BOOK REVIEWS

The Logic of God – Ravi Zacharias

raviRavi Zacharias, The Logic of God: 52 Christian Essentials For the Heart and Mind (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2019), 301 pp.

Ask students of apologetics, “Who has wielded the weightiest influence in the 20th century?” There may be a variety of responses, and will, no doubt include the well-known names of Francis Schaeffer, Gresham Machen, and C.S. Lewis. Each of these influential thinkers are with their Savior in heaven.

Who has stepped in to continue the legacy of these titans of the faith in our generation? In my mind, Ravi Zacharias must be included in that list. While his first book, A Shattered Visage: The Real Face of Atheism was largely unrecognized, it came at a crucial juncture in my Christian journey and continues to serve me over twenty-five years later. Since that day, Zacharias has continued to write in the field of apologetics and has influenced thousands of students around the world.

Ravi Zacharias has encouraged Christian thinkers to craft careful biblical arguments and equipped them to engage people in the marketplace of ideas. But he has also challenged the skeptical mind with his brilliant intellect, keen insight, and winsome personality.

The Logic of God is the newest offering by Zacharias. This book contains 52 Christian essentials for the heart and mind. The book is targeted to Christian readers but it would be an excellent resource for skeptics to consider as well.

Each chapter follows a predictable pattern. A topic is introduced, a Scripture is offered, and a brief 2-3 page discussion ensues. At the end of each chapter, readers are invited to consider a series of reflection questions and to walk down a path of personal application.

As an avid reader, I must say that Zondervan has gone to great lengths to make this a beautiful book. The hardback edition includes high quality glossy paper. The writing style is engaging and lucid. The person and work of Jesus Christ is celebrated. The Word of God is treasured. And readers are challenged to think through the exclusive nature of truth. Indeed, as the author notes, “Truth by definition is exclusive … The law of contradiction does apply to reality: two contradictory statements cannot both be true in the same sense. Thus, to deny the law of noncontradiction is to affirm it at the same time.” Such a statement reveals how Zacharias alerts readers to the importance of philosophy and how good philosophy contributes to effective apologetics.

One of the things that emerges in this book is Ravi’s passion to wed reason and faith. This makes his style unique and resembles the pattern that Francis Schaeffer popularized in the twentieth century. Zacharias writes,

“The connecting of faith and reason is the wonderful journey of the soul. When one’s thinking is set aright again and when the flesh has its shackles broken, the mind and body come under God’s liberating and fulfilling plan. Then we see as He designed us to see. When we come to know our Creator, the questioning is not for doubting but for putting it all together and marveling at His wonders.”

Zacharias has a gift for blending rationality and experience and wouldn’t think of having it any other way. His approach is desperately needed in these postmodern times.

I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review.

CULTURE · Edinburgh · Evangelism · Postmodernity · Preaching · Proclamation · Scotland

Truth Unhinged in Edinburgh Square

My wife and I recently spent five days in Edinburgh, Scotland. While there is much to commend in this very beautiful city, it did not take long to realize that God is no longer welcome for many of the inhabitants there.

On the last evening in Edinburgh, I watched a young street preacher proclaiming the gospel from a makeshift podium on Royal Mile Street, which stands in the shadow of St. Giles Cathedral. Here, the mighty John Knox wielded the mighty sword of God’s Word, which brought reformation to Scotland in the sixteenth century. Knox prayed, “Give me Scotland or I will die,” demonstrating his great love for God and his countrymen.

However, the days of the Reformation are long gone in Scotland. The scoffs of the crowd which were directed at the street preacher bore witness to that:

“Who created God?” one man shouted. “What about the holocaust?” another queried. “Who wrote the Bible?” questioned one of the street performers. “How could anyone believe in a talking serpent?” “Where did evil come from?” “What about the dinosaurs?” “What about the other religions?” And, “How could a loving God send anyone to hell?”

These emotionally charged questions were all hurled at the street preacher who merely sought to proclaim the simple message of the gospel.

I stood and prayed for the young man who heralded the truth. I asked God to soften the hearts of this angry mob. In the midst of my petition, the thought struck me, This is the same kind of crowd that Noah encountered. These are the same kinds of people who spewed their venom at Jeremiah and Jonah. And these are the kinds of people who hurled their hate against the New Testament apostles.

