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Lawyer puts atheism on trial, asks readers to weigh the evidence

Scott Sager reviews Mark Lanier’s ‘Atheism on Trial: A Lawyer Examines the Case for Unbelief.’

Attorney and biblical scholar Mark Lanier just released a powerful new book, “Atheism on Trial: A Lawyer Examines the Case for Unbelief.” This latest book is part of a three-book project following “Christianity on Trial” (2014).

W. Mark Lanier. Atheism on Trial: A Lawyer Examines the Case for Unbelief. IVP, 2022. 216 Pages. $16.99.

W. Mark Lanier. Atheism on Trial: A Lawyer Examines the Case for Unbelief. IVP, 2022. 216 Pages. $16.99.

Lanier, founder of the Lanier Theological Library and a practicing attorney, has spent almost four decades in courtrooms across America arguing landmark cases in pharmaceutical, medical and antitrust cases. In this book, he beautifully combines his love for Scripture and his passion for the law into a powerful argument for the existence of God. Lanier writes with five of his friends in mind — all lawyers who deny the existence of God.

The book begins with the reader in the jury box as Lanier makes his introductory remarks, a legal primer to help jurists to the end-goal: the truth. He explains the difference between direct evidence and circumstantial evidence, offering examples from his past cases. He then describes how important the issue of credibility is when considering evidence — giving a spell-binding example of how this played out in one of his past jury cases.

The legal primer closes with a conversation on the burden of proof and then announces the book’s goal to use the “rules of logic, common sense, and fair play, to examine the tenets of atheism, agnosticism, and scientific materialism” (p. 9) from the Christian perspective, laid out in the second chapter. Lanier’s definition of “proof” distinguishes this work from many others, contributing to the current field of scholarship in helpful ways.

Lanier first distinguishes atheism from agnosticism and theism, then makes a convincing argument that atheism cannot meet its own burden of proof — it cannot prove a negative. He reviews the work of the supposed “Four Horsemen of the New Atheism” and points out the lack of substantive proof that God doesn’t exist.

At best, they merely tear down reasons for believing in God. Lanier then assesses and reviews the arguments of agnosticism. Using the scales of justice, he asks readers to weigh the evidence for a worldview with and without God, considering weighty issues like morality, beauty, justice, human dignity and significance.

Honoring his “fair play” pledge, he introduces challenges to the case for God. Unafraid to venture deep into the faith and science dialogue, Lanier digs into evolution, allowing readers to weigh the facts and arrive at an evidence-based conclusion.

Related: Science vs. Scripture? It doesn’t have to be that way, biology prof writes

Lanier’s “closing argument” invites reader-jurists to decide whether life is basically a sack of chemicals designed by time and chance — or a life designed by a divine decision reflecting a measure of its creator. Decide whether life is arbitrary or filled with divine purpose. Decide whether morality is relative or part of a conscience granted from a creator. Decide upon a worldview and which way the magnets of life should be positioned to bring a world into balance, harmony and inner joy.

Lanier challenges each of us to weigh the evidence, deliberate upon the arguments, then embrace the worldview that is most compelling.

SCOTT SAGER is vice president for church services at Lipscomb University in Nashville, Tenn., where he also serves on the Bible faculty. Sager is the author of the book “Jesus in Isolation: Lazarus, Viruses and Us,” released in 2021.

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Filed under: Atheism book review Features Mark Lanier Reviews Scott Sager Top Stories

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