Sunday, October 3, 2010

Book Review: Beyond Opinion

Beyond Opinion is a great collection of apologetic essays by Ravi Zacharias and his team members of Ravi Zacharias International Ministries (RZIM).

I have always enjoyed Ravi's blend of apologetics that appeals not just to the minds, but to the hearts as well. This is evident in the opening statement of the chapter he himself wrote:

I have little doubt that the single greatest obstacle to the impact of the gospel has not been its inability to provide answers, but the failure on our part to live it out.

As Ravi said, what angers many non-Christians about Christians is that while on one hand, the a believer is strongly condemning other's immoral life, the Christian's private life is no different from an non-believer. At least, the non-believer is more tolerant towards others - they give permission to others to make and set personal moral choices. The believer, on the contrary, would be charged with the problem of hypocrisy by virtue of his arrogance on the outside, while living a double-standard on the inside! In other words, apologetics is first seen before it is heard. This challenge is similarly alluded in Chapter 2, challenges from the post-modern youth.

It has also been a great experience for me to learn some of these truths from two of Ravi Zacharias' team members based in Singapore - L.T. Jeyachandran and I'Ching Thomas. I met both of them when they were here attending Varsity Christian Fellowship in Universiti Sains Malaysia and later on, speaking in some churches in Kota Bharu, Kelantan. Much of the contents of their live talks could be found in chapters written in this book.

In Chapter 5, for example, L.T. Jeyachandran talked about the two end of a spectrum of the Hindu religion - on one hand, is the popular polytheistic form of Hinduism - the belief in a finite number of personal gods. On the other end, is the philosophical form of Hinduism religion, which is not really a religion, but more of a New Age philosophy. In this form, which is the pantheism form, there is the belief in the infinite, impersonal reality the Brahman state.

In the same chapter, L.T. Jeyachandran also shared about the two forms of Buddhism - the Mahayana school and the Theravada (Hinayana) school. The Mahayana school deifying Buddha and worship him. This form of Buddhism becomes the dominant religion in China, Tibet, Japan and Korea. Whereas, the Theravada Buddhism is basically atheistic. This form has flourished in Thailand, Sri Lanka, etc. But whatever it is, the Buddhists' worldview of universal suffering (the concept of dukkha) has no meaning if everything is suffering because suffering can only be known as suffering in the light of and in contrast with pleasure and goodness.

In the chapter on challenges from Islam (Chapter 4), I have learned much about the Islamic doctrine of takkiya, the doctrine of sanctioned deception, disguise and cover-up, in the name of advancing the course of Islam. This doctrine can be seen to have been very much played out during debates by the Muslim debaters.

In the chapter on trinitarianism, it is also fascinating to read how L.T. Jeyachandran approached this rather "abstract" subject on Trinitarianism and conceptualizes it into comprehensible lessons, although he does NOT simplify it. But more importantly, at the end of reading that chapter, he could actually persuade me as the reader from the position of seeing this subject of Trinity as a rather uncomfortable subject to be shunned away from whenever possible (especially in conversation with non-believers) to the position that in fact, trinitarianism is an ESSENTIAL or NECESSARY doctrine that must be embraced if we were to adequately give a wholistic answer to many challenging questions in apologetics.

In summary, Beyond Opinion is packed with the much needed information, and at the same time, it is a compelling book to shift the readers to perceiving apologetics as merely an intellectual exercise to the position of seeing it as a means of giving a lived-out answers to those outside of the Christian faith.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Thomas Nelson Publishers as part of their book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

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