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We’re going to try something a bit different here for a newsletter article. Occasionally, me and/or Nate will write a review on a book that we think could be beneficial to some of you as you seek to follow Jesus. Here’s my first attempt.
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When you’re from Greater Vancouver, one of the more exciting things that happens when watching a movie is to recognize your own city. It happens pretty frequently in “Hollywood North”! What’s more amazing to me is when a city like Vancouver that is famously disinterested in “institutional Christian faith” (ie. the church) somehow produces Christian writers and pastors whose voices are being heard on a global scale. You pick up a book, begin reading, and realize that it’s your own community being described. That’s one thing I loved about Everyday Apologetics (edited by Chris Price and Paul Chamberlain, published by Lexham Press). It’s a 2020 compilation of essays written by a diverse range of authors, mostly British Columbia-connected. Admittedly, we’ve got some hometown bias here, but I believe this is a great book and I want to tell you about it! Let’s break the title down.
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The Big Idea
Apologetics: For those unfamiliar (as I once was), this word does not mean that the authors will be apologizing for what they believe, like the good Canadians they are. The word comes from the Greek word apologia, which means “defence”. When applied to Christian faith, apologetics has to do with the subtitle of the book: answering objections. It has to do with providing a reasoned account for why we believe what we do.
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Everyday: There are some books that would fit the description of apologetics, but at a very high level of academic discourse. For those who are well-versed in philosophy, that’s great. There are also books that focus on a very specific question about faith. For example, the leading scientist Francis Collins’ classic The Language of God tackles the question of whether science discredits Christianity. This book isn’t either of those. It is written very much for the average church-goer. It’s a primer, an introduction that covers a lot of ground without digging too deep in any one place. It is meant to equip believers with some guidelines and ideas for how to have conversations with others.
#1 Strength
This book is really solid. One of the trickier tensions to manage as Christians is to speak with love and truth (Ephesians 4:15). I think Everyday Apologetics accomplishes that. It speaks truth throughout. There’s no compromising of the Gospel here, no watering down to better accommodate contemporary culture. But it speaks with love as well. The tone throughout, even with the diversity of authors, is winsome and non-combative. The first entire section of the book is devoted to the importance of understanding those who we enter into conversation with. The goal here is not to pummel our opponents into theological submission, but to speak with conviction and confidence about what we do believe, and allow the Holy Spirit to work in our conversation partners.
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#1 Weakness
I will say that, perhaps because of lack of space in a book that’s trying to cover a lot of ground, there are key issues that go untouched. And these are Issues that will assuredly come up in conversations with skeptics, agnostics, or seekers. The four chapters devoted to answering objections deal with the violence of the Old Testament, the existence of suffering, the perceived conflict between faith and science, and the exclusive truth claims of Christianity in a pluralistic world. Which are really important! But there’s nothing here about issues like gender and sexuality, which is probably the greatest hindrance to belief for many, and the conversation topic some want to engage with. There’s little about hell, which is likely neck and neck with traditional Christian views of sexuality in the race for the most culturally despised belief. But I think that’s ok. There are plenty of solid resources that answer some of those objections, and the point of this work is to serve as a general primer for those getting in on the ground level of apologetics.
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One Standout Quote
Even for a guy who’s read a lot of these types of books, and reviewed a lot of these arguments, there were new things for me here. The very last chapter of the book is written by Andy Steiger, focused on the search for the meaning of life. He talks about the Rosetta Stone, which was the key to decoding Egyptian hieroglyphics that people had gazed at for centuries. For years and years, people knew there must be meaning in them, knew there must be incredible secrets buried in these figures, but there was no way to access what that meaning was. Until the Rosetta Stone was discovered. Here’s Steiger’s take:
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“What if the same is true of life? Could human life be like a dead language containing a treasure of knowledge, significance, with, and purpose, just waiting to be rediscovered? Is this why we are restless? We keep trying to raise a dead language by giving it subjective meaning, but nothing makes sense. We sense that our lives have an objective meaning, but we don’t know how to access it.”
Andy Steiger
How’s that for a gateway to talk about the power of the Christian Gospel as the key that gives meaning to life? Come on!
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Wrap-up
Here’s the wrap-up. People love ratings and statistics, right? In the future, you’ll just skip over everything I wrote at the top and just check out the scores. Here you go.
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Accessible (can almost anyone pick it up and understand it?): 9 / 10
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Engaging (will people enjoy reading it?): 9 / 10
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Beneficial (will people benefit from reading it?): 10 / 10
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Fresh (does it cover new ground or provide new insights on familiar topics?): 5 / 10
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Faithful (is it consistent with the Scriptures?): 9 / 10
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Best readers: people who need some basic tools for having conversations with people about Christian faith