Among other things, my dad raised me love books and to love the Christian faith. For that reason, whenever I add religious books to my wish list, I let him know about them. Sooner or later, most of those books show up as gifts. The most recent books my dad gave me are: Case for Faith, Allure of Gentleness, and Man Myth Messiah.
Case for Faith by Lee Strobel interested me for two main reasons. My first reason was that Strobel is a journalist well-known in Christian circles for his four nonfiction books that explore evidence for the faith and refute challenges. I have three of them. The second reason for my interest was that In Case for Grace, Strobel writes about the transforming power of God’s grace on several men and women–including Strobel himself. During his teens, Strobel left his home, determined to prove himself to the world. My one disappointment is that I expected Case for Grace to focus more exclusively on Strobel. The first and last chapters do cover the broken relationship between Strobel and his dad. Moreover, there are occasional references throughout the other chapters. Beyond that, the format of Case for Grace is reminiscent of What’s So Amazing About Grace? by Philip Yancey, a favorite Christian author of mine, in that it about a diversity of real people. There’s the ones whom we might typically associate with needing redemption such as the drop-outs, addicts, and gang members. But there are also the ones who are less cliche such as the intellectual. Craig Hazen had always been a good guy, sciene geek, and teacher’s favorite. He started out as an agnostic, but eventually took a journey that led him to belief in the validity of the faith. One of the most touching is of Stephanie, who grew up biracial in Korean, when there wasn’t a place for biracial children. She faced both abandonment and abuse and grew up believing herself to be garbage.
Allure of Gentleness by Dallas Willard caught my attention when I browsed my hometown’s Christian bookstore this past summer. Number one reason was that I felt challenged by an earlier book of his, Spirit of the Disciplines. That book helped me better understand the place of solitude, prayer, meditation, sacrifice, and service in the Christian life. Another reason for my interest was that, according to the subtitle, about defending the faith in the manner of Jesus. I’ve been going through a season of reading about apologetics and Willard’s approach intrigued me. There’s much I appreciate Allure of Gentleness, including the simplicity or casualness of its tone. With each new chapter, I felt almost as if Willard were having a conversation with his readers. I also found of interest his contention that apologetics isn’t for those outside of the faith; but for the doubters and questioners within the faith. While I did initially seek out books on apologetics as a way to answer questions by the skeptics, I’ve also come to find them to reassure me when I walk through valleys. Because reading material in defense of the Christian faith isn’t new to me, I found myself already acquainted with much of what Willard wrote. Yet I still enjoyed Allure of Gentleness and believe it a worthy addition to my shelves.
Man Myth and Messiah by Rice Broocks ended up on my wish list after my husband and I saw the God’s Not Dead movies. The book was released concurrent to the God’s Not Dead movie sequel, which covered the same theme. In the first chapter, Brocks refers to the famous trilemma posed by C.S. Lewis in an earlier generation. Lewis said that based on the claims of Jesus in the Gospels about being the Son of God, Jesus was either a lunatic (because Jesus thought He was God), a liar (because He knew his claim wasn’t true), or He was indeed the Messiah. Broocks goes onto explain how the legend or myth got added to the list. The question has apparently been raised: “What if Jesus didn’t claim to be the Son of God?” That would mean all our stories about Him are simply legends. The rest of Man Myth and Messiah presents evidence to validate the existence of the historical Jesus and concludes with a call for everyone to make a choice about whom they will believe. The section dedicated to exploring whether Jesus is simply a product of mythology presented material I haven’t read in other books and feels solid. Too often evidence in other sections felt too flimsy or subjective to stand up to scrutiny by those who are seriously searching for the truth. Over all, Man Myth and Messiah is a nice introduction to apologetics, but true doubters will want to read other books too.
All three of the books I’ve mentioned fall under the category of apologetics. There’s a part of faith that needs to come from the heart and emotion. I’m ready now to check out some of those titles, including a biography that my husband gave me about a missionary. At the same time, part of faith should also come from the mind and reason. Even the scriptures admonish believers to always be ready to give a defense of their faith. For these purposes, I encourage you to check out my three recent summer reads.