Why I Am A Christian, by John Stott
This book, whose title forms an answer of sorts to Bertrand Russell’s essay “Why I Am Not A Christian,” is a solid book of personal apologetics. For one reason or another, I read a lot of this kind of book , and this book manages to strike a different tone than most works in this genre. Rather than writing critically about the readers’ presumed worldview, he instead looks at a constellation of personal reasons that account for why he is a Christian that likely ring true for many other readers as well. Some readers may find this book to be a bit too gentle, but it amounts to a soft-sell of the gospel message rather than the hard sell approach many writers take, and as a short book that can be profitably read during one’s lunch break, as was the case for me, and it certainly is a book that provides a thoughtful and well-spoken defense of the legitimacy of the Christian faith and why it should be taken seriously by skeptics. As an introduction to the writer’s works, it forms an effective way to build interest for the author’s other writings that I hope to be able to read eventually.
At slightly over 100 small pages, this is not a particularly demanding book in terms of its material. The author begins by talking about the hound of heaven, and how God is the one pursuing us rather than we being the ones searching for God, giving the examples of Paul, Augustine, and C.S. Lewis, among others. After that the author talks about the claims of Jesus, and notes that while Jesus is nearly uniformly respected and viewed as a humble man, his claims were immensely audacious and anything but humble. The author then turns, of necessity, to the cross and to its powerful importance for humanity. The author then turns to the paradox of humanity as being created in the image and likeness of God but also being deeply marred by sin and its effects, and then turns to the paradox of freedom in being an escape from our sinful human nature rather than being free of the laws and restraints that keep us from sinning to the extent that is possible for us. The last two chapters of the short book finish on a discussion of eternal life as part of God’s kingdom being a fulfillment of our aspirations–an argument from desire–and discusses the call to believe as the greatest of all invitations.
Throughout the book the author manages to combine a great deal of humor along with a strong sense of humility and some notable insight. To be sure, there is a great deal about the Bible and about Christianity that the author does not discuss at any length. There are no discussions here about the nature of God or the role of God’s law in the lives of believers or anything that could be viewed as contentious matters that are argued over by those who profess to follow Christ. This book, in stark contrast, looks at those essentials that are not really in dispute by anyone who has any plausible claim as a Christian, namely that human beings are in a hopeless place as a result of thousands of years of sin, but that God reaches out to us to pull us out of the despair that we find ourselves in, at the cost of confronting us with what we are and what we were created to be. This is the sort of book that is a pleasure to read, in that it provides genuinely good news as an introduction to those who are unfamiliar with God’s word, an invitation to get to know God and God’s ways better. If I do not consider the author trustworthy in all biblical matters, he certainly does a good job in this introductory text.
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