Book Review: 7 Truths that Changed the World by Kenneth Samples
Philosopher Kenneth Samples (Reasons to Believe) recently published his third book: 7 Truths That Changed The World: Discovering Christianity’s Most Dangerous Ideas. The idea behind the book is to examine ideas in the Christian worldview that stand in direct opposition to the majority of worldviews, making them dangerous to believe. Samples’ approach to defending the truth of Christianity in this book is based on building a cumulative case for the worldview (not just a single doctrine, such as the existence of God). He introduces each idea by explaining the idea that Christianity will challenge, then he goes into a good amount of detail of the idea as he provides evidence for its truth versus the challenged idea.
Dangerous Idea #1: Not All Dead Men Stay Dead
Samples begins his presentation with what he calls “Christianity’s most dangerous idea.” He examines the claim that Jesus of Nazareth died and came back to life. Samples goes over seven pieces of evidence that critical scholars tend to agree took place. He explains the significance of each one and how they all come together to support the conclusion that Jesus bodily resurrected from the dead. Samples also examines several different naturalistic explanations for the evidence offered. He explains the weaknesses of each one and concludes that there is no other sound conclusion than that Jesus did rise from the dead.
Dangerous Idea #2: God Walked The Earth
The second dangerous idea of Christianity is that God came to earth in the form of a man (Jesus of Nazareth). Samples describes this idea as Christianity’s most shocking and distinction dangerous idea. In the first chapter of this section Samples lays out the Scriptural case for Jesus being God incarnate (in human flesh). He goes over the things that Jesus did, that He claimed of Himself, and the things that others said about Him. He lays this all out in a series of tables and lists that makes his case clear and concise. In the second chapter of this section, Samples takes six naturalistic hypotheses used to explain away the evidence of Jesus’ divinity. He explains why each one may seem compelling at first, but shows how each one is woefully inadequate for the task.
Dangerous Idea #3: A Fine-Tuned Cosmos With A Beginning
In the third section Samples examines what cosmologists have discovered about the universe: its beginning and its finely tuned parameters for life. He explains that the Bible recorded these truths long before man discovered them, and in a cultural context that believed otherwise. The fact that the Bible stood alone as explaining the universe in such a way was dangerous because of the cultural climate. Samples explains that the fact that the Bible reports these characteristics of the universe accurately so long before man discovered them point to its divine inspiration. He also goes into some detail regarding the evidence for the beginning and the fine-tuning—just to give the reader a taste of power of this particular set of arguments for the truth of Christianity. The danger of this idea comes from the fact that it goes directly against popular beliefs until just in the last hundred years (with the discovery of the “big bang”).
Dangerous Idea #4: Clear Pointers to God
This fourth section of the book focuses on a more cumulative case for God’s existence. Samples explains that Christianity makes the best sense of the most amount of data of the world of any of the worldview (specifically atheism). He provides twelve different examples within reality that Christianity explains easily where other worldviews do not. He begins the list by referring back to the previous chapter yet expands the content to the philosophical foundations. Samples not only appeals to specifics in the universe, but certain characteristics of man: consciousness, free will, accomplishments (both good and evil). He examines philosophical ideas such as abstract objects and mathematics. And He does not leave out the core of the Christian faith: Jesus Christ. Samples explains how the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ only make sense if Christianity is, in fact, true.
Dangerous Idea #5: Not By Works
The fifth section moves to the most distinct of the dangerous ideas of Christianity—that man’s salvation cannot be obtained on his own. Samples begins by explaining what man’s problem is: that he is sinful. He explains that sin is a state of active rebellion against the morally perfect God. He discusses where sin came from, its effects on the lives of humans, the extent of those effects, and the doctrine of “original sin”. Having laid the foundations of Jesus’ being the God-man and His death and resurrection in the previous sections, Samples then moves into what Jesus’ death and resurrection actually accomplished—our salvation or atonement. He explains in succinct detail four different perspectives on the atonement (sacrifice, forgiveness, love, and victory) and seven unique ways that the Bible describes the atonement (salvation, legal substitutionary sacrifice, propitiation, reconciliation, redemption, justification, and adoption). Samples ends the section by discussing the controversy regarding whether man is without sin and can obtain salvation on his own (Pelagianism).
