About This Blog

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

"Seven Truths That Changed the World" (Kenneth Richard Samples)

TITLE: 7 Truths That Changed the World: Discovering Christianity's Most Dangerous Ideas
AUTHOR: Kenneth Richard Samples
PUBLISHER: Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2012, (240 pages).

This book begins with the famous words of CS Lewis's character in the Narnia chronicles, Aslan the lion, that refers to God as One who is powerful and good, dangerous but safe. Using a provocative title to hook readers, the author creatively uses seven different superlatives to describe the how "dangerous" the truth is, from a biblical perspective, and how the world rebels against it, and how the truth can set us free from the bondage of sin and death. First the numbers. There are seven truths highlighted in the book, with each truth taking up two chapters. The first chapter makes the case for the truth, setting it out in a clear manner. The second chapter follows up with some popular arguments against it, and the subsequent rebuttals. Thus, the second chapter provides an interesting discussion that invites readers to listen in. It is important to remember that both chapters when read together provides the best context to understanding the truth claims.

1) Most "Dangerous Idea" - "Not All Dead Men Stay Dead"

With the resurrection being Christianity's primal truth, it is appropriate to make a case for Easter and how there is hope in the resurrected Christ. In contrast to the reductionist and fatalistic manner of naturalism, Samples lists out seven key evidence and arguments for the reality of the Resurrection. He debunks eight popular reasons that deny the Resurrection. This "dangerous idea" changes the world forever because it brings the reality of hope, and the certainty of a future tomorrow that is everlasting life.

2) Most "Distinctive Dangerous Idea" - "God Walked the Earth"

This next idea is about the Incarnation of Christ, where Jesus personally walked the earth and lived among us. Jesus is both human and divine. His identity is cemented in reality and history. Against a backdrop of cynicism and doubt, what makes this idea most distinct is Jesus' exclusive claims. After all, truth itself by nature is necessarily exclusive.

3) Most "Far-Reaching Dangerous Idea" - "A Fine-Tuned Cosmos With a Beginning"

The most "far-reaching" idea is the creation and the creative activity of God evident throughout the universe. From the cosmos to the bottom of the sea, to all four corners of the world both physical and meta-physical, the presence of life begs the necessity to consider the Creator of them all. Despite all the advancements and promises of science, the author lists multiple reasons why the far-reaching cosmological idea is more compelling than any idea of a big bang.

4) Most "Comprehensive Dangerous Idea" - "Clear Pointers to God"

Christian theism explains life more comprehensively and convincingly than many others. Faith and reality comes together reasonably in Christian theism.  Systematically, the author not only makes the case for the reasonableness of Christianity, he claims that life itself is a clear pointer to God.

5) Most "Hopeful of Dangerous Ideas" - "Not By Works"

Simply put, man cannot save himself, no matter how much he try. He may try to be as morally good but never good enough. The universal imperfection arises out of the pervasiveness of sin. The author deals with how other religions and philosophies try to explain away life and its imperfections. Yet, the imperfection remains. So does the worldly explanations of these imperfections. In comes the Christian gospel, through the Hand of God. Samples points out the marks of Christianity, salvation by faith alone, through grace alone, in Christ alone. Christ's atoning work is described through the seven "word pictures" of salvation, the great substitutionary sacrifice, propitiation, reconciliation, redemption, and justification. I like the way he brings together the three G's of salvation - Guilt, Grace, and Gratitude.

6) Most "Humanitarian of Dangerous Ideas" - "Humanity's Value and Dignity"

Samples takes a hard look at some of the non-Christian motivations for humanitarian work. Many of them stem from a humanistic and overly optimistic view of human good works. Unfortunately, the question of what standard are they based upon begs hard answers. Christianity's motivation for good works stems from a recognition of the dignity and worth of human beings, being made in the image of God. As long as this image is not redeemed perfectly by the work of a perfect God, it will be incomplete.

7) Most "Comforting Dangerous Idea" - "The Good in Suffering"

This question of suffering is left to the last part of the book. Maybe, it is a way of recognizing that suffering is the single biggest barrier to faith. How can a good God allow evil to exist in this world? Samples put the different worldviews to the test. Views such as pantheistic monism (eg. Buddhism) that claims all of life is suffering, and the key is to escape it. Naturalism simply assumes nature just happens to be there. Theism affirms that suffering is tied very much to mankind's act of volition. While Samples cover some of the common arguments surrounding evil and suffering, I find the coverage on the comfort of God most inspiring.

My Thoughts

This book is a bold attempt to survey the seven most popular topics as far as apologetics is concerned. The author is well-read and informed of the classic arguments as well as the theistic foundations of Christianity. The systematic layout of the seven ideas make this book easy to follow. Readers can begin at any idea of interest. The research is more than adequate for the layperson, although for the more well-read, this book only scratches the surface on the area of apologetics. What I like about this book is the provocative title which makes me want to read the book. The arrangement of the book also keeps me aware of where the author is leaning toward. It is a frank discussion of some of the challenges surrounding the Christian faith, and how the seven truths have not only changed the world, it will continue to change the world. This is another testimony that Christianity is reasonable. The personal reflections are worth the price of the book. The main complaint I have is the reflections are too short.

In a nutshell, what is safe now can be dangerous in future. What is dangerous now can be safe in future. Christianity is very much a present danger but a future haven of safety, sprinkled with multiple flashes of grace.

Rating: 4 stars of 5.


"Book has been provided courtesy of Baker Publishing Group and Graf-Martin Communications, Inc. Available at your favourite bookseller from Baker Books, a division of Baker Publishing Group".

No comments:

Post a Comment