The Athiest Who Didn’t Exist by Andy Bannister

I have to admit I wasn’t familiar with Andy Bannister before reading this book, and I wasn’t even 100% sure what the book was about when I signed-up for this tour, but I figured the title sounded interesting so I’d give it a whirl.  And I wasn’t disappointed!

From the moment I started reading the book I couldn’t put it down.  Being a conservative in graduate school at one of the most liberal public universities in the nation (we’re often referred to as the “Berkley of the east”), I am often confronted with the prevalence of atheism on campus – in fact, in class the suggestion that there is a “God” is often met with inquiring stares, as if to say, “There’s really people that believe this stuff!?!?”  So I read with interest as Bannister picked apart many of the arguments I hear expressed in my classes in a thoughtful, logical, and thorough way.

Bannister’s writing style was unique and – for me – extremely enjoyable.  His dry, witty humor kept me engaged, helped make his point, and even encouraged me to read almost every single footnote in the book (something I normally avoid doing).  While he dealt with intellectual topics, I did not find his writing too deep to comprehend or relate to – in fact, as someone who is not a student of philosophy I found his style to be very accessible and non-threatening.

I have to admit that I did read the book through the lens of already being a Christian, so I can’t say whether it would actually convince me reject atheism if I was an atheist, but I do believe it would give me questions that I needed answers to.  And, honestly, that was the purpose of the book.  Bannister sets the tone early on that his goal is not to convince atheists they are wrong, but simply to challenge their beliefs so that they can make intelligent defenses of their beliefs.  As a believer, he offers many answers to questions I may be asked.

My only real critique of the book is that at times Bannister switches between arguing for Theism and then arguing specifically for Christianity.  He makes no bones about being a Christian, but he also isn’t completely clear on whether he is engaging in the “Atheism vs. Theism” debate or “Atheism vs. Christianity” debate.  But other than that I really can’t say anything negative about it.   This is one I’d encourage you to go and read to keep in your library, and, if you have a friend or family-member who is wrestling with the question “Is there a God?” and “What difference does believing in God make?” it may provide a resource for them as well to at least engage honestly with the question.

Overall, I’ll give the book 5/5 stars.  For the record, I did receive a free copy of the book from the publisher in exchange for an honest (though not necessarily favorable) review.


Book Review: Why Jesus by Ravi Zacharias

As excited was I was about reading Why Jesus, partly because I’ve never read anything by Dr. Zacharias and partly because of the content of the book, I ended up completely under-whelmed by it.  I’ve listed to Dr. Zacharias teaching for years and found his insights both profound and thought-provoking, but reading him was a completely different matter.  I knew he was intellectual and I expected a book that required great amounts of focus to comprehend and appreciate, but overall I found his writing boring and as if I was following a rabbit-trail in order to get to his point.

The book’s subtitle is “Rediscovering His Truth in an Age of Mass Marketed Spirituality”, which made me expect a point-by-point defense of Jesus against arguments raised by today’s culture.  Instead, the book spent more time explaining the backgrounds of various beliefs and philosophies before countering them with the truth of scripture.  Don’t get me wrong, it’s not that truth wasn’t presented and defended, it’s just that it felt like as much of the book focused on telling me about the historical context to lies rather than focusing on the truths that stand in contrast to them.

Overall I’ll give the book 3/5 stars.  For the record, I did receive a free copy of the book from the publisher in exchange for an honest, and not necessarily favorable, review.

Book Review: What Good is God? by Philip Yancey

Philip Yancey is one of my favorite authors because he tackles the questions most others are afraid to even talk about – and he does it in a raw and honest way.  Yancey pulls no punches in his struggles and is not afraid to answer with “I don’t know” if that’s really the case.  What Good is God? In Search of a Faith that Matters takes no detours from this style, and it does not disappoint.  Yancey asks some big questions and offers some great answers.

The book chronicles 10 trips Yancey has taken over the years to address and interact with people going through terrible trials: victims of the Virgina Tech massacre, a trip to post-apartheid South Africa, and a trip to Mumbai, India during the terrorist attacks there in 2008.  Most people look at tragedies such as these and ask, “Where is God in all of this?”  Yancey asks the same question – and then answers it.  He finds the good in what appears to be evil.  Scripture tells us that “My ways are not your ways”, and that God is in control, yet at chaotic times in this world it is hard to believe.  Yancey doesn’t try to explain away these evil events with simplistic answers – instead, he acknowledges the evil and then searches for good that comes out of it: the churches and Christians who minister to those in need.  God is present in our world, as is evil, and we need to remember that this world is still under the realm of the evil one.  Yancey never tries to explain away the hurt or disappointment of the people in the situations he chronicles.  Instead, he looks for others who are meeting their needs in the name of Jesus.

And in so doing, he challenges us to do the same.  This is by far one of the most convicting books I’ve read in a long time – and it has re-opened my eyes to the hurt around me as well as how God can use me to minister to the needs of the hurting.  If you are looking for a book to encourage your faith by helping you see God working in the lives of people across the world then this book is for you.  If you pick the book up thinking Yancey will answer the question “Where is God in all of this” by trying to explain away the evil around you, you will not find it here.  Evil is present – and Yancey admits that; what he does is look for (and find) God in spite of (or perhaps because of) that evil.  This is a definite 5/5 stars.

Note: I received this book free from the publisher as part of their blogger review program.  I was not required to write a positive review of it.  I am disclosing this to comply with FTC regulations.

The Jesus Inquest by Charles Foster

Charles Foster sets out to write a book which explores the cases for and against the resurrection of Jesus.  The book is written as a court-drama with two opposing lawyers presenting their positions.  One, known only as X, presents arguments against the resurrection of Christ while the other, known as Y, argues in support of the resurrection.  Foster is very honest at the beginning of the book to state his personal position, yet he tries his best to present a balanced view of both sides.

Over all I found the book compelling to read – if for no other reason than to be better aware of the arguments that unbelievers will pose.  I find it difficult to believe, though, that someone who honestly doesn’t believe in the resurrection would be convinced solely based on the information contained in this book.  Foster seems to indicate this as well, though.  In his preface he writes,

The   Internet seethes with assertions from convinced Christians that the resurrection can be proved ‘beyond reasonable doubt.’  I don’t know what anyone who ways that sort of thing can have been reading, but I do know that it can’t be the relevant evidence.  Or at least they can’t have been reading the evidence with any historical or forensic perspective…You can only make ‘beyond reasonable doubt’ assertions if faith has dictated the course of the trial.  And a trial like that is no trial at all.  Such faith as I have proceeds, stumblingly, from the conclusions of the inquiry that is in this book.  Faith has absolute no part to play in the inquiry itself.

Over all this book reminded me of two things: first, and foremost, is the importance of doctrine of the resurrection to Christian faith.  The second, though, is the role of faith in this process.  If the resurrection could be proved beyond any doubt there would be no need for faith, so the very fact that faith is required seems to require that there is always a certain amount of uncertainty in the entire journey.  And I’m comfortable with that.  While I would have enjoyed the debate more if it was written by two different authors (each who argued what they truly believed instead of one person trying to argue for a position he doesn’t believe), I found reading it time well spent for the very two reasons listed above.  Over all, I’ll give it three out of five stars.

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I received this book free from the publisher through the book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255

Cross posted on Grace Notes and I Respond to Jesus