This review is of the second edition of True For You But Not For Me: Overcoming Objections to Christian Faith in which several adjustments had been made including the addition of roughly half a dozen chapters, the addition of the further reading section of each chapter and the move of the study guide to the authors website.
It’s safe to say that those of us interested in apologetics have heard many of the same retorts thrown against Christianity. Statements like “Christians are intolerant of other viewpoints” or “You can’t legislate morality” are frequently lodged against the believer in conversations about faith and all too often the believer is left without much to say. Regardless of the accuser’s intentions, many see these as conversation stoppers and the average person may not be equipped to handle them appropriately. But what if these remarks could be used as opportunities to further the discussion instead of stifle it? In True For You But Not For Me: Overcoming Objections to Christian Faith, that is just the starting point that Paul Copan uses in order to help guide the conversation in a much more meaningful direction.
In his book, Paul Copan addresses 29 of these common statements by organizing them into 5 main categories. These categories progress from the concept of relativism, which is kicked off with the chapter entitled “That’s True For You, But Not For Me” to the final section which deals with the question of the unevangelized. Each of these parts contain an introduction to the main category which will include some discussion of any terms that may need to be defined, followed by the chapters themselves. Since the chapters are typically just a few pages in length, each addressing a particular statement, the reader will be able to get through one in a matter of a few minutes. This allows the book to be handled in rather small chunks so even if your current reading plate is full, True For You But Not For Me won’t take up a lot of extra room.
Perhaps one of the greatest benefits to having this book on the shelf is in its ability to function as a reference tool. It’s certainly not necessary to read this book cover to cover, although that shouldn’t be discouraged; but simply being familiar with its content and organization will allow the book to be used as needed. Many of the comebacks and retorts discussed are seen regularly in conversation and even if you are used to handling them, Paul Copan will likely offer some new perspectives to how they should be viewed and responded to. In fact, having a good grounding in some of these responses will likely help the reader to recognize how many of these suppositions pervade society through various avenues. And since each chapter is concluded with a summary of chapter highlights and a list of further reading material, True For You But Not For Me can serve as a gateway into deeper study as the reader sees fit.
The Books Structure
As I mentioned, the book is organized by means of 5 major parts. In Part One: Absolutely Relative, Paul Copan introduces the concept of relativism along with the reality of truth. He establishes the fact that relativism is ultimately self-defeating and shows that many of the retorts that are encountered in this section are as well. Chapters in this section include “Who Are You to Judge Others?”, “It’s All a Matter of Perspective.” and “That’s Just Your Opinion.”
Part Two: The Absolutism of Moral Relativism deals with the various issues of moral relativism. Here, the author not only demonstrates that moral relativism is logically flawed but that the consequences of moral relativism actually demean humanity by treating ourselves as “victims, not responsible moral agents” (p. 68). Chapters in this section include “Why Believe in Any Moral Values When They’re So Wildly Different?”, “You Can’t Legislate Morality.” and “We Can Be Good Without God.”
While Western culture may think that religious pluralism is somehow all inclusive, in Part Three: The Exclusivism of Religious Pluralism, Paul Copan shows how it is actually resistant to any “one religious faith alone bringing salvation or liberation” (p. 111). It is in this sense that religious pluralism practices the very thing it claims to deny. Chapters in this section include “All Religions Are Basically The Same.”, “All Roads Lead to the Top of the Mountain.” and “If You’d Grown Up in Thailand, You’d Be a Buddhist.”
A very common accusation these days is that Jesus is simply a myth or legend. Part Four: The Uniqueness of Jesus Christ: Myth or Reality? deals with various claims made in this regard. Chapters in this section include “You Can’t Trust the Gospels-They’re Unreliable.”, “Jesus Is Just Like Any Other Great Religious Leader.” and “People Claim JFK and Elvis Are Alive, Too!”
Finally in Part Five: “No Other Name”: The Question of the Unevangelized Paul Copan deals with the exclusivity of Christianity and the various views on salvation for those who have never heard the Gospel. This final segment of the book only deals with two comments specifically; they are “It Doesn’t Matter What You Believe-as Long as You’re Sincere.” and “If Jesus Is the Only Way to God, What About Those Who Have Never Heard of Him?” The latter is actually dealt with over the course of four chapters that discuss three different responses – the agnostic view, the inclusivist / wider-hope view and finally the accessibilist / middle-knowledge view.
Options For Individual Or Small Group Study
A nice advantage to this book is a study guide that is available on Paul Copan’s website. This study guide, which can be used individually or for small groups, contains roughly a handful of questions for each chapter of the book. My wife and I led a small group through this book over the course of about a year (with various breaks throughout) and found the questions available in the study guide to be much more thoroughly thought out than most study guides we come across. The questions force you to interact with the content and since the chapters themselves are relatively short it is very easy for the group to collectively go back and read through particular items that are being addressed. This allows the information to be readily available and fresh in the minds of the participants.
The book will allow itself to be molded a bit for your particular small group. We found that some chapters dealt with some heavier items that many people are going to be unfamiliar with. In those instances the group leaders may wish to skip them entirely or deal with them over the course of a few meetings. Since there are times that Paul Copan takes the familiarity with certain topics for granted, group leaders may find they need to be ready to introduce and further explain what is being discussed.
It’s not uncommon for people who find themselves on the receiving end of the comments addressed in this book to desire some sort of script to use. But as anyone familiar with apologetics will tell you, a script is going to be worthless when you think you need it most. One way a Christian can be prepared to give their defense is by learning how to think properly about these common objections. By doing so you won’t need to memorize a bunch of facts but rather will be able to detect the underlying suppositions of these objections and handle them in a manner that can steer the discussion in a positive direction. That being said, True For You But Not For Me may be just the right balance because it will offer responses to very specific and common objections in a way that will teach you how to think about and engage the content of the objection at hand.