Book Review: God? Really?

As an Adventist, I thought I had all the answers. "God? Really?" made me think again.

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God? Really?: Good news about the God I don’t believe in
Harald Giesebrecht

As a born and bred Seventh-day Adventist, I’ve heard most of the theological arguments for the existence of God—after-all, Adventist pride themselves upon finding Biblical truth. Believing this truth personally, the prospect of reading yet another attempt to justify the Christian faith lacked lustre. But from its opening pages, God? Really? is delectably different.

Framed as a response to attacks on God’s character by atheists, I initially assumed that this book was written to take an oppositional stance against such negative accusations and confront non-Christians with “the truth”. But a few chapters in, I could feel old biases and misconceptions in my heart-soil being upturned for new beliefs to take root. I was deeply confronted and surprised by the fallacies and unfair judgments I’d been holding against non-Christians. This book was for me.

Rather than fiercely throwing fiery darts of logic at non-Christian viewpoints, Harald Giesebrecht uncovers hidden meaning behind Jesus’ method of “turning the other cheek” and gently points the finger back at us: Christians. His writing demonstrates an unparalleled ability to simultaneously confront Christian readers with dangerous contradictions and mistakes they might be holding, while demonstrating both logical and emotional reasons for non-Christians to believe in God. In doing so, he acknowledges people’s tyrannical perceptions of God but irons out such misunderstandings by presenting God’s love through deeply relatable analogies that tug at the heartstrings.

"Giesebrecht nudged me to recognise how common it can be for Adventists to dismiss and develop narrow, cookie-cutter answers to these questions."

God? Really? answers some of the most difficult questions about God—How could a loving God create hell? If God is good, why does suffering exist? If God knows the future, do we really have free will? How can God claim he loves us if He doesn’t answer our prayers?—through easy-to-understand stories and metaphors. Giesebrecht nudged me to recognise how common it can be for Adventists to develop narrow, cookie-cutter answers to these questions. He highlights that very few Christian denominations believe classical conceptions about hell nowadays, and explores the validity of traditional beliefs about the omnipotence and omniscience of God. The information Giesebrecht packs into 150 pages challenged me to understand not only what I believe, but why I believe it. To say that my perspective was broadened is an understatement.

In the same way that sometimes God needs to crush an aspect of our lives into dust in order to rebuild us, God? Really? deconstructs faulty theological walls in order to build up a more beautiful picture of God’s love. At the centre of this renovation is Giesebrecht’s mission to redefine and realign perceptions of God’s character:

“We need a picture of God that doesn’t portray Him as a monster or a psychopath; rather one in which He is like Jesus. In fact, we need to approximate the old way of telling the gospel. The model that the atheists caricature comes from medieval times, not from the early church.”—p36

Despite believing I was a kind and loving person, this book revealed to me that I’d been acting like the prodigal son’s brother—as somehow “morally superior” to my lost brothers and sisters, or more deserving of God’s love. I had unconsciously labelled non-Christians, and particularly atheists, as the enemy.

I highly recommend God? Really?—both as a tool for outreach and evangelism, and as a light for illuminating misconceptions, about God and others, from within the Church and within the reader.

In reading God? Really? I was reminded that it is non-Christians and atheists who need the most love. Giesebrecht’s book directs non-believers to the endless, abounding and perfect love that their Creator desperately wants to have them experience. He doesn’t argue with them, criticise them or tear them down—and we should do the same.