Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Beyond Opinion: Living the Faith We Defend

Beyond Opinion: Living the Faith We Defend

Beyond Opinion with author and editor Ravi Zacharias is an excellent apologetic resource. It is not your standard multi-author apologetic. Norm Geisler calls it “the best book of its kind in print”. J.P. Moreland says the book is “unique and stands in a class by itself.” William L. Craig says that “Ravi and his team” model for us the “relational-reality” approach to Christian Apologetics.

In the last chapter Zacharias states, “All reality is ultimately defined by…God who is a Being in relationship.” All relationships have to be based on the recognition of truth…Truth is that which corresponds to reality as it is, not necessarily as we construct it to be…the apologist does not, therefore, depend on one knockout argument but in the response to the real for which all ultimately search.” (pg. 333)

There are over 350 pages of material from other authors such as Alister McGrath, John Lennox, L.T. Jeyachandran, Amy Orr-Ewing, Sam Soloman, Michael Ramsden, et al. The bulk of the contributors are also part of RZIM or Ravi Zacharias International Ministries. The book is three parts and a conclusion.

Part one is about “Giving An Answer” where the difficult questions are addressed. Challenges from Postmodernism, Atheism, Youth culture, Islam, Eastern Religions, and Science are discussed. McGrath offers some salient thoughts on Atheism. He asks, “What can we learn from the growth of atheism in the last two centuries?” Before going on to answer he notes that rivals to Christian doctrine help to identify weakness, not in our doctrine, but in the “way Christian apologists have responded to challenges”. Atheistic philosophy has its origin in the classical world. The gods of Mount Olympus were fickle and jealous and Homers Iliad portrays the gods as being petty and vindictive. Mc Grath aptly notes, “Surely many began to wonder, the gods were meant to be better than this. One of the fundamental factors leading to the rise of atheism is a perception that belief in the divine does not lead to a morality that is clearly superior to that offered by secular culture.” (pg. 25)

In part one Beyond Opinion also seeks to address the questions behind the questions. Zacharias addresses the “Existential Challenges of Evil and Suffering.” He admits that “pain, suffering, and evil are indisputable realities” (pg. 178) yet “when a skeptic raises the question, he also smuggles in the Judeo-Christian worldview” (pg. 179). He also gives an honest discussion on the mystery, reality, universality, and complexity of evil. Zacharias does a good job at handling the existential challenges of our day.

In part two the authors attempt to internalize some questions and answers, in order to see how they play out in a more practical sense. This part of the book discusses The Trinity, The Role of Doubt and Persecution in Spiritual Transformation, and Idolatry, Denial, and Self-Deception: Hearts on Pilgrimage through the Valleys. In part three, Zacharias takes a more practical look at apologetics and examining the Church’s Role in apologetics as well as the development of the mind. He concludes with an article on “Apologetics for Today” which discusses the purpose of the book and the model of apologetics utilized by Beyond Opinion

Overall, Beyond Opinion is a great resource that any Christian can use to bring others into a relationship with Jesus, our Lord and God. It will be a great addition to any bookshelf.
* To my non-Trinitarian or Oneness Pentecostal readers I should mention the article by L.T. Jeyachandran (hereon LTJ) entitled “The Trinity As A Spiritual Paradigm for Spiritual Transformation”. In this article, one should note that LTJ assumes the Trinity. This must be done in order to suggest that God is three persons in loving communion with one another from eternity. He also notes that “our emphasis on devotion to God tends to be an individualistic one” much like the pursuits of Eastern religions. LTJ does not try to prove this rather he points to the charlatans of what is seen as true spirituality today. In this article, as in many before this one, Trinitarians note that the Trinity is believed but rarely preached. Most Trinitarians do not have a Trinitarian model of worship and other Trinitarians have admitted that most people do not think of God as a Trinitarian should. LTJ suggests that the Triune God has been revealed, not from the beginning, but “at discrete points in time revealing the plurality of the persons in the Godhead.” (pg. 233) He points to the relational qualities of God as a personal being as a sign that God as a relational being is only possible in the “trinitarian understanding of God.” (pg. 238).

The latter is debatable. This argument attempts to make our existence parallel with that of God’s ontological existence. Ironically, this type of methodology is rejected by a Trinitarian when discussing the Trinity’s subordination of Christ. God is love and God alone is the righteous judge. He needs no other.

God is personal and is a relational being. The Trinitarian model however is not the ONLY plausible model but is likely very unnecessary. God has eternally loved humanity, the Church and the Son of God. The Trinitarian model is redundant and superfluous at this point. The love that Christ Himself exhibited best demonstrates the genuine love of God. It was self-giving, sacrificial, for others. It does not need reciprocation or demand it active among a community of eternal persons–it is unconditional love. The Trinity does not prove God is love nor does love prove God is a Trinity. God is an eternal, relational, loving being who also has power, wisdom, and knowledge before He created the worlds. God was powerful enough, wise enough and knowledgeable enough to create, ex nihlo, before He created.

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