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A Shot of Faith (to the Head): Be a Confident Believer in an Age of Cranky Atheists [Paperback]

Mitch Stokes
3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
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Book Description

April 17 2012

Secular, skeptical, disillusioned. These are the traits that mark our age—encouraged by outspoken atheists who insist that faith is naïve and belief is dangerous. But what if the atheists are the irrational ones? Can their beliefs withstand the rigorous examination that they demand from others?

In A Shot of Faith of Faith to the Head, Mitch Stokes, Senior Fellow of Philosophy at New Saint Andrews College, dismantles the claims of skeptics and atheists, while constructing a simple yet solid case for Christian belief. This profound yet accessible book proves the rationality, consistency, and reliability of the Christian approach to science and life.

If you have ever doubted that your beliefs can stand up to scrutiny—if you’ve ever doubted your beliefs—this book dissolves the questions. For atheists, it is a wake-up call. For Christians, it’s A Shot of Faith to the Head.

Endorsements:

A Shot of Faith to the Head is much more than a defense of Christianity; it takes the offensive against the secularist thinking that enamors so many in the West. With the thoroughness of a scholar and the confidence of experience, Mitch Stokes demonstrates the intellectually dubious nature of the so-called New Atheism and provides Christians with a much needed handbook for the questions they will surely face once they are outside of the safe confines of their Christian communities. I highly recommend it.Larry Taunton, founder of the Fixed Point Foundation and author of The Grace Effect

“A fine book: lively, clear, accessible, but also deep, and deeply competent.” —Alvin Plantinga, Emeritus Professor of Philosophy at the University of Notre Dame, author of Where the Conflict Really Lies: Science, Religion, and Naturalism, Oxford University Press

“The Bible identifies Jesus as the Word and as the Light, available therefore to the mind as well as the heart. Of all religions, Christianity most invites one to think as well as to believe, and in this troubled time that invitation is still more urgent to take up. Here is a book by a skilled thinker, showing how better to think about faith. It is a worthy task, ably achieved.” Larry P. Arnn, PhD, president, Hillsdale College

“This book is what snarky atheists have coming to them for their dismissive claims and unfounded arrogance. Written not to convince atheists but to help Christians defend themselves and the Christian faith, A Shot of Faith to the Head takes the best tools of top-notch apologetics and philosophy and puts them in the hands of every believer. Even better, it’s easy and fun to read, winsome, witty, filled with sharp thinking, and well-researched. As a professor and pastor, I’ll be assigning this book in my apologetics courses and would recommend it to every Christian. It displays strategic answers to questions and objections every Christian has encountered.” —Justin Holcomb, pastor, Mars Hill Church; executive director of the Resurgence; adjunct professor of theology, Reformed Theological Seminary


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About the Author

Mitch Stokes is a Fellow of Philosophy at New St. Andrews College in Moscow, Idaho. He received his Ph.D. in philosophy from Notre Dame. At Yale, he earned an M.A. in religion. He also holds an M.S. in mechanical engineering. He and his wife, Christine, have four children.

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Format:Kindle Edition
Mitch Stokes is simply one more Christian apologist who makes statements that sound good on face value, but don't hold up when you give even one second of thought to them (Michael Coren is another one of these apologists). Let's start off with the subtitle, for instance. For centuries, and right up to today, believers have been torturing and killing non-believers, preventing them from holding public office, burning and banning their writings, and complaining that they shouldn't be allowed to be citizens in their own countries. In spite of this, Mr. Stokes dares to call atheists "cranky" in his subtitle. I wonder if Mr. Stokes is aware that the Romans used to call Christians "atheists"?

Shortly into the book, Mr. Stokes accuses atheists of not being "humble." What does he call the Vatican with its billions of dollars of wealth, the huge churches in the United States, the 60-foot crosses by the highways, the blockbuster movies about Noah and heaven, the robes, the gold crosses, the constant begging for money for the glory of God, and the call to arms for religious war? Is this what Mr. Stokes thinks of as humble? Apparently, he does.

I haven't got enough time or space to point out all of the poor arguments and comments in this book. If you like to have faith without question, then this is the book for you. If you like to question and think about what a writer is saying, then this book will frustrate you with its sad logic.
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By Steven Martins TOP 1000 REVIEWER
Format:Paperback
Mitch Stokes has given a one-two punch to the New Age Atheists through his book 'A Shot of Faith to the Head'. The PhD in Philosophy has really shown its colours in his colourful and artistic defense of the Christian faith and his exposure of overwhelming flaws in the atheistic framework. Covering the basics from the pitfalls of Evidentialism to the skepticism of Agnostics, to even the infamous theory of Darwinism, he provides the necessary tools and resources to make apologetics easier to use and better to understand.

