One of my summer sabbatical goals is to read widely. Below is a book I would recommend for those looking for Christian beach reading. It is written at a level that is easily followed and offers a fresh look at apologetics.
Skeel, David. True Paradox: How Christianity Makes Sense of Our Complex World. Downers Grove, Illinois: IVP Books, 2014.
Skeel argues that the Christian worldview offers the best explanation of significant areas of human experience.
Specifically, Skeel compares Christianity to materialism where materialism or naturalism is the belief that the material is the ultimate reality and that there is no supernatural God, gods or spirit(s) (13).
Skeel focuses on five different phenomena or paradoxes as areas in which to compare Christianity and materialism.
- Idea Making / Human Consciousness – Human beings have a consciousness and the ability to think abstractly about ideas. How did we come to be creatures who think abstractly? What is the origin of the “ghost in the machine”?
- Beauty and the Arts – “This perception that beauty is real and that it reflects the universe as it is meant to be, but that it is impermanent and somehow corrupted, is the paradox of beauty (65).” Why are we so moved by beauty?
- The Problem of Evil – “If a good God oversees, the universe, why would he allow [suffering] (90)?” If there is nothing more than the material and the evolution of life, why are people concerned about evil?
- The Justice Paradox – Humanity devises systems of law they believe they can follow, but then societies fail to follow those laws. Marxism is one infamous example. Why do we view justice as so important?
- Life and Afterlife – “Christians believe in both a life and an afterlife (137).” Yet, other worldviews argue that once the physical lights go out, existence ceases. Which view best fits the data?
Skeel is a law professor and this shows in his ability to outline clear, well-reasoned positions. Indeed, his explanation of the lawyer’s vocation as “navigating complexity” offers a fascinating insight into the legal profession (148).
Skeel is not a trained theologian. He does not attempt sophisticated theological explanations nor does he interact a great deal with the biblical text. That is not his purpose. Rather, his goal is to encourage people to think deeply about human experience and the worldviews that make the most sense of life.
Skeel’s lack of theological depth is most notable in the chapter 5, “Life and Afterlife.” There he seems to give N.T. Wright more credit than he deserves asserting that “the contemporary theologian who has done more than any other to explain [the hope of the new earth] is N.T. Wright.” At the same time, Skeel unfairly characterizes dispensationalists as believing that only physical bodies will be resurrected (155).
Skeel’s offers four excellent strategies for people interested in thinking deeply about life after reading his book:
- Keep reading. Investigate more.
- Attend church.
- Find a Christian whom you respect and who is willing to answer questions you have about Christianity and what Christians do and do not believe.
- Read the Bible itself.