Smart Faith by J.P. Moreland & Mark Matlock

February 18, 2010 | By | 2 Comments

… when Jesus was questioned about which commandment was the greatest, He responded, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind” (Luke 10:27). Jesus is saying here that He wants us to love God with the total person that we are. If we can offer only emotional arguments for our faith and not solid intellectual ones, then we’re in trouble.

Smart Faith, p. 18

Review: First off, this book on what it means to love God with all your mind is geared toward high school and college students. This was not clear to me going in.  It is only 171 pages, but covers a lot of ground. It goes into good depth on some subjects (e.g. identifying and countering fallacies) and provides an easy to understand introduction to other concepts (e.g. limitations of the scientific method). The back cover promises that the reader can learn to:

  • Identify fallacies of logic – your own and others
  • Embrace the mind’s role in spiritual formation
  • Acquire new spiritual disciplines

Though mostly at an introductory level (especially in regards to spiritual disciplines), the book comes through. Although it contains a few too many “musts” and “shoulds” for my taste, it is well reasoned and makes sense. It will also give the reader confidence in knowing how to respond to common obstacles presented by culture such as moral relativism (e.g. your truth vs. my truth).

I particularly liked the emphasis on not arguing from the Bible to people who aren’t sold on its validity. It is kind of stupid to say, “I believe it because the Bible says so” to someone who doesn’t believe in the Bible. One of the exercises at the end of a chapter is to come up with 3 simple and intelligent reasons for what you believe without using Scripture or feelings. Here is the example they gave:

1. I believe because the evidence – historical, archaelogical, scientific, and so on – for Christianity is more credible than the evidence for other faiths (or no faith at all).

2. I believe because Christianity is the only philosophy that explains every aspect of the realities in our world: human beings and nature, evil and good, love and hate, liberty and bondage, creativity and ingenuity, and so on.

3. I believe because I have asked for God’s involvement in my life and, as as result, have experienced His responses, too many responses to be labeled coincidence.

Exercises like this help the Christian to “always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have” (1 Peter 3:15). Also great were the case studies toward the back of the book on secluded or worldly Christians and what it would look like to become an “ambassador Christian” (based on 2 Corinthians 5:20).

Summary: Some parts of this book were more enjoyable to read and other parts felt like eating vegetables – not the best tasting but good for you. This is particularly suited for overachieving and motivated high school students who want grow in loving God with their minds and be able to provide well-reasoned arguments for their faith.

Rating: 4/5 (Eat your spiritual vegetables.)

This book was provided for review by NavPress. To learn more or purchase on Amazon, click here.

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Comments (2)

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  1. Jen D. says:

    Hey, Mark. Can I have this book? Some friends of mine struggle with what science says vs. what God says & I wonder if maybe this would help them out.

    • Mark says:

      Hey Jen, send me your address. It doesn’t go into too much detail on the science thing (only a brief introduction), but it may be able to help.

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