You'll find a variety of books on how to go about apologetics, but Mitch Stokes goes the extra mile in bringing you deeper into the intellect. With pointers at the end of each chapter, and a smooth progression from the first chapter to the last, you'll equip yourself at a higher level intellectually to grapple with the most difficult of non-believers. It is with a gracious heart that I recommend this book to any serious student of apologetics and philosophy; it is an invaluable resource and an assisting tool for the primary discipline of evangelism. Mitch Stokes, you've written what is now one of my favourite academic books.

I've received this complimentary book from the Thomas Nelson Publishing House through the Book Sneeze program in exchange for a review. A positive review was not required and the views expressed in my review are strictly my own.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A double shot of faith and reason June 7 2012
By D Glover TOP 500 REVIEWER
Format:Paperback
This is a thoughtful, clearly communicated, witty and well written response to the new atheists. This response doesn't agree to argue with the atheists from the ground of their own assumptions but shows how those assumptions are themselves highly suspect and depend more on faith and less on observable, objective fact then any of them would like to admit. In fact, Stokes makes it clear that the new atheists aren't actually doing science when they argue for the non-existence of God, since that can't actually be objectively proven. Rather, they are doing philosophy and they are doing it very poorly. This book does a good job of exposing the flimsy philosophy of new atheism.

As part of helping to equip Christians to be able to defend their faith, the author introduces the reader to the work of Alvin Plantinga, and to a lesser degree, Nicholas Wolterstorf and Peter van Inwagen. These are three very intelligent and articulate Christians who also happen to be stellar philosophers by anyone's measure and who successfully defend their Christianity in the academy. One of the key ideas Stokes brings forward is the idea of warrant. Plantinga argues (and Stokes boils it down for the reader) that there is reasonable warrant for belief in God and that, far from what the new atheists claim, and which they themselves cannot live consistently with, not everything ought to be disbelieved until proven by incontrovertible and observable fact. Stokes shows how Plantinga argues convincingly that there is much in life and thought that people, including the new atheists, take on the testimony of someone else or by the authority of a document (like the time and place of their birth, or who their parents are).
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Amazon.com: 4.2 out of 5 stars  98 reviews
21 of 23 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent Intro to Apologetics and the Philosophy of Alvin Plantinga April 17 2012
By George P. Wood - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
Is belief in God irrational? Does science show that God doesn't exist? Does evil?

Over the past decade, New Atheists such as Richard Dawkins, Daniel Dennett, Sam Harris, Christopher Hitchens, and Victor J. Stenger have answered these questions affirmatively. Their best-selling books have promoted the ideas that Christian faith is based on insufficient evidence; that in light of scientific advances, God is a "failed hypothesis"; and that suffering--when not actively caused by believers--disproves God's existence.

Stokes disagrees. Building on the philosophical insights of Alvin Plantinga (who blurbs the book), Stokes argues that theistic belief is rational, that science points to a designed universe (and where there's a design, there's a Designer), and that the problem of evil actually points to an incoherence in atheism (for how can there be moral law without a Moral Lawgiver?). One-sentence summaries don't do justice to the nuances of Stokes's arguments, but they point in the right general direction.

Although New Atheists can read this book with profit, its subtitle points to Stokes's intended readers, namely, Christians. He aims to help them "be a confident believer in an age of cranky atheists" (and I would've added, "atheist cranks"). It is less a book of apologetics, then, than a book about apologetics. And that's a shame, for the Christian book market is saturated with apologetics books written for Christians, and Stokes writes clearly and winsomely enough to directly engage nonbelieving readers. Nevertheless, the book is still worth reading, if only for its discussion of evidentialism.

In epistemology, evidentialism is the notion that, "to be rational, a belief must be supported by sufficient evidence." The "evidentialist objection" to theistic belief is that it "is not supported by sufficient evidence and therefore is not rational." Some Christian apologists subscribe to evidentialism and think Christianity crosses the evidentialist threshold for rationality. Following Plantinga, however, Stokes argues that evidentialism itself is self-defeating, since the chain of evidence for it--or for any other belief--will be circular or infinitely regressive, or will terminate in a basic belief that requires no further evidence. Since circular reasoning and infinite regresses do not produce knowledge, for evidentialism to work, it must be grounded in a basic belief, a belief which requires no evidence. Which means that evidentialism is a belief that doesn't have sufficient evidence. Obviously, that's a problem for evidentialism.

