Chesterton famously wrote that “Christianity has not been tried and found wanting; it has been found difficult and left untried.” Has Christianity Failed You? is a new book by evangelical thinker and apologist, Ravi Zacharias, written to address the struggles that many experience in trying to follow Jesus Christ. In a culture that is post-Christian, there will be many people who end up rejecting Christianity for different reasons – personal loss or suffering, false expectations shaped by broken relationships, traumatic church experiences, and often because of intellectual struggles. Ravi explores the nature of disappointment with God and the difficult questions that often arise from those who have feel betrayed intellectually and spiritually by the church or by their Christian experience. Some of the specific questions addressed in the book:
- Have you stumbled and fallen in your faith?
- Do you have intellectual questions that are unanswered?
- Is Christianity not what you thought it was?
- Have you been affected by hypocrisy in the church?
- Are you swayed by the challenges to the Holy Scriptures?
- Has science tested your Christian belief?
Ravi is a gifted writer and I have benefited greatly from his discussion of logical and existential questions (Can Man Live Without God, Cries of the Heart and Deliver Us From Evil are excellent works). This new book by him looks to again balance out both the practical and philosophical considerations involved when God seems distant or when the Christian life seems harder than we expected it to be. Let’s face it, religious people and institutions can often be the biggest obstacle to belief in God (movements like the emergent church prove this pretty well). Hopefully this book will be helpful for many who find themselves in this position.
Has Christianity Failed You? becomes available on Amazon this month.
Here are two questions from an interview Ravi did with Danielle DuRant about the book (the full interview can be found on the RZIM site):
What do you say to the person who cognitively believes God is good and wants to trust him but, based on a past heartache or a present situation, still struggles to experience him as compassionate and trustworthy?
RZ: These are what I call the rub questions. They are not easy to answer. And these situations are more often the rule than the exception in our experience. I think about this a lot, and I wonder how much we have been wrongly taught in these matters? Have our expectations for life as a Christian been wrong? In our efforts to be relevant, we have forgotten that some things are going to be irrelevant and unexplainable for us, and it is we who need to become relevant to the truth, not the other way around. We are not God. Imagine trying to force a square peg into a round hole—all you accomplish in the end is to damage the edges of the peg. Sometimes we try to force God to fit our mold for him, to fit our idea of how he should act, and then when he doesn’t meet these expectations, we blame him for not meeting our expectations.
I have concluded that the greatest of loves comes at the greatest cost. The greatest of loves will never come cheaply. It takes everything you have to honor that love and everything you have to honor that trust. And the greatest love that any of us could have is our relationship with God.
Look at any athletes who have succeeded. Discipline is an indispensable part of their lives— unless, of course, they cheat. And when you’ve got the discipline, you’ve got the marks on your body to demonstrate it. But we sit down Sunday after Sunday, in the West particularly, to a delicious buffet of programming. Then when the first temptation comes, we are walloped; we are thrashed, and we wonder where God is. God is exactly where we have left him—way behind, reshaped into our image.
Something I heard from a Muslim doctor I met in Pakistan who had come to know Christ comes to my mind often. He told me about the two sentences he heard from a preacher that changed his life: “In surrendering, you win. In dying, you live.” This is the counterperspective. So when you say, “I don’t feel God here. I’m afraid to trust him here,” realize that there are many days when you don’t feel the love you want to feel from your spouse, your children, your family. But you have to be big enough to surrender your own needs and keep loving and “kicking against the goads,” as it were. I believe when it is over, you will discover that perseverance was what it was all about.
You’ve raised many significant points today—that we must carefully examine our expectations of God and our disappointments, not denying them but bringing them to God and asking him to show us where we may be thinking improperly, and that we must come to him in prayer rather than turn our backs on our relationship, asking him to show us more of himself and his love for us.
RZ: There are two important implications, Danielle. Blaming our poor relationship with our heavenly Father on our poor relationships with our earthly fathers is similar to saying that Christianity has failed us because of what we see or experience in the church. This is a false extrapolation. Yes, the church is flawed; yes, it is broken. But if you think of the twelve men whom Jesus chose—my word! Certainly an insightful Divine Being could have picked better disciples than he did. And out of these less-than-perfect disciples, he took perhaps the least promising— Peter—and gave him the key spot. Then he took a terrorist—Paul— and made him the penman for one-third of the New Testament. So I think we take a great risk if we base our decision about ultimate matters only on what we can see.
Second and very important, one of the chapters in this book is a response to Robert Price and his view of the irrationality and untenability of the Christian faith. This is not a face-value response, but I want the reader to understand this: Examine any other worldview, and you’ll find an important difference between it and the Christian faith. In the Christian faith, we may ask the questions, in fact, encourage questions, and while we may not always have comprehensive answers, we have very meaningful answers. In any other worldview, not only do they not have meaningful answers, they cannot even justify their questions. This is not to say that Christianity is the best of some horrible options. No! I think the questions of morality, meaning, love, destiny, values, sexuality, marriage, friendship, and word over feeling are most meaningfully answered in the Judeo-Christian worldview. I am more convinced of this than I was at the moment I first committed my life to Christ. So examine Christianity against all other alternatives, and I believe with my whole heart that you will find that Christianity has not failed you.