There are two main sections to the book.
- The first section, Chapters 1–17, is a free-flowing conversation that doesn’t follow any particular outside source. The conversation is self-sustaining as one topic raises another and we discuss questions that neither of us had considered before.
- The second half of the book, Chapters 18–39, is a conversation on the Gospel of John. We examine the biblical text in cultural context and seek to understand the personhood of God through Jesus’ life and death. The discussion here is not limited to the biblical content but expands into other aspects of Christianity and theology in a similar manner to the first part of the book.
If you want to get an idea of the topics we discuss in Who is God, Really?, check out the chapter summaries below.
Who is God, Really? contains many arguments about the existence of God, the truth of Christianity, Christian living, etc. However, it is fundamentally a discussion between two friends who care about and want to get to know each other. If the book is seen only through a cold argumentative lens, one will miss the entire point of Christian apologetics: to convince others of the truth so that they might have life (John 10:10)—not that an argument may be won. The prologue is designed to give insight into our friendship with a short discussion of our backgrounds, how we know each other, and the emails leading up to our larger discourse.
Chapter 1: Beyond the Natural World
In this chapter, we discuss the evidence and reasons to believe that something beyond the natural world might exist and what its nature might be. The discussion then turns into whether the characteristics of God translate into intentionality; i.e., can we reasonably move from deism to theism considering ideas such as the fine-tuning of the universe and/or multiverse? Finally, how do the fundamental claims of Christianity (e.g., the atonement, the Trinity, the sinfulness of humankind) relate to the philosophical nature of God and the present condition of humanity?
Chapter 2: Doing the Right Thing
“Does objective goodness exist?” We analyze the moral standards that shape everyday life in various contexts. We establish agreement and expand upon the idea that morality implemented by humans often has a basis in selfishness; however, that in itself supports the existence of a morality which transcends subjective interpretation. We also consider the possibility and meaning for a moral code that is physically wired into our biology.
Chapter 3: What God is Like
This chapter focuses on some of the most fundamental philosophical statements on the character of God. Christianity itself is not a focus of this chapter, but the ideas of thinkers such as Augustine, Aquinas, and Descartes often poke through. We first discuss whether God must be good, which then leads to discussions regarding the essential intentionality, simplicity, and immutability of God. Finally, we discuss the necessity of God being the Uncaused Cause in contrast to the untenableness of infinite causation.
Chapter 4: Belief without Direct Evidence
In this brief exchange, we contemplate knowledge and belief in the face of limited concrete evidence. We acknowledge that, even as scientists, we operate under a crucial assumption that the universe is comprehensible.
Chapter 5: Why We Need God
We begin with a discussion of Jesus’ and Paul’s assertions of the wretched condition of humanity and whether anyone can be distinguished as “good” by their own merit. In the context of the Bible’s negative answer to this question, we discuss the point of morality as ultimately being in the worship and glory of God rather than being an end in and of itself. The hopelessness of the situation then spurs conversation about the necessity of God’s rescue through his offer of redemption and mercy and the sufficient role of belief in salvation.
Chapter 6: God as a Personal God
In contrast to the earlier philosophical discussion of God’s character, here we consider the personhood and personal qualities of God. With ample context from the Bible, we delve into the relational character of the Trinity and what it means for God to be “three in one.” We discuss fundamental aspects including the hierarchical implications of the terms “Father” and “Son,” the male association of God, and why Jesus was on Earth at that point in history.
Chapter 7: Reliability of the Bible
Here, we examine why the Bible is a trustworthy source, firmly rooted in historicity and sound theology. We deal directly with both broad and specific concerns of authenticity and consistency in comparison to other faiths and tackle a few criticisms of the apostle Paul and the book of Acts.
Chapter 8: Responsibility of Salvation
Having laid out a basic defense of Christianity, we proceed into issues of salvation. Namely, if Christianity is designed to glorify God through the salvation of his followers, does it do so self-consistently and equitably? What are the roles of God and humans in attaining salvation, and how does that relate to what Jesus achieved on the cross?
Chapter 9: What Makes Christianity Different
This chapter heavily focuses on two topics: the personal nature and uniqueness of Christianity. In effect, we consider how we can move from a general philosophical understanding of God that is common to many religions to a relationship with God himself. Given our shared skeptical mindset of the spiritual experiences many claim to have, we dissect the daily life of a Christian and how it can be distinguished from the lives of atheists and adherents of other faiths. In these contexts, we discuss what might make someone want to pursue faith at all, examine how one might look for and interpret answers to prayer, and think on the role of the Bible and others in God’s interactions with us.
