What do I think of Rick Mattson’s book? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.
I don’t really like a lot of books on popular apologetics. Many of them claim to have a lot of facts that are rather simplistic. They can also often be quite dry to read. Fortunately, a book like Rick Mattson’s is not like that.
Mattson writes from his experience as a traveling apologist for InterVarsity Press. That’s a bonus side of the book as you get a very human side of the apologetics that he does. When he meets someone who’s suffering for instance, it’s not giving a philosophical answer to the problem of evil. Instead, it’s a much more pastoral approach. You also see Mattson admitting that many times, he does not give the perfect answer and has to think of analogies and such to use over time to get the message across.
His analogies, however, are excellent. Most of the chapters are about how X is like Y. My personal favorite one that stuck in my mind the most was that Hell is like an empty pub. In this chapter on the nature of Hell, Mattson describes people who think Hell will be a big party where they will get together with all their friends and celebrate into all eternity.
Enter into this a person who dies without Christ and goes to Hell and comes to a pub there expecting to meet his friends. He goes in and finds that there is no one else there at all. No big deal. They’ll be there soon enough. But then days go by and then weeks and months and years and decades. Before too long it is apparent that no one will be there.
Analogies like this exist throughout the book so that you can better visualize the matters that Mattson is writing about and this one I found extremely fitting. I am not a socialite at all and really prefer my alone time, but even I would not want to be stuck in a place like a pub for all eternity and have it be no one but me.
The chapters are also relatively short and will be able to be digested quickly and be fitting for group discussion. This is the kind of book that a good youth pastor can go through with a youth group to equip them for the challenges that they have ahead of them. Mattson will not go over your head at all.
There were two areas that I would like to have seen more improvement on, but while I think these are areas for future editions to improve on, I still think the work as a whole is highly readable and important.
First, I would have liked to have seen a chapter on just the resurrection. This is the central tenet of the Christian worldview after all and it would have been helpful to have seen Mattson’s take on it in the face of objections.
Second, Mattson rightfully lists resources, but many times I found myself wishing there had been more higher level and scholarly resources. Apologetics books can be good, but they are meant to be the gateway. For instance, in the chapter on miracles, I would have liked to have seen a reference to a book like Craig Keener’s “Miracles.” Apologetics books should point to the books that they are built on after all.
Still, Mattson’s book is an excellent edition to your library and if you are starting out in the field, this is a good one to learn the conversational basics that you need to have to address the challenges that you will meet. I highly endorse it.