Book Review: No Argument For God
by Tom Gilson
John Wilkinson believes strongly in reason and in argument in the pursuit of spiritual truth. He employs both, at length, to deny the usefulness of reason and argument in the pursuit of spiritual truth. His book is titled No Argument for God: Going Beyond Reason in Conversations About Faith, a book whose central thesis goes like this (page 102):
It comes down to this: virtually no one I have had a conversation with about their faith journey has ever admitted they came to faith through arguments. Most people’s journey to faith is specific, strange, peculiar—irrational. Augustine heard a child’s voice singing, “Take up and read” and thought it was God telling him to read the Scriptures. Martin Luther came to faith after suffering from depression about his own sinfulness. John Wesley talks about his heart being “strangely warmed.” I don’t think I know any who were argued into the faith. That is because there is no argument for God. Our faith comes to us in a Person.
Wilkinson is a youth pastor, which places him among my most respected persons on earth. I don’t want to set aside too lightly what he has to say. There is indeed much of value in it. I loved his second chapter, “Seeing Things For the First Time,” in which he tries to help us old-timer Christians appreciate how outlandish is the story we’re trying to tell our secular friends. Virgin births, miracles, visions, resurrections—it’s all so unlikely on the face of it! Rarely have I seen anyone convey so eloquently what I regard as one of our most severe missiological problems: helping our contemporaries accept all this strange stuff as real.
If only he hadn’t given away so much in the process! He argues from the obvious limited sense-perception and reasoning skills of various species (including humans) to the conclusion, “Because our sense abilities are rather narrow, so is our logic…. reason is stunted by the limits of being human” (emphasis in the original). Reason is finite, he tells us, and in this he is obviously correct. Knowledge of God comes to us by revelation, he also rightly says; and most fully in a relational mode, God revealed in the Person of Jesus Christ. There is no act of human reason that can take us to Christ apart from God’s revelation.
But no argument for God? There are multiple arguments for God: cosmological, teleological, historical, prophetic, ontological, axiological, existential, and on and on…
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