Reasons To Believe: Thoughtful Responses To Life’s Tough Questions, edited by Dennis B. Moles and Ryan P. Whitson
[Note: This book review was provided free of charge by Aneko Press in exchange for an honest review.]
As a fond reader of books on the subject of apologetics , one sees a similar pattern in many of these works. This book asks a simple question: is it reasonable to believe in God, and then spends the rest of its modest space of under 200 pages providing ten answers to different aspects of this question by such authors as Ryan Whitson, Dennis Moles, Darrell Dooyema, John Hopper, Danny Loe, Craig Reynolds, and Doug Arendsee. These gentlemen demonstrate an awareness of such wide ranging issues as the minimal factual record concerning the resurrection of Jesus Christ, the powerful argument from Anselm based on Psalm 14:1  that makes it intellectually bankrupt to disbelieve in the existence of God, and the fact that different religions have entirely different goals and ends in mind with a relatively similar set of religious behavior, as well as providing a compassionate answer to the problem of evil . This book hits the mark in its aim of providing sound and reasonable answers for those people who are faced with the need to interact with others through the use of Christian apologetics, or who seek encouragement and reassuring as to the reasonableness of Christianity.
In terms of its contents, after a brief introduction, the book is divided into ten chapters, each with its own question, each chapter averaging somewhere in the neighborhood of twenty pages each. The questions the book tackles are: Can we know what we believe? Is it reasonable to believe in God? Is the Bible trustworthy? Do moral absolutes exist? How do I make moral decisions? What is a worldview and why does it matter? Do all religions teach the same thing? Has science disproven God? Why would a good God allow suffering? Did Jesus rise from the dead? After these questions are answered, sometimes relying on previous chapters and at other times citing outside work, there is a brief biographical sketch of each of the book’s authors. The essays work together well and provide a thoughtful, rigorous, and gentle approach to questions and doubts, providing a wide variety of answers and explaining the methodological assumptions and biases of opposing worldviews, while also showing an appreciation for such common ground as exists and avoiding false dilemmas like trying to pit faith against science and history, for example. Many of the essays include charts and graphs that make their points even easier to understand and that provide effective visualization.
As someone who reads a lot of books and who appreciates approaches that combine intellectual rigor as well as compassion in dealing with fallible human beings like ourselves, I found this book to be elegantly balanced, and I thought it would be worthwhile to share quotes that demonstrated the balance of head and heart that is found in this short but very excellent book. In discussing the argument of Anselm on the irrationality of atheism, something I had explored in my own reading of Psalms 14 and 53 and Romans 1, but not something I had been aware of as being an argument from the Middle Ages, Darrell Dooyema has this to say: “I once attended a party for philosophers (doesn’t that sound fun?) that began with the icebreaker question, “Do you believe Anselm’s ontological argument works?” If the ontological argument ignited by Anselm does work, and I believe it does, it is not even possible to rationally claim there is no God (33).” Concerning the compassionate side of this book’s approach to apologetics, editor Ryan Whitson provides this compassionate conclusion to his essay on theodicy, the problem of suffering: “For those who hurt and suffer, hold tightly to God and endure the pain honestly. Run toward the Lord and not away, all the while feeling and expressing the full measure of anger, fear, and tears, understanding that the grieving process is a gift from God to heal. But you do not need to grieve like the world, which has no reasons for hope. Rather, grieve with a deep trust in God that He will work for your greatest good and His greatest glory and that you have the opportunity to emerge from suffering a better person. In light of these truths, suffering provides a reason to believe in a good, powerful, and real God (166).” Within these bounds of rational discussion and gentle compassion, the authors provide a brief but sound guide in demonstrating the reasonableness of belief in God and in His Word in a wide variety of matters, and demonstrates how and why critics of God’s ways get it wrong. This book deserves a wide and appreciative audience for its thoughtful and elegant and compact approach.
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