Barry's Book Reviews HCFY

Has Christianity Failed You?

By Ravi Zacharias

234 pages

Published by Zondervan

When I saw the title of this book I knew I had to read it because I answered yes. Ravi Zacharias is a Christian of Indian heritage, I had previously encountered him through quotes in other books, interview excerpts and finally in a TV presentation. He has a gentle presentation and says worthwhile things. When I saw this book I thought that maybe he could me help me better come to terms with my frustration with Christianity.

I’ve been a Christian for 44 years now, and only once did I try to turn my back on my faith, that was as a teenager over 30 years ago. At that time it had nothing to do with the standard apologetic topics. This time my problem is not with my faith but with Christianity.

Ravi Zacharias wrote this book in response to a request from his staff. He was surprised at the need but agreed to proceed anyway and was also surprised by the response. In the Introduction he asks the questions “Why are so many today not only living with silent doubt but actually leaving the “evangelical fold” for something else? Is there something wrong with the message, with the communicator, with the hearer - or with all three?” This book provides some answers to this last question, these three areas of questioning.

Ravi Zacharias uses 7 chapters to answer the question “Has Christianity Failed You?” He starts by defining the message of Christianity. It is difficult to answer a question when the question is not understood, so the terms and meaning of Christianity need to be defined. The first fundamental is understanding that Christianity is about Christ, the man Jesus.

Having briefly explained that Jesus is the central theme of Christianity he goes on to explain what that means. He defines who Jesus is, not simply was, for Jesus must be more than a historical person for Christianity to succeed, and clarifies the claims that that definition places on us.

Having defined the message Ravi Zacharias moves on to define Christianity, more specifically what it means to be a Christian. He compares and contrasts the fundamentals of Christianity with philosophy and other religions. He shows that the basic claim and apologetic of Christianity is hope. The superiority of Christianity lies in its hope that is based on Jesus Christ, a hope that is not dependent upon ourselves.

In his conclusion to the second chapter I believe that Ravi Zacharias has too narrowly defined the question. His conclusion at this point seems aimed at those who have rejected Christianity and places too much of a burden on those of us who although disappointed still follow. But the book was not done yet so I continued on.

He next defines the irritants of Christianity, or as he puts it “Points of Tension”. Throughout the book Ravi Zacharias makes use of personal anecdotes as well as reference to scripture which are an effective way of making a point. There is a brief examination of trust and authority as these are issues in the questioning of Christianity. He then reduces the “Tensions” to three struggles, “the struggle for security, the struggle with pain and suffering and brokenness, and the struggle with sexual fulfillment.” This to me seems an apologetic answer, a reaction not simply to those outside of the church, but to the antitheists. My own belief is that the struggles we have as Christians are God’s protection of us, God’s provision for us, and God’s purpose for us. The struggles overlap with my own definitions but I believe my own are broader.

The book moves on to consider the issue of logic “Looking Incoherence in the Eye”. One of the reasons people struggle with Christianity is the seeming Incoherence of the circumstances they face. He looks briefly at the stories of people he has dealt with and their answer to Incoherence, then he examines a situation in scripture (the blind man in John 9) in detail. For me this chapter is one of the best in the book. In it Ravi Zacharias argues hope without actually saying so. It may be that I prefer this chapter because in my invisible illness I have looked for purpose and the only purpose I can find is the same as the man born blind “that the works of God should be made manifest in him.” The chapter is about pain and the only answer for, not to but for, is a person and that person is Christ. The chapter ends with the statement “To walk away from one’s faith because of unanswered questions about evil is to walk into a storm of unanswered questions about good.”

The following chapter (5) is purely apologetic. Ravi Zacharias focuses on dealing with the charges found in Robert Price’s book “The Reason Driven Life”. This chapter deals with the issue of logic far more than the preceding one and for me is therefore the weakest, although still necessary.

Chapter 6 deals with prayer. It looks at the failures that we experience, the false expectations we have and what proper prayer is. There is a brief study of the Lord’s Prayer and the value of real prayer.

To this point I thought I might have to write my own answer to the question “Has Christianity Failed You?” As an apologetic this book is very good but I wanted a little bit more than that, that little bit is found in the final chapter “What Difference Does Christianity Make?” The first two paragraphs are vital to every Christian who answers yes to the title of the book. The chapter also provides wholesome advice for those of us who have contributed to the failure of Christianity.

There is a section of study questions, these questions are thought provoking and worth considering. The book concludes with an interview of Ravi Zacharias which is also worthwhile, a very concise restatement of the book in fact.

While this book is a very worthwhile apologetic resource I would not consider it a self-help book. It is not a salve for the wounded but perhaps a pointer to where the salve can be found. This book should be helpful for those in:

- Apologetics Ministry

- Counselling

- Evangelism.

As short as the book is it is profound. Ravi Zacharias answers the questions at their most vital point. Words are not wasted in this book and yet the writing has style, and if as the song says “a spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down” so style helps the apologetic. The answers to his original three part question are; there is no problem with the message but there are problems with the hearer and the communicator.

My answer to the title question has not changed, but then I have not abandoned Christianity in my disappointment. Ravi Zacharias’ treatment of the subject did help my understanding and as a result I will have better answers for those who bring me questions. I am glad I read the book, I am glad I bought the book, and I praise God for Ravi Zacharias and his staffers who challenged him to write it.

Materials referred to in this book

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