Review of Kenneth Richard Samples, 7 Truths That Changed the World: Discovering Christianity’s Most Dangerous Ideas

7 Truths that Changed the World: Discovering Christianity’s Most Dangerous Ideas, by Kenneth Richard Samples (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 2012).  Pp. 238.  Reviewed by John A. Battle.

Kenneth Samples, a Christian apologist specializing in philosophy and theology, distills a lifetime of interaction with other belief systems in his new book, 7 Truths that Changed the World.  The Christian religion appears in our world in a variety of forms, but certain central truths set it apart from all other belief systems.  Samples does an excellent job identifying and explaining these truths.

The book’s subtitle describes each of these truths as “dangerous.”  At first I thought that this word was not the best one to use, but perhaps was chosen to boost sales.  It seemed to be a take-off from Alister McGrath’s recent book Christianity’s Dangerous Idea: The Protestant Revolution—A History from the Sixteenth Century to the Twenty-First.  In McGrath’s study, Protestantism was “dangerous” because its main idea, that the individual Christian needs to study and obey the Bible for himself, would lead to a fragmentation of the movement.  This indeed happened, and the Roman Catholic Church was quick to point out the disunited state of Protestant churches.  However, McGrath sees this state of affairs as actually good and beneficial for the Christian church in the long run.

After thinking about Samples’s book more, I came to the conclusion that “dangerous” is an appropriate word for him to use as well, even though it is used in a different sense.  These seven great Christian truths are dangerous to all the other belief systems, and set Christianity apart as a distinct, opposed in important ways to all the other systems.  Not only is Christianity dangerous to the other systems (for example, it virtually replaced paganism in the Roman Empire), but it thereby is dangerous to individual Christians, who will face opposition from those who are loyal to those systems.  It is not without reason that about 80% of religious persecution in the modern world is directed against Christians.

It would easy to find seven teachings of Christianity that are unique—there are scores of them—but Samples succeeds in finding seven that are foundational.  These seven lie at the center of all philosophies and religions.  The book offers two chapters of comprehensive discussion of each of them:

  1. “Not All Dead Men Stay Dead” (the physical resurrection of Jesus and all humans)
  2. “God Walked the Earth” (the Incarnation: Jesus the God-man)
  3. “A Fine-Tuned Cosmos with a Beginning” (the creation of the spatial-temporal universe from nothing and its careful preparation for us by a loving Creator)
  4. “Clear Pointers to God” (evidences for God’s existence and character shown in the creation and the nature of humanity)
  5. “Not by Works” (the necessity and possibility of our salvation by God’s grace alone, revealed in Christ)
  6. “Humanity’s Value and Dignity” (humans made in God’s image, the most valuable of God’s creatures, with capacity for great evil, and great virtue)
  7. “The Good in Suffering” (how evil, both natural and moral, fits with a good and powerful God, and the ultimate aim of the universe)

Given the limited size of the book, the amount of useful material is remarkable.  Arguments are stated concisely, and are thoughtfully arranged.  Ample endnotes provide more detailed discussions from excellent sources.  The suggested readings and discussion questions at the end of each chapter would be quite useful for group study in a class or Bible study group.  This book could be used also in a campus club or discussion with both Christian and non-Christian participants.

I found this book by Ken Samples enjoyable to read, well organized, and filled with helpful thoughts and sources.  Reading it should make one more comfortable believing the Christian teachings and more competent and confident in bearing witness to a skeptical world.

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