Saturday, December 29, 2012

Book Review: He's Greater Than You Know
by Phil Weingart

He’s Greater Than You Know by Phil Weingart explores a number of questions which often trouble doubting Christians. Weingart draws on his own experiences defending Christianity online to give a unique look at a number of questions doubting Christians have. The book opens up a number of avenues for exploration along with providing a few foundational answers for further research.

Weingart had encountered Mike—a doubting Christian—and seen the sincerity of a heart looking for truth. Weingart’s exploration with Mike of several tough questions related to Christianity led to not only a quest for truth but also insight into Weingart’s own journey of faith. For Weingart, a turning point in his life was when he realized that although the Reformers may have had great spiritual insights, “They were… in the end… only men.”[1] This realization led him to explore answers to questions about the faith unfettered by a particular ideology or interpretation. Instead, he “borrowed something from just about all of them [denominations].”[2] These reflections led him to give some unique answers to questions about the faith.

The first question Weingart turns to is whether one can choose to believe and follow Christ despite major doubts.[3] The thrust of this question is often emotional due to pain over doubting one’s relationship with their Creator. The answer Weingart gives is complex through simplicity: you remain a Christian despite doubts, Christianity is not just a belief but a matter of being “born into” a family, so whether one believes everything absolutely correctly, one remains in the family.[4] The answer is thus both pastoral and apologetic.

The second question seeks to understand why God doesn’t supernaturally reveal himself so that all believe. Weingart’s answer is fairly simple: “it takes more to save a man than to impress him.”[5] However, this answer is embedded within a wealth of theological exploration on how God relates to the world.

The third question touches upon the nature of special revelation—the Bible. Here is where Weingart’s work will likely become most contentious for Christians. First, he argues that we—Christians—are the true messengers of God. “It is not enough for us to send Bibles. We have to go to the unbelieving world and model Christ for them ourselves.”[6] Then, he makes an argument against Sola Scriptura. He describes this doctrine as “The claim… that God provided everything we need in written form, and that we therefore need nothing else…”[7] Against this, Weingart argues that God continues to reveal Himself in a number of ways, undermining the notion of Sola Scriptura as he has defined it.[8]

It seems that many believers who uphold Sola Scriptura will react strongly against this portrayal of the doctrine. For example, the definition given in this book seems weighted towards creating a straw man of the doctrine, which is very frequently taken to mean that Scripture alone contains all that is necessary for salvation. The importance of this distinction is paramount; indeed, making this distinction essentially undermines Weingart’s entire argument against Sola Scriptura. The claim is not that the Bible comprehensively covers all needed knowledge, instead the claim is that the Bible comprehensively covers God’s salvation plan and gives all knowledge necessary to gain salvation by grace through faith. Setting this critique aside, Weingart’s points about the need for listening to God’s voice and being in a relationship with God are points that must be well taken.

The fourth question he addresses regards eternity: How can God condemn people for eternity without enough evidence. Weingart’s answer here is very interesting as well: he argues that God judges based upon what people know, not what they do not know. Furthermore, all people know everything expected of them.[9] He also notes the importance of sanctification. “Sinners act like sinners, and that is no surprise” however, believers are called to repentance and better representation of Christ.[10]

The fifth question addresses the notion that we are born spiritually dead. Again, Weingart’s answer is bound to ruffle feathers. He argues that there simply is no spiritual life whatsoever until God has regenerated someone. “God did not curse man… God did not insert ‘sin nature’ into man.”[11] There was nothing added to man, argues Weingart. Instead, things were made more difficult because of the curse of the earth. It is through the inheritance of Christ that we become spiritual, and our relationships with God are renewed.[12] Again, this answer goes against the grain of a number of doctrines held firmly by many denominations—Reformed, Lutheran, and the like. An extended critique here is beyond the scope of the review, but suffice to say that again it seems Weingart’s characterization of the view he critiques may not be wholly accurate. However, this may be due to his general unwillingness to get bogged down in intense theological debate.

