The last time I picked up a Christian apologetics book (as in the kind of book that attempts to lay out an argument for something, in this case the Christian faith) was my sophomore year of college. I remember laying on my dorm bunk and reading Lee Strobel’s The Case For Faith. After reading about a third of the book, I became frustrated at what I saw as the premise driving the book – that there is rational and logical backing behind the major tenants of the Christian faith and if you can just lay out the argument, people will necessarily believe. At the time, I felt like this was an arrogant approach, as if a logical argument would overcome all barriers to faith. I had friends in college who were extremely logical and rational agnostics, atheists, Jews, Muslims, etc., and I would have been embarrassed to offer them the kinds of arguments offered Strobel used in defense of Christianity. I never finished the book, and I haven’t picked up any other similar books until a few weeks ago.
I received a copy of I Want To Believe: Finding Your Way in an Age of Many Faiths by Mel Lawrenz, who pastors a large church in Milwaukee, WI. I started reading it, unsure of what to expect, but found myself drawn to the book’s approach. Rather than trying to offer definitive proof for Christianity, Lawrenz presents a case for belief, both at a theological and philosophical level.
Throughout the book, he enters into dialogue with various belief systems (both theistic and humanistic), outlining their basic tenants and comparing those beliefs to the Christian faith in order to promote religious discourse. He rejects the notion that all religions essentially say the same thing, quoting Ravi Zacharias as saying that “anyone who claims that all religions are the same betrays not only an ignorance of all religious but also a caricatured view of even the best known ones.” (97) While he is in favor of conversations between people holding different faiths, this is a book in Christian apologetics, not religious pluralism. Lawrenz writes in a way that does not water down Christianity or the central claims of the Christian faith.
Anyways, I enjoyed the book and appreciated what it had to say. Here are several quotes from it that I found interesting, profound, or helpful (or all three):
Believing is not mainly about the believer. It is about what is believed – or to put it better, it is about the eternal reality that inspires the belief. Believing is what happens when, in our consciousness, two worlds are conjoined: the Made and the Eternal. And then what we see before our eyes and our hands can touch merges with the mysterious and the supernatural. We gain our first truly comprehensive view of life. (53)
The more [the Romans] threw Christians to the lions or burned them at the stake or covered their bodies with tar and made them human torches f or the night games, the more faith in Jesus spread like its own kind of fire. Nero will make you a cynic, but the martyrs will make you a believer. (71)
Doubt is not the opposite of belief – it is simply the horizon between what we know with certainty today and what we hope becomes clearer in the future. (85)
For many, doubt is like driving into a fog. You didn’t see it coming, but now you’re in it. You don’t know how to get out of it, you don’t know what way to turn, and you don’t even remember exactly where you were when you got into it. You didn’t ask for the fog – it’s just how things are. (87)
Is it arrogant to say that you are certain about what you believe? In most times and places, this would be an absurd thought. Of course we want to be certain, and if certainty is at hand, it is a gift too good to ignore. Certainty is only arrogance if its motive is power over others rather than a search for truth. (104)
What we are looking for today really isn’t any different from what all human beings living in all places in the world have been looking for. The only real tragedy is when someone gives up looking for hope, when he or she stops saying, “I want to believe.” (232)