Book Review – Christianity on Trial by W. Mark Lanier

It seems like our culture is obsessed with the legal process – whether its Lindsay Lohan’s latest exploits, arrest, and trial; Oscar Pistorius trial for killing his girlfriend; Amanda Knox on trial in Italy; or the scandalous O.J. Simpson Trial. We Americans love trials (or maybe we just love seeing people get punished…), now W. Mark Lanier a world-class trial lawyers with many accolades capitalizes on our “enjoyment” of trials and the legal process and puts Christianity on trial.

W. Mark Lanier is a trial lawyer and founder of the Lanier Law Firm. U.S. News and World Reports’ Best Lawyers named him to its Best Lawyers list 9 years in a row and named him the Top Class Action Attorney in America in 2013. Lanier has handled major lawsuits against Toyota and Vioxx

What is this book about?

In Christianity on Trial, W. Mark Lanier follows the format of a legal trial, beginning the book with an “opening statement,” then calling witnesses like Albert Einstein, John Polkinghore, Charles Darwin, Noam Chomsky, and B.F. Skinner among others, and finishing up with a closing statement.

Throughout the book Lanier makes a case for the rationality and reasonableness of the Christian faith. He tackles difficult questions like:

  • Can God be infinite, personal, and moral?
  • Do people have an ability to make real choices, or are we simply products of our DNA in combination with out environment?
  • Is it intellectually honest to believe that the Bible is God’s revelation?
  • Does the physical resurrection of Jesus make sense?

He answers all of these questions and more, and comes to the conclusion that the biblical worldview makes sense of everyday life; in fact it makes more sense of everyday life than competing worldviews do.

Why Should You Get This Book?

W. Mark Lanier has written a persuasive and engaging account of why we ought to believe that Christianity makes sense. Its full of stories from major trials that Lanier has participated in, its full of fun historical anecdotes, and its full of thorough engagement with philosophical/theological sources. In other words, the book is comprehensive – Lanier leaves no stone unturned in his examination Christianity’s plausibility.

One aspect of the book that I really enjoyed was how nuanced his argument really was. His argument for the plausibility of Christianity relies upon the foundational distinction between direct evidence and circumstantial evidence. I appreciated the fact that Lanier plat out says that there is not much direct evidence for the truth of Christianity, most of the evidence is circumstantial. This distinction is important because many people have (rightly in my opinion) challenged the possibility of making a water tight-knock down flat out argument for the truth of Christianity. Christianity cannot be proved in the sense that the Pythagorean theorem can be proved. The “proof” of Christianity relies upon historical witnesses and the power of testimony. All this to say, I am glad that Lanier recognizes the fact that the case for Christianity cannot be made by purely philosophical arguments.

Who Should Get this Book?

If you are interested in apologetics, haven’t given much thought to why you believe what you believe about Christianity, or are a skeptic I recommend this book to you. If you are in an apologetics small group, or are looking for material to use in an apologetics Sunday School class this book is for you! Lanier’s writing is accessible and entertaining but more importantly his argument persuasive. So if you get a chance pick up this book!

(Note: I received this book free of charge from IVP in exchange for an impartial review.)


Published by cwoznicki

Chris Woznicki is an Assistant Adjunct Professor of Theology at Fuller Theological Seminary. He works as the regional training associate for the Los Angeles region of Young Life.

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