Thankfully, there's a better way to understand rationality. Again, following Plantinga, Stokes argues that "a rational belief is one formed by a properly functioning cognitive faculty operating in the appropriate environment." If, for example, my eyes are working properly and there is enough daylight for me to see clearly, I will form the belief, when I look out my window, that there are cars parked outside my office building. I don't need to infer this belief from other beliefs or provide a chain of evidence for it. Such a perception is a basic belief. There are many other kinds of beliefs that are basic in this way: beliefs formed on memory, for example, or testimony or personal experience. Perhaps, Stokes argues (again following Plantinga), belief in God is also such a basic belief that doesn't need an argument, let alone "sufficient evidence," to render it rational for the believer.

As Stokes point out, basic beliefs have potential "defeaters." Perhaps, for example, my perception of cars in the parking lot below has been caused by a holograph that my coworkers pasted to my windows. Stokes interprets science and evil as potential defeaters for belief in God, but offers arguments for thinking that both potential defeaters are unsuccessful, based on the design of the universe and existence of a moral law. While a believer can be rational in the absence of such arguments or evidences for faith, Stokes nonetheless thinks arguments can be helpful in clearing away objections and in shoring up a Christian's faith.

How, then, should a Christian use this book? In two ways, one intended by Stokes and another not. The intended way is as a manual in Christian apologetics. The unintended way is as an introduction to Alvin Plantinga's epistemology and philosophical theology. Either way, I highly recommend this book to Christian readers.
7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A SHOT OF FAITH TO THE HEAD by Mitch Stokes May 10 2012
By thepaxdomini - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Kindle Edition
A Shot of Faith to the Head: Be a Confident Believer in an Age of Cranky Atheists is a 2012 philosophy-based Christian apologetic by Mitch Stokes, a philosophy professor with an engineering background. It is largely based on the philosophy of Alvin Plantinga, and is intended to help Christians hold their own in discussions with atheists.

The book is divided into three sections, each one addressing a different argument for atheism: that belief in God is irrational, that science has shown that God doesn't exist, and that the existence of evil in the world shows that God doesn't exist.

One of Stokes's central tasks here is deconstructing evidentialism - the argument that any belief must be supported by sufficient evidence to be rational, and which is used to criticize belief in God. This is probably the highlight of the book. In fact, Stokes generally does an excellent job of picking apart atheistic arguments. He doesn't do near as good a job, however, on his pro-Christian arguments, which are often too cursory. That this book was put together solely with Christians in mind makes this understandable (Stokes explicitly assumes a Christian worldview on the part of the reader), but it also means that this isn't really a book you can hand to your atheist friend to read.

While he covers a wide range of atheist scientists and philosophers in his discussions, Stokes leans too heavily on Plantinga for his pro-Christian arguments. A Shot of Faith to the Head thusly serves well enough as an introduction to Plantinga, but it would have been nice to get some other perspectives. However, Plantinga is always Stokes's go-to guy.

A Shot of Faith to the Head will be accessible to any reasonably educated person without a philosophy degree, but it may prove a great deal of work for the reader, as the philosophical and logical concepts here tend to be complex. The summaries at the end of each chapter are helpful in this regard, but the reader will still have a great deal of cognitive processing to do.

On the whole, Stokes's refutation of various atheistic arguments and defense of a rational belief are solid, and A Shot of Faith to the Head is a challenging but worthwhile book.

* * * * *

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookSneeze.com book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Surprising and Valuable Shot Jan. 2 2013
By Phillip H. Steiger - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Kindle Edition
In case you haven't noticed, there has been a barrage of belligerent atheists writing volumes of popular works attacking religion in general and Christianity in particular. And if you are not careful you can get the feeling that they have the upper hand right now. Their books sell well, they make the debate rounds (well, most of them do), and many of them have been guests on a plethora of TV and radio shows. They talk a great game and many have been lead down their primrose path.

It turns out, however, that only one or two layers beneath the overly confident surface lies a surfeit of good ideas. With a little guided and informed examination it is revealed that their bark does not measure up to their bite. Mitch Stokes' book is that examination, and is a very well-guided tour of the problems with the so-called new atheists.

