Cover Image: A Good and True Story

A Good and True Story

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Who am I? What is my calling? What is my purpose in life? What am I supposed to be doing with my life? Where am I supposed to be? These questions about our identity, origin, purpose, and significance, can all be answered via two stories: One nonreligious and the other religious. The latter begins and ends with God. The former depends basically on science and a non-religious explanation of life. This includes the five philosophies of scientism, materialism, reductionism, atheism, and nihilism. With these two angles on life, author and professor Paul Gould then compares and contrasts them via eleven aspects of life. These eleven "clues" to life are:

1) The Universe
2) Life
3) Species
4) Humans
5) Morality
6) Meaning
7) Happiness
8) Pain
9) Love
10) Beauty
11) Religion

For any view to be true, he issues a challenge for a more probable explanation for the existence of each of these "clues." These individual subjects are probed scientifically and philosophically, using both lenses of religious and non-religious thoughts.

In "Life," he issues the questions of origin, of how life gets started in the first place, and the meaning of the end of life. He debunks the argument of non-explanation by using the very existence of intelligence. Life itself is pointing us to find out more about its mysteries. Such mysteries include the presence of "Species" where we marvel at the presence of organisms in our world. Gould challenges Darwin's "On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection" assumptions by arguing against the nature of "natural selection" and the unlikeliness of "accidental invention." The creative capacity in life cannot be adequately explained by either of these. On humans, he looks at how evolutionary science and human uniqueness can explain the existence of human beings. These four "clues" are what he calls Lady Nature. The rest of the clues deal more with other features of reality. How do we understand the sources of morality? What is the best explanation of the existence of good and evil? How do we make sense of meaning, of love, and of longing? What about the presence and pursuit of happiness? Is the presence of pain an adequate argument against the existence of God? What are the reasons for love? Is beauty a way in which we acknowledge the transcendent? Gould finally comes back to the topic of religion and calls this his most personal chapter. Not only does he assert the truth of religious thought, he affirms that unique Truth in Christianity.

My Thoughts
A constant theme in this book is the effort to show us that there is more to reality than the physical universe. This is one of the most philosophical books on apologetics I have ever read. Covering both areas of Nature as well as perceptions of reality, he leads us through each of these clues in a manner that is systematic, persuasive, and convicting. He does not shy away from asserting the Christian position. He engages some of the most common propositions by non-religious figures such as Anthony Flew, Douglas Adams, Bertrand Russell, Charles Darwin, David Hume, etc. The way he does it is with respectful references to science, rationale, and common sense reasoning about how to best describe the meaning of life through the eleven clues. By calling this book a "Good and True Story," Gould is telling us that there is a story worth telling, worth discovering, and worth living. Nothing happens in a vacuum. Just because one cannot explain something does not mean we should dismiss them as unexplainable or meaningless. Subtly, Gould is saying to us that belief is a lot more plausible than unbelief in a Creator God.

The author takes pains to lead us through dense philosophical thought. Like a good scholar, he guides us through the various levels of reasoning before giving us his conclusions and the reasons for them. Life happens and things do happen for a reason. It is this presupposition that enables us to continue to quest to discover, learn, and grow in our awareness of the world we live in. Gould has boldly asked big questions about our world. Philosophy is the boldness to engage in life as passionately as possible. If there is any one reason to read this book, it is about opening our minds to consider the possibility of something or Someone larger than us. With humility and a teachable heart, there is much to gain from the reading of this book, chiefly, the call to consider the merits of both the non-religious and religious and to ask ourselves once again: What/Who do we really believe in? The author has given us 11 reasons to believe in a Divine God. For the rest of us, even if only 1 of them could nudge a person toward belief, it would have made the author glad.

Paul M. Gould (PhD, Purdue University) is associate professor of philosophy and director of the philosophy of religion master's program at Palm Beach Atlantic University in West Palm Beach, Florida. He is the founder and president of the Two Tasks Institute, an apologetics institute and podcast, and is on the faculty of Summit Ministries and the Colson Center Fellows Program.

Rating: 4 stars of 5.

This book has been provided courtesy of Brazos Press and NetGalley without requiring a positive review. All opinions offered above are mine unless otherwise stated or implied.

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