Ravi Zacharias (ed.), Beyond Opinion: Living the Faith We Defend. Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2007. xx + 360 pp. Pbk.
Ravi Zacharias is one of the most well known apologists of today. Even if one does not agree with his apologetic method, it is difficult to not respect his impact both in his own ministry and that of the organization he has founded. Perhaps Ravi Zacharias’ most enduring legacy will not be what he has done himself but the network that he developed of both experienced and younger apologists. Beyond Opinion reflects that legacy, containing essays by a number of those Ravi Zacharias has been working with. The book has three sections: 1) Giving an Answer, 2) Internalizing the Questions and Answers, and 3) Living Out the Answers.
The first section begins with a chapter on postmodern challenges to the Bible by Amy Orr-Ewing, who sees much hope for the power of the Bible to speak into today’s culture. Alister McGrath presents the challenges from atheism, drawing on both research and his own experience as a former atheist. There are some promising opportunities as well as serious challenges from youth culture, as Alison Thomas explains in her chapter. One of the great concerns for many is the impact of Islam, and Sam Solomon presents those in his informative essay. L.T. Jeyachandran deals with the challenges of eastern religions, seeing great hope for those followers to find their aspirations fulfilled in Christ. Challenges from science are summarized by John Lennox, who deals with the presuppositions of all scientists, secular and Christian. Michael Rumsden looks at the common misconceptions about Christianity and how Christians can respond through conversational apologetics. Joe Boot uses Augustine’s apologetic method to address the broader cultural and philosophical challenges. Ravi Zacharias addresses the concerns of many when he looks at the existential challenges of evil and suffering. The first section is concluded with a look at cross-cultural challenges by I’Ching Thomas.
The second section begins with L.T. Jeyachandran presenting the Trinity as a paradigm for spiritual transformation. Stuart McAllister deals with a surpising subject as he looks at the role of doubt and persecution in spiritual transformation. Danielle DuRant works through the idolatry, denial and self-deception that people encounter on their journey with God. The third section contains one chapter: Ravi Zacharias presenting the church’s role in apologetics and the development of the mind.
Like any edited volume, each chapter varies in quality by author. Some chapters are quite simple and some readers acquainted with apologetics will find little new. Others reflect a greater scholarship. There is also variety in the approaches. For example, Sam Solomon takes a very strong stand against Islam, while L.T. Jeyachandran seems much more open in embracing those from eastern religions.
If one is looking for in-depth treatments of specific areas of apologetics, they will not find it in this volume. What one will find is a snapshot of the state of apologetics at the beginning of the twenty-first century. The chapters focus on the current trends, with both challenges and opportunities. The final chapter by Ravi Zacharias is particularly helpful. Zacharias takes the reader on a tour of his journey as an apologist, sharing the things that worked and did not work. It is an important moment as Zacharias passes the baton, not just to another famous apologist, but to the church in general. The book is valuable, if only for this chapter.
Beyond Opinion is a great book for introducing people to apologetics and the various issues related to it. However, this book is also valuable to specialists who, getting caught up in their own specific area, need to be reminded of the bigger picture. This book is a helpful resource for the church as it takes up its role in defending the faith in a skeptical world.
Stephen J. Bedard