Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Book Review: Existential Reasons for Belief in God by Clifford Williams

If you ever wanted to impress people simply by the title of the book you're carrying around, I don't think you could do much better than Existential Reasons for Belief in God by Clifford Williams. However, that same intimidating title makes your job harder if you want to encourage people to read it. (For the record, I do want to do the latter and don't want to do the former.)

I am always game for new takes and approaches to Christian apologetics, and this one certainly fits the bill. While most such books build arguments around sheer fact and reason, Williams argues that there is also good reason (no pun intended) to defend the Christian worldview on a basis of need and emotion.

He points out that some people approach religion and faith in God emphasizing reason (rationalists) while others do so emphasizing emotion and need (emotionalists). Williams argues that rather than an "either/or" approach, we should take a "both/and" approach. Even on it's face this argument makes sense because apologetic arguments based on sheer airtight reason are of no use if the subject does not care about the information or sees no need to believe or accept those arguments. As Williams says,

"My aim is to defend the legitimacy of acquiring faith through need, emotion and reason. Satisfaction of need legitimately draws us to faith, but reason must be involved in this drawing. More simply, the two basic ideas of the book are the drawing power of need and the certifying ability of reason. Need without reason is blind, but reason without need is sterile."
I find it just a little ironic that he makes his argument throughout the book on the basis of rationality, but then again, his reasons would have no power if they did not awaken a desire to respond to such reason. Williams makes his argument in the first couple chapters and then spends four chapters (the majority of the book) addressing four different objections to his premise. The book does threaten at times to turn into an academic paper, but Williams injects personal testimonies of faith throughout the book that effectively breaks that up (and supports his points).

In the end, Williams presents a fresh approach to apologetics that is both helpful and encouraging for those intimidated by a field long dominated by the many intellectual, complicated, and often nuanced arguments for and against the existence of God.

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

Recommended for: Christian apologists, theologians, and counselors

This book was a free review copy provided by InterVarsity Press.

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