Rick Mattson, a campus minister and “apologetics expert” for InterVarsity Christian Fellowship delivers a thorough look at the various conversations that people of faith have with folks who fall on a spectrum of disbelief. Some are seeking more information, some are skeptical, and some are antagonistic. Mattson takes them all on a humorous, intelligent, and heartfelt examination of the discourse to be had, with specific points for those on the side of faith who long to engage their friends and community on the other side of belief.
The book is careful to be straightforward about Mattson’s own faith, but he’s honest about the fact that he might be wrong, he might not understand everything, he might be able to learn from people who don’t agree with him, etc. Along the way, he touches on conversations similar to the ones that Jodie Foster and Matthew McConaughey’s characters have in Contact, with real life examples about suffering, pain, doubt, and faith that looks at life through the lens of faith.
Some of the explanations flow into other areas, like the examination of what allows the Earth to permit life, shading into scientific range; others, like the examination of Jesus as God’s Son, look at the way that historians examine a text’s reliability and accuracy in conveying what really happened. If this sounds a bit like Lee Strobel’s books, like A Case For Christ, that’s because the material itself lands in that apologetics world. But the difference is that Mattson is especially interested in setting up our story in The Story with talking points to direct, influence, and navigate real-life conversations with people who disagree.
While Mattson will tangle with the ideas proposed by Dawkins, Hume, and others, he’s really about making the conversation work effectively with ‘real’ people in our lives. He uses a hammer (which does damage but can’t swing itself to discuss the negative impact of Christianity) and a hole-in-one (which doesn’t happen often but can happen to explain how one might refrain a skeptical debate about the gospel). Overall, it’s insightful (there are several practical takeaways I made note of) but also written in a way that you don’t need a seminary degree to understand. Hats off to Mattson, for sharing his real-life experiences, keeping his heart compassionate, and recognizing that there are many ways to have real-life conversations.