Saturday, July 02, 2011

Book Review: Beyond Opinion by Ravi Zacharias

It took me about a year to get through this book. It was provided to me for review by Thomas Nelson through their Booksneeze program.
Since I received and started reading Beyond Opinion, I’ve read many other books. A few things working against Beyond Opinion are the weight of the material, and the format of the book. Format being, it’s paper. I’ve been reading mostly Kindle books lately, since they’re ubiquitous. I can start a book on my iPhone, read it on my laptop, pick it up at work during lunch, and read on my iPad at bed time. Not so with a paper book. You must have the book with you, and as is the case at bed time, the light must be one. Paper books aren’t backlit like an iPad is.
Beyond Opinion wasn’t exactly written by Ravi Zacharias. It’s an apologetics book in the format of a collection of essays by various contributors, with Ravi Zacharias acting as a contributor and the General Editor.
The subtitle of the book is “Living the faith we defend”. I was attracted to the book by a statement on the back. One of Ravi’s Hindu friends asked him “If this conversation is truly supernatural, why is it not more evident in the lives of so many Christians that I know?” The back cover of the book states this book is Dr. Zacharias’s response.
That made me curious, and as I’d just finished a review of another Thomas Nelson book when Beyond Opinion became available, I requested it. I must admit the premise of this book is aimed at an insecurity I have. I happen to be a Christian. I wasn’t raised so. I came to believe at 28 during a trial in my life. Lots of seeds took root at that time. But I often worry my own life gets in the way of my ability to share what I believe with others. I’m often afraid to share with others. So I requested Beyond Opinion, and about a year long journey began.
It took me a year to read partly because of the format (paper vs. electronic), and partly because it’s a weighty subject and I wanted to make sure my mind was sharp enough to dig in. I finally decided to plow through the last 100 pages today. It took a while.
I would rate the material in this book as about a Master’s degree level. It’s written by very skilled apologists. Beyond Opinion is meant to be a conversation, and is divided into 3 parts, with part 1 divided into 2 sections.
Part 1 is “Giving an Answer”, and comes in two sections.
Section 1 is “Addressing the Difficult Questions”. It deals with questions from six perspectives: Postmodernism, Atheism, Youth, Islam, Eastern Religions, and Science. Each chapter is written by a contributor with expertise in that viewpoint, either coming from it, or ministering to it. Or both.
Section 2 is “Addressing the Questions behind the Questions”. It’s chapters are “Conversational Apologetics”, “Broader Cultural and Philosophical Challenges”, “Existential Challenges of Evil and Suffering”, and “Cross Cultural Challenges”.
Part 2 is “Internalizing the Questions and Answers”. It’s chapters include “The Trinity as a Paradigm for Spiritual Transformation”, “The Role of Doubt and Persecution in Spiritual Transformation”, and “Idolatry, Denial, and Self-Deception: Hearts on Pilgrimage.”
Part 3 is “Living Out the Answers” and consists of a chapter written by Ravi Zacharias called “The Church’s Role in Apologetics and the Development of the Mind”.
Contributors include Joe Boot, Danielle DuRant, L. T. Jeyachandran, John Lennox, Stuart McAllister, Alister McGrath, Amy Orr-Ewing, Michael Ramsden, Sam Soloman, Alison Thomas, I’Ching Thomas, and of course, Dr. Ravi Zacharias. All contributors, as I understand it, are affiliated with RZIM (Ravi Zacharias International Ministries).
This wasn’t meant to be a textbook, but a conversation. I read it as such. Each contributor had something to say, but did address their section as a conversation.
I’m already way past the 200 words Thomas Nelson wants to see on a book review. As I said, this was a very complex book, and it took me a long time to read to believe I could do the book justice. I made a lot of notes and will probably revisit sections of this book again. Two things I can suggest we take away from the book come from the closing chapter. Ravi Zacharias lays out three levels of philosophy. Level 1 is Logic. Level 2 is Imagination and Feeling. Level 3 is Prescription. When a question is asked of you at one level, you must meet the question at the same level. To jump immediately to Prescription before you’ve dealt with logic and feelings is useless. Dr. Zacharias mentions how the Apostle Paul dealt with questioners in both Athens and Corinth. In Athens, the people were focused on philosophy. In Corinth, it was carnality.
Also, from the concluding chapter, “First, do not ever depend on one knockout method that will bring about the desired result”. I know many lay Christians who approach witnessing as if they’re on commission, and must close the sale quickly using high-pressure sales tactics. I told myself I would not operate that way. I try to plant seeds. I know the moment I came to believe, many seeds that had been planted over the years started to take root.
I Cor 3:[6] *I planted, *Apollos watered, *but God gave the growth. [7] So *neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth. [8] He who plants and he who waters are one, and each *will receive his wages according to his labor. [9] For we are *God's fellow workers. You are God's field, *God's building.  (ESV)

Beyond Opinion: Living the Faith We Defend

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