A simple survey of Weingart’s answers to questions does not do justice to the book. He’s Greater Than You Know acts as a calling to a better understanding of Christ and one’s relationship with God. Hints of this notion were found in the answer to the first question, where Weingart notes that “You can believe all sorts of silly things about the family or not believe them, but if you were born a member of the family, you are in the family. It is that simple.”[13] This answer opens up the possibility for exploring what it means to be Christian. It is perhaps this theme which is central throughout the book. One can have the wrong answers, but it is important to seek the right answers. God is good, and He will bring you home, because you are part of His family. Not only that, but it calls Christians to a deeper understanding of their faith and life with God.

He’s Greater Than You Know offers a sweeping look at five questions which often trouble doubting Christians. It also acts as a call to explore Christian theology more deeply. By speaking directly to doubting Christians, Weingart has done a great service: doubting does not destroy one’s relationship with God. Instead, it is a call to a better understanding of God. He’s Greater Than You Know is a call to learn about, to explore a relationship with, and to ultimately love God.


Apologetics 315 Book Reviewer J.W. Wartick is a graduate student in Christian Apologetics at Biola University. His greatest interest is philosophy of religion--particularly arguments for the existence of God and the polemics against atheism. He frequently writes on these topics (and others) at http://jwwartick.com.

[1] Phil Weingart, He’s Greater Than You Know (CreateSpace, 2012), 15.
[2] Weingart, He’s Greater Than You Know, 16.
[3] Ibid, 19.
[4] Ibid, 20.
[5] Ibid, 56.
[6] Ibid, 65.
[7] Ibid, 77.
[8] Ibid, 80-84.
[9] Ibid, 97.
[10] Ibid, 115.
[11] Ibid, 135.
[12] Ibid, 139.
[13] Ibid, 20.

2 comments :

philwynk said...

JW's review of my book is both insightful and fair. Thanks for it.

Regarding Sola Scriptura and "straw men," I will accept graciously the possibility that I have not represented the formal doctrine accurately; I am not a seminary-trained theologian, and hardly a theologian at all. However, I have heard the version of Sola Scriptura that I described and rebutted in lots of places, coming out of the mouths of believers who regard themselves (sometimes loudly!) as well-informed. Even if the version I rebutted is not the correct, formal doctrine, it is a version of the doctrine that is alive and functioning in the modern, Evangelical Church, and does need to be addressed. So I may footnote that chapter in the 2nd edition, but I won't change it.

Moreover, I need to dispute the limitation that SS argues that the scriptures contain what is necessary specifically for salvation. The Westminster Confession of Faith, which I quote in the book, declares that the scriptures contain "The whole counsel of God, concerning all things necessary for... man's salvation, faith, and life..." So unless that plank expresses more than the doctrine of Sola Scriptura, the doctrine does claim that the scripture contains everything God needs to say regarding our lives.

My point is that God never stopped communicating with His people. He communicates daily to anybody who is willing to listen, and some of the things He says, like "You should attend X college now" or "You should offer to pray for that man over there reading the paper," cannot be deduced from the scripture. In fact, that very interaction is one of the purposes of our personal redemption; it is in the furnace of experience that we come to know and enjoy God.

Again, thanks to JW Wartick for an excellent effort, and may God grant us all greater understanding as we seek Him out.

Marvin Torgeson said...

Phil: A book that tangles with the affairs of apologetics places you into a camp that is ever striving for precision. As you grow in grace and knowledge of Jesus Christ you will find that such precision is invaluable in relating scripture truth to atheist ideologies. Its more than vague general understandings of scripture truth handled philosophically, its accurately understood scripture truth handled rightly so that fellow believers can bear witness to the truth you deliver and join with you in agreement regardless of how you philosophically approach the topic. I've not read the book yet, but I want to encourage you to continue to reach out to people in the love of Jesus Christ. The command to preach the gospel does not have a requirement of a theological degree before we can start, nevertheless your brothers will exhort you to sharpen your theological knowledge.

Take that as a welcoming into the ranks of apologetic soldiers.

Post a Comment

Thanks for taking the time to comment. By posting your comment you are agreeing to the comment policy.

Blog Archive

Amz