Chapter 10: The Nature of Sin
This chapter discusses the concept of human sin. We start with the idea of thinking about one’s own sin. Furthermore, since we are justified by faith alone, what would prevent someone from living a life of sin and then choosing God during the final moments on one’s deathbed? We take a look at how the Bible addresses sin, as scripture has been leveraged to justify all sorts of actions. We deliberate on the relative weight of sins as well as each person’s proclivity toward different sins. This discussion is wrapped up on the topic of why we sin and the nuances of motives and temptations related to sin.
Chapter 11: Daily Christian Living
We are created for the glory of God, but the mundaneness of daily life can make it difficult to understand what that means and what we are to do. We discuss the idea that normal life lived with a new motivation and understanding can help us live out our purpose of exalting God and give us the joy we crave. From here, we begin to peel away the layers of “moral therapeutic deism” common in American Christianity to see the core of what Christ has called us to live for: his glory. This requires humility and repentance on our parts, and he only asks us to believe in what he has done for us. We go through an example of how, with God’s help, we can transform a common sin such as anger into awe and gratitude.
Chapter 12: Can’t Feel the Love
This chapter addresses emotions through the lens of Christianity. Specifically, we discuss God’s actions reflecting his invariant nature to love and be relational to people. Conversely, human emotions are variable and sometimes unreliable. We talk about how a lack of religious emotion neither invalidates Christianity nor implies a broken relationship with God.
Chapter 13: Our Purpose
This chapter digs deeper into our purposes for living; specifically, how does/can Christianity ward off the nihilistic tendencies in both of us? What is it about God that allows one to find meaning, and is there any replacement? We speak of the role of the Bible in providing an anchor for meaning when (or even because) it is difficult to experience God (even though he is active in the lives of all to some degree).
Chapter 14: Religious or Spiritual?
The start of this chapter was inspired by the contemporarily popular phrase “spiritual but not religious.” The ensuing conversation is about an objective of seeking truth as opposed to directly seeking a religion or a set of spiritual beliefs. With the mutual understanding that God is “the way, the truth, and the life,” we discuss how one knows that one is devoted to—and loves—God. Religious emotion is discussed further here. The discussion then branches out to human elements of faith, including the realization of one’s complete inadequacy, steadfastness through suffering, and the struggle against apathy.
Chapter 15: The Afterlife
We begin to talk about the afterlife and its role in belief or disbelief. We discuss the notion that we all feel a longing for something more, and that it just might be eternity. In this context, we discuss whether that longing precedes or succeeds Christian belief. If it is the former, then, for many, it can be a red herring regarding the truth claims of Christianity. Later, we look again at the justification for belief in the face of doubt and lack of proof.
Chapter 16: Following the Intellectuals
In this chapter, we discuss the skeptics of religion, especially those who are also scientists. It may seem significant that some of the greatest minds throughout history are against or apathetic towards God. However, the Bible is rife with acknowledgments that Christianity doesn’t necessarily call the most the most respected members of society.
Chapter 17: Finding Meaning in Monotony
This is a short take on what it looks like to live the Christian life in the context of the daily grind. Even after a long, invigorating discussion about our most deeply held beliefs, life does march on in mundane ways that can make philosophy and theology seem distant and God seem uninvolved. Namely, the idea emerges that recognizing this grind can actually enhance one’s desire for God, because everything without him becomes dull and monotonous.
Chapters 18–39: Bible Study on John
These chapters are a Bible study on the Gospel of John with a short prelude on how to study the Bible. The format of this study parallels the conversational Q&A style throughout the entire book. After reading a set of verses, we bring up thoughts, comments, or questions on the text and discuss freely until the conversation concludes. The bulk of book is contained in these chapters, as scripture itself becomes the focus of our conversation. The intention of these chapters is to move beyond a philosophical discussion to an examination of the very words and actions of Christ.
When learning about anything for the first time, questions naturally arise of what something means, how some concept applies, or why some practice is followed. However, religion is a loaded topic, and it can be difficult to ask questions if one doesn’t have a familiar, trustworthy individual to go to, doesn’t want to appear ignorant or combative, and/or only sees bits and pieces of a seemingly disjointed and inconsistent quagmire. This text cuts across these barriers for the intellectual growth of Victoria and Steve but also the growth of faith in Victoria. We share our experiences on the aftermath of this extended conversation and how it has affected our worldviews.