a morally sufficient though not yet fully disclosed reason for allowing evil and suffering.
  2. God allows evil and suffering because of the greatest good that results from it.
  3. God may use evil and suffering to get a nonbeliever’s attention and ultimately draw that person to himself.
  4. Natural evil or physical forces, while capable of unleashing much destruction and harm, are actually necessary for making Earth a habitable planet.

Samples also covered other reasons for suffering in the life of the believer and did an excellent job covering all aspects of this subject.

Conclusion

In all, this book serves as a good resource and as a decent primer for the busy pastor or layman who would like to cover traditional and contemporary issues in apologetics.  I found the book both encouraging and edifying.   In reading this book, you will encounter seven dangerous truths that changed the world. These truths also have the potential to change your faith.

About the Author

Kenneth Richard Samples is a senior research scholar with Reasons To Believe, the premier science-religion think tank. An adjunct instructor of apologetics at Biola University, Samples is the author of Without a Doubt and A World of Difference. He lives in Southern California with his wife, Joan, and their three children.

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Steve Davis's picture
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Since 7/25/09 21:47:12
293 posts
Compromised position?

Thank you for your review. It looks like a book worth reading and I plan to do so.

I would take issue with your opinion on the motivation of those who do not accept a young earth position.

You say: "To see men like Samples abandoning a literal grammatical hermeneutic is troubling.  I believe they do so partly out of intimidation, and partly out of the false delusion that the academic community rejects the truths of Christianity solely on intellectual grounds rather than from a depraved heart."

When I hear this line of reasoning I wonder why these men would be intimidated or deluded about this issue and yet hold to the other dangerous ideas mentioned in the book. If someone denies the existence of God, creation according to Genesis (regardless of time frame), then they also deny the virgin birth, incarnation, resurrection, second coming, etc. There are many in the academic community who accept the truths of Christianity that are not intellectually palatable to others yet also accept what they believe to be credible evidence on the age of the universe/earth.

Now of course these truths of Christianity are beyond the exploration of science which cannot explain the supernatural. And science cannot adequately explain origins before the supposed Big Bang. However the age of the earth is something that can be examined whether one agrees with the scientific consensus or not. The universe appears to be 14 billion years old. The earth appears to be 4.5 billion years old. I have yet to see a convincing argument for a "more literal rendering of dates found in the Old Testament" before Abraham.

When you say that these men "reject young earth creationism for a more compromised position" there is no room for debate. These men are not capitulating to science IMO. They are looking at evidence in an area in which science does have a word to say. While some like Enns have discarded a literal Adam and Eve I don't think most inerrantist, conservative old earthers have done so. They are wrestling with seeming monumental evidence that the earth is older than the 10,000 years or so allowed by YEC (I realize that not all YEC might be tied to 10,000). There are other competing explanations on why the earth appears old - created looking old, universal flood, etc.

While committed to "A Fine-Tuned Cosmos with a Beginning" I confess to being agnostic, at this time, on the age of the earth. I am not agnostic on the historicity of Adam since Jesus and Paul affirmed his existence. I am not agnostic on any fundamental of the faith. These are outside the domain of science. I also remain open to being convinced by YEC arguments. Yet I do not for a moment consider all other positions compromised when they affirm divine creation and at the same time try to wrestle with questions either not raised/answered in the Bible or not of interest to the original audience.

This is a discussion that needs to be had. Earth age points of view need to be engaged rather than all dismissed as compromise.

Steve Davis

 

jhowell's picture
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Since 2/16/11 15:54:13
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correction

Daniel Ruiz is not an adjunct professor at Bible Baptist College in Clarks Summit, PA, although he may be one at Baptist Bible College of Clarks Summit, PA.

Thanks for reading ...

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Since 12/30/09 13:10:26
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 Steven,  Thank you for

 Steven,  Thank you for thoughtfully reading the review.   It is just my opinion concerning the motivation behind their position. Just one simple man's speculation.  Possibly I should have given it more thought.  I am not a scientist by any means, neither do I know the men personally. However, I do see a disturbing trend toward a progressive position among the intellectual elites in Evangelicalism.   Although I love listening to Craig and Keller I struggle to see how they can come to the conclusions they do about a young earth and those that hold the position.  

 

Also, it is Baptist Bible College thank you.  I really only teach online courses but it makes me feel important. :) 

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Since 7/20/09 14:36:26
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Appearances. Appearances. Appearances.

