Hettinga says he has written this book for people looking into spirituality. He wants to help people make a solid choice as they consider Christianity in their search. Unfortunately, I think the book falls short of the intended aim.
This book seemed to me to be one about unbelievers rather than for them. I am not sure a non-Christian would be attracted to this book. Here is an example of why I say that. The chapter on “Blaming God” starts out noting that bad things happen and that some people have a victim mentality. Hettinga draws our attention to the Bible story of Jesus meeting the lame man (John 5). While feeling compassion, Jesus points out the underlying cause for the chronic disability. “He exposes a mentality contributing to the man's long-term suffering.” (73) I don't think a nonbeliever would appreciate that kind of introduction to the conversation about blaming God for personal pain. To paraphrase, it is like a nonbeliever coming to me and asking why God has caused him such pain and me telling him much of his pain is from his own mental attitude. I don't think that would get our potential conversation off to a good start.
Here's another example. Beginning the chapter entitled “Questioning God,” he writes, “Critics describe the Christian belief system as non-intellectual or even anti-intellectual. But could the reverse actually be true?” (121) I expected him to then write about the importance of intellectual integrity to Christian belief, or that profound thinkers like C. S. Lewis were believers. But he writes about faith leaving room for mystery and unknowns. He continues on about those with doubt and a skeptical attitude. Finally, seven pages later, he writes about intellectual who were believers. Before then, I think a nonbeliever would have lost interest in reading the chapter.
Hettinga also uses a number of Bible stories, at length. He uses them as examples of the ideas he proposes, and as examples of people who really did find fulfillment in Jesus. However, he does so without first establishing the truth of the Bible for the nonbeliever, the potential reader of this book. I don't think a nonbeliever would appreciate the stories as examples from a source in which he has no confidence.
Hettinga tells lots of stories about the people he's met to show that every person seeks security, significance, and purpose. He shows that they do not find what they are looking for in their own efforts. Running their own lives doesn't work. Trying to amass a fortune doesn't work. Having a victim attitude doesn't work.
Hettinga has done a good job showing how nonbelievers live a restless life. Where he falls short is in showing how belief in Jesus calms that restlessness and leads to a fulfilled life.
I think the best use for this book is by believers who want to start a dialog with a nonbeliever. The material in the book could be used to stimulate discussion. There are good Discussion Questions included for conversational use. Also, at the end of the book are the steps to make a fresh start with God. Using these resources, any Christian would be able to have a meaningful discussion with an inquiring nonbeliever.
My rating: 3/5 stars.
Jan Hettinga served as the lead pastor of Northshore Community Church near Seattle from 1979 to 2008. He is currently the leadership development pastor at Cascade Community Church in Monroe, Washington. He and his wife have three married children and eleven grandchildren.
Kregel Publications, 200 pages.
I received a complimentary copy of this book through The Book Club Network for the purpose of an independent and honest review.