Dangerous Idea #6: Humanity’s Value and Dignity
The sixth dangerous idea focuses on humanity’s being created “in the Image of God”. Samples begins this discussion by explaining how Friedrick Nietzsche laid the foundation for the idea that humanity is no different from the animals and possess no more value. He then shows how philosopher Peter Singer has taken that position to its logical end with many moral conclusions that violate the value of humanity. Samples contrasts this view with the Christian understanding that man does possess intrinsic value that should not be violated. He goes into a good amount of detail about where the “Image of God” came from, what it means, and its manifestations in humanity. He examines different perspectives to help the reader come to a more complete understanding, including how man is like and unlike God. He then shows how humanity being created in God’s image was actually necessary for the Incarnation of Jesus Christ.
Samples then looks at how humanity is similar and dissimilar to animals. He describes seven differentiating characteristics and uses them to conclude that man is not merely a more advanced animal, but a different kind of being, altogether. He ends the section by placing the Christian anthropology to the test of reality and concludes that Christianity explains man more comprehensively than does any worldview that relies on the naturalistic development of humans.
Dangerous Idea #7: The Good In Suffering
In the final section, Samples examines the problem of evil. He begins by distinguishing between two different types of evil: moral and natural. He then shows how most worldviews either deny or ignore evil, yet Christianity confronts it. Samples discusses the logical problem of evil that is leveled against Christianity and shows how the challenge is not valid. He then turns the challenge around to demonstrate how one must assume God’s existence to even bring up the challenge. From here Samples moves into demonstrating the idea that pain and suffering can be good. Samples explains that God has moral purposes for evil, that those purposes are the “greater good”, that God uses evil to draw people to Him, that natural evil is necessary for life, and that God’s glory will be ultimately revealed in the final overcoming of all evil. He explains that it is, also, only in the Christian worldview that the worst evil (the wrongful execution of the God/man—Jesus Christ) would lead to the greatest good—the overcoming of evil. Samples ends the section by explaining that only Christianity offers the hope of the end of evil that so many people are looking for.
Samples concludes the book by explaining that the seven dangerous ideas that he has discussed are not the only ones; many more exist. He encourages the reader to continue to explore the truth of Christianity.
7 Truths That Changed The World was a very good read. It was laid out in a very systematic way, which helps the reader to follow the lines of reasoning. Samples covers a lot of apologetic and theological ground in this book, and he does so very well. Sections 5 and 6 were the most enjoyable because of how well he covered the theological doctrines of the atonement and the Image of God. This book is fantastic for anyone who is wanting to cover a lot of material in a relatively short book, but not really feel that they are just scraping of the surface. Samples writes in a way that is extremely concise. He brings many different truths together in ways that may not necessarily be obvious to the apologist or everyday-Christian. The connections that he makes allows the reader to form a more interconnected and comprehensive worldview.
Each section contains a short series of discussion questions that will help the reader (in a group or not) to reflect on what they’ve just read and place the material in their own words…making it more memorable to them as their own. Each section also contains a list of recommended readings for further investigation. The final pages of the book contain both a scripture index and a subject index for quick reference in the future.
This book is recommended for everyone, but is highly recommended for those who are just starting in or are curious about apologetics, Christian philosophy, and/or theology. [An interview with Ken Samples about this book can be found here.]
Apologetics 315 Book Reviewer Luke Nix is a Computer Systems Administrator in Oklahoma, USA. He has a beautiful and supportive wife, but no kids yet. In his spare time he enjoys studying theology, philosophy, biology, astronomy, psychology and apologetics. If you liked this review, more of his writing can be enjoyed at lukenixblog.blogspot.com.