Thursday, November 22, 2007

Book Review: Know Why You Believe

The goal of Know What You Believe by Paul Little is to present clear, concise answers to the twelve most common questions that are raised about the claims of Christianity. It does this in a very simple and readable way, obviously targeted primarily to the basic inquirer. The book succeeds in tackling the common questions dealt with in apologetics, even covering difficult concepts in a simple way. This may be considered glib to the more skeptical intellectual. However, the book remains accessible to all as a short and sweet reference.

The book is arranged in a logical order, answering the twelve common questions while building a cumulative case for Christianity. It covers from the rationality of belief, the existence of God, the divinity of Christ, the Resurrection, and the Bible’s reliability and veracity. After building a case for Christianity, it covers scientific questions, the problem of evil and suffering, and then other world religions. This simple treatment is a good guide for further study in each of these weighty areas.

The brevity and simplicity of the book (which could be considered one of its faults) actually serves to strengthen the apologetic in one sense. Its shortness forces the book to focus on the essential and prevailing arguments, avoiding a comprehensive treatment, which is not the goal. It should be noted, however, that this book should not be the end-point for study. This is a primer text. As such, the reader should be warned not to think the book contains “all the answers,” or even the best answers. The novice would be wise to start here, but foolish to end here.

Another great encouragement to the apologist is the attitude of the author. Paul Little reminds the reader that the same questions always arise. The questions are predictable and almost universal. If one can anticipate the objections, one can be prepared with the answers. The author keeps his apologetic geared for the inquirer and focused on the core issues; he keeps it simple and clear. This is a great rule of thumb.

This book seems most suitable as “standard equipment” for someone involved in evangelism or other areas of ministry where these common questions abound. A street evangelist lacking this framework will come across shallow and severely lacking when confronted with these inevitable questions. In conclusion, all Christians would do well to make Know Why You Believe a required starting text in a further study of apologetics.


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