IVP, 224 pages, £9.99,
Star rating : 4
From time to time, Christians hear strident claims from the so-called New Atheists that Jesus never existed and the Gospel records are unreliable. Paul Barnett, in this scholarly but accessible book, reveals their ignorance and answers their arguments.
Actually, the views of such men as Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens are not new at all. Even in Old Testament times atheists existed and were regarded as fools (Psalms 14:1; 53:1).
However, modern means of communication have enabled these anti-god people to trumpet abroad their antagonism to God in general, and to Christianity in particular. This is where the careful scholarship of apologists like Paul Barnett, John Lennox, Edgar Andrews and a host of other writers is so valuable.
In this book Paul Barnett demonstrates the historicity of the life, death and resurrection of Jesus and the reliability of the Gospel records. The author thereby shows the gospel to be thoroughly believable.
He carefully analyses the text of the Gospels and, using the ‘four document hypothesis’, demonstrates their authenticity. Drawing upon archaeological and documentary evidence, he shows that it is quite unreasonable to reject the existence of Jesus or reliability of the scriptural records.
But who will read this book? Ideally, every Christian should be aware of the facts laid out in this book, but some may find the detailed arguments too complex. Also, many do not need to read it — they know whom they have believed.
Ministers will find the ammunition Barnett provides invaluable in the spiritual warfare. Christians troubled by the attacks of the New Atheists, or who have relatives disturbed by them, will find their faith strengthened.
It is to be hoped that some New Atheists would read it. But as Iain Murray writes in Pentecost today?: ‘Unbelief is primarily a moral rather than an intellectual problem, and apostasy comes from a sinful bias against God, not merely from mistaken thinking’. The target audience, therefore, would be mainly Christians.
The book is not directly evangelistic but apologetic, though in the last three pages the author presents a brief summary of the gospel. This summary is somewhat restrained so that anyone awakened by this book would probably need further instruction or help.
I would suggest that Christians consider ordering this book from a secular bookshop in order to get it onto their shelves. Better still, order two copies; one to keep and lend, and one to give away. But as this is a spiritual battle, be sure to back this up with earnest prayer!