Book Review: A Shot of Faith {To the Head} by Mitch Stokes

4.5 out of 5 Stars
Author: Mitch Stokes
Publisher: Thomas Nelson (2012)
Buy A Shot of Faith {to the head}
Difficulty: Moderate

Apologetics for Dummies

Out of all areas of theology hands down I have studied apologetics the least. It hasn’t been intentional. I just haven’t come across many books that really peaked my interest and to be honest I’m not much of a logician. That changed in part when I read Notes from a Tilt-a-whirl by N. D. Wilson (read review here) earlier this year. He really got my blood flowing for some more apologetics and so I have been keeping my eye out for something else on the topic. A Shot of Faith {to the Head} fit that bill. Mitch Stokes has done great work in this book to unpack for the rest of us a lot of the wiring behind apologetics. He interacts with scholarly research and sources throughout while offering an intensely readable style which delights and teaches simultaneously. The lay out was helpful. And it felt as though he was taking me one baby step after another as he strengthened my own faith.

The Senile Uncle at the Family Reunion

The impression that I left with was one of hope. Reading Christopher Hitchens or even some Christian pastors who talk about science, faith, and reason and you may get the creeping feeling that Christianity is like the senile uncle at the family reunion. We all have one of them. No one wants to invite him but we do out of pity every year and we’re constantly doing things to protect ourselves from embarrassment. Brothers and sisters, this should not be so with Christianity and our faith in God. Our faith is not a blind faith and Stokes masterfully demonstrates this. He provides hope that the tables can be, no are turned and now faith is on the offensive storming the gates of hell. In one of his more compelling attacks against rationalism, Stokes explains

Suppose you’re not convinced that we could survive without reliable belief-forming capabilities, without mostly true beliefs. Then, according to Plantinga, you have all the fixins for a nice argument in favor of God’s existence.16 For perhaps you also think that—given evolution plus atheism—the probability is pretty low that we’d have faculties that produced mostly true beliefs. In other words, your view isn’t “who knows?” On the contrary, you think it’s unlikely that blind evolution has the skill set for manufacturing reliable cognitive mechanisms. And perhaps, like most of us, you think that we actually have reliable cognitive faculties and so actually have mostly true beliefs. If so, then you would be reasonable to conclude that atheism is pretty unlikely. Your argument, then, would go something like this: if atheism is true, then it’s unlikely that most of our beliefs are true; but most of our beliefs are true, therefore atheism is probably false.

Notice something else. The atheist naturally thinks that our belief in God is false. That’s just what atheists do. Nevertheless, most human beings have believed in a god of some sort, or at least in a supernatural realm. But suppose, for argument’s sake, that this widespread belief really is false, and that it merely provides survival benefits for humans, a coping mechanism of sorts. If so, then we would have additional evidence—on the atheist’s own terms—that evolution is more interested in useful beliefs than in true ones. Or, alternatively, if evolution really is concerned with true beliefs, then maybe the widespread belief in God would be a kind of “evolutionary” evidence for his existence.

You’ve got to wonder. (Kindle Location 1011-1025 of 5403)

He ends by giving special attention to two seemingly strong arguments against God--that science has proven that he doesn’t exist and the age old problem of evil. He makes an important observation when he reminds us that attached to the problem of evil frequently is an emotional charge that is dangerous. There’s a helpful antecdote that he tells in this section from Tim Keller who says after preaching about Joseph he often encounters people who have experienced something similar in that their suffering in the end seems to have found a purpose. Stokes then comments,

Keller’s point isn’t that we can see the actual purpose for most of the suffering in the world. We definitely cannot. Rather, his point is that, if even we can see glimpses of reasons for some suffering, then it’s reasonable to think that God would have good reasons for all suffering. (Kindle Location3462 of 5403)

“They Are What We Thought They Were”

In the end A Shot of Faith {to the Head} does just what it promises. It provides hope for Christians that they can go on the offensive and be confident for the faith that they hold dear. Stokes was able to do this in a way that was approachable and pastoral and so there’s much to commend in this book. Stokes makes the comment that very few atheists turn Christian because of apologetic arguments for God. So I don’t think his purpose would be for this book to used as a tool to “disciple” atheists and I wouldn’t recommend it for that. I do think it is a powerful resource for new believers especially ones who may  have a background in logic, philosophy, or science working as a shot of faith to their new found belief.

Pull the trigger.

A free copy of this book was provided by Thomas Nelson. If you plan on purchasing A Shot of Faith {to the head}, consider supporting Grace for Sinners by purchasing from Amazon.