Book Review: Why I Still Believe

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Boot, Joe. Why I Still Believe: (Hint: It’s the Only Way the World Makes Sense). Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 2006. 159 pages.

The Christian faith is more than an intellectual or emotional assent to believe in the gospel of Jesus Christ. It is an objective, rational faith in Jesus Christ. First Peter 3:15 calls upon Christians to be ready to give a defense of why they believe. This is the practice of apologetics. Joe Boot goes one step further explaining why he still believes by sharing his life story as a Christian while providing a rational defense along the way.

Joe Boot is an apologist, educator, author and pastor. He worked with Ravi Zacharias International Ministries (RZIM) for seven years as an apologist in the United Kingdom and Canada. For five of those years he was the executive director of RZIM in Canada. He is the founding president of the Ezra Institute for Contemporary Christianity in Toronto where he currently serves as senior pastor of Westminster Chapel.

Boot’s approach to apologetics is rooted in the presuppositional method. He credits Christian thinkers Blaise Pascal (17) and Cornelius Van Til* (18) for greatly impacting his thinking in defending the Christian faith. What impressed Boot most was their devotion to the Scriptures as the foundation for defending the faith (18). This is also the foundation from which Boot argues in Why I Still Believe.

Boot writes in a first person narrative style. Chapter one addresses the question of authority. He begins with a story from his past as a teenager and moves to the question of God’s existence. Boot’s contention is that for the Christian, God is their basic presupposition (27). He then quotes a few atheists who seem comfortable with the non-existence of God being their presupposition. Boot explains that there are many areas of life which people assume yet cannot prove such as the sun rising tomorrow or “facts” about cats and trees which as from custom and habit (28). Referencing Pascal, the author then explains that no one is without underlying presuppositions in their beliefs (30). Most people trust that their mind and senses will not deceive them. The author works throughout the rest of the chapter explaining that one cannot make sense of the world outside of the worldview that the transcendent Triune God of Scripture exists.

In Chapter two, Boot admits that he was raised in a Christian household always believing in Jesus (43). While admitting his Christian childhood shaped his worldview, Boot explains how the child in a non-Christian home also shapes ones worldview (47). One child was no more or less indoctrinated, if you will, than another. Boot states that there is no neutrality; one is either in covenant with God or a rebel outside the covenant (49).

While a person’s worldviews are influenced by their upbringing this does not necessarily secure a particular position for their entire life as Boot states in the next chapter (51). He goes on to explain how minds are shaped by what they’re fed which form one’s presuppositions. These presuppositions influence the nature of how one understands evidence which is why Boot does not believe a defense of Christianity from evidence alone is sufficient. He contends that the disagreement ultimately resides in the nature of facts (57). The nature of the evidence for God should not be determined by one’s autonomous reasoning, but based upon the authority of Christ as found in the Bible (60).

In the next two chapters Boot shares his journey through high school and into seminary. His high school philosophy teacher was an atheist whose view of God was based on empirical verification (65). Boot uses this story to explain that this approach suffered from the problem of induction. For example, the principle used for verification cannot itself be empirically verified (65). Boot’s faith grew stronger throughout these years which lead him to seminary. In seminary he grew in knowledge and understanding (70). He even encountered liberal Christian scholars who were driven by their own presuppositions through which to judge Scripture (71). This led him to continue trusting Scripture as the word of God (72).

In chapter six, Boot briefly tackles rationalism and empiricism. He addresses philosopher Immanuel Kant who claimed that people cannot actually know reality, but can only perceive it based on their senses (75). Boot then explains how Kant’s own position is self-defeating. The rest of the chapter explains why the presupposition of the Christian faith is the only way by which anything, including reason, science, logic, language and morality (78) can be accounted.

Chapter seven, “The Heart of the Matter” is the longest chapter in the book. Boot begins by summarizing the non-Christian worldview. He starts by defining philosophy and explaining its problem which begins with the question of authority (84). Philosophy is broken down into laymen’s terms making the subject more approachable. He explains the philosophical foundational assumptions found in any worldview (86). Boot walks the reader through the assumptions of the non-Christian worldview. He then replies with the Christian worldview on the basis of the authority of self-attesting revelation of God’s word (90). The rest of the chapter explains that the Christian worldview is the only way to make sense of the world while chance (92), polytheism (94), pantheism (95), naturalism (96), bare theism (97) and autonomous reason (104) are all internally self-defeating.

Boot explains more directly in chapter eight that presupposing the existence of Christ is the only foundation that “provides a rational warrant for proving anything at all” (112). He makes a case for what is known as the impossibility of the contrary. In making his case, Boot uses logical syllogisms to explain that “reality is unintelligible apart from God” (114). In the rest of the chapter Boot appeals to the non-Christian to believe explaining that belief in God is the only way to make unifying sense of life including logic and emotions (115).

Chapter nine quotes Scripture more than any other. Boot builds upon the previous chapter though with more appeal to the heart of the non-Christian. The Christian presupposition of starting with Christ is explained through the analogy of needing correct eye glasses to be able to see the world clearly (130). Boot uses Scripture to show that not being able to see clearly stems from one’s presupposition and is a heart issue. He uses this chapter to explain who Christ is and that through Him alone (136) is the free offer of salvation for all who believe (138). Boot contends that it is only through faith in Christ that one can truly understand the world (140).

In the final chapter, Boot uses the principles set out in the book to offer an evangelistic plea while at the same time explaining why he still believes. He admits that he has probably not proved that the reader must become a Christian, but hopes he challenged him that it is necessary (144). In true presuppositional fashion Boot bases this challenge on Scripture. He continues with the rest of the chapter arguing evangelistically and apologetically why the Christian world is the only one that makes sense of life.

I recommend Why I Still Believe as a beginner’s level introduction to the presuppositional approach to defending the Christian faith. The presuppositional method can be difficult to understand yet Boot made it understandable. The personal narrative keeps the reader moving along so that he does not get bogged down by too much philosophical jargon at any particular point. Those more trained in presuppositional apologetics may find that Boot did not dig deep enough in any particular area. However, at 159 pages Boot will challenge those new to this apologetic method to think through their faith both evangelistically and apologetically.

*Online Van Til resources.

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The above article was posted on September 2, 2010 by Mark Lamprecht.
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{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

1 Brian October 2, 2010 at 6:29 pm

Thanks for the review. Looks like a good presup primer — I suppose I better pick it up!

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