The Story of Reality
How the World Began, How it Ends, and Everything Important that Happens in Between
by Gregory Koukl
I read about this book in Christianity Today, and was pleased my local public library had it. However, it is only a 14 day loan, I guess because it is a newer release or new acquisition. It is due back tomorrow, so I am forced to write this while I still have it!
This book gets 5 stars, and there is no critique I can offer. Furthermore, it is a much needed book! I will get my own copy, and would like to have some extra copies on hand to give away when it is timely. My reviews can be rambling, and this one is no exception!
Essentially this is an evangelistic and apologetic work, but through the approach of worldview. Everyone has a worldview, whether they realize it or not. We live in a different age than even 30-40 years ago. No longer can we assume that someone (in the West at least, but particularly in the US) has a Christian worldview. Back in the day, even a non church attender likely had a basic Christian worldview because it permeated society. So you could begin by talking about sin and salvation. No more.
This became overt to me with the many students that have lived in my home. At first we had Europeans, who generally had a Christian worldview (perhaps rudimentary) even if they never attended church. Some had been confirmed in their Christian faith tradition, even though it meant nothing to their everyday life. Then we started having students from the East with little or even no familiarity with Christianity and an entirely different worldview. You can’t just begin “you are a sinner that needs salvation” as they have no framework.
But this has become a need in the US as well. When the East “invaded” the West in the mid-twentieth century it affected our culture. There is a well-done history and analysis of this in the book: Encountering Religious Pluralism: The Challenge to Christian Faith & Mission by Netland. (Another book I recommend, although it is an academic work.)
Not only does a Christian worldview no longer prevail, but worldviews got mixed together. This is where the The Story of Reality by Koukl comes into play. Koukl is writing for your everyday person out there, and he presents 3 basic worldview options: God-ism, mind-ism, and matter-ism. God-ism is belief in a Creator God, the monotheistic faiths. Mind-ism would include Eastern religions and New Age type beliefs. While matter-ism would include atheism and Marxism.
Koukl writes in a way that draws you in; he is conversational. I found the book a page turner. Better yet, I think he successfully “tricks” people into thinking! Many don’t want to slow down and think, but his writing style should get just about anyone thinking thoughtfully. He asks questions that move the conversation he is having with his reader along. Instead of telling you what to think, he uses effective questions and explanations to help certain conclusions become obvious. It is not that he never makes clear and concise conclusion statements, he does, but only when it has reached an appropriate time to do so.
The opening chapters flush out the implications of the 3 worldview options. This is effective. When the East came West, and society became more secular as well, some aspects of different worldviews got mixed together. But this does not work. He uses a puzzle analogy. You can try to put the pieces of one worldview puzzle into another one, but it does not ultimately fit and lacks consistency, even if it is done. A puzzle piece that is placed in another puzzle can actually clash with the tenets of that worldview. Perhaps to the discomfort of some, he demonstrates how taking the worldviews of mind-ism and matter-ism to their logical ends/conclusions is disturbing, non-desirable, and leaves certain important questions unanswered – such as why there is evil in this world.
To understand Christianity, one must understand the worldview of Christianity. If you ask a Christian “what is Christianity?” they may answer something about Jesus and salvation. Of course, that is part of it, but the correct answer to that question is: “Christianity is a picture of reality.” Note both the title and subtitle of the book!
When you take certain puzzle pieces out of the worldview of Christianity and look at them in isolation, they may not make sense. But when placed within the frame (worldview) of Christianity it does make sense. You need the big picture, and then things fall into place. There are satisfactory answers to important questions, and a coherent “story line” that holds Christianity together.
The book has 6 parts, each with several chapters. The first two sections are about the worldview options and entitled “Reality” and “God” and the book slowly moves into more detailed explanation of Christianity. The other parts are entitled: Man, Jesus, Cross, and Resurrection. So you see, the book gets there (to the truths of Christianity) at the appropriate time when the puzzle has been properly put together so those truths are ready to be received.
Who needs this book? Christians and non-Christians alike!
Too many Christians no longer grasp their own worldview, or they have mixed pieces of mind-ism into it, and it has weakened and distorted their faith. Even Christians with a better grasp of their worldview, may nonetheless not be sure how to share their faith through this lens. So, both knowledgeable and less knowledgeable Christians can benefit. But ultimately I think this is a worthwhile and needed evangelistic and apologetic book for seekers, skeptics, etc. I highly recommend it.