Book review: The Allure of Gentleness
by Dallas Willard
This is one of those books that I can only half-agree with, yet earns five stars for its approach and message. More conservative readers will appreciate the book most. Willard considers the work of apologetics as extremely important. “Being mistaken about life, the things of God, and the human soul is a deadly serious matter.” About such things he and I will disagree, yet I still enjoyed the book immensely.
It is, like other effective apologetics books, a “feel-good defense” rather than a rigorous argument. For example, Willard begins many discussions with the assumption of God’s omnipotence. He states that a creator creates for good, therefore the world is good. See the underlying assumption of omnipotence within the argument? But this deduction then lays the foundation for the question of all questions: Why is there evil? Willard spends ample time trying to explain that the suffering we experience is necessary, but the whole thing would become a pointless exercise if we could only divorce ourselves from the assumption of God’s omnipotence.
Willard discusses the role of reason, but recognizes the ineffectiveness of logical proofs. Christian apologetics, he insists, is not an attempt to prove we’re right. Defending the faith is about how you live. Amen, brother Willard! However, I think he errs in asserting that Christianity is the only religion based on love.
Nevertheless, Willard does provide a reasonable argument for the existence of an intelligent creator when he argues that order comes from minds. From there, he suggests that Christian faith makes sense. An important part of the book is devoted to the matter of communication between God and humanity, both on a large scale and as a quiet voice to the individual. Willard realizes its hard to believe in God if you don’t recognize his voice. “God speaks constantly to people, but most of them don’t know what’s happening.” To this end, I found his explanation of how God speaks both simple and eloquent: “The fundamental way God speaks to us is by causing thoughts in our mind that we come to learn have a characteristic quality, content, and spirit about them.”
For the believer trying to solidify their faith, or the unbeliever wondering what the heck is going on in the heads of believers, this is a great book. Gentle apologetics at its best!
Harper One, © 2015, 191 pages