4 Stars Out Of 5
Provides some good insights but has weaknesses
October 29, 2012
Primarily, Honest Questions, Honest Answers is a book intended for Christians who want to learn more about sharing their faith and answering the questions of their non-believing friends and family. David Faust explains the purpose of his book at the beginning in a segment titled: "Getting Started - How to Use this Book". There he describes his work as "an Apologetics book_an Evangelism book...and a Story Book". Through his "story book" method, Faust introduces his readers to a few of the thoughtful skeptics and seekers with whom he has shared his faith, giving readers a look at some of their honest questions. Within 210 pages of material, Faust admits that he does not intend to provide answers to all the hard questions that skeptics may ask. If nothing else, Faust furnishes readers a starting point for providing answers to seekers in an honest and loving fashion. There are a couple of occasions in the book where Faust shares a hope that his book will be read also by non-believing seekers.
My overall opinion of the book is favorable, and I will go on to describe what I did and did not like. However, let me first share my own biases. First, I am an evangelical Christian and therefore would tend to agree with Faust on the essential premise that Christianity is true and that the faith of Christianity should be shared and discussed with non-believers. I am also a graduate of the Cincinnati Christian University where David Faust has served as both a professor and president. On top of that, Faust was the professor of the apologetics course that I took at the undergraduate Bible college level. I remember him as having a likeable personality and therefore he is not the sort of person that I would want to criticize too harshly even if warranted. So, I hope my biases in his favor are not clouding my judgment as I critique his book.
The Strengths of Honest Questions, Honest Answers:
Honest Questions, Honest Answers is written in a logical and simple way and is very readable. The format of several chapters starts out with a real life story of Faust sharing his faith and reasons for belief with a non-believer. He does not provide us with trophy stories of how he argued "so-and-so" into belief, but provides an account of the people he has met along life's way who posed their skeptical questions. I don't recall any of the stories he shares ending up in the conversion "win" column. As I read the stories, I benefitted most from the questions posed and the attitude that Faust shows toward the questioners.
I can see this book being used as the lesson material for a church elective or Sunday school class on sharing faith / basic apologetics. The end of each chapter provides a series of questions and resources for further study and could easily be used to teach a 13 week course.
Although I have studied the Bible on a college level and have spent time debating critics of Christianity at an in-depth level, Faust provides a few answers and angles of reply that are helpful to me. Each of the following chapters and sections have some insights that provided me with new information or good reminders: Chapter 1 - The Questions People Ask; Chapter 7 - Why are there So Many Phony Christians?; Chapter 8 - Why are Christians So Intolerant?; Appendix 2E - Isn't God Just a Crutch for the Weak?
Throughout the book, Faust supports his material with a solid amount of Bible references. He also shows how doubts, questions, and sharing faith are demonstrated for us in the New Testament and by Jesus Christ. Sometimes I forget the Biblical examples of dealing with seekers, skeptics, and even critical opponents. So I appreciate that Faust shared those examples in this book and that he reminded me of the modern relevance of the seeker-skeptic encounters recorded in Scripture.
The Weaknesses of Honest Questions, Honest Answers:
Unlike one of the favorable reviews of the book found just inside the front cover, I did NOT find this to be "one of the best - if not the best - apologetics books I've ever read". Although there are some decent answers to some lines of skepticism, I'm afraid the book would come back with several holes shot through it if I were to hand it to some of the skeptics that I have encountered. This is probably a better "How to do apologetics with gentleness and respect book" than it is an "apologetics book" per se. I say that because I believe that a good apologetics book handles individual criticisms with a greater amount of depth, requiring a much longer analysis than Faust attempts to provide this volume. Typically apologetics books are better reference material than readable (except for Lee Strobel's and CS Lewis's books). The purpose and length of HQ,HA does not allow it to be what I consider "high-quality apologetics". It is unfortunate if Faust meant his book to be more than a taste of, or an introduction to, apologetics. However, I gather from the author's own comments in the book that it is not intended to be an in-depth book for handling all criticisms and issues.
Although I agree with Faust's conclusion in Chapter 2 - Is the Bible Really True? (along with Faust, I believe it is true), I am somewhat dissatisfied that it turned out to be a chapter filled with "prove-a-getical" evidence. What I mean is that Faust provides an array of simplistic positive evidence for the credibility of the Bible as if it adds up to a proven conclusion. In so doing, he avoids any and all negative evidence or thoughtful argumentation to the contrary. I suppose I shouldn't expect much from 16 whole pages on the matter, but I would have appreciated more than mere cheerleading for an unproven (though believable) conclusion. Let me take at least one additional paragraph to explain.
In Chapter 2, Faust points out that Biblical history is written as taking place in real places and alongside real historically verified events and persons. That is a good point, but many fictional stories are written as occurring in real places alongside real events and historical characters. An apologetics book would deal with that (or perhaps mention it) whereas this chapter does not mention any of such negatives. Also, the Bible contains apparent internal contradictions that are the subject of much scrutiny and debate regarding its inerrancy as a "true" book on what it records and claims. No mention of that by Faust in this chapter or entire book. Regarding the notion of miracles (which I believe), many skeptics would suggest that because the Bible claims a history with miracles, that the Bible would be somewhat at odds with science or plain reason. But Faust does not address that in this chapter either (though slightly in another). What about critical concerns with the Noahic Flood as being a world-wide flood, or the story of the sun stopping in the sky, or talking snakes and donkeys, etc., in light of science and common experience? Not discussed. What about the apparent discrepancies between Matthew's and Luke's genealogies? Silence. When talking about Biblical prophecy and how all of the fulfillments appear to add up impressively to divine revelation, Faust makes no mention of the problem we have proving that conclusion in light of textual dates, the nature of dual messianic prophecies (which could be a matter of forced fulfillment), or that several of Faust's examples of prophetic fulfillment include instances where the claimed prediction and claimed fulfillment occur in the same Bible book by the same author. I believe the Bible is true. I believe that the Bible records fulfilled prophecy. I have examined the various issues concerning the claimed errancy of the Bible (those I mentioned and more) and I am satisfied that the Bible stands as an honorable and trustworthy guide. However, if I took Honest Questions, Honest Answers out to face the world of skepticism on whether or not the Bible is true, well, I'd be left in a daze (and with a few holes in me) thinking that this issue is supposed to be easily demonstrated as true. I am sad to say that Faust, while trying to keep it short and simple, may give the false (perhaps unintended) impression that the validity and truth of the Bible is readily proven.
Perhaps after the last segment on weakness of the book it sounds like I don't have a favorable view of Honest Questions, Honest Answers. On a 5 point rating scale, I give it 3 Â½ points. That is a positive rating because I gained some valuable insights from the book. Also, HQ,HA provides a good starting point for teaching on evangelism and basic apologetics and offers good discussion questions and material for building lessons on the subject of sharing faith. I appreciate Faust's attitude toward the skeptic and believe he is a good model for "speaking the truth in love". In spite of my strong opinion that it shows weakness in some key issues as an apologetics book, I'm sure Faust realizes that the length and simplistic style of the book does not really allow it to be strong apologetically.
If you are a Christian who is interested in sharing your faith and learning how to answer the doubting questions that come back at you, you will learn something of value from this book. Be aware that it is not exhaustive by any means and that the apologetic material is weak in some areas - although pretty decent in others. Overall, I believe that if you are interested in the subject matter, you will benefit from this book.