Thomas Nelson, 2007. (Available in Australia from Koorong Books)
This is a collection of essays by members of the Ravi Zacharias International Ministries team. Except for two Oxford Professors – Alister McGrath and John Lennox – all the other authors are part of RZIM, working fulltime in various places around the globe.
In the fourteen essays contained here the authors seek to connect Christian apologetics with Christian living. Subtitled “Living the Faith We Defend”, the heart of this book is to show that good apologetics is not just providing the right answers, but is about living a life that reflects the one we seek to defend.
The authors remind us that we are called to defend the faith, by meeting intellectual and worldview challenges. But we are also to be a living example of the faith, and show the reality of a Christ-transformed life. Providing honest answers to honest questions is obviously what apologetics is all about. But as Zacharias reminds us, “the role of the apologists is to win the person, not just the argument”.
The various essays featured here cover many important areas. Some of the major topics covered include postmodernism, atheism, Islam, eastern religions, challenges from youth, challenges from science, the problem of evil and suffering, cross-cultural challenges, and the place of doubt.
One of the chapters by Zacharias, on the church’s role in apologetics and the development of the mind, is alone worth the price of the book. The task of getting the church of Jesus Christ to actually use its mind for the glory of God is a most pressing need. Indeed, the title of Zacharias’s radio show, “Let My People Think” has to be one of the great challenges facing believers today.
He begins the chapter by reminding us of the need to lead well-rounded apologetic lives: “I have little doubt that the single greatest obstacle to the impact of the gospel has not been its inability to provide answers, but the failure on our part to live it out.”
He mentions a Hindu friend he had known long ago and his objections to the gospel. He felt Christian conversion was just a move to moral reform, without any supernatural element to it. He asked a question which really troubled Zacharias: “If this conversion is truly supernatural, why is it not more evident in the lives of so many Christians?”
Zacharias says Christians must first be willing to grapple with the difficult questions of the sceptics, and work through them ourselves. Then we must internalise the answers and live out these answers before a hurting and hungry world.
But we must not ignore or downplay the many honest questions which sceptics have. It is vital that we interact with them. “There is an exponential growth of knowledge in our time,” says Zacharias, “and it is part of our Christian calling to work hard at understanding as much as we can the themes that must be addressed.”
Yet this is rarely happening in the church today. Zacharias takes a dim view of the Christian mind. Walk into any Christian bookstore and the great majority of titles are simply fluff and froth, lacking in any theological or intellectual substance.
And in an age of intellectual mushiness, and a war on truth, Christians more than ever need to stand up for Christianity’s absolute truth claims. Says Zacharias, “The first and foremost task of the apologist, then, is to stand for truth and to clarify the claims of the gospel.”
Other chapters can be mentioned. L.T. Jeyachandran’s article on Hinduism, Buddhism and the New Age Movement is a helpful and concise introduction to the Eastern worldview. Danielle DuRant’s piece on idolatry and self-deception provides helpful insights and observations.
Taken together, the different parts of this book make for a powerful whole. They deal with intellectual and ideological issues, but also cover them from a personal and practical point of view. This is the way apologetics should be done: reaching both the head and the heart. This book is a most welcome addition to the apologist’s library, and deserves a wide reading.