Reasons for the Christian hope
Stepping-stone to God
REASONS FOR THE CHRISTIAN HOPE
By Gannon Murphy
Mentor. 176 pages. £8.99
In Reasons for the Christian Hope, Gannon Murphy provides a philosophical Christian response to the enduring questions of God’s existence, evil, suffering and other religions.
In addition to these classic issues, the book also very helpfully addresses why God doesn’t show himself more clearly, what gives meaning and identity to a person, and how we should respond to postmodernism. The arguments are clear and persuasive, and are supported and illustrated by a wide range of thinkers and writers spanning the centuries, from Plato and Pascal to Ian McEwan and Richard Dawkins. The result is a book which is informative, stimulating, engaging, and contemporary in feel, with references to 9/11 and the film Fight Club sitting alongside Augustine and Thomas Aquinas. Gannon manages to cover a lot of ground in a few pages, and the accessible way he summarises complex arguments means the book has potential to serve as a primer in Christian apologetics.
A word of warning: do not be put off by the introduction! The autobiographical description of an acute anxiety attack with which the book begins, though personal and honest, is puzzling. Although the book claims to be a way to avoid a similar fate, the link is not obvious given that the cause of the breakdown is not made clear.
As for style, Gannon says he is no artist but is trying to write ‘artfully with words’. Unfortunately he tries rather too hard, especially in the introduction, with the style having a tendency to be self-consciously highbrow and literary, and the language ostentatious and esoteric. Thankfully, as the book progresses, you find fewer words and phrases along the lines of ‘anxiolytic’ and ‘a united phalanx of shining lights making clearer our paths towards the triadic paradigm with Hope as its center and telos’. It is especially off-putting to find yourself reaching for the dictionary in the very first line to look up ‘a teetering lummox’, the problem in this instance being an American colloquialism. This Americo-centric feel resurfaces in spelling (‘center’ and ‘etiological’) and cultural references (especially in the chapter on postmodernism with its references to ‘Dear Abby’ and American politics), which is unfortunate in a book presumably intended for a wider readership.
These niggles aside, the substance of the book is a fine resource to equip Christians to give a reason for the hope they have and to engage with secular thinking and culture. And, because the starting-point is philosophical rather than biblical, it could serve as a useful stepping-stone to reading an evangelistic book, or the Bible itself, for the sceptical non-Christian who wants to engage with some of the big questions.
Senior Pastor, St. Peter’s Barge, Canary Wharf, East London