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!

 

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

I checked this book out of the local library after I did a spiritual gift assessment with a young man at our church.  He is in college, and it turns out that he is very interested in philosophy and “deep thinking.”  I told him he might enjoy reading some Christian apologists.  No, this doesn’t mean people who apologize for being Christian;  apologetics is the branch of theology that deals with explaining and defending the faith.  I know some of the writings of C.S. Lewis fall into this category, as well as books by Lee Strobel (The Case For Christ).  I asked my husband for some other suggestions, and he mentioned Ravi Zacharias, which led me to Jesus Among Secular Gods.

Jesus Among Secular Gods: The Countercultural Claims of Christ

Dr. Zacharias is an Indian-born Christian who is well known as an author and has received numerous honorary doctorates in recognition of the impact of his work.  This book was co-authored with Dr. Vince Vitale, Director of the Zacharias Institute, who has been a Professor of Philosophy of Religion at both Yale and Oxford.

The book did not disappoint;  I think my young friend would like it, as would most Christians seeking to better understand secular philosophies and how to counter their attacks on Christianity.  Each chapter is written by one of the authors and presents various modern day approaches to the big questions of life — how we came to exist and why we are here. One major point Zacharias and Vitale make is that we are losing our ability to disagree in love.  Disagreeing should not lead to disrespect and demonizing. People today have become afraid to disagree, because they see it as a personal attack.  Only through open questioning and debate can people arrive at the truth and love one another despite differences.

The conclusion of the authors is that each secular philosophy contains a partial truth.  Below is a direct quote.

“Scientism:  The partial truth is that science explains a lot.  But we forget that it cannot explain itself, and it cannot explain many of the most important things in life.

 

Relativism:  The partial truth is that refusing to see things from another’s perspective is dangerous and lacks love.  But we forget that this relies on there being an objective perspective according to which those different from us are valuable and worthy of respect.

 

Pantheism:  The partial truth is the divine is everywhere and that union with the divine is our destiny.  But that union is not the union of sameness, but the union of relationship.

 

Pluralism:  The partial truth is that no worldview has a monopoly on truth.  But we mistake this for all worldviews being equally true.

 

Humanism:  Human persons were indeed made for greatness.  But greatness results from divine grace and strength, not human self-reliance.

 

Hedonism:  Pleasure is good.  But it is not all that is good.”

Any Christian who reads this book will finish better prepared to explain why Christianity is the best answer to the questions of existence.  The material is clear and not too technical or academic for most to understand.

VERDICT:  I recommend this book and give it five stars!