Saturday, July 11, 2009

Everything You've Always Wanted To Know About God (but were afraid to ask)

What follows is an expanded version of the book review I wrote for Goodreads...

With a couple of small exceptions, I found this to be a very readable & helpful book on basic Christian apologetics – in other words, a book that answers questions about what Christians believe & why. The author, Eric Metaxas, uses a dialogue format that is shot through with humorous asides & cultural references both new & old (he manages to quote Pink Floyd, reference Aretha Franklin, and even bag on Barney… and then quote major chunks of William Blake, the English poet.) An example:
Q: What happens when you die?

A: Well, it depends, but typically the lawn goes unmowed for a while, and the newspapers really pile up.
This is not your typical apologetics book… which is a good thing.

I esp. like how he dealt with the questions about the difference between religion & Christianity:
A: Let’s face it, we all have “issues,” and we all have bottomless insecurities, and we all have deep, dark desires & secrets that would kill us if we ever let them run wild. It’s the human condition. We all know we have it; otherwise, we wouldn’t be looking for ways to deal with it. All religion & all psychology are humanity’s attempts to deal with it.

Q: So, do you think other religions can deal with it?

A: I don’t think ANY religion can deal with it. Religions are our attempts at dealing with it, but they never actually succeed. They do, however, show that we know something needs to be done. It’s just that religions of various kinds inevitably fail to get it done.

Q: Even Christianity?

A: Christianity without Christ, without a real knowledge of him and a relationship with him, is just another religion. And no mere religion or ritual or dogma can deal with the problem. Only God himself can deal with the problem. People can be religious, and they might intellectually subscribe to many or even all of the tenets and doctrines of their church, but in the end that can’t solve the problem of the human condition.
As well, I like that he doesn’t claim to have perfect answers for difficult questions like “Why does God allow suffering?” or “How does prayer work?” Instead of trying to cobble together something pithy & quotable that panders to the churchified crowd, he honestly presents ways those questions have been answered, admitting that the answers may not be satisfying to some.

He’s also given me a new quote for my writing & teaching about God & sex:
Using sex without a thought to its true value, solely as a means for self-gratification [is] taking something extraordinarily multi-faceted & using it for a single, dull purpose. It’s something like using a laptop to hammer nails.
I did mention at the beginning that I found a place or two where I didn’t agree with his arguments. I think his facts about the number of deaths from the Inquisition & Crusades are wrong – but he hasn’t sourced them where I can check them out. Still, I don’t think an error of 10x magnitude here undermines his basic argument, so it’s not that big a deal.

This book is not going to convince a militant nonbeliever that they’re wrong – actually, I don’t think any book can do that by itself. But I do think it could be very helpful for folks who are asking questions about faith… and for those who believe who’ve never worked through these kinds of issues.

No comments: