If God, Then What? Wondering aloud about truth, origins & redemption by Andrew Wilson
The other day I found myself in the somewhat surreal context of lying on a physiotherapists couch, with needles being stuck into my backside to release a muscle spasm, while engaged in a fairly intense conversation about Jesus.
It is funny how often ‘divine appointments’ occur at the most inconvenient of times, so it is good to be forearmed with some cogent things to say when you are caught on the hoof (or in the butt). In If God, Then What? Andrew has provided us with a brilliant example of how to do this.
However, before going any further with this review I should of course confess my predisposition to be positive about Andrew’s latest book, as we know each other personally, and collaborate on the What You Think Matters blog. Moreover, Andrew has previously written a very kind review of my book Sex Talks so I owe him one. But this will not be a positive review simply out of friendship, but because I think If God, Then What? is very, very good.
Generally I am somewhat unenthusiastic about apologetics, and have posted to that effect on WYTM (although this was in part, at least, a tongue in cheek attempt to provoke Andrew). Too often what is labelled ‘Christian apologetics’ comes across as boring, and rather than raising Christ up, lowers him in the dust of hollow philosophical and pseudo-scientific arguments. Andrew avoids these mistakes and has succeeded in blending together something that is like Tim Keller’s The Reason for God meets Don Miller’s Blue Like Jazz into a very satisfying apologetic whole, which I devoured in one sitting. (Although this mental gluttony, combined with my current somewhat feverish state, meant I then lay awake, mind buzzing, until 3 o’clock this morning – thank you Andrew!) In fact, the only thing I managed to get myself even a little irritated about was the fact that by having been an undergraduate at Cambridge Andrew got to meet a lot more interesting people than did those of us who attended lowlier institutions!
If God, Then What? leads on us a journey, packed full of anecdote and winsome observation, that travels over territory exploring how we can know anything about anything, to what that might tell us about the likelihood or otherwise of the existence of God, and then into much more explicitly Christian claims about sin and death, resurrection and life. Throughout, Andrew exhibits a light touch, penetrating insight, and considerable humour. Perhaps the riskiest chapter in the book is one on origins, in which it would have been all too easy for Andrew to slip and slide into the murky tracks of so many other apologetics books, and – as Andrew himself puts it – “quote a long list of prize-winning scientists who agree with me, produce great quotations about fine-tuning and the Creator’s aim, and misquote Stephen Hawking a few times to make it look like all scientists basically believe in God.” Thankfully, Andrew sidesteps this pitfall and proceeds in a way which casts light, rather than merely more obfuscation, on the debate.
In terms of audience, I should imagine that this book will appeal in large part to those who – like me – are already convinced of Andrew’s case. Christians will enjoy reading this because it will help them to see some things in a new light, and because it will help equip them for those God conversations with skeptics. However, I think it will also be read and enjoyed by those who are not Christians, or even necessarily theists, as it is engaging, and far from patronising or aggressive. An intelligent 16 year-old could probably handle it (I will try it on my intelligent 14 year-old) and anyone with genuine interest in discussing the big questions of life would find it accessible and interesting. In fact, I would hand it around to my friends in preference to Keller’s The Reason for God because it is more accessible, and more fun. And I think I might give a copy to my physiotherapist!