Nothing has changed. There is nothing new under the sun. The hearts of men are continuously evil (Gen. 6:5). “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick” (Jer. 17:9). Ever since the fall of man, sinful people continually suppress the truth (Rom. 1:18).

Every person carries a bag full of presuppositions. Atheism, evolution, immorality, homosexuality, and relativism. These are only a few of the presuppositions that I saw in the Edinburgh square. The people who embrace these worldviews are unwitting worshippers. They worship the false god of success. They worship the false god of autonomy. Or they worship the false god of another religion.

The angry mob who squared off against the preacher in Edinburgh willingly exchanged the truth of God for a lie. The Bible says unregenerate people realize that God exists; yet they refuse to acknowledge him: “For although they knew God, they did not honor God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened” (Rom. 1:21).

And so I watched a tragic scene unfold on Royal Mile Street in Edinburgh. I watched a frenzied mob reject the truth from a “voice in the wilderness.” I gazed upon a group of worshippers who willingly turned from the God of the Bible to a god of their own making.

A few thoughts echoed in my mind and pressed against my heart as I stood on Royal Mile Street in the heart of Edinburgh:

First, the unbelieving world who preaches “tolerance” fails to be tolerant when the truth is proclaimed. Tolerance is only a virtue when it lines up with a worldview that rejects God, turns from his law, and marginalizes his Word. The “tolerance mantra” is a smokescreen, in the final analysis. Anyone who repudiates the truth claims of Scripture is tolerated. But anyone who embraces the propositional truth of God’s Word is cast aside and criticized.

Second, followers of Jesus Christ are called to faithfully proclaim the truth. Most will be unwilling to stand on a makeshift platform and herald the gospel to a hostile crowd. But how many of us could utter the claims of Christ over a cup of coffee? How many of us could share the love of Christ in the workplace? Who among us could challenge the pagan mind with the gospel truth in the marketplace of ideas? Paul understood this mandate to faithfully proclaim the truth: “How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, ‘How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!'” (Rom. 10:14-15).

Third, when the truth is faithfully proclaimed, the unbelieving world will invariably become offended. The Edinburgh preacher recognized this reality when he stepped upon his makeshift platform. He realized that he would be opposed. He realized that he would be scoffed at. And he realized that the crowd would laugh. Scripture warns us that in the last days, people will not put up with sound doctrine (2 Tim. 4:3). The Bible says people will “accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths” (2 Tim. 4:3-4). Tragically, we will not only find these kinds of people in the public square; we will also find them in the church.

In his book, Get Real: Sharing Your Everyday Faith Every Day, John Leonard argues that people have stopped listening to the gospel “because we want to share it in the least inconvenient, least costly way. We want to save dirty people at a distance.” Leonard has touched upon an important truth. And we can certainly do a much better job of sharing the gospel up-close. But the real reason for their resistance to the truth is a rocky, stubborn, and unbelieving, sinful heart! Our task is to faithfully share the truth and trust the Holy Spirit to soften hearts and effectually draw sinners to the Savior (John 6:44).

Finally, bold proclamation invites persecution. Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted” (2 Tim. 3:12). Yet Scripture reminds us, “And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you. To him be the dominion forever and ever. Amen.” (1 Peter 5:10–11, ESV) The promise of persecution should not hinder our passion to proclaim the truth. Rather, this reality should embolden our efforts to wield the mighty sword of truth!

Was the angry mob who ridiculed the preacher a fair representation of the feelings of the Scottish people? Were their harsh words and cackling laughs an accurate portrait of the people living in Edinburgh? Since I only met a handful of people in our brief stay, I cannot answer this question with any clarity. However, the Word of God informs us that what I saw on that cold winter afternoon is representative of the unbelieving world.

When truth is unhinged, we will face an intolerant audience. When truth is unhinged, the unbelieving world will be offended which will prompt persecution. But when truth is unhinged, some will hear and respond. Some will be cut to the quick. Hearts will be softened. Minds will be sharpened. For the truth of God’s Word will unlock the most resistant and callous heart. Truth unhinged will transform lives as God’s Word is faithfully proclaimed.

