Surviving Religion 101 by Michael J. Kruger–Book Review

This book is subtitled: Letters to a Christian Student on Keeping the Faith in College, and it is presented as a series of letters on different topics to the author’s daughter. It fits into a category of theological work known as apologetics: the discipline of defending religious doctrine(consider this your word for the day). At college, young people who are raised in the faith may hear views that not only diverge sharply from what they’ve been taught but may even ridicule and demean it. In such an environment, it’s important to understand not only what we believe, but why we find it trustworthy.

These are some of the topics the author discusses:

*How can I say that Christianity is the only right religion?

*My Christian morality is seen as intolerant — shouldn’t I be more accepting?

*Why would a living God send anyone to Hell?

*If God is omnipotent why does He allow suffering?

*How can I believe in miracles if I’ve never seen them?

*Can the Bible really be trusted?

Surviving Religion 101

Each question is approached in a clear, conversational manner that makes this book easy to read and understand. Although intended for students, every Christian could benefit from knowing how to respond the criticism we hear every day. Kruger’s defense of the faith is logical and informed. I highly recommend it!

VERDICT: 5 STARS.

The Lutheran Ladies received a free e-copy of this book in return for a fair and honest review. Disclaimer pursuant to FTC 16 CPR 255.

If you would like to purchase this book go to:

Surviving Religion 101: Letters to a Christian Student on Keeping the Faith in College | Crossway

For more about apologetics see:

Why I Still Believe by Mary Jo Sharp –Book Review

Film Review — The Case for Faith by Lee Strobel

God’s Not Dead & God’s Not Dead 2 –Movie Review

The Reason for God by Timothy Keller–Book Review

Timothy Keller, pastor of a large church in Manhattan, has written an excellent apologetic work, based on his own experience defending and explaining the faith to skeptics.  In a reasoned and logical way he answers questions such as:

  • How can there be only one true religion?
  • Why does a good God allow suffering?
  • How can a loving God send people to hell?

He also refutes some common assumptions such as:

  • Christianity is limiting
  • The church is responsible for so much injustice
  • Science has disproven Christianty
  • The Bible can’t be taken literally

Finally, he lists a number of good reasons for accepting Christianity as the most rational explanation for what is wrong with the world and the best hope for a meaningful identity and life.

I found this book to both readable and persuasive (however, I am no skeptic so possibly I am biased).  However, his success in attracting a large number of urban doubters to his congregation would argue that he is quite convincing.  If you are a skeptic, Pastor Keller’s book may win you over;  if you’re a believer, it will provide you with logical arguments to face the skeptics in your own life.

He did not delve deeply into doctrine (he is Presbyterian) as his focus is on the beliefs common to all Christians.  I did have an issue with his explanation of hell — he contends that we “choose” to send ourselves to hell.  This implies that we also “choose” to believe, which is contrary to Lutheran belief.  Most of his other positions were unobjectionable, and overall I found this an interesting and thought-provoking read.

I checked and there is a study guide available for use with this book, so it would make a choice for use with a small group.

VERDICT:  4 Stars.  Read this one and discuss it with a doubting friend!

For more on apologetics (the defense and explanation of the faith) see these posts:

Why I Still Believe by Mary Jo Sharp –Book Review

Film Review — The Case for Faith by Lee Strobel

Jesus Among Secular Gods by Ravi Zacharias and Vince Vitale–Book Review

For more on Timothy Keller see this post:

Ministries of Mercy by Timothy Keller — Book Review

 

 

Why I Still Believe by Mary Jo Sharp –Book Review

I thoroughly enjoyed this book.  For one thing, Mary Jo Sharp and I have things in common:  she’s an introvert;  she’s an idealist;  she’s a thoughtful person (when I say thoughtful, I mean someone who is curious and spends a lot of time researching and reading in order to better understand);  and she has at times been deeply disappointed by other Christians.

She begins by giving some glaring examples of how she, as a new Christian trying to do ministry, was attacked by others in her own church!  Part of her wanted to turn away from Christianity altogether, but instead she embarks on a graduate course in apologetics.  She wants to convince herself that Christianity is the best choice, in spite of the poor behavior of some Christians.

You will journey through various atheistic philosophies with the author until she comes to some conclusions about herself and Christianity.  For one thing, she acknowledges her own part in the problem:

“…my expectations created a reality in which nothing was ever good enough for me.  Walking into the church my first day as a Christian, I brought along my perfectionism and unrealistic expectations of what I thought should happen.”

Through study, she also finds that atheism is riddled with inconsistencies.

“(atheism) … fails to adequately address internal needs of humanity and fails to demonstrate human reasoning as trustworthy …. I found too much lacking in the atheist view of the universe to accept it.”

There is also some discussion of Islam and how it differs from the Christian worldview.

There is no tidy ending.  As Christians we still have to deal with suffering and pain, not to mention our own sinful behavior.  There is no fix, but we must choose (I’m speaking here of sanctification, not justification as Lutherans do not believe we chose Jesus), and then act to follow our choices logically.  This book will enlighten and challenge you, and will make you think about your own faith story and what you should do with it.

