Monday, December 29, 2014

Book Review: Magnificent Obsession

From the publication of his book The Dawkins Letters, in which he answered the chapters in Richard Dawkins' The God Delusion, Dundee Free Church minister David Robertson has emerged as one of the leading Christian apologists in the UK and further afield. With speaking engagements all over the country and beyond, Robertson has honed his apologetics, presenting the truth of Christianity in a clear and engaging manner. This is also the case in his most recent book, Magnificent Obsession: Why Jesus is Great.

Tackling one of the most common objections, 'I would believe if I had the evidence', Robertson admits that it isn't an unreasonable request. 'What is unreasonable... is when the statement is made with the assumption that there is either no or insufficient evidence.' Thus, 'This book is written to challenge that assumption.' He acknowledges that, while some people thought that the rise of the New Atheists was a bad thing, they have actually revived an interest in Christianity and opened it up to outsiders asking questions. He explores the idea that everyone has a faith position of some kind, even the atheists. For him, 'I am a Christian because of Jesus Christ.'

The book follows a familiar format, drawing on the same letter style as The Dawkins Letters. However in this book, the recipient isn't an actual person, rather an amalgam of various atheists and agnostics known to him through correspondence, speaking engagements, pastoral work and personal contact. The letters follow a logical sequence, building on the previous, as well as the anticipated response from the reader. The themes of the letters are: Man, Miracles, Messenger, Murdered, Marvellous, Meaning, Mission, Modern, Maranatha, Magnificent.

Throughout, there is a clear and concise presentation of the evidence about Jesus, answering objections and putting the New Atheist on the back foot with some questions and challenges for their faith position. There are plenty of ideas to use in conversations, and threads to pursue and think about further.

On the evidence for Jesus, Robertson contends that 'in our postmodern, touchly-feely world, Jesus is whoever we want him to be.' The reason people don't want to know about Jesus is simple: 'The only reason that people will not accept the overwhelming evidence for the existence of Jesus is that they just really do not want him to exist.'

On the virgin birth, 'If true, it is part of the evidence that there is a God, who does 'intervene' in the world and who does call us to follow him.'

His section on the cross is pure gold, answering the objection of its horror, its need, and its purpose. Similarly, the resurrection is shown to be the heart of the faith, historically attested, and reliable to believe.

He doesn't shrink back from the hard things - even the doctrine of the Trinity, which is the centre of the faith, and vital to understanding God as he has revealed himself.

I couldn't recommend this highly enough. It's a great book which clearly presents the Christian faith in a logical and coherent way, answering the objections many Christians are likely to face from their friends. It would be useful for Christians to read to gain help for those conversations, but also to give to their non-Christian friends to read and discuss together. Magnificent Obsession is available from Amazon.

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