BOOK REVIEWS · Discipleship · Theology

The Real Scandal of the Evangelical Mind – Carl Trueman (2011)

0802405746_lIn 1994, Mark Noll dropped a land mine on the ecclesiastical world with his excellent work, The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind.  Noll argued persuasively that “the scandal of the evangelical mind is that there is not much of an evangelical mind.”  Noll’s conclusion appears to be in agreement with the thesis of Harry Blamires who said, “There is no longer a Christian mind.”  Carl Trueman picks up where Noll and Blamires left off with the publication of his little book, The Real Scandal of the Evangelical Mind.

Trueman questions the functionality of the term “evangelical” which according to David Bebbington is marked by four characteristics:

  • A high regard for the Bible as the primary source of truth
  • A focus on the cross work of Christ
  • A belief in the necessity of personal conversion
  • A public display of the gospel

Trueman is rightly concerned that the doctrinal boundaries which define an evangelical are too broad.  He wisely states, “Ironically, the minimal doctrinal confessions of some evangelical institutions can exacerbate, rather than mitigate the problem of boundary drawing.”  Trueman continues, “A movement that cannot or will not  draw boundaries, or that allows the modern cultural fear of exclusion to set its theological agenda, is doomed to lose its doctrinal identity.”  Indeed, the propensity of evangelicals to be inclusive and draw blurry boundaries will in the final analysis, harm the evangelical mind.   Ignoring Trueman’s counsel will prove detrimental to evangelicalism as a movement.

The author identifies a trend in the evangelical world that is growing increasingly more tolerant with subjects such as universalism or homosexuality.  Some might agree that this broadens the appeal but this brazen compromise does not come without a steep price.  Truly, this is weak-kneed, spineless, and tepid.  And it bears no resemblance to the robust faith of the Puritans and Protestant Reformers.  This is not a “faith” to die for.  This is a “faith” that is marginalized and ineffective.Trueman argues that the net result of this theological compromise will come under “huge strain” in the days ahead.  The author posits, “The impact of this wider cultural shift on evangelical institutions and organizations will be dramatic.”  Simply put, Christ-followers who stand for the truth will not be tolerated.  Christ-followers who think Christianly (to borrow Schaeffer’s language) will be marginalized.  Christ-followers who refuse to compromise the truth will pay a heavy price in the marketplace of ideas.

Trueman gives a brilliant example of where the scandal of the evangelical mind is heading.  He challenges evangelical leaders to weigh in on the matter of homosexuality.  Is it a legitimate lifestyle or not?  “All Christians,” says Trueman, “evangelical and otherwise, will face the question, and their answer to it will determine whether they have credibility in the wider culture.”  Evangelicals have not and will not be unified in answering this question because the evangelical world is not “defined by doctrinal commitments.”  One recalls the strong and vigorous challenges of the 20th century from Carl Henry and Francis Schaeffer; calls to maintain fidelity to biblical authority.  Since those calls have gone largely unheeded, the evangelical mind is in trouble.

Here is the rub: “Do we want to be culturally credible, and how much ground are we willing to surrender in order to do so?”  The author reminds anyone tempted by such a tantalizing thought, “Cultural relevance can be a cruel mistress.”  So will Christians leaders stand up and risk being marginalized at best and scorned and persecuted at worst.  That remains a question that has yet to be answered.

Trueman goes one step beyond Mark Noll and his conclusion is not as half-baked as it appears on the surface.  He maintains, “It is not that there is no mind, but rather that there is no evangelical.”  He predicts that Christianity will be viewed as a cult, much like the 1st-century believers in Rome.

The cure, according to Trueman comes not in cultural concession or compromise but in narrowing the boundaries and refining our doctrinal distinctives.  A return to the historic creeds (what the author refers to in another work as the Creedal Imperative) may be in order.  Minimizing doctrine never helps combat theological error – it only exacerbates it!

Trueman concludes on a somber note: “The real scandal of the evangelical mind currently is not that it lacks a mind, but that it lacks any agreed-upon evangel.”  The Real Scandal of the Evangelical Mind is a timely book that should be placed in the hands of as many Christ-followers as possible.  It is a warning; it is a call to arms; it is a wake-up call!  May this book spur church leaders to refuse to loosen up (which is the trend in so many circles today).  The real call is to tighten up!  The real call involves courage in order to rebuild the Christian mind that values orthodoxy, cherishes the historic creeds and confessions, and elevates the gospel in a way that magnifies and glorifies Christ.

Semper Reformanda!

5 stars