Review: Choosing Your Faith
Author: Mark Mittelberg
Guest reviewer: Dan MacIntosh
Watching TV ministers apply Bible-thumping tactics when preaching the gospel makes me wonder if these well-meaning preachers have completely forgotten the principle of free will. After all, if somebody becomes a Christian, that choice is entirely up to them, and it’s ill-advised—not to mention impossible—to force-feed Christianity. Well, Mark Mittelberg, who is perhaps best known for writing Becoming a Contagious Christian, feels so strongly about ‘choice,’ he’s included a variation on that term in the title of his latest book, Choosing Your Faith. And his careful approach to evangelism comes off like the soft knocking on a heart’s door, and never leaves any Bible bruises.
Choosing Your Faith is a book that can be given to a non-Christian friend, without any preemptive explanation. Its pages are completely free of jargon or ‘Christian-ise,’ and are, instead, written in simple, easy to understand language — even when Mittelberg delves into deep philosophy. So rather than quoting Jesus from one of the four gospels, for instance, Mittelberg cites what he terms, ‘one of four early biographies,’ before inserting an exchange between the Pharisees and Jesus. Although Mittelberg has a master’s degree in philosophy of religion from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, he smartly steers clear of preacher talk throughout these pages.
At the risk of oversimplification, Mittelberg’s latest book is little bit like a Consumer Reports guide to choosing a belief system. It teaches the reader how to evaluate various religions using specific intellectual criteria, in much the same way one might shop for a new car. A whole chapter is devoted to the topic of authority, where authoritarian religious groups are discussed, for example. Furthermore, popular traditions are examined so that various spiritual traditions can be held up to the light of logic and seen for what they really are. From the very start, Mittelberg asks the reader to focus on what is, in order to avoid relying upon any pre-conceived ideas. He knows all to well that there is a lot of misinformation out there when it comes to issues of faith, and does an excellent job of clearing the air and getting right to the truth.
Along the way, Mittelberg touches upon many major religions, such Buddhism and Judaism. He also evaluates modern cults, including Mormonism and Jehovah’s Witnesses. He even discusses the New Age. But unlike, say, Walter Martin’s classic, Kingdom of the Cults, which is a detailed, microscopic study of various pseudo-Christian groups, Mittelberg merely uses information about these organizations to help prove his points. And in so doing, he never describes other belief systems using disparaging Us vs. Them terminology. For instance, he tells us how the Book Of Mormon presents and describes an ancient American civilization; the existence of which scientists have never verified. To disprove this Mormon teaching, he quotes a Smithsonian Institution letter that states in part, “The Book of Mormon is a religious document and not a scientific guide.” Therefore, he uses the Smithsonian Institution’s authority, instead of his own opinion, to help raise serious doubts about this particular faith.
Mittelberg closes his work with a listing of what he terms “arrows,” which are a collection of solid reasons to choose Christianity over all other religions. These factors range from the intelligent designer theory, which strongly suggests our complex universe also had a smart creator, to Jesus’ resurrection, which firmly established his credentials as the Son of God.
Like fellow apologist Lee Strobel—who also wrote this book’s forward—Mittelberg believes spiritual seekers are intelligent, reasonable people, so he treats them with the utmost respect. Certainly, not all non-Christians will immediately convert to the faith after reading this book. Nevertheless, with his consistently sound reasoning and non-threatening language, Mittelberg frames Christianity as an offer that is awfully hard to refuse.
Choosing Your Faith
By Mark Mittelberg
$19.99, 227 pages, hb