Do we really need another book on apologetics? With hundreds of quality Christian resources to choose from already, what can one more actually contribute? Why should we spend the time to read this one in particular? I would like to give you three reasons why Neil Shenvi’s Why Believe? A Reasoned Approach to Christianity (Crossway, 2022) deserves your attention.
First, Shenvi’s resume speaks for itself. The fact that he holds a PhD in Theoretical Chemistry from UC Berkley, has studied quantum mechanics with some of the best professors in that field, and did not grow up in a Christian home means he’s exactly the kind of guy you would want writing a book on apologetics. Furthermore, what’s great about Neil’s writing is that you don’t need to know a thing about chemistry or quantum mechanics to understand it. The really smart people know how to communicate to any audience. With Why Believe? you’ll get the knowledge, the research, and the razor-sharp logic all delivered in a style that’s easy to digest.
In fact, Shenvi’s honesty and vulnerability reeled me in quite quickly in this book. Early on he admits, “I had never rejected Christianity on the basis of evidence in the first place. My beliefs about morality, religion, and God were largely the unreflective product of ideas I had picked up from my peers, my friends, my parents, books, television, and movies.” This is so much more common than many atheists or unbelievers are willing to admit. I applaud Neil for having the humility to take an honest look at the faith. I thank the Lord for his wife, whom Neil says God particularly used to soften his heart and open his mind to Christianity.
The second reason I think this book warrants our attention is that it’s full of classical apologetics that every Christian needs in their tool belt. Shenvi devotes significant time to examining the resurrection and its immediate aftermath, creation and morality as evidences for God, the problem of evil, and even C.S. Lewis’s classic ‘liar, lunatic, Lord’ trilemma. Yes, many of these arguments have already been presented in classical works from people like Lewis, William Lane Craig, R.C. Sproul, or Josh McDowell. However, in each generation there is always a need for old truths to be expounded in fresh ways by someone who understands the culture. It’s not reasonable to expect most believers to dive right into a hefty theological work written centuries, or even decades ago. We need to be introduced to it by one of our contemporaries. If you are looking for your first significant read on apologetics, or a great book to give to an unbelieving friend, this would be an excellent choice.
The final reason to consider Why Believe? is that, in the last section of the book, Shenvi presents what I believe to be a unique and powerful contribution to the field of Christian apologetics. I am not sure I have heard this argument articulated in this way before reading this book. Here is the argument distilled to a few sentences:
“Of all the major world religions, only Christianity insists that we are radically morally corrupt people who are consequently alienated from a perfectly good God. And only Christianity insists that what we primarily need is not moral improvement but rescue. If these claims about the human condition turn out to be true, then they are compelling evidence for the truth of Christianity, which is unique in its assessment of the human condition.” (pg. 176)
I had never thought of it like that before. The gospel itself is an evidence for Christianity if indeed Christianity’s claims about the human condition are true. Seeing as these claims cannot be found in this combination anywhere else, it’s a compelling argument for the truth of Christianity. It’s also a feature that makes this book stand out in an already crowded space.
So, do we really need another book on apologetics? Absolutely! And we will always need more. At one point in the book Shenvi writes, “The claims of Christianity merit our attention given their magnitude.” Amen. And after reading Why Believe? I would say this book merits your attention given its author, its high-quality presentation of classic apologetics, and its unique contribution to the field.
Editor’s Note: This book was received by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
John Davis is the pastor of Columbia Christian Church in Columbia, KY. He is the author of God-Centered Christianity: The Bible’s Antidote for Self-Centered Religion and Seeing the Unseen God.
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