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"All that I have said to you boils down to this one truth: the reason I believe in God is that without that belief nothing else can make any sense at all-not my life, not yours, not my work, not my thoughts or relationships or activities. Apart from him everything is empty. I did not see that so clearly when I came to believe in him, but by His grace I see it now. You, too, can see it clearly, if he gives you eyes to see. In the end, therefore, you must come to Christ, to the foot of the cross, and plead His mercy. Nothing short of that will do." That quote is the very last sentence in K. Scott Oliphint's short book titled, Should You Believe in God?. The book is only 32 pages in length, and can easily be read in one sitting. Oliphint writes this book based on a fictional conversation between a Christian and an unbeliever who is struggling with understanding the Gospel due to intellectual roadblocks in his mind. Because the book is written from the perspective of Oliphint responding to an unbeliever in a conversation-like format, it makes it incredibly easy to read and you can almost feel Oliphint's desire to connect with the reader on as personal of a level as possible. There is no argumentative tone coming from Oliphint, but, rather a tone of a person who can relate and empathize with the man struggling to come to understand the Gospel in light of what he has both read, and learned, from people around him.
There is always a fine line that one must walk when presenting truth to those who are unbelievers, and that line is the fact that the reality of truth cannot really come to bear on a person's heart unless God opens the eyes of the heart of the unbeliever to understand the Gospel. It is abundantly clear that Oliphint understands this biblical truth, and brings that truth to light in such a way as to try not to offend his fictional recipient without compromising the Gospel. Again, as was noted earlier, there is a level of empathy in Oliphint's tone throughout this book that does an outstanding job of disarming the anger that might arise in the person on the other end of the conversation. I really enjoyed this book and think that the author was very successful in accomplishing what he set out to do.
Title: Should You Believe in God?
Author: K. Scott Oliphint
Publisher: P & R Publishing (2013)
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the P & R Publishing book review bloggers program on NetGalley. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255 : "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."
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Should You Believe in God?
This booklet is a part of the “Christian Answers to Hard Questions” series that is put out by P&R Publishing and written by the faculty of Westminster Theological Seminary. In this booklet Westminster Theological Seminary’s professor of apologetics K. Scott Oliphint tackles the question “Should you believe in God?’ and answers with the affirmative. I was looking forward to the booklet because I wanted to see how would Oliphint summarize his answer to such an important question in a brief and hopefully profound way. Often when Presuppositionalists talk about God’s existence it is no brief matter! As I was reading this it reminded me of Cornelius Van Til’s famous booklet, Why I Believe in God, with its conversational tone, anticipating objections and also its content. Like Van Til, Oliphint addressed the problem of neutrality and “conditioning” of beliefs from one’s upbringing and environment. Unlike Van Til however, Oliphint’s upbringing was not in an orthodox Christian setting but a religion that teaches works righteousness. But like Van Til, Oliphint also shows how God is the “All Conditioner” saves us from brute determinism that render everything meaningless and unintelligible. I appreciated that Oliphint dealt with the question of whether truth is knowable in the beginning of the book and also how he summarizes the Gospel early in the conversation and in the end. Besides the issue of neutrality Oliphint also tackles the nonbelievers’ assumption of the normalcy of man’s mind and naturalism. Like Van Til, Oliphint sees that unless one presupposes the God of the Bible, one will eventually find everything meaningless and absurd. What I like about the book is that it shows in summary what an application of Presuppositional apologetics looks like. But I would also as a criticism of both Oliphint’s and Van Til’s booklet is that for such a controversial question it is hard to summarize everything in one little booklet. I remember reading Van Til’s booklet many times and not seeing it—it was only after I read the booklet with Greg Bahnsen’s footnotes and commentaries did I get what Van Til was doing. Nevertheless, I do recommend the book.
Dr. David Steele
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Pre-suppositional apologetics appears to be on the rise. We can thank Francis Schaeffer shouldfor popularizing the presuppositional approach. Of course Cornelius Van Til, John Frame, and Richard Pratt have played a huge part. But I have been recently encouraged by K. Scott Oliphint as he wields a sharp presuppositional apologetic sword. His work, Covenantal Apologetics is a fine introduction to the discipline. His work, The Battle Belongs to the Lord demonstrates the power of Scripture for defending the faith. But most recently, Oliphint presents Should You Believe in God? a booklet written to equip people in the discipline of apologetics – with a presuppositional approach.
Should You Believe in God? is a a fictional dialogue between a Christian and a skeptic who actually embraces the notion of truth. As such, Oliphint begins this two-way dialogue by pouring the unshakable epistemological “cement.” He admits his Christian presupposition up front and argues that this, indeed, is the only proper starting point: “Unless you submit yourself to the Lord Jesus Christ, and stand on his Word, you will never find a real place to stand, or a real place to rest, and your curious search will never end.”
Next, the Christian directs the skeptic to think through the implications of a world which is created, sovereignly controlled, and sustained by the living God. The only difference between a sovereign God who ordains all things and a skeptic who believes that all things are “accidentally conditioned” is that the pagan view has “no reference point.” Whereas the Christian view has an integration point that finds rest in God alone.
He proceeds to describe how the Christian faith holds to two kinds of necessity, namely – “the necessity that belongs to God alone,” and “the kind of necessity that is what it is because God created it that way” (such as the laws of logic).
He continues to demonstrate the futility of unbelief by assuming a position of neutrality. This view holds that one can hold a position (philosophical, scientifically, or otherwise) that is “neutral” and excludes God from the discussion. The point is that unbelievers begin autonomously – that is, they begin with themselves. Oliphint explains, “To assume neutrality at the outset is to assume that God has not spoken clearly through the things he has made.” They effectively and tragically cut themselves off from the very source of knowledge (found in Christ) when they make this fatal move.
Oliphint rightly argues that seekers of truth should begin with God instead of themselves as the proper starting point: “We ought to begin our searching, our research, our reasoning, and our demonstration with the fact of who he is and what he has done …Only by assuming, and affirming at the outset, the Christian God who has spoken can we escape this morass of meaninglessness and despair” (what Schaeffer referred to as the “line of despair.”)
The skeptic, in the final analysis, is urged to turn from unbelief and erroneous autonomous assumptions – which only lead to hopelessness and futility. The skeptic is challenged to turn to his Creator and bank all his hope and future on the living God: “If you will forsake your idols of independence and place yourself in his hands, this much is certain – he will redeem you.”
Should You Believe in God? is a powerful little tool that should receive a wide readership. It is a brilliant retooling of Van Till’s apologetic method put in a contemporary setting. Highly recommended!