Book Review: Unbelievable? by Justin Brierley

First things first: I consider myself a very hopeful agnostic. Also, I do not care at all for angry atheists (or theists), who are waaaaay different from genuinely thoughtful, polite people who happen to be atheists (or theists). For more on this thought as well as for my current views on spirituality please go here. It is only fair to state from the very beginning that I am very interested on the topic of this book for intellectual as well as for emotional reasons. Moreover, I have no academic training in theology or any related discipline. On the other hand, I am a very well trained practicing scientist and educator, as well as an author. You have been warned!

Here’s my review.

If I had to characterize this book in a phrase, it would be “apologetics light“. And I love that is it written that way. As expected in a book of this nature, I found myself strongly agreeing with some points while equally strongly disagreeing with some others. In fact, one of the things that I liked the most about this book is that I was not indifferent to any of its points; the book was that well written!

For example, one of the points which I found myself wholeheartedly agreeing with was the critique of the usual atheist reply whenever the topic of “meaning” is raised, namely that if God is out of the picture one has to create such meaning. I have always found this reasoning quite silly because it is as if I would award myself an academic degree or as if I named myself “husband of the year“. Both propositions are nonsensical for (I hope) obvious reasons. You get the picture.

In more than one instance I found myself misty-eyed when reading passages of the book. For example, one of them was the allusion to when “… every tear is wiped away…” (page 84). This happens to be one of my favorite biblical passages. Another sentence that touched me deeply was: “For many people, God may represent the only possibility for a hope for ultimate redemption and justice in a world in which they drew the shortest of straws” (page 83). There are many such gems in the book, and I do not want to mention any more of them lest I spoil the book for you. Have fun finding them! Also, in addition of being very well written, it is a very easy read: conversational, personal, and engaging.

One thing that I did not like about the book was that it did not include an index. This fact made the writing of my review more difficult, but most importantly, the lack of a proper index limits the book’s usefulness as a resource for study groups or any related activity. Perhaps an index could be included in the reprint edition? Also, I am not sure that an ironclad case for the truth of Christianity can be established based solely on the arguments exposed in the book. This book will not convince any “serious doubter” (like yours truly) to embrace the Christian faith, and in fact this is ok because this is not what the book is about. Its main purpose is to make readers think, and hopefully initiate conversations based on the points raised; and in this sense, it suceeds beautifully.

Highly recommended!

Note: I wish to thank Ms. Elizabeth Neep, Publicity Executive & Commissioning Editor of the Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge (SPCK), who sent me a review copy of the book and a very nice handwritten note. Much appreciated!

Another note: I will post an abbreviated version of this review at the”-azon” website (:-)…

Picture credit: SPCK

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2 Comments

  1. Hello Bald scientist

    I, like you am a (nearly) bald scientist who happens to be Justin Brierley’s father (he does mention me in the early part of his book). Like you I am also passionate about science and actually studied biochemistry at Oxford University the early 70s. I then worked for 30 years as a research scientist for the Marconi Company. I left in 2002 after the research centre was sold; Marconi having gone bankrupt in the tech crash of 2000. Since then I have been a consultant and private tutor in A level sciences. Self employment gave me time to read popular science in a way I had never had time to before. Although I am and have been, since University, a practicing Christian I am actually far more interested in Science than Theology. I became very interested in evolution after reading Richard Dawkins excellently written books but found myself becoming increasingly dissatisfied with the so called ‘Neo Darwinian Synthesis’ mainly because it was so simplistic and I couldn’t see that a theory so simple, that a 12 year old to understand it, could explain the outlandish diversity of life that has developed even after 3.5 billion years. I became increasingly persuaded by the Intelligent Design movement which has been successfully but unjustly smeared by it association with creationism (to which I do not subscribe). I was also amazed at the fact that we have no remotely plausible theory about abiogenesis even though we think we perfectly understand how life diversified from it! In particular I see no explanation for the origin of the very complex information coded on to DNA nor how the incredibly sophisticated decoding mechanism arose to interpret it. I would be fascinated to hear your views on this if you have the time to answer.

    Kind Regards

    Crofton Brierley

    1. Dear Dr. Brierley, thanks so much for your comment. It is an honor making your “e-acquaintance”. I will be more than happy to share my thoughts on the matter with you. We’ll talk soon!

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