Christians are told to “always be ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope
that is in you” (I Peter 3:15). I think too often we come to think that it requires seminary study to have the knowledge for that defense. Some apologist drill deep into the original languages, and get so scholarly that the knowledge does little to help defend our faith to those who have no knowledge of God.
Ravi Zacharias’ Beyond Opinion, Living the Faith We Defend is a pleasantly different. The emphasis is on living the faith rather than on the technicalities of the scholarly lessons. It’s possible to say that Beyond Opinion is about living apologetics. Zacharias sums it up with “I have little doubt that the single greatest obstacle to the impact of the gospel has not been its in ability to provide answers, but the failure on our part to live it out.”
Beyond Opinion is a compilation of articles by several writers, most of whom are part of Ravi Zacharias International Ministry (RZIM). Each author writes from experience rather than theory, giving guidance to live the faith rather than arguing it.
Divided into three sections, Zacharias has put together a defense of our faith that is more than mere head knowledge or argument. Part one, “Giving an Answer,” looks at the skeptics, and often the believers, difficult questions. Zacharias points out in the Introduction that we can answer someone’s questions if we haven’t grappled and answered our own questions.
Part two, “Internalizing the Questions and Answers,” is just that. Like final exams in school, we can find the answers for the moment then quickly forget. That does us no good either academically or spiritually. Once we’ve found our answer (not someone else’s answer) we must make it a part of us, a part of our spiritual transformation. Even Satan believes in God and His grace, he hasn’t allowed that knowledge to be transforming.
The final part, “Living Out the Answers,” is just one chapter by Zacharias which is the thesis of Beyond Opinion. Knowing the answers, internalizing the answers are of no value unless we are living the answers. The spiritual transformation must be evident in our lives if we are to convince others of our hope.
Throughout challenges from the world are presented, such as from Islam, youth, and our culture. Each of these chapters are a good introduction to knowing why our faith is the true faith and getting a look at why the various groups might reject our arguments. But in the end, after reading this book, you may find as I did that apologetics is more than arguments, it is relationships – relationship with God and those around us.
This is not a book to casually read and tickle our ears. It is to be read, studied, and re-read. It is not a the easy answers; instead it is the guide to finding our own answers. Beyond Opinion can also be a study for groups, including youth groups. I anticipate that my copy will become dog-eared with use.