Book Review: "Why Believe? A Reasoned Approach to Christianity" by Neil Shenvi (Crossway)
Words by Tim Hunter
Is faith simply a lunge into the unknowable depths of the universe? Is belief in God simply an antidote for the masses to help make a miserable existence slightly more bearable? Is it even reasonable to believe in God? Aren’t the objections to his existence simply too much to override? And assuming he does exist, is he to be trusted; is he good?
Neil Shenvi tackles these questions head-on in his book Why Believe? A Reasoned Approach to Christianity. Shenvi writes from the perspective of someone who came to faith in Christ while in college. To draw Shenvi to himself, God used the works of C.S. Lewis, in particular The Screwtape Letters, and Shenvi’s future wife, who invited him to a church where the pastor used a reasonable and logical approach to the scriptures. He was converted and has since made great advancements in quantum physics. He writes this book out of the overflow of his faith journey, saying: “Christianity was not dry, archaic, boring, and irrelevant; it offered a compelling assessment of my own most pressing problems.”
Neil Shenvi makes a reasoned approach to the Christian faith, writing with clarity, honesty, and compassion. This book does away with the notion that belief in the God of the Bible is only possible if one were to ignore reason. Rather, Shenvi makes the case that to look carefully and reasonably at our lives, the universe around us, and our conscience, the only logical response is to believe in an ultimate God. This book answers three primary categories of concern: what are the logical reasons for belief in God, what are common objections against the existence of God, and what—assuming God exists—is unique about the Christian faith?
Logical Reasoning for God
In the first third of the book, the author examines the reasoning for belief in the existence of God. Shenvi first points out there is no middle ground regarding belief in God and truth in general. He makes the case that truth, by definition, must be subjective. He wisely remarks, “the difficulty with the view that all religions are subjectively true is that some religions really do make objective truth claims.” The author is driving the reader to recognize that it is insincere to simply be on the fence when it comes to belief in God and specifically the way that one religion depicts God compared to another. He furthermore points out that the entire life and teachings of Jesus make the reader choose who Jesus is—he is either the Lord as he claimed to be, or he was a liar or a lunatic. He refers to this truth as the Trilemna. Throughout the rest of the first section of the book, Shenvi argues for the existence of God based on the resurrection of Christ and two different arguments based on God and revelation. He takes a chapter each to explain how God is both revealed in nature and the moral law. For someone who may be new to these arguments, these chapters are rich with reason that supports the Christian faith.
Common Objections to the Existence of God
Chapter 6 of Why Believe? tackles some common objections to the existence of God.
Shenvi does this by tackling three of the most common and difficult objections to the existence and goodness of God. These are the problem of evil, evolution, and the hiddenness of God. Particularly helpful was his careful and compassionate handling of the problem of evil. He handles each of these well in their own right, yet his explanations seem almost rushed. While he dealt with each objection helpfully—I would not be surprised if many skeptics who would pick up this book are left with some more questions. He does not have time to answer every objection, but in a book titled Why Believe? It would have been helpful to tackle some of these objections more head-on.
The Uniqueness of the Christian Faith
Perhaps the best part of this book was the last third. The author handles the question, “assuming God exists, what makes the God of Christianity unique?” Shenvi funnels this question through the lens of the gospel, giving a careful, multi-chapter examination of the gospel of Jesus Christ in comparison with many other world religions. Shenvi admirably makes clear that the truth that holds Christianity apart and distinct from all other faith systems are not just some evidential piece or a moral code—rather, it is the good news of the Gospel of Christ by which man is made right with God and united to relationship with him. This was, in my opinion, the strongest part of the book and the section that I would be most excited for a skeptic or unbeliever to engage with.
What This Book is Not
This is a helpful and carefully crafted book that examines the reasonableness of the Christian faith. I can recommend it to those who would like to have more sure footing and clarity of why they believe what they believe or to ensure that they can better engage with skeptics of the Christian faith. It is admittedly not the most exhaustive treatment of this topic, but it is faithful to the text of scripture and written in a tone that is compassionate and humble. For anyone looking to examine a reasoned approach to Christianity, Why Believe? by Neil Shenvi is an excellent place to start.
Why Believe? A Reasoned Approach to Christianity is published by Crossway and is available wherever books are sold.
 Neil Shenvi, Why Believe?: A Reasoned Approach to Christianity (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2022), 17.
 Neil Shenvi, Why Believe?: A Reasoned Approach to Christianity (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2022), 21.
 Neil Shenvi, Why Believe?: A Reasoned Approach to Christianity (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2022), 169-170.