Thursday, March 03, 2011

Book Review: "Why I Still Believe"

Book Review: Joe Boot, "Why I Still Believe: (Hint: It's The Only Way The World Makes Sense)" Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 2006. 159 pages.

Joe Boot, the author of "Why I Still Believe" wass the Canadian Director of RZIM Ministries (Ravi Zacharias). He is the founding president of the Ezra Institute for Contemporary Christianity in Toronto where he currently serves as senior pastor of Westminster Chapel. As such, he is well-versed in apologetics, speaking around the world in universities, churches, colleges and conferences.

This book is a little different from the normal works of apologists(defenders of the faith) as it deals not so much with rational proof for Christianity, as with building a case that Christianity is the most reasonable worldview. His rationale, with which I happen to agree, is that the presuppositions of Christians and non-Christians are so far apart that there is little common ground on which to build an objective argument.

So Boot takes the time to compare the worldviews, making the case that the Christian worldview, alone, provides satisfying answers to life's ultimate questions. As C.S. Lewis said, “I believe in Christianity as I believe that the sun has risen: not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else.”

He begins his book by showing that much of what we believe, Christian or not, is based upon pre-suppositions. For example, he notes that even scientific journals admit that the big bang theory of cosmology is based upon a number of hypothetical entities - things that we have never observed. They are unproven pre-suppositions, without which the theories would fall apart. As an article in the New Scientist Journal stated: "In cosmology today, doubt and dissent are not tolerated and young scientists learn to stay silent if they have something negative to say about the standard big bang model."

These pre-suppositions exist in most, if not all, areas of science and of religion. The premise of evolutionary theory, for example, is that there must be a naturalistic explanation for all life forms. All evidence is therefore understood through that filter, the questions arising from the Cambrian explosion notwithstanding... So, in all disciplines and walks of life a certain amount of faith is required, but I digress.

Joe speaks about his upbringing and the different views to which he was exposed as a child and a youth. There was a steady bombardment of ideas that ran contrary to the Christian beliefs of his parents. He found himself, from an early age, wrestling with the competing worldviews he encountered. He realised, as I have, that of all of the worldviews out there, Christianity is the one which seems to be a lightning-rod for criticism. Some of that criticism is due to the hypocrisy of some Christians and Christian organizations. But some is also due to the very direct truth claims which fly in the face of our modern views of "tolerance." When Jesus claimed to be "the way, and the truth, and the life" He drew a line in the sand, stating by implication that all contrary views are false.

I love his chapter Ridicule and Rebuttals, in which he speaks of the attitude of Christianity's critics. I'll let him speak for himself in a lengthy, but well-written paragraph. (I love the sarcastic tone). "Have I never heard of Charles Darwin and macroevolution? Do I not realize that the Bible has been disproved - Richard Dawkins says so! Have I been living on Mars for the last thirty years? Have I not encountered the work of David Hume, Immanuel Kant, Friedrich Nietsche, Karl Marx, Aldous Huxley, Anthony Flew, or Bertrand Russell? Am I unaware of French existentialism? What about Camus, Sartre and Derrida? Do I not realize that such people, and many other thinkers, have shown the inadequacy of arguments for God, the miraculous, and biblical history? Have I not read that 'God is dead,' that religion is just the opium of the people? Have I not understood that all religious language is meaningless or that Christianity is not empirically verifiable? Surely I am conscious of the loneliness of humankind in the universe, that all is meaningless, and life is only what I define it to be or make of it? Humankind has come of age; we are autonomous, free, self-determining. And surely I understand that history itself and all religious claims are mere power plays to control and manipulate others. All is relative; there can be no objectivity in history: that's objectively certain! There are no absolutes, and that's absolutely final! It's all a matter of personal interpretation. What's true for you isn't necessarily true for me. Joe Boot, you really have been living in a box; you are so behind the times! Your parents merely passed on to you their human projection of a 'father figure' due to their insecurity and poor relationship with their parents; what you now depend on as 'god' is a psychological disorder - Freud taught us that. No, I'm afraid this biblical concoction of God will not be tolerated in our tolerant society. It's back to school for you, Joe Boot."

I love this paragraph because I've heard so many of the lines myself from people who cannot believe that I, an educated person, could actually believe this Christianity stuff. I see a great deal of my own journey in Boot's story. I left the faith of my childhood in search of truth only to arrive back home after other worldviews had left me empty and needing more. The more I learn of God, His Word and His world the more I am convinced that Christianity is true. His use of a quote by Cornelius Van Til at the beginning of a chapter called No Apology is appropriate here: "Faith is not blind faith... Christianity can be shown to be, not 'just as good as' or even 'better than' the non-Christian position, but the only position that does not make nonsense of human experience."

Boot then gives some helpful tools to actually assess the validity of worldviews, much of it I believe from Ravi Zacharias. I have some of this information in an older blog if you're interested. The point is that Christianity is not only true - it works in real life, which is where all worldviews should be measured.

I encourage you to read this book, particularly if you're on a search for truth. If you're one of those that I hear from on occasion who have rejected Christianity for whatever reason, I really would like your feedback on this one. If you are a Christian, I believe that this will help to bring some things into perspective for you.
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