There are discussion questions at the end of each chapter, and it would make a great small group study or choice for your book club.

VERDICT:  5 STARS!

 

Film Review — The Case for Faith by Lee Strobel

Recently I checked a 3-disc Lee Strobel collection out of the library.   The first one my husband and I watched was “The Case for Faith.”

In this documentary, Lee begins with the story of Charles Templeton.  In 1945, Templeton, along with others formed the organization, Youth For Christ, and Billy Graham became it’s first evangelist.  Over time, Mr. Templeton became disillusioned with the Christian faith and declared himself an agnostic.

Lee Strobel describes his own interview with Templeton and reveals the two greatest stumbling blocks which undermined Templeton’s faith:

  • Why is Jesus the only way to God?
  • How could a loving God create a world with so much pain and evil?

Strobel then attacks these two challenges with a reasoned exploration of the Christian doctrines underpinning these questions and why Christianity does the best job of explaining them (this is the discipline of apologetics). He begins with the doctrine of grace.  All men are separated from God by sin.  The solution is not making man better, but God’s grace.  Jesus is the only One able to solve the problem.  This idea of God’s grace is unique to Christianity and reveals the “stinkin thinkin” that “all religions are basically the same.”  They’re not.

Secondly, Strobel sets forth the Arminian doctrine of free will.  God created human beings with the freedom to choose, and our first parents chose to sin.  Evil, therefore, does not come from God, but from the wrong doing of man.  Note to Lutherans:  Lutherans and other Reformed do not believe that humans have the free will to choose their own salvation.  God chooses us, we do not choose Him.

Verdict:  This film was not as detailed a rebuttal as The Case for Christ and lacked the personal appeal of Lee Strobel’s own journey into faith.  However, it may be unfair to compare the two.  I give it 4 stars.  It is a useful exercise in apologetics for the average layperson.

God’s Not Dead & God’s Not Dead 2 –Movie Review

Martin Luther would have empathized with these film depictions of Christians who  found themselves in situations that required them to defend their faith against great odds.  You might say they became leaders unintentionally, as did Luther himself.  Facing the Diet of Worms in 1521 he said,

“Unless I am convicted by Scripture and plain reason, I do not accept the authority of popes and councils, for they have contradicted each other.  My conscience is captive to the Word of God.  I cannot and will not recant anything, for to go against conscience is neither right nor safe.  Here I stand, I cannot do otherwise.  God help me.”

Both films feature a main character who risks virtually everything to defend his or her Christian beliefs.  Both are vindicated and triumph over systems that seek to ridicule and belittle them. Both had very good presentations of the logical, scientific and historical reasons to accept Christianity (the big word for this is apologetics.)  I found them inspiring and entertaining. (Of course, I know I am years behind in my movie-viewing and probably most readers have already seen the films — if you haven’t, you can now easily get them from the local library).

I do have a few criticisms:  most of the characters were almost cartoonishly one dimensional — the Christians are obviously good, the atheists bad, and not much room in between for the doubting or seeking.  Conversions and answers to prayer come quickly….but this is a movie, right?  Things have to move rapidly (after all we only have 120 minutes) and I can’t expect the character development I might find in a good novel.  So I can let that go.

More seriously, the discussion of free will in the first film, and the implication in the second that we must “ask Jesus into our heart” conflict with Lutheran theology.  God choses us, we do not chose Him, and we do not have free will over our salvation (although we do in other areas.)

The Newsboys are not my favorite Christian musical group, but I’ll include the song for those who enjoy them:

One Man’s Change

My husband and I recently took the teens from our church to see the movie, “The Case for Christ.”  It is the story of Lee Strobel, a journalist and atheist.  When his wife becomes a Christian, he is distressed and decides to use his investigative skills to disprove Christianity by attacking the resurrection.  Even St. Paul agrees it is the linchpin of our faith.

“And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith.”  1 Corinthians 15:14

After consulting with many experts in individual fields, here’s what he found:

  • The Bible is a reliable source because there are many more existing copies, and earlier copies of it than any other ancient document
  • Over 500 people could not have had the same delusion of seeing Jesus alive after the crucifixion–this would be more miraculous than the miracle itself!
  • Medical experts agree that Jesus could not have been alive when He was taken down from the cross
  • Eye witness accounts all contained the same core of the resurrection story.  There were variances in secondary details –this is exactly what would be expected.  Identical reports are suspect.
  • Jews of that time would never have chosen women as the first witnesses;  women were not allowed to be witnesses.  This could only mean they were reporting the truth.  If they were lying, they would have chosen men as the witnesses.
  • The disciples led changed lives, and were willing to die for their faith.  Who would chose to die for a lie?  What would be the motive?

I would recommend this film, especially to young or newer Christians.  It falls in the category of “apologetics.” (defending the faith).  Lee Strobel went on to become a Pastor, writer and professor.  He is the author of a number of books including “The Case For Christ” which tells his conversion story and on which the movie is based.

I’d be interested in hearing other comments on the film or book.