But the book begins in an unexpected place. In fact, I'm not sure I have read a non-technical or popular level book on Christian thought or apologetics that begins where he does. You might expect a book like this to open by dealing with the major arguments for God's existence or the reliability of Scripture or even a blow-by-blow examination of the new atheist's arguments. Instead, Stokes begins with the issues of argument, reason, and knowledge in the first place. Specifically he uses the epistemological work of Alvin Plantinga to argue against the evidentialism, Enlightenment rationalism, and scientific provincialism inherent (and necessary) to the work of the new atheists. In essence, he pulls the rug out from underneath their entire scheme.

From there Stokes deals with what are probably the two most popular and potent attacks on the faith - the assertion that science has `disproved God' and the problem of evil. Both sections are rich with table-turning insight and are profitable for anyone who has confronted these arguments or even doubted because of them.

If you are accustomed to a Christian apologetic being primarily about various arguments, you might end up a little frustrated with Stokes' take on their role and usefulness. He does not get rid of the baby with the bathwater, so to speak, but he does see a need for good arguments to bolster the reasonableness of faith. If I have a quibble with the book it is that I might place more emphasis on the power and usefulness of the arguments themselves, but that did not get in the way of the value of this work for me.

If you are worried because you don't know what any of that means, you are in luck. Though his book will force you to think and slow down a bit, it is entirely readable and accessible if you are ready to do so. I thoroughly enjoyed discovering this book, its treatment of Plantinga's ideas, and it thorough treatment of the new atheists and their arguments.

Stokes states that he wrote this book to encourage the believer and even possibly help anyone toying with doubt, and I think he has done a wonderful job.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Shot of Faith to the Head will challenge even the toughest minds. Jan. 16 2013
By Karen Mundy - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
A Shot of Faith (to the Head) is an excellent read for those looking for ways to answer common questions raised against Christianity. The book focuses on arguments from Atheists, but the information given can be used with various audiences. Dr. Stokes provides both practical and scientific evidence for use in sharing the gospel with those who profess an atheistic belief.

I stepped a bit out of my comfort zone in reading A Shot of Faith (to the Head). It was definitely a challenge to me in many ways. I can normally read a book relatively quick, however this one required much more thought than most reads. I have had many interactions with atheists and encountered many of the arguments addressed in this writing. I found this a book requiring completely undivided attention.

I found the chapter on evolution to be the most beneficial since this is a theory believed by many people, even Christians. The "arsenal" given at the end of each chapter is great to use as a reference when answering questions from unbelievers.

If you are easily challenged when reading, then this may not be the best book for you. I found it difficult to follow along at times and had to read some parts more than once. If there is an Atheist in your life whom loves to challenge you on theology, then this is a must read. The best way to respond to those who argue the scientific "proof" against God is to know the scientific arguments for God.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A double shot of faith and reason Oct. 1 2012
By D Glover - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
This is a thoughtful, clearly communicated, witty and well written response to the new atheists. This response doesn't agree to argue with the atheists from the ground of their own assumptions but shows how those assumptions are themselves highly suspect and depend more on faith and less on observable, objective fact then any of them would like to admit. In fact, Stokes makes it clear that the new atheists aren't actually doing science when they argue for the non-existence of God, since that can't actually be objectively proven. Rather, they are doing philosophy and they are doing it very poorly. This book does a good job of exposing the flimsy philosophy of new atheism.

As part of helping to equip Christians to be able to defend their faith, the author introduces the reader to the work of Alvin Plantinga, and to a lesser degree, Nicholas Wolterstorf and Peter van Inwagen. These are three very intelligent and articulate Christians who also happen to be stellar philosophers by anyone's measure and who successfully defend their Christianity in the academy. One of the key ideas Stokes brings forward is the idea of warrant. Plantinga argues (and Stokes boils it down for the reader) that there is reasonable warrant for belief in God and that, far from what the new atheists claim, and which they themselves cannot live consistently with, not everything ought to be disbelieved until proven by incontrovertible and observable fact. Stokes shows how Plantinga argues convincingly that there is much in life and thought that people, including the new atheists, take on the testimony of someone else or by the authority of a document (like the time and place of their birth, or who their parents are).

Stokes does an effective job of pointing out that so much of the atheist's case against God is actually just bald pronouncement and then a whole lot of yelling and intimidation to "support" their arguments. This book and the arguments and strategies presented herein are a much needed shot of faith to any Christian's head (think "reason enhancing steriods") and its also a shot of faith to the head (think philosophical "right hook") of any atheist who is brave enough to engage the arguments it contains. I wouldn't hesitate to recommend this book to Christians everywhere. It will also serve as a helpful guide to honest searchers and as a bucket of cold ice water down the back of the shirt of some overheated, tirading, cranky atheists as well.
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