“Why Believe?” by Neil Shenvi (A Somewhat Critical Review)

I recently received this book for review purposes: Why Believe?: A Reasoned Approach to Christianity by Neil Shenvi. “Why Believe?” is an apologetics book explaining and defending the truths of Christianity from a logical and reasonable perspective. In “Why Believe?” Shenvi discusses the common apologetics topics such as: Are all religions true? Was Jesus a lunatic, liar, or is he Lord? Are the Gospels reliable? What is the evidence for the resurrection? And so on.

Shenvi approaches these discussions from a biblical perspective using reason and logic. Shenvi often asks questions people might have and then answers them logically. For example, the topic in chapter five is the moral law of God. His argument is this: Premise 1) If God does not exist, then objective moral values and duties do not exist. Premise 2) Objective moral values and duties do exist. Therefore (Conclusion), God exists. Later in this chapter Shenvi answers possible objections to those two premises and gives his reasonable response. The book is just over 250 pages and it has both a general index and a Scripture index.

“Why Believe?” is a good apologetics book. However, and to be blunt, there is really nothing new in it. This book covers the exact same ground as quite a few other books that discuss apologetics from a reasonable/logical perspective. Shenvi uses arguments by C. S. Lewis, Tim Keller, William Lane Craig, and others. He refutes people like Richard Dawkins and company. I’ve read other apologetics books that defend the faith from a logical perspective, so Why Believe? was really nothing new for me. It’s not an original contribution to the field.

Also worth mentioning, perhaps, is that that evidentialist apologetics really don’t work for many atheists and non-Christians in our current cultural situation. Many skeptics and unbelievers have heard all these arguments and defenses for the faith before and are not swayed by them. For example, a Christian friend of mine who used to be a staunch atheist told me that he had read and re-read all these rational arguments for Christianity and could answer the objections himself. But, he said, it didn’t touch him. He needed more than logical proof!

[I realize this is even more off topic, but it is worth thinking about: what method or methods of defending the faith work best in our cultural context? Of course we want our apologetics to be biblically based and theologically sound, not to mention reasonable. But we should also want our apologetic method or methods to be compelling to those around us. I could be wrong, but I’m not convinced an evidentialist apologetic is the best method for our current post-postmodern context.]

Anyway, back to the book, Why Believe? Yes, it is a good evidentialist and reasonable apologetics book. But if you’ve read other evidentialist or logical apologetics books, you can probably pass this one up since much of it is very similar to other ones. Also, it is quite wordy and somewhat detailed so it’s probably not for casual readers. In a word, “Why Believe” is a helpful resource, but it’s very similar to other Christian books in this genre.

Neil Shenvi, Why Believe? (Wheaton: Crossway, 2022).

Shane Lems
Covenant Presbyterian Church (OPC)
Hammond, WI, 54015

1 thought on ““Why Believe?” by Neil Shenvi (A Somewhat Critical Review)”

  1. I think we tend to forget that it’s the Holy Spirit that convicts, not a logical argument. If He wanted to, He could convict everyone in a microsecond. Just tell them “the road you’re on leads to Hell (the wide road); you need to be born again; Jesus did not come to save the righteous (which you think you are); He came to save sinners (which requires you to repent – an impossibility unless He convicts you). To be accepted into Heaven, you have to be made perfect. By wearing His righteousness, you are made perfect. Thus faith in Jesus Christ alone is what you need.” It really is that simple. The Gospel is not complicated. I think apologetics is wonderful and we should all know how to defend what we believe. But it is somewhat of an academic exercise and can almost become a “selling” activity. And sometimes an ego driven one (I convinced the person because of the cogency of my reasoning). The Holy Spirit doesn’t need complicated reasoning. He’s God. He knows who are His and He will convict them despite my efforts in logic, or He won’t. I’m very relieved that it’s not up to me. I just have to tell them why He came.

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