7 Truths That Changed the World: Discovering Christianity’s Most Dangerous Ideas by Kenneth Richard Samples.
It was a bold move, in a world that increasingly describes Christianity as evil and stupid, to speak of Christianity’s “dangerous ideas.” There are those who say Christianity has been not just dangerous but downright ruinous, and there’s nothing good about the way it has changed the world.
Undeterred by such criticisms, Kenneth Samples presses on, telling us that dead men don’t always stay dead, God walked the earth, our cosmos was fine-tuned for us by God, Christianity explains reality better than other worldviews, our final destiny doesn’t depend on our works, humans have value and dignity beyond any natural explanation, and evil can lead ultimately to good.
And here is what I like about this book: every one of those ideas is central to Christian belief and/or the defense of the faith, and Samples shows how each of them stands up under pressure. Saying the same thing another way, this is a book of doctrine and of apologetics, of creed and of confidence. Christians in the Western world are often under-equipped in both what the faith teaches and in how we know we can trust it. Samples integrates answers to both kinds of questions in this volume.
In that sense it’s similar to Josh and Sean McDowell’s Unshakable Truth, which does much the same thing, except Unshakable Truth was written for a high-school reading level, whereas 7 Truths probably counts on the reader being at the college level or higher. I wish I had had this book available last fall for the small group I’ve been leading in church. They were asking for something that would take them deeper in discipleship. This would have been an excellent book for us to study together—if only we weren’t closing down the group in a couple of weeks.
From one angle this book is an exposition of worldview, though without saying so (“worldview” appears in the index only twice). The great questions of worldview are ones like Where do we come from? What are we here for, if anything? What is our essential problem, and how do we solved it? Where are we headed? Is there a God, and if so, what difference does that make? This book explains and defends biblical answers to those kinds of questions.
My bias is clear: I think they are good answers. But are they really dangerous? I had thought from the title that this book would have more to say about how biblical truths changed the world in history. There is relatively little of that to be found in here, however; not much about Christianity’s historical effect on women, slavery, or science, to name a few areas in which the faith has been accused of causing damage. (Another book I reviewed recently covers more of that ground: Jeffrey Burton Russell’s Exposing Myths About Christianity: A Guide to Answering 145 Viral Lies and Legends; see also these books.)
The danger of which Samples speaks is far more real than such myths. It is the terrifying yet uplifting thrill of discovering that death is not the end. It is the disturbing glory of discovering that while the world makes more sense than one would have thought, its sense includes mysteries like the redeemability of evil and the deep power of grace. It is the ennobling loneliness of knowing that we humans are unlike anything else in this world, and that we are made for more than this world. It is the most upsetting yet comforting discovery that the God who made us and loves us refuses to leave us alone.
These truths have changed me, and billions of others.
7 Truths That Changed the World: Discovering Christianity’s Most Dangerous Ideas by Kenneth Richard Samples. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2012. 215 pages plus index. Amazon price US$11.35.
Related: Dr. Samples appeared with Greg Koukl on last Sunday’s Stand To Reason. Free registration required.