God The Evidence by Patrick Glynn
A Review by Ross Olson
Patrick Glynn has made a remarkable transition from agnostic to believer, based on evidence from creation and conscience -- the transition every intellectually honest seeker ought to make. Because of this, the book is valuable in helping others of similar bent to see that a person with a demonstrated brain can make a case for faith.
In another sense, perhaps Mr. Glynn wrote the book too soon, because he shows signs of theological naivety that put him -- and his readers -- in danger of falling into a syncretistic or pantheistic version of the gospel. Praise the Lord that Mr. Glynn understands sin and salvation but pray that he will continue to grow in wisdom and not be trapped into feeling that he must forevermore continue to agree with his stated opinions (or follow the logical train from his present position to the conclusion that Christianity is only one of the ways).
In his personal search for truth, Mr. Glynn discovered that his tool of choice -- reason -- leads to some absurdities. For instance, a firm basis for morality is lost when the atheistic intellectual line is reeled out to the end, yet morality is absolutely necessary for society and individuals to survive. This was the dilemma of Socrates whose students apparently took the implications of the teaching a bit further than their teacher had hoped and thus he was charged with corrupting the youth of Athens. (It is really a shame that the corruptors of our age do not take their crimes as seriously as the ancients apparently did.)
Early in the book, the only sign of a problem is a compromise common to many warm-hearted believers, that of accepting evolution or at least long ages. (See page 34 of the Prima Publishing 1999 Edition.) Most who take that position have not really thought through its implications for the authority of Scripture. In fact, if there were death long before human sin, even before human existence, then the Bible is misleading not only in its historical assertions, but also in key elements of the gospel, including the meaning of Christ's atonement as the defeat of that enemy death, which entered creation because of human disobedience. Otherwise, death is just part of God's plan for creation.
Glynn goes on to delineate the evidence of God from design, including not only the complexity of living things, but also the way in which even the physical constants of the universe, the whole way in which matter and energy behave, seem designed in a way that makes life possible. He shows the silliness of some of the usual explanations of this "anthropic principle," such as the existence of infinite parallel universes of which ours is just one of those that supports life. He also points to the research -- now coming out of the scientific closet -- on the positive effect of faith on physical and mental health. (He draws heavily on the extensive work of David Larson and the National Institute for Healthcare Research http://www.nihr.org, now called ICISH http://www.icish.org). Glynn wonders if it makes sense to think that we would literally thrive in what the critics call a fantasy world, or if this is actually an indicator that it is our design and our destiny to live in fellowship with our Creator.
In accepting the increasing evidence of a common and somewhat stereotypical "near death experience," he finds in this a rational case for the existence of the soul. Because the counter-explanations (of metabolic disturbances, low oxygen, high carbon dioxide, delirium, hallucinations, endorphin release, birth memory or temporal lobe seizures) all fail to explain the data and because the person having the experience sometimes has knowledge of things going on while they were apparently unconscious and at a distance from the perceived events, there seems to be strong evidence for life outside the body and the existence of a spiritual realm.
Because there is not always a difference between the near-death experiences of Christians and non-Christians, Glynn leans towards a more inclusive theology. He notes that people come back from these near-death experiences as more loving and compassionate people. (In fact, many years ago I suggested to near-death researcher, Dr. Raymond Moody, that perhaps we ought to sentence hardened criminals to "near-death.") From this, Glynn concludes that the purpose of life on earth is to love -- which is surely part but not all of the truth.
The history of spiritism, often neglected or even completely discredited in western society, ought to alert us that those who contact the supernatural realm may indeed touch on things that are real (although the admixture of charlatanism makes it easy for the scoffers to dismiss the whole thing.) But, what they hear and see may not be the truth, for that spiritual realm contains clever and powerful deceivers who do not wish us well.
The Biblical response to near-death experiences must necessarily note the discrepancies between some of the prominent descriptions of these stories and the Scriptural accounts of the hereafter. See my review of Embraced By The Light for an example of that. (http://rossolson.org/new_age/eadie.html) It may be that these experiences take place in what is still the realm of "The Prince of the Power of the Air" and represent a spiritual Disney World of incredible subtlety and persuasiveness. The master deceiver knows that the best counterfeit is as close to the truth as possible while missing the crucial element core of the gospel message.
Unfortunately, Mr. Glynn proceeds from acceptance of the near-death experiences to a revisionism of Scripture and falls smack dab in the middle of the theologically liberal camp. For example, the God of the Old Testament is described as "culturally determined" or "tribal." (page 150) The Scriptures containing the views of the apostle Paul are said to be inferior to Jesus' teachings. (page 151 - 152) Witch burning is said to be like the crucifixion of Christ. (page 150) This is a comparison which mixes just condemnation of the inhumane treatment given those accused of consorting with the dark powers with an implied denial of the reality of witchcraft, or at least the trivialization of its meaning.
The founders of the United States are said to have not been religious but rather "not anti-religious. (page 160) At least, compared to most secular writers, Glynn acknowledges that early America was "steeped in religion" but falls short of noting that the whole structure of the Republic is based on a Biblical world view. See my short article on the founders and the references to Wallbuilders and the resources it provides.
Finally, in an expression that simply reveals a tendency to accept the latest consensus of mainstream academics, Glynn implicitly accepts both relativity and quantum mechanics. (page 165) While this seems like a reasonable first response for a non-physicist to something that must be far removed from the questions of daily life and even of spiritual reality, there are indeed far-reaching implications. Not only can the questions that led to time dilatation and wave-particle duality be explained in other ways than those of current mainstream physics, there is a strong case for the assertion that acceptance of these ideas as fact has broken down the ability to detect illogic. (See Common Sense Science http://commonsensescience.org) And, certainly, today we find bright and educated people unashamedly holding several incompatible ideas in their heads with no sense of conflict.
In summary, Glynn has done a brave thing for an intellectual in documenting a path from the materialistic view of life to faith in the Creator, Who became our Savior, Who is also the Righteous Judge. Although his ideas contain the seeds that might germinate into heresy and apostasy, they are a good start for serious discussions with skeptics and atheists whose false sense of security needs to be challenged. It must be noted that others who seemed to have begun well, such as Elisabeth Kubler-Ross and M. Scott Peck, both moved from their early insights concerning the reality of a spiritual realm into a later pantheistic "New Age" view of that reality which carries them far from the gospel message of sin and salvation. A step in the right direction is a good idea but the spiritual journey potentially has many wrong turns.