The Questions Christians Hope No One Will Ask (with Answers)
A Denver Journal Review by Denver Seminary Professor Douglas Groothuis.
Mark Mittelberg, The Questions Christians Hope No One Will Ask (with Answers). Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale, 2010. Paperback. $14.99. 327 pages. ISBN-10: 1414315910; ISBN-13: 978-1414315911.
Popular apologetics books are often not helpful. Too often, they rely on easy answers, lack documentation, and do not know the higher levels of apologetic engagement. This is not true for Mark Mittelberg, a man who knows philosophy and apologetics, and who has brought his knowledge to the church for many years. To steal a phrase from Marva Dawn, he knows how to “reach out without dumbing down.”
This book answers questions which The Barna Group determined in a national survey were most feared by Christians. It is in the same vein as the much older work by R.C. Sproul, Objections Answered (Regal Books, 1978), and the series of books based on questions released in recent years by Paul Copan, the most recent of which is Is God a Moral Monster? (Baker, 2011). Mittelberg’s questions are as follows, somewhat abbreviated:
- What makes you think that God exists?
- Why didn’t evolution put God out of a job?
- Why trust the Bible, a book based on myths, legends, contradictions, and mistakes?
- Everyone knows that Jesus was a good man and a wise teacher—but why try to make him into the Son of God, too?
- How could a good God allow so much evil, pain, and suffering?
- Why is abortion such a line in the sand for Christians?
- Why do you condemn homosexuality?
- How can I trust Christians when so many of them are hypocrites and judgmental?
- Why should I believe in heaven and hell?
The final chapter turns the tables and asks, “The questions our friends need us to ask them?”
Instead of summarizing the answers given in the book, it suffices to say that Mittelberg knows these issues in depth, but is able to relate answers in a readable and engaging matter. He draws from some of the best apologetics minds in the processes. He interweaves stories (so important to many postmodern folks) without lapsing into narrative for narrative’s sake. Every story does apologetic work. Mittelberg also adds “Questions for Further Discussion” to help in using the book for a small group study either for budding apologists or unbelievers or (better yet) both.
As a crusty old philosopher and apologist, I take issue with a few of Mittelberg’s answers (pertaining to evolution and the problem of evil), but one can consult my apologetics tome Christian Apologetics (InterVarsity, 2011) to learn how I engage these issues. That book is more a textbook than the handbook that Mittelberg has wisely devised to defend the offer of the gospel to thoughtful people. My disagreements do not stop me from highly recommending this book for aspiring apologists and for questioning unbelievers. And we should remember that apologetics is not optional, but commanded. Mittelberg quotes cult-apologist extraordinaire, Walter Martin: “When we fail to answer someone’s questions and objections, we become just one more excuse for them to disbelieve” (xiv). Even more authoritatively, the Apostle Peter exhorted the church:
But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect (1 Peter 3:15; see also Philippians 1:7; Jude 3).
Mittelberg’s sensitive and knowledgeable volume goes a long way in assisting us in this great task (Matthew 28:18-20).
Douglas Groothuis, Ph.D.
Professor of Philosophy