The Real Face of Atheism by Ravi Zacharias is a book written with the familiar signature style of the author: profound in depth, focused on the ultimate issues of life, engaging and immersive with illustrations, and challenging to the heart. Anyone who has heard Zacharias speak can appreciate the flowing gracefulness of his words and the clarity of his thought. In this book, the author engages the subject of atheism in a similar fashion – although, for this reviewer, it lacks the same impact on the written page. This will be a very brief reflection on the general content.
Zacharias splits the book into two sections: Man: The Measure of All Things, and God: The Treasure of Life’s Pursuits. Part one directly engages with the theme of belief in a world without God. The author evaluates the ultimate existential implications of atheism as it applies to morality, meaning, motivation and man. Part two shifts the focus towards God as the answer to the man’s problem. Along with Ravi’s rhetorical eloquence, the author’s other strength is his ability to critique worldviews:
…this same approach in carefully scrutinizing atheism shows the weakness of its defense and the immensity of its loss – even greater than Nietzsche imagined. I have sought to touch on just four areas of loss – the leaps of ignorance into primal causation; the loss of morality; the absence of meaning; and the death of hope. These result in fragmentation, giving rise to answers that cannot be consistent when explaining our origin, condition, salvation, and destiny.(1)
The book contains two appendices, where additional material can be found. This is a bit more analytical, dealing with some logical issues as well as steps for establishing a worldview. Insights into Ravi’s overall approach can be found here as well:
First, can I defend what I believe in keeping with the laws of logic? That is, is it tenable? Second, if everyone gave himself or herself the prerogatives of my philosophy, could there be harmony in existence? That is, is it livable? Third, do I have a right to make moral judgments in the matters of daily living? That is, is it transferable? […] Here is the key: one must argue from level one, illustrate from level two, and apply at level three.(2)
Zacharias accomplishes his goal of showing the ultimate hopelessness and lack of depth of a worldview without God, while at the same time showing the depth and hope found in Christianity. Again, those familiar with Zacharias’s lectures with find his same style in his writing. Many of the same illustrations, quotations, and stories are compiled here which, while illustrating the author’s points effectively, may seem tedious to those who have heard them in a lecture. However, for those unfamiliar with Zacharias and who are also new to the topic of apologetics and written works addressing atheism, this sort of book will be much more appealing and effective as a very approachable treatment of the subject. With questions for study at the end of each chapter, it may also serve well as a resource for small group study. Verdict: The Real Face of Atheism is a good book for those new to the subject.
1 Ravi Zacharias, The Real Face of Atheism (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2004), p. 153.
2 Ibid., p. 171.