Unbelievable? by Justin Brierley

Unbelievable? (London: SPCK, 2017) has been part of my holiday reading over the last week or so, and I have enjoyed this clear and readable book very much.

The title is drawn from the name of the weekly radio show hosted by Brierley and aired on Saturdays on Premier Radio. In this show, Brierley draws together Christians and sceptics to discuss a topic in (hopefully) a respectful conversation.

The book performs two main tasks. In part, it recounts some of the interesting conversations in which Brierley has participated over ten years of the programme. But Brierley has integrated these brief accounts into a primer on ‘apologetics’, dealing with key issues in an orderly manner. 

The book is composed of nine chapters. After an introduction to Brierley’s background and the origins of the radio show, the remaining chapters discuss fairly typical topics for a book on apologetics: how belief in God makes sense of various aspects of life; evidence for the resurrection of Jesus; the problem of suffering, etc. One less typical chapter recounts Brierley’s meeting with Richard Dawkins.

Brierley’s skill in communication is evident as this book is easy to read and most readers will find it easy to follow, even when he discusses difficult ideas. Brierley is honest about his own position. He acknowledges that he is not a specialist in the various areas, but he nonetheless provides an orientation to important discussions that will help readers to think clearly before proceeding to more advanced treatments. Readers will be introduced to some significant recent scholarship in these chapters. (Those who are interested can listen to the recordings of the various episodes online.) Along the way, Brierley offers some personal reflections on his own experience of faith which add to the appeal of the book. While I did not agree with Brierley’s views in every respect, his presentation of Christianity is generally helpful and accurate, and he is consistently respectful of alternative views.

Will this book convince every sceptic who reads it? I doubt it! And Justin Brierley has clearly not written the book with that expectation. The book closes with his aims (p. 206): 

If you are a Christian, I hope that it will give you confidence in the claims of the faith you hold. And if you are not a Christian, my prayer is that it may provide you with just enough reason to move from examining the outside of the building [Christian faith] to walking up to the front door and taking a step inside. 

Readers in either of these categories will benefit from reading this book. 

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