Baylor University professor C. Stephen Evans does not believe God wants to “push himself” on those who don’t want to have a relationship with him — and his book that addresses that topic and more won first place in the C.S. Lewis Book Prize Competition.
Evans’ book, titled “Natural Signs and the Knowledge of God: A New Look at Theistic Arguments,” was published in 2010 by Oxford University Press. It was one of 22 entries.
The first prize came with a $15,000 cash award.
Evans’ effort was judged the best book published in the category of philosophy of religion or philosophical theology written for a general audience in the past five years.
Judges ranked the entries on quality of argumentation, importance of the positions argued for, level of accessibility to a general audience and stylistic or literary merits.
“I’m thrilled. I’m grateful,” said Evans, who teaches at Baylor’s College of Arts & Sciences. “There are a lot of great books on the philosophy of religion, so to have my book selected as the best is a great honor.”
The University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, Minn., awards the prize, funded by the John Templeton Foundation.
Evans writes in his book that if there is a God like that accepted by Christians, Jews and Muslims, it is likely that a “natural” knowledge of God would be widely available yet “easily resistible.”
Evans argues that such a knowledge is made possible by “natural signs,” such as our sense of wonder that the universe exists at all, our sense that the universe is meaningful and our sense of moral responsibility.
He said these signs can be developed into the classic arguments of God’s existence, which have considerable force. But they also can point people to God without any argument or inference.
Evans raised similar points in a book titled, “Why Believe? Reason and Mystery as Pointers to God.”
“I always thought those ideas needed to be developed rigorously so they would be taken seriously by scholars,” he said. “The core of each of these arguments doesn’t necessarily prove the existence of God, but someone who knows how to read the signs and is open to the meaning will find the evidence convincing.”
Evans said he wrote his book partly in response to the New Atheists, who hold that belief in God has no rational basis. He said some contemporary cognitive psychologists think religious faith is discredited because humans are biologically and psychologically “hard-wired” to believe in a higher power.
“They claim that discredits belief,” he said. “But in my book, I argue that if we are hard-wired to believe in God, it is because God has created us that way.
“We have a natural impulse to believe.”