Those nuisome appearances! And that silly old Copernicus, teaching us that things aren't as they appeared. Or was it things aren't as they appear . . . ?

Steve Davis's picture
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Since 7/25/09 21:47:12
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Appearances

mbruffey wrote:

Those nuisome appearances! And that silly old Copernicus, teaching us that things aren't as they appeared. Or was it things aren't as they appear . . . ?

 

Oh yes, Copernicus, but not Moses, because the age of the earth doesn't seem to be of great concern to him. I'm not arguing for an old earth. I simply am not convinced, at least yet, by young earth arguments and do not see this as clearly as others seem to.

My point was that in my opinion the motivation is not intimidation or "false delusion" about the academic community in part because the old earthers mentioned will never be accepted by many in the academic community as long as God is attached to the matter or they hold to the truths of Christianity which are not "scientific" - virgin birth, resurrection, regeneration, Holy Spirit, etc.

Disagree if one will but the talk of capitulation or compromise ends a matter before hearing it.  Does the universe appear old because it is old or does it appear old and really is young? If it only appears old and is really young then there needs to be more than assertions to counter old earth arguments.

At the end of the day I'm not sure many minds will be changed either way. What will need to be determined is if one can disagree with men like Keller and Craig without accusing them of compromise and capitulation. Of course for many this is a separation issue. but should it be?  

TylerR's picture
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Since 9/7/12 14:42:56
1143 posts
Steve

I appreciate your candid and courteous response to the YEC position. I want to point out a few theological implications of OEC for discussion:

1. God said everything in his creation was "good" in its original state.

2. OEC must maintain, in one form or another, that there was death before the fall in Gen 3. How does this square with God declaring His original creation "good?"

3. The new heavens and the new earth the Lord will eventually create will bring everything full circle once again. The conditions as they were in the un-fallen world will be re-created, free from sin. The lion will lie down with the lamb, etc (Isa 11:6-9). If the restoration will be free from sin and death, why should we assume the original un-fallen world DID have sin and death?

4. Both the atonement and God's Kingdom are necessarily denigrated with an OEC view. Just what type of world is Christ saving anybody from? If we have death before the fall, the salvation we have in Christ is much less glorious. The mansion He is preparing for us is somehow less grand. God's whole overarching purpose is to redeem this fallen creation for His own glory - if the un-fallen world was replete with death, just what is so glorious about the new one He has in store for those He has saved?

I have not dealt with the scientific issues here; this is strictly theological. I believe they are good points to consider as we look at YEC vs OEC. I firmly, and respectfully, believe the OEC position is the result of eisegesis.

Good people who love the Lord disagree with YEC. The theological implications, however, are too much for me.

 

TylerR is the Pastor of Faith Baptist Church in Divernon, Il. He blogs here

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Since 7/9/09 09:36:02
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Steve, I am a YEC, but don't

Steve, I am a YEC, but don't necessarily believe the dates are aligned specifically with Usher's dates.  I don't believe it is 13 billion years old though.  With that said, while science may view the world in these terms, the issue is that we are going back and re-examining a fairly clear teaching of Scripture, on a supernatural event (which defies science by it's very definition) and we are trying to align it with science.  Great portions of Scripture do not align with science, so while someone can mention that they can believe in an old earth without compromising Scripture, it invariably doesn't end there.  If you are willing to not accept Scripture at face value and are willing to "bend" because science appears to have incontrovertible evidence, it will lead you down the road of Peter Enns, since science also appears to validate evolution, and the fact that there was no global flood, and the fact that 1 million people wandering in the desert was most likely a logistical impossibility, but they left no shred of evidence of their presence, and that dates don't line up in the Scripture...........

If you are looking for a way to develop an argument that can conclusively align a YEC view with science, you most likely will never find it.  But that is not only the case for many facts in Scripture, but also the very foundation of Scripture.  The very concept of a God defies humanistic science, humanistic ethics (why would a God kill people), humanistic morality....

Steve Davis's picture
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Since 7/25/09 21:47:12
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Death before the fall

TylerR:

I'm not a defender of OEC but your questions are valid and have been answered by OEC proponents, of course not to the satisfaction of all. However questions do not support a position.

