Thursday, October 29, 2015

The God You Thought You Knew by Alex McFarland

I was disappointed in this book. First of all, the title is a misnomer. There is only one myth about God. The rest are about the Bible and Christianity.

Let me first cover parts of the book I appreciated before describing more of my disappointments. He has a very good exploration of truth and evil, the kinds of evil there are and how they originated. He emphasizes that many misunderstandings of God and Christianity arise because Christians are not living as the Bible instructs. Our being hypocrites really does cause stumbling blocks for others. McFarland repeatedly encourages seekers to look to the Bible, not how Christians (mis)behave.

He has good observations on skeptics and atheists, based on his experience and interaction with them from his fifteen years of talk radio. “Intellectual skepticism is preceded by emotional pain. Intellectual doubt comes second – in most cases.” This is good for Christians to know when interacting with skeptics. It helps us get to the origin of the disbelief.

He has included a good annotated list of books for further research. Unfortunately, most of the books are older, some printed decades ago. But the annotations would help readers search for further resources.

But I was disappointed in the lack of intellectual rigor with which McFarland addressed the ten myths. He makes broad generalizations. For example, after he explores Intelligent Design, he writes, “A wide variety of thoughts and opinions exist regarding how God created and designed the universe, but both science and Scripture agree on a starting point – an outside, Intelligent Designer who made all things.” I've read many books on science and origins and McFarland's statement is just not true. There are a few scientists who argue for Intelligent Design but most scientists, and science in general, reject that idea.

I was disappointed in his lack of providing adequate footnotes to back up his statements. For example, about the historical facts supporting the life of Jesus, he writes, “...those who claim Jesus never existed defy both early copies of the New Testament documents as well as the numerous historical writings that mention Jesus and early Christianity outside of the Bible (such as the early Jewish historian Josephus).” There is no footnote nor reference to those “numerous” writings. And, “The book of Acts cites at least eighty-four historical facts verified by later research and archaeology.” Again, no footnote nor further information. How are those statements useful without facts to back them up?

I was disappointed that McFarland sometimes brushes off serious issues. For example, while acknowledging that the age of the universe is an important topic, he writes, “But questions about the age of the universe should not in any way prevent people from reaching positive conclusions about Jesus Christ, who gave his life for the forgiveness of sins!” And, “...entering into a relationship with God really has nothing to do with what one believes about how old the universe is.” Sorry, but it just doesn't work that way. The veracity of Genesis is extremely important when it comes to believing what the rest of the Bible says. One cannot just blow off a very important issue over which many believers and nonbelievers struggle.

So, to whom would I recommend this book? That is a difficult question. McFarland writes sometimes in a manner that assumes the reader accepts the Bible as accurate and truthful. So the potential reader must at least be open to the truthfulness of the Bible. The lack of intellectual rigor and the frequent use of decades old material preclude my recommending it to scholarly or readers under 60 years old.

My rating: 2 ½ stars out of 5.

Alex McFarland is a speaker, writer, and advocate of apologetics. He has preached in over 1,500 different churches throughout the world. He has been featured in many conferences and has been interviewed on many television programs. He served as Focus on the Family's first Director of Teen Apologetics, then went on to serve as president of Southern Evangelical Seminary in Charlotte, North Carolina. He developed and hosted three nationally syndicated radio programs. You can find out more about them at www.standstrongtour.com and www.viraltruth.com. He has written over 150 published articles and many books. He has a Master's degree in Christian Thought/Apologetics from Liberty University. He and his wife life in North Carolina. You can find out more at http://alexmcfarland.com/.

Bethany House Publishers, 208 pages.

I received a complimentary egalley of this book from the publisher for the purpose of an independent and honest review.
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