If You Could Ask God One Question, by Paul Williams and Barry Cooper (The Good Book Company, Ltd.: 2007; 127 pages)This was one of the amazing array of books we were given at the T4G conference in April. Though two authors are listed, the the book is written in the first-person singular, with Paul Williams (not the diminutive songwriter) as the speaker.
The book is brief and eminently readable. Long ago I wearied of professional apologists writing books telling Christians about the theory of apologetics, but themselves not actually addressing non-Christians, and showing us how. (That's why I did this.)
One Question is a book that is meant to be given to non-Christians. The authors work to provide readable, Christ-centered answers appealing to unbelievers and pointing them to Christ.
How successful are they?
First, let's consider the array of questions. What questions do you hear from unbelievers? The authors take the engaging premise captured in the title, and come up with these:
- "If you're really there, God, why on earth don't you prove it?"
- "Isn't the Bible just a bunch of made-up stories?"
- "All good people go to Heaven, right?"
- "If you're a God of love, why send anyone to Hell?"
- "If Jesus really was your Son, how come he got killed?"
- "If I can be forgiven everything, doesn't that mean I can do whatever I like?"
- "How can anyone be sure there's life after death?"
- "What about followers of other religions?"
- "Isn't faith just a psychological crutch?"
- "Why do you allow suffering?"
- "Why do you hate sex?"
- "Why don't you just do a miracle?"
- "So, God, if you could ask me one question, what would it be?"
"Is Elvis really dead?"But this breezy tone actually conveys some pretty substantial content. The book itself frequently and extensively engages Scripture. Additionally, the footnotes (!) provide documentation, and often point to web pages. The down-side is that URLs seem frequently to become dead links; the up-side is they're free and immediately accessible — and how many unbelievers actually go out an buy a bunch of academic books to get their questions answered?
"That would be your question?"
"Yes," said Martin.
Trying to be sensitive, I suggested, "It's not really a matter of life and death though, is it Martin?"
He thought for a moment.
"It is if you're Elvis."
In fact, the whole is backed up by the web site Christianity Explored. Right at the start, the URL is provided in this book to find resources for more extended research.
Next, how good are the answers? The frame of the whole is Biblical Christianity. The "voice" is human and real, but the stance is neither timid nor abashed. The writers know they're not telling people what they want to hear, but this is not "I'm-sorry" apologetics.
In fact, this isn't a book on the theory of apologetics; it is apologetics. The don't compare and contrast evidentialism, presupposition or the rest. Instead, they simply wade right in to dealing out Scriptural responses to the questions.
As a result, I think just about any apologetic school could use this book. I find their approach fits just fine with my own basically van Tilian approach. Every time, they basically take the question to Christ, and show the meaning and cohesion of the Gospel answer.
- To "If you're really there, God, why on earth don't you prove it?", their response is "He did, when He became a man," coupled with a solid overview treatment of the deity of Christ.
- To "Isn't the Bible just a bunch of made-up stories?", their response is to give Christ's teaching on the authority of Scripture, and to explain why His view makes a difference.
- To "All good people go to Heaven, right?", they answer with Christ's response to the rich young ruler, and with what the Lord says about the human heart.
- "So, God, if you could ask me one question, what would it be?", they reply in Jesus' words: "What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, and yet lose or forfeit his very self?" (Luke 9:25 NIV [sorry]).