I have been reading a Christian ‘apologetic’ book this week. That strange term is simply the name we give to a piece of writing that defends a set of beliefs. This one is a recent book by Tom Wright called ‘Simply Christian’. There are very few really good apologetic books: they are either too obscure to be of any use to anyone not prepared to take a crash course in theology or so simplistic and formulaic they make the Christian God sound predictable, containable and more like a slot machine (‘line up the oranges and you have won eternal life’!) than the wild, mysterious, boundless God I believe him to be.
However this book is shaping up to be different. So far the author has not insulted my intelligence but has required of me a reasonable knowledge of the forces that have shaped the culture of western societies for the last few hundred years. (A Radio 4 listener would cope). I confess I’m only 4 chapters in but so far he has approached the whole idea of belief in God as if it were a reasonable idea based on the ‘echo of a voice’ that we all hear in our common human experiences. Experiences such as: our shared desire for justice in the world, combined with our common frustration that the world is not a safe or fair place and that this is largely due to our own inability to make it so. The fact that we all value relationships most of all but we all screw them up as well. The fact that we appreciate beauty but everything turns to dust eventually. The fact that death feels like an aberration, the sense that we were made for something more, that this can’t be all there is. To me, these seems like good places to start the process of wondering whether there is an ‘other’ somewhere in the universe who tells us this is not how it was meant to be and calls us to a relationship we can’t screw up (because it depends on someone whose love will never fail us) and a life that doesn’t end as ashes in an urn.
The book reminded me why I am a Christian. The film ‘Departures’ (see seperate review) reminded me why I’m glad to be one. In the face of loss and grief or the brevity and seemingly random misery of life and death, everyone finds a ‘something’ to hang on it. In Christianity I’ve found not a ‘something’ but a someone who offers me hope. And this hope is not some wimpy bit of wishful thinking but something far more substantial and active. The Bible calls it a ‘sure anchor for the soul’, it’s the hope that there is a God, he did make us for more than just this life and he does like us.
If you prefer to hear Tom Wright speak you can listen to a series of lectures called ‘Simply Christian: why Christianity makes sense’ on YouTube start at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hWn-vt7SeNo