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The Call to Wonder: Tyndale House • A Jigsaw Guide: IVP Books

Weekend Reads: Sharing puzzle pieces and wonderment to nonbelievers

Books

The Call to Wonder: Loving God Like a Child (Tyndale House, 2012) asks its readers to stop thinking like cold-hearted scientific rationalists. A Jigsaw Guide to Making Sense of the World (IVP Books, 2012) is a warmhearted rationalist approach to apologetics. Put the two together and you have something approaching a complete perspective—the evidence presented by Alex McLellan’s Jigsaw Guide drives the marveling touted by R.C. Sproul Jr.’s Call to Wonder.

McLellan, a Scotsman and a graduate of the Talbot School of Theology, who makes a living speaking on the Christian worldview to audiences around the world, shares the broadly evidential apologetic approach of his alma mater. His work is emphatically not a fresh approach to apologetics, and, like Sproul’s book, it assumes a great deal of background knowledge about what a Christian worldview actually is.

Using the metaphor of a jigsaw puzzle, A Jigsaw Guide encourages Christians to boldly defend their faith. A puzzle’s “big picture” can be found in two ways: looking at the box, or putting together enough pieces to guess what the puzzle shows. Christians, of course, look at the box—that is, they read God’s Word and thereby understand the overall plan of reality. But they can share their faith by encouraging skeptics to put together enough pieces to get the God-ordered gist of the universe. This is not as scary as it sounds. McLellan presents basic refutations of naturalism and relativism, and he pokes holes in the view that “religion is a private matter” and “people shouldn’t impose their beliefs on others.” To say either of those things is to impose one’s beliefs on others.

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Sproul (a pastor and professor at Reformation Bible College) is more interested in awakening hearts than in changing minds. Like McLellan, he’s concerned about the reality that all too often, beliefs, even passionately held ones, stay private. His solution is different, but complementary. When you look at the sky, don’t envision nuclear fusion reactions creating heat and light. Rather, look at the stars as the miraculous radiance of the glory of God, and let that reality penetrate your heart. Be moved by language like “the Lord’s strong right arm.” Don’t explain it away as “anthropomorphism,” but understand the personal nature of the Father’s love expressed in Jesus Christ, the arm of the Lord (Isaiah 53:1).

Those with a predilection toward scientific language and methods might find Sproul’s first few chapters off-putting—but the book will win even the hardest heart with its story of Shannon Sproul. Born with no folds in the outer covering of her brain, Shannon, who died last fall after this book was published, wasn’t able to talk, walk, or feed herself. Yet her communion with her heavenly Father during her short life is so movingly described by her earthly father that even “cold-hearted Presbyterian rationalists” (as Sproul describes himself in the acknowledgements) will cry. I did.

The pieces fit together perfectly if Christianity is true. In a naturalistic paradigm, Shannon’s suffering was meaningless, just like the rest of the world. Christianity, though, put it in its proper place: It was a trial sent by God, for His glory and Shannon’s good. Of course we lack all the pieces—but the big picture of the jigsaw puzzle tells us that God is sovereign, and that He’s good.

So start asking questions of the unbelievers you know and meet. Find out what they think about origins. Ask about what’s wrong with the world, and don’t be afraid of the topic of sin. Apologetic conversations must communicate the wonder of the puzzle, including the puzzle of sin. People can’t be saved until, knowing they’re lost, God gives them childlike eyes to see His salvation’s wonder. 

Caleb Nelson
Caleb Nelson

Caleb grew up on a ranch in northern Colorado and is currently pursuing ordination in the Presbyterian Church in America. He lives in Greenville, S.C.

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