The great Francis Schaeffer once expressed this concern regarding seminary graduates, “Christians have tended to despise the concept of philosophy. This has been one of the weaknesses of evangelical, orthodox Christianity — we have been proud in despising philosophy, and we have been exceedingly proud in despising the intellect. Our theological seminaries hardly ever relate their theology to philosophy, and specifically to the current philosophy. Thus, students go out from the theological seminaries not knowing how to relate Christianity to the surrounding world-view. It is not that they do not know the answers. My observation is that most students graduating from our theological seminaries do not know the questions.” My experiences have confirmed Schaeffer’s prescience.
I bring that up because the book, “Magnificent Obsession’ by Pastor David Robertson is a clear exception to the rule. His book is a defense of the Christian Faith, but in a very unorthodox style. Written as a collection of mock letters to ‘J’ (who represents the countless skeptics and seekers that he has dialogued with in the past), Pastor Robertson is able to engage the reader in a very real, very meaningful way. It is one thing to read Schaeffer or Bahnsen or Zacharias and try to understand the nuances of their arguments and then attempt to apply those arguments to your own conversations. But what Pastor Robertson has done is display what conversational apologetics can and should look like. And in that sense he has provided a tremendous service to the body of Christ.
The book is focused on the person and work of Jesus Christ. And for that, I am very grateful. One of the dangers of taking such an approach, however, is that the author can unknowingly argue so strongly for the fact of who Christ is and miss the significance of who Christ is. This is typically done when a Christian merely argues from evidence. But the Christian should have zero interest in separating fact from significance. And here is where I think Pastor Robertson did a fantastic job. What does it mean to make Christ your ‘Magnificent Obsession’? It means first and foremost that Christ is who he claimed to be, namely the risen Son of God and that truth will radically alter everything about you.
Allow me to make one critical observation. In chapter 2 on miracles, he states, “…I think it is possible to read history and to find out things that did happen in the past–remembering, of course, that ultimately we cannot prove anything in an absolutist sense.” What? For the second edition, I pray they strike that sentence from the book. That sentence is unbecoming of any Christian Apologetic as well as in any book that passes as a philosophical defense for the Christian Faith. That statement makes no sense, and even worse, is self-contradictory because if we cannot prove anything, then we cannot even prove that sentence. Here Pastor Robertson errs in making it sound as if Christianity is only probably true. Or most likely true. No, no, no. A thousand ‘nos’! Christ is who He claimed to be because of the impossibility of the contrary. That statement and the subsequent ramifications keeps this from being a 5 star work.
I do however recommend the book because I think Pastor Robertson does not even believe his previous comment. He knows Christ and wants to introduce the reader to Christ. A real, living Jesus. This book is great for Christians that desire to be able to defend their faith intelligently but struggle with how to apply it conversationally. I could also see this book used with small groups focused on building up the body to engage the culture with the claims of Christ.