I want to thank the fine folks at Thomas Nelson for providing this review copy. Ravi compiles a great group of folks to author the various chapters in this volume and they all represent their assigned topics quite well. While all of the contributors and chapters were great in content, I wish to briefly review 5 chapters that I found to be the most helpful personally.
Dr. Alister McGrath does a tremendous job in his chapter, “Challenges From Atheism”. McGrath has quite the reputation for his ability to dialogue with the new aggressive atheism that is represented by the likes of Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens, Sam Harris, and others. This chapter provides a nice brief history of the debate, documenting the rise of atheism in the west with the likes of Karl Marx, Bertrand Russell and others. McGrath notes the irony of how atheism has historically bound people into oppression while it was peddled under the pretense of its liberating power from the opium of religion. The thought was that if you could get rid of God, then life would be much happier and rid of guilt and shame. Well, we all are made to worship, so the new idols in atheism usually became the leader of the state. The oppressive regimes of atheistic communism revealed the odious nature of a Godless culture. McGrath notes the falling of the Berlin wall as the people’s revolt against oppressive atheism.
McGrath theorizes that 9/11 was instrumental for the new atheism as many atheists made their case that religion “poisons everything”. There was a proliferation of books that followed 9/11, given rise to the new era of aggressive unapologetic atheism.
McGrath spends the rest of his chapter responding to what he labels as 4 of the “fundamental atheist challenges”. He cites them as follows: 1) Christianity, like all religions, leads to violence, 2)God is just an invention designed to console losers, 3) Christian faith is a leap in the dark without an reliable basis, and 4) The natural sciences have disproved God. McGrath’s response are brief, but yet effective. This chapter serves a great little primer for any who wishes to understand the history of atheism and its resurgence in the past decade.
Dr. John Lennox pens another wonderful chapter in this compilation, “Challenges from Science”. Lennox catalogues the main Christian doctrines that are under attack from the scientific community, namely creation and other associated doctrines like providence. Lennox dispels the myth that Christianity and the discipline of science are mutually exclusive enemies. Lennox lists a who’s who of the scientific community that were theists (most of them Christian). Lennox vindicates Galileo as a Christian, who was challenging the prevailing notions of the Aristotelian scientific paradigm more than seeking to defy the church. It just so happened that everyone held the same general scientific convictions at the time.
Lennox deals with a whole host of issues that the reader would find pertinent in light of what’s going on in modern Evangelicalism and science. He also is quite persuasive in noting the limitations of science. Many scientists don’t even claim the discipline of science to have a totalizing answer to all things. If the sum of all things is matter, then one would actually be consistent in claiming science as totalizing, however it usually ends up saying more about things than evidence warrants. Lennox is not advocating a dichotomy between science and philosophy as much as he is simply noting the limitations of one discipline without the other. In this sense, he views science and faith as allies and commends many wonderful scientists who conducted their work for the glory of God. Such a motive didn’t interfere with or disrupt their scientific enquiry, but actually made sense of it in a way that was liberating and awe-inspiring. Oh that we would have more scientists with such a frame of mind and heart.
Joe Boot explores “Broader Cultural and Philosophical Challenges” and essentially commends the role of faith in believing. You must want to believe in order to believe or all the evidence in the world will do nothing. Boot examines the spiritual nature of doubt in apologetics, as well as “the clear sight of faith”. He reminds us of the following (166):
The great problem facing a skeptic, then, is him- or herself, not a lack of evidence or adequacy of reasons to believe. We tend to find only what we want to find and to see only what we want to see. The fallen human desire to escape the reality of God is very strong.
Boot subsequently provides helpful information to keep in mind when dialoging with skeptics. He commends “stealth” apologetics, which requires a much more savvy approach than mere dictation of facts. One must acknowledge that a skeptic is dealing with deeply spiritual doubts and speak to that person with some level of empathy of seek to woo them to Christ, hopefully seeing faith arise with the desire to know the truth.
Ravi Zacharias pens what I found to be the most useful chapter, “Existential Challenges of Evil and Suffering”. It is simply one of the best treatments I have seen on the issue of evil and suffering in chapter form…I will leave it at that.
There was one other chapter that I found very helpful. Danielle DuRant’s chapter, “Idolatry, Denial, and Self-Deception: Hearts on Pilgrimage through the Valleys”, explored some common challenges for the believer throughout their journey. What we assent to as believers may at times be challenged, and certainly at other times we may feel dry in the heart in regards to the truths that ought to bring us joy and comfort.
All in all, I would commend this book. There are a total of 14 chapters beyond the 5 I especially enjoyed and all of them are educational, edifying, and useful for Christian witness. I suspect I will reference this book again and again throughout pastoral ministry.