If I were God, I’d make myself clearer
"In his second If I Were God book, John Dickson considers the vast array of spiritual claims made by different religions and individuals and asks whether any clarity about God can be found...
With so many religions on offer, can one of them be considered true? Or are they different paths up the same spiritual mountain? And how can any one person sort their way though the maze of claims?"
-- From the back cover.
While I admit the title is eye-catching, and I understand that Dickson is titling each book in this series from the perspective of common objections posed to Christians, I have to say it still makes me a little uncomfortable and causes some possible confusion among Christians and non-Christians alike.
-- From the back cover.
Nonetheless, John Dickson does an excellent job in this book (published by the venerable Matthias Media) of doing exactly what he sets out to do: explaining the exclusive claims of Christianity and how we can know they are true. He starts out answering this question from the book's introduction:
"It seems to me that most of us, whether 'religious' or not, have a hunch that there is more to life than meets the eye... And so I want to ask: what (if anything) has the Almighty done to match our hunches with something tangible."
In the following chapters, Dickson accomplishes what very few similarly themed works ever do effectively, in my opinion: genuinely meet the unbeliever/questioner with good-humored, understandable arguments for the validity of the Christian faith.
In other words, this is not just a Christian pep rally masquerading as an apologetics resource; it does not pretend to speak to unbelievers' objections while really targeting believers with a "aren't you glad we're so right" message. And in presenting such a winning, uncompromising explanation of Christianity, Dickson provides a wonderful example and helpful resource for all Christians who are seeking a way to effectively share and defend their faith.
Dickson takes a three-prong approach to the discussion of religion and truth-claims. He first takes note of the incurable 'spirituality' of humanity throughout time and observes that to ignore or stifle discussion of religion is to obstinately oppose the flow of mainstream human thought. Second, he shows that the vastly differing, even contradictory, truth-claims of the world's faiths can not all be equally true; therefore, it is intolerant and intellectually lazy to simply throw them all in one big pot and claim they are all saying the same thing in different ways. And, last, he articulates some important distinctions of the Christian faith and makes a case for its unique verifiability.
In his second chapter "The Attraction of Distraction," Dickson points out an almost undeniable paradox in Western culture and spirituality. He writes:
"You might call it a spirituality of distraction. It's not that we don't think about the 'great things', it's just that we find the distraction of the 'lesser things' easier to handle. Three out of four of us believe in the existence of God and the reality of the afterlife, according to the most recent research, but you'd never know it just listening to the conversations at work or in the pub, or to the public discourse in the media. We have this extraordinary ability to think big but live small."
Perhaps the best, and most interesting, chapter in the book is entitled "An Unknown God", in which Dickson explains the intellectual contradictions and dishonesty of our pluralistic culture. While the great cry of our generation is religious "tolerance", the truth is that pluralism is itself an arrogant, intolerant view of religion:
"By insisting upon the ultimate unity of the faiths we often ignore and suppress what is distinctive about them and so end up sacrificing intellectual integrity upon the altar of cultural 'tolerance'... By definition, tolerance must involve an awareness of something contrary--the word comes from the Latin 'tolerare', meaning to endure opposition. True tolerance, then, is not my willingness to accept the position of another, it is the more admirable ability to treat with respect a person with whom I deeply disagree."
Having addressed some of the unthinking and cultural biases against the exclusive truth claims of Christianity in the opening 3 chapters of the book, Dickson proceeds in the remaining 2 chapters to offer a reasoned argument for the "verifiability" of Christianity -- based largely upon the historical person Jesus Christ and his resurrection from the dead. While many of Dickson's points will not be brand new to those familiar with other Christian apologetics work, his easy-to-read style, creative presentation, and winning approach will be instructive and interesting to almost any reader.Dickson closes with this thought-provoking and investigation-stimulating paragraph:
"I cannot resist the feeling that if God truly wanted our attention he would not offer himself to us in a vague, unverifiable manner: he would, I believe, offer some clarity. He would provide a signpost for the world showing us where to find him. All I am saying is this: why not begin (or perhaps continue) your spiritual pursuit with a closer reading of the 'signposts' of the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ?"