Many do not see animal death outside the garden as incompatible with God's creation being good. If the whole earth was paradise, why establish a garden? Or why equip lions to look like carnivores unless the teeth became different after the fall? Do we really suppose that no fish ate other fish until after the fall, that the whole ecosystem suddenly changed overnight following Adam's sin? These are questions that I have and the responses of YEC have not been compelling to me. The imagery of Isaiah 11 can be pressed to the point of missing the point.  Do we imagine "the nursing child shall play by the cobra’s hole" to indicate what these children will really be doing or does it picture the conditions which will prevail under the rule of King Jesus?

Dgszweda:

I think those who hold the OEC position would disagree that they are bending and not accepting Scripture at face value.  As far as reexamining a "fairly clear teaching on a supernatural event" - there is no denial of the supernatural. OEC does not questions the fact of divine creation. Rather they are asking questions on the how. 

As long as this issue is seen as a question of biblical authority rather than biblical interpretation there will continue to be charges of capitulation, denigration, or worries about where this compromise will end. We would be better to wrestle with the issues as both OEC and YEC have done with irenic debates between proponents - Hugh Ross, Danny Faulkner on the age of the universe, etc. , some which were held on the John Ankerberg show. 

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Since 7/9/09 09:36:02
256 posts
Steve Davis

Steve Davis wrote:

Dgszweda:

I think those who hold the OEC position would disagree that they are bending and not accepting Scripture at face value.  As far as reexamining a "fairly clear teaching on a supernatural event" - there is no denial of the supernatural. OEC does not questions the fact of divine creation. Rather they are asking questions on the how. 

While the "how" is interesting to conjecture, it is not clearly explained in Scripture, and therefore no resolution can be made.  Same for Noah's ark.  The concern that I have is that OEC, is not approaching this from an exegesis of Scripture, but with a focus on science.  The premise is that because science views things differently, we must now look back through Scripture see how we can either make things work or develop other hypothesis.  While there may be a few OEC's that may not bend things, a lot of them do, such as bringing in Near Eastern thought processes and developing new theories around how the book has been authored, or re-examining a real Adam....... and the list goes on.  The fact is that science "appears" to contradict the teaching in Scripture.  And that may not necessarily be a bad thing.  I use "appears" because again, science is the process of observation, and there is not absolute certainty on anything when you begin extrapolating things.  Creation was supernatural, and because it was it will have ripple effects on how science can possible view this act.  Science can never objectively view a supernatural event, because there is no room in science for this.  There isn't even room for a God in today's secular scientific circles.  BTW, some OEC's do deny a lot of the supernatural elements of the creation account. 

 

Quote:
As long as this issue is seen as a question of biblical authority rather than biblical interpretation there will continue to be charges of capitulation, denigration, or worries about where this compromise will end. We would be better to wrestle with the issues as both OEC and YEC have done with irenic debates between proponents - Hugh Ross, Danny Faulkner on the age of the universe, etc. , some which were held on the John Ankerberg show. 

 

The debates are pointless in my perspective.  First, because too many times YEC try to revert to using science to argue science and in the end develop silly conclusions, many of which are abandoned a few years later by YEC scientist.  Second, I believe in the end this is not a scientific debate, but a debate on faith.  I would almost say the core foundations of faith.  As Christians we are eager to throw out philosophical arguments against Scripture, but we struggle when it comes to scientific arguments.  Somehow Christians struggle with the perceived idea that Science is a unique discipline that can only derive facts.  The fact is that science is a practice of observation made by a being that has almost an infinite loss of knowledge of how reality actually works.  Yes, we can drop a ball and detect how fast it is, but gravity itself is still a mystery.  It is a mystery as to why an atom has 95% empty space, yet we still consume mass.  And that is only the tip of the iceberg, to issues on items we can observe today.  Forget about trying to extrapolate things out to billions of years.  Our Christianity requires faith (even against the odds of science), and we must constantly re align ourselves with the facts of Scripture.  Where Scripture is clear we must be clear, where it is not, than we shouldn't so dogmatic.  Scripture is quite clear that creation took place over 6, 24 hour days.  How it is done we have no idea, except that is was supernatural, and that this supernatural element was so great that it cries out the glory of God.  We can conjecture how it was done all day, but we will have no certainty.  The focus to try to make secular science match Divine Special Revelation, is a losing battle in my book.  I believe the reason that you have gotten frustrated with most YEC people is that they try to develop silly scientific arguments to appease the concerns of others.

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