Review: Religion on Trial

Religion on Trial: Cross-Examining Religious Truth Claims
by Craig A. Parton

So, there’s a lot of religions out there. How do you know which one is true? Are any of them true? How do you test them? Does it even matter? In Religion on Trial, Craig Parton posits a way to test religious claims. Parton is a trial lawyer, and holds religion to the same standards that he would any witness on the stand. As he states in the introduction,

So, whether you are utterly convinced that you are one with God or the divine or that you are an insignificant piece of matter in a gigantic but ultimately purposeless cosmic game, or you are positive that God may be there but is deathly silent, or you are sure that your “religion” is true because it makes you feel good about your balanced spirituality and integrated personality, you should not fear a relentless search for the truth.” (8)

Parton’s presentation is pretty solid. He walks through a bunch of valid questions: Aren’t all religions the same anyway? How do you evaluate them? Do any of them make verifiable truth claims? Does it even matter? By examining evidence and laying out what can’t be controverted, and by presenting everything as if it were a trial, Parton shows an adept hand at talking through what truth is. This book could be very handy for anyone looking for some guidance in apologetics.

That said, I think Parton either hand-waves or assumes knowledge in some areas. For instance, he claims that Islam makes no verifiable truth claims. Maybe it’s just my faulty knowledge, but that seems off to me. He makes similar claims for Mormonism. I know Christianity is unique in claiming to hinge on one historic event – the resurrection of Jesus – but it seems odd to me to just turn aside from other religions without further study. That said, Parton has a number of books out; perhaps he addresses Islam in particular in more depth in one of those.

Parton keeps us firmly rooted in reality, stating that facts don’t have bias. “Neither my faith nor my doubts change the underlying facts” (32). I greatly appreciated that approach. He checks out whether or not we can trust anything from the first century. Don’t we know so much better now?

I also love how he talks about the clarity of the Bible, particularly the New Testament. “There is good reason why 5th grader easily comprehend this writing: the authors themselves are generally common folk with no interest in making their points difficult to discern” (91-2).

The level of this book is a little heavier than “popular” Christian books. Parton is obviously incredibly well-read, and that shows up in his style. That said, it’s not a “professional” level book, either. If you’re looking for something a little heavier that talks about apologetics, or if you’re talking with someone about what truth is, I think this book could be very useful. I do recommend it, and it will be sitting on my shelf for a while!

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