David Robertson. Magnificent Obsession: Why Jesus Is Great. Christian Focus Publications, 2014. 240 pp. $14.99.
In 2007, David Robertson wrote a response to Richard Dawkins’s The God Delusion entitled The Dawkins Letters. Robertson’s latestbook Magnificent Obsession began as a response to the late Christopher Hitchens’s book God is Not Great, but morphed into something more. “It is really my answer to the question I was asked by the leader of an atheist society at a Scottish university: ‘Okay, I admit you have destroyed my atheism, but what do you believe?’” (13) Robertson writes that he can give many reasons why he is a theist, but only one as to why he is a Christian: it is because of Jesus Christ. This book was written for the “seeker” – a non-Christian who is open to the possibility of the tenets of Christianity being true and searching for ultimate truth. Structured in the format of ten letters written to a hypothetical seeker named “J”, this book seeks to challenge the assumption that there is insufficient evidence for God as well as to show why God/Christ is great. “J” is a conflation of people Robertson has chatted/corresponded with about these matter, and every question addressed is one Robertson has received from a real person.
Chapter/letter 1 addresses the historical Jesus and looks at various extrabiblical sources of attestation for His existence. Chapter 2 looks at miracles – what they are, whether they are philosophically possible, whether Jesus did them, and whether God still does miracles today. Chapter 3 looks at the message and teaching of Jesus – how we know what His teaching is, common misunderstandings of His message, what His message is, as well as whether He still speaks today. The subsequent two chapters get into the heart of the gospel, looking at why Christ died and what His death accomplished, as well as the significance of the resurrection and evidences for the event. Chapter 6 looks at the unique Christian claim that its founder is God. Here, Robertson delves into the Trinity and the pre-existence of Christ. Chapters 7 and 8 explore the Church and Christianity as a religion, addressing some of the objections to Christianity that are rooted in its history (e.g. the contention that Christianity spread by violence, religion leading to evil, the church being full of hypocrites, etc). Chapter 9 addresses eschatology and heaven and hell, and the book concludes with a chapter on the magnificence of Christ and a plea for the reader to commit his life to Christ.
This is not your typical apologetics book, designed with the primary intention of equipping the believer to defend the faith. Unlike those books that are rather intellectual and more exhaustive in presentation of evidence, this is a conversational book written primarily for seekers that begins in an introductory way to address questions they probably have. While some are very intellectual and prefer straight propositions, arguments, and facts, I think this generation typically prefers conversation and story. For that demographic, this is an engaging and easy to read book that presents responses to some of the key objections to Christianity, presents the atonement gospel, and points to why Christ is magnificent.
Because of the size and format of this book, it by no means presents an exhaustive case for the truths it defends. But in everything that it addresses, this book provides a good starting point for conversation. I think this is a great book to give to non-Christian friends who are open and searching. But most likely, the seeker reading this will have further questions in relation to each chapter. Therefore, I think the most effective way to use this book might be to read it with a non-Christian friend (perhaps a chapter a week) and discuss the topics together.
*I received a free copy of this book from Christian Focus Publications through Cross Focused Reviews in exchange for an unbiased review.