Book Review: A Shot of Faith (to the Head)

117981746On the playground of ideas, twenty-first century Christians seem to get the worst of it. The bloody noses. The stolen milk money. The utter lack of confidence that comes with being unable to defend yourself from the bullies occupying swing, slide, and sandbox.

And little wonder, with cranky atheists like Sam Harris running around. Rather than get in a scuffle, many believers look for the nearest gopher hole and stuff themselves into it. They’ve been told the Christian faith is irrational, naive, and even dangerous – and judging from the way they react when challenged to “give an answer”, they almost believe it.

But it doesn’t have to be that way.

What if I told you (while doing my best Morpheus impression) that Christianity is neither irrational, naive, nor dangerous? What if I told you that atheists are the irrational ones? What if I told you their beliefs can’t withstand the keen examination they demand from others?

Well, after telling you, I’d hand you a copy of Mitch Stokes’ book, A Shot of Faith (to the Head). Then I’d say, Go get ’em, Tiger. And you’d waltz right back onto the playground equipped with your very own bully-proof vest.

A Shot of Faith is a great book that does three things extremely well. First, it engages with the reader in a challenging yet accessible way; second, it stresses the practical over the theoretical; third, it takes the offensive against atheism.

Accessible. Dr. Stokes is a wonderful teacher. Instead of indulging in a massive info-dump, he takes time to clearly and patiently articulate each point, neither coddling the reader nor overwhelming him. It’s a fine line to walk, but he does it beautifully.

Practical. The concepts and arguments you study in this book are meant to be used, not merely toyed with in the privacy of your own mind. These are weapons you’re dealing with, soldier. They are not intended to be collected like stamps and then shelved, to be admired another day. Grasp them tightly and get them dirty. You want to know these things, not just be familiar with them.

Taking the offensive. That the Christian faith is utterly defensible is something Stokes’ demonstrates repeatedly; but what he also makes clear is the fact that the atheist’s “faith” cannot be defended, and he equips readers to take advantage of that in several ways. This is an important aspect of apologetics which I think is often overlooked in our day. Believers shouldn’t rest content with dodging and parrying attacks – they should be attacking, too. The “pulling down of strongholds” mentioned in II Cor. 10:4 sounds like an offensive maneuver, wouldn’t you agree?

In conclusion, therefore: do yourself favor, buy this book, and let Dr. Stokes shoot you in the head. It’s really quite invigorating.

Flotsam & Jetsam 5/30

Nor Can I Comprehend – Yes, yes, and amen.

Rachel Held Evans Denies the Cat – “John Piper lives in a universe where terrible things happen, but he knows that when we come to know the whole story, we will stop our mouths, and bow before a holy God in order to worship Him… Rachel Held Evans lives in a world where innocent people just get caught in the machinery, and God is terribly sorry about it.”

Man Of Steel: Official Soundtrack Preview – Super? Absolutely. Zimmer is on a roll.

Pearl Harbor – Pastor Cardwell has a new book out, and yes, it’s totally worth reading. (By the way, that lone review at the bottom of the Amazon page was written by one of my brothers. The book reviewing bug runs in my family.)

Recovering Perfectionist – I think all of us can relate to this on one level or another. I know I certainly can.

Tragic Worship – Trueman doing what he does best: “Of all places, the Church should surely be the most realistic. The Church knows how far humanity has fallen, understands the cost of that fall in both the incarnate death of Christ and the inevitable death of every single believer… Our worship should reflect the realities of a life that must face death before experiencing resurrection.”

Arkham Origins Trailer – Can. Not. Wait.

“How dare you say ‘Oh, so you are just a homemaker’ to the
hero of my children.” – Sinclair Ferguson

Trueman on the Medieval Church

I’ve had a zealous appreciation for Carl Trueman’s writing ever since reading The Wages of Spin (best non-fiction book I read last year). He is seriously awesome. If you aren’t acquainted with his work, get acquainted with it. In fact, here’s a chance to do just that.

A good friend of mine recently directed me toward Trueman’s lectures on Medieval Church history, a subject often derided and dismissed in our day (even within Protestant circles). The tendency is to regard the Medieval period as “the Dark Ages”, a time of superstition, savagery, and stagnation. This – as Trueman points out in his impeccably British way – is “arrant nonsense.”

Protestants may not go quite so far, but we can still be tempted to bypass the Medieval period and jump right to the Reformation, which is an utterly wrong-headed way to go about studying history, much less church history. To put it bluntly:

Without the developments that took place in the Middle Ages, we would have had no Reformation. Those of you who come from Protestant traditions, if you want to understand those traditions – why they are the way they are – one of the pieces in that puzzle has to be a proper understanding of the Middle Ages.

There are eleven lectures total, and all of them are available for free via iTunes U. Go download and listen to them. It will be time well spent.

In Flanders Fields

“In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.”

– John MacRae, May 1915

(After reading this poem, a college teacher and YMCA War Worker was inspired to write a response, entitled We Shall Keep the Faith. You can read it here.)