When I first heard about I Want to Believe, Mel Larwenz’ new book, I was intrigued for two reasons. First, based on the title, I was expecting a book that would explore – in a fairly deep and elaborate way – the human longing to believe that there is something more. But I was also intrigued because the title of the book also happens to mirror the title of the X-Files movie that is coming out in late July. I picked up the book with the idea that I would create a post (or series of posts) that explored the primal urge to believe, riffing off of Lawrenz’ book, at about the same time the movie came out.
Unfortunately, my expectations about the book were not quite on target, and my whole X-Files-meets-emergent-Christianity concept, if its ever implemented, is going to have to be put together without the aid of Lawrenz’ ideas.
Having said all of that, a brief review of what Lawrenz does have to say is still be in order.
This book seems intended to serve as a Christian apologetic for emerging generations. In essence, it is a brief survey of the religious landscape in twenty-first century USAmerica, followed by an exposition of the Apostle’s Creed and a brief exploration of some of the “excuses” that people make for refusing to become Christians.
Lawrenz’ treatment of other faiths is gentle and, for the most part, non-confrontational. He simply explains, in what appear to be fairly objective and fair terms what various religious systems are about, and then compares and contrasts them with Christian beliefs. He does not “bash” other faiths, as more conservative Christians seem prone to do, but instead prefers to keep the discussion and the comparisons on a more cordial level.
The treatment of the basic tenants of Christianity is straightforward enough, and even though the title of one of his later chapters (“No More Excuses”) sounds like he’s finally getting ready to lay the evangelical party line on pretty thick, he never really does that. Instead, he opts for a gentle, easy, accessible discussion of why he thinks it is appropriate to choose Christianity over other faiths.
Lawrenz doesn’t flesh out the gospel in quite the same way that I would. I was pleased to see that he characterizes our future as one comprised of renewed creation (as opposed to an “escape” from the earth into heaven) and that he likewise emphasizes the need to care for creation as a central tenant of Christianity. However, absent from his discussion is any significant effort to integrate scripture’s call to social justice into the Christian faith. Likewise, he often relies on the Christian scriptures to support his points – a no-no in my book of postmodern apologetics, since emerging generations make no assumption that the Bible is authoritative. For these, and similar reasons, its hard for me to get overly excited about the book.
Nevertheless, Lawrenz deserves high marks for setting a very accessible and generous tone in his book, and I would recommend it for a teenager or college student who wants to know a little more about Christianity without being beaten over the head with an “if-you-died-tonight-do-you-think-you’d-go-to-heaven” high-pressure, guilt-inducing sales pitch. Also, if you’re a young evangelical who is looking for a good example of a way to communicate the traditional, born-again gospel within the emerging culture, I think this book is about as good as it gets.