Tuesday, 28 February 2012

Can Man Live Without God

I forget how this book ended up on my shelf, I may have bought it a few years ago, or it may have been given to me (sorry if you got it for me and I can't remember). The title of this book on my shelf was arresting and it is by Ravi Zacharias, who I have heard of and have heard a few talk snippits online, so I thought what the hey.

This book is based on a few talks Ravi gave at Harvard and Ohio State University but were filled out to become this book split into three parts.

The first part of this book has Ravi setting out his terms and showing that atheism on its own does not fulfil life or give it meaning. He defines atheism as "not merely a passive unbelief in God but an assertive denial of the major claims of all varieties of theism; atheism contradicts belief in God with a positive affirmation of matter as ultimate reality." You can see from this definition that the material positivity assumed has atheism in trouble with defending ideas, ethics, purpose etc... as you can not feel, touch, see etc... these "things".

He also argues that atheism can not form a coherent ethical theory because you can not have an ethical theory without first establishing the telos (purpose and destiny of human life). He does not say that all atheists are morally bankrupt, just that the ones who are moral are borrowing from other world views and are living better than their atheism. He concludes this part of the book, and answering the title of the book by saying:
Can man live without God? Of cause he can, in a physical sense. Can he live without God in a reasonable way? The answer to that is No! because such a person is compelled to deny a moral law, to abandon hope, to forfeit meaning, and to risk no recovery if he is wrong. Life just offers too much evidence to the contrary.
In the second part of this book I thought Ravi did something that was interesting. Instead of jumping to the defence of his own team, he tried to show how we find meaning in life by looking at different stages of life. He put forward that we experience wonder in childhood, seek truth in adolescence, find love as a fulfilment when we are adults and then seek security in old age. This matrix of life: wonder, truth, love and security (note, not material things) was something new to me, and it did set up his third part of the book where he defends Christianity as it touches on all these aspects of life.

Maybe because I put this book down for 4-6 weeks between part two and three, but I found the third part a little too brief. Interestingly Ravis' new book Why Jesus I assume is an expanded version of this third of the book. This part was about God and how He has solved the human dilemma and how God is the basis of reality allowing for its unity and diversity (a university if you will). Ravi also shows that not just philosophical ideas are know about God, but also historical ones in the form of Jesus.

At the back of the book there was also a transcript of some Q&A's Ravi had from university students. The questions they asked were really good and challenging to Ravi's world view.

Over all I thought this book was good, especially the first part. Like I said I would have liked Ravi to have expanded the last part and maybe drawn more on the historical accounts and less on philosophy. There were a few strong arguments in this book, that I would be interesting in reading a response to. The Internet Infidels have a longer book review, which I have only skimmed over and is exactly what I am after. I find it interesting that they do not like been called antitheists instead of atheists, when Hitchens preferred the former term over the latter. Also they do not like Ravi's tone, which I kinda smiled at, as I have read some of the New Atheists. I guess when writing about either Christianity or Atheism you can't please everyone...

Related links
The Reason For God, by Tim Keller - This book kinda argues the same things, but I think it was just a bit better.

1 comment:

  1. I believe God willed me to believe. On this book Ravi provides a very powerful list of evidences for the existence of God and defends the validity and divinity of the Christian faith through the use of pure logic. Thank you for sharing your review on this book. We have included this one in the book collection at http://booksforevangelism.org, there are a lot of books listed in the site which we can use for evangelizing to our family and friend. Maybe you and your readers can drop by.