Recently, while at work, I overheard my colleague say “I don’t know if God exist or not. I haven’t quite figured that out.” Being, that the gentleman was in his sixties, his time to work through that proposition is drawing to a close and changing his worldview at his age becomes more and more difficult the older he gets. Some people are skeptics and use that as a foil to never really deal with that issue while others question God’s existence hoping one day to know for sure. I believe that if we fail to answer that question correctly, it will have eternal consequences. It’s certainly a question worthy of ones time and one that our culture continues to deny. More and more we see people leaving the church and embracing an atheistic philosophy. So, the question arises… is it possible to know if God is real or is God merely a projection of man’s imagination?
“The Christian should be the person who is alive, whose imagination absolutely boils, which moves, which produces something a bit different from God’s world because God made us to be creative.” Francis Schaeffer
Understanding the world we live in and how to live an impactful life was the crux of Francis Schaeffer’s life and work. He encouraged his generation of Christians to take their writing, art, and storytelling seriously for the glory of God as well as for the testimony of Christ. This legacy continues to inspire artists of every genre and I am pleased to say that Brian Godawa has taken up the task of exceptional storytelling, using imagination and apologetics to tell the “grandest story ever told.”
In “God Against the gods: Storytelling, Imagination, and Apologetics in the Bible,” Godawa takes aim at several lofty goals, and hits the bull’s-eye of each one. Of primary importance in this writer’s view is that Godawa states that the Bible takes a far different view of historicity than modern people do.
Godawa’s claim is that the Bible uses mythopoeic and figurative language intentionally, but that this usage in no way undermines the truthfulness or the theological accuracy of what is stated. This is an important point for modern readers who have a somewhat different understanding of what constitutes historical accuracy and even truth.
It is an impressive assertion that God never intended to satisfy the rigorous and often ridiculous demands of critics throughout the ages who would point to this passage or that statement as an example of why the Bible cannot be trusted. Instead Godawa argues that God’s inspiration of the biblical texts remains intact, having been providentially guided for His purposes, by intentionally utilizing imagery, symbolism, metaphor, and poetic figurative language much the way Jesus Christ did during His public ministry. In this way Godawa is arguing against the modernist obsession with rational abstraction and empirical observation as the only gate keepers of truth.
To make his case Godawa presents seven chapters based on articles and essays he has written that explore various topics such as:
- God’s intentional unmasking of the spiritual reality behind pagan gods.
- How Israel’s use of mythopoeic elements shared with other Near Eastern peoples can be used apologetically today.
- The biblical depiction of our universe is a theological expression of the grandeur of God and not a detailed physical or scientific expression.
- Paul’s sermon on Mars Hill is really a powerful Christian theistic worldview apologetic.
Readers will find a thorough and thought-provoking examination of such things as the true meaning behind “the host of heaven” and God’s “divine council”; of the penchant of Hollywood filmmakers to use Near Eastern mythopoeia to make blockbuster movies (hat-tip to the 2012 Marvel adaptation, The Avengers); of the necessity of understanding the Bible through a supernatural Near Eastern worldview which by the way, is very different from our own; how biblical cosmology/cosmography is not aimed toward scientific concordism, and it is a mistake to insist on that outcome; and the relationship between metaphor and prophecy especially in the eschatological genre.
In God Against the gods, Brian Godawa has provided a wonderful primer for the Christian apologist, author, and Bible student who is interested in engaging our modern world with powerful information and answers to questions commonly asked by those searching for understanding and truth.
Brian Godawa’s website – www.godawa.com
*A copy of this book was provided to me in PDF format free of charge. I received no remuneration for this review.
The number of Christians who know virtually nothing about apologetics still amazes me. When discussing this topic even with pastors I often receive a blank stare that suggests they’ve never considered apologetics to be of much importance. Clearly this needs to change. Here are four reasons why.
Reason #1 – Skepticism is at an all-time high and that breeds confusion. In fact you could say that there is also an inverse relationship between confusion and skepticism. Skepticism in the culture breeds confusion in the church but it is also true that skepticism about the adequacy of the Christian faith within the church breeds confusion in the culture. If Christians won’t affirm what it is they believe why should the culture listen to anything they say.
Hasn’t science already proven that the idea of a creator God is wishful thinking? After over 2,000 years what evidence can possibly be marshaled to make the case that the gospel writer’s accounts are trustworthy? Doesn’t atheism provide the best explanation for what we understand about life today?
For the first 35 years of his life Jim Wallace was a devout atheist. He found the claims of Jesus Christ and those of the gospel writers to be somewhat spurious. How could something that happened 2,000 years ago have any verifiable proof? Christianity in Jim’s mind was very much like his cold cases, puzzling and mostly dead ends.
But then one day Jim’s perspective was challenged and he began to consider the claims of Jesus Christ and the gospel writers in a different light.
In this episode of SER Jim Wallace discusses his faith journey, his realization that the evidence for the claims of Jesus Christ contained in the gospels is well beyond a reasonable doubt, and his new book, “God’s Crime Scene.”
Listen to this episode by clicking here.
“but sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence.” 1 Peter 3:15
This verse from Peter’s first epistle is often cited as a basis for the work and ministry of apologetics. Rightly understood, we are exhorted by the apostle to be prepared at a moment’s notice to share the gospel of Jesus Christ. This assumes a number of things.
First, that we recognize that all disciples of Jesus are expected to share the news of God’s forgiveness through faith in the finished work of Jesus Christ. Contrary to the thinking of many Christians, evangelism is not limited to those believers with the spiritual gift of evangelism.
The second thing this verse assumes is that we have taken the time to memorize Scripture and especially relevant passages that speak of the sacrificial work of Jesus Christ upon Calvary’s cross. Chances are you don’t carry a Bible with you 24/7, so having Scripture memorized will enable you to always be ready.
Third, the exhortation assumes that we have taken the time to understand the thinking that characterizes the days in which we live. Would you know how to respond to someone who says “Well, this gospel of Jesus stuff works for you but it doesn’t do anything for me.”? What would you say to someone who says, “Christianity is nothing more than a crutch for the weak-minded.”?
Finally, Peter’s admonition in this verse to make a defense or presentation of the gospel of Jesus Christ, instructs us to view the apologetic task as one that is done with gentleness and reverence. This is one aspect of the apologetic mandate often overlooked. We will never win anyone to Christ through argumentation or heated exchange. Only when we have prepared ourselves for the harsh reality that many will ignore and even attempt to shut us up, will we be mentally and emotionally prepared to love them anyway.
The basis for the apologetic task is the gospel itself. When we have made Christ the priority of our lives – Peter says “sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts” – we will seek opportunities to share Christ and we will be ready when opportunities find us.
Brothers and sisters, that is a transforming truth.