Christianity on Trial Review
Mark Lanier writes his book, “Christianity on Trial: A Lawyer Examines the Christian
Faith”, to discuss whether or not it is reasonable to believe in God based on the evidence that
we exists. Lanier states in the first chapter of the book that the core of the Christian faith “can
and should be examined” (Lanier, 22). In the book, Lanier does his examination in the structure
of a legal trial. He starts with an opening statement, calls witness, discusses evidence, and ends
with a closing statement, which is more of an argument in this case. Lanier is a well-known trial
lawyer and a Christian, so his case for the existence of God, the truthfulness of the Bible, and
the resurrection of Christ is very persuading. Not only is it persuading, but it also shows the
rationality and reasonableness the Christian faith.
In the introduction of his book, Lanier asks questions that pokes at the core of the
Christian faith. Questions like if it’s reasonable to believe in God or reasonable to believe in the
Bible are just a couple of examples. These difficult questions are real questions that people
have, and so Lanier does his best to explore and answer questions. The essential question that
Lanier answers as a lawyer is “what truly happened?” (Lanier 13). That’s the same question he
wants to try to answer in this book. He goes on to explain his experience of a lawyer and a
Christian scholar, and how he plans to examine the Christian faith as he would do in a normal
Chapter one starts with Lanier’s opening statement, which is basically an explanation of
that he hopes to accomplish and how he plans to do that. He starts off by saying that in order
to explore Christian beliefs, one must start with the existence of God first. All this must be
looked at in light of the Bible, but also in practicality in regards to the world around us. Lanier
explains that there is two types of evidence, direct and circumstantial, and both are used to get
to the truth. These types of evidence can either support one another or tell if the other is false.
Lanier uses this approach when looking at skeptics’ concerns to see if the facts are consistent or
not. In the rest of the chapter, Lanier outlines the rest of what he will talk about in the coming
chapters. His main goal is to prove that Christianity is a plausible account of the universe and
that it makes sense with our life experiences.
In chapter two, Lanier examines whether or not it is reasonable to believe in God. He
explores this question with regards to the “testimony of life” since one cannot examine God
directly (Lanier 21). This means Lanier must use circumstantial evidence to try to prove the
existence of God. He goes on to dialogue about a couple of different topics with some atheists,
but the point he is trying to make it that consistency is key when it comes to beliefs. If you can’t
live out your beliefs consistently or they seem to go against one another, then these beliefs
can’t be true. Based off his finding from circumstantial evidence, he concludes that it’s not just
possible that there is a God, but it’s “the most logical answer to the world as we see and
experience it” (Lanier 29).
Lanier, in chapter three, goes on to talk about who Gods is not. He gives some worldly
and false views of who God is, and then he gives insight why that particular view is wrong. He
does this to help clear his readers’ minds of worldly views they might have so that they can see
the correct Biblical view of God. Lanier then continues about God in chapters four and five, but
in these chapters he focuses on who God actually is. He starts off by talking about modern and
biblical witnesses to explain the biblical testimony of God. He shares about the lens we look at
God through, normally a super close friend who cares about all of our needs, which really is a
self-center view. This view is true to an extent, but it tends to limit the scope of who God really
is. God is impossible to fully comprehend. Lanier stresses that we shouldn’t have a view of God
that tries understand Him completely. He continues in chapter five to talk about the problem of
how we are supposed to understand him, and the solution is that we can’t, at least not fully.
We can only know who God is through his self-revelation.
Chapter six goes into how God reveals himself, and it describes the process of which
that happens. Lanier describes this as a three step process; encoding, medium, decoding. He
stresses that anyone trying to assess all the evidence should seek to communicate with God.
Chapter seven is all about knowing what is true and what is false in regards to Christianity, and
it examines whether we can know real truth or not. Lanier concludes that Jesus is the
foundation for understanding real truth. Jesus is the basis of true knowledge of how we should
live. We can only know God through this revelation, but we must “not seek to understand in
order to believe, but believe that you might understand” (Lanier 139).
In chapter eight, Lanier discusses the morality of God. He proves this by showing that
humans can clearly identify what’s wrong and evil, and that God is the source where we get our
understanding of right and wrong from. Lanier rightly claims God’s nature is the ultimate
standard of good. Chapter nine continues on from chapter eight and talks about free will and
the choices that we make. Certain views on this issue leaves for no freedom or responsibility,
but since the Bible teaches we are responsible for our actions, then those views can’t be right.
Lanier stresses that God must address sin and that we are all responsible for the consequences.
Chapter ten continues on this to talk about the resurrection of Jesus and how that can relate
sinful people back to God. Lanier talks about the credibility and reliably of the gospels, and how
it’s more than reasonable to believe that Christ died and was resurrected to enable us to be
reconciled to God. Chapter eleven goes into discussing eternity and the resurrection. Lanier
stresses that it is reasonable to believe in heaven and eternity. He ends this chapter with the
implications of the resurrection, and reminds us that it is only through faith in Christ that we
can attain this.
Lanier’s closing argument is in chapter twelve, the last chapter. Here, he basically
summarizes his arguments that he made throughout the book. He pleas for others to look at
the evidence he has presented to see the common sense conclusions that one can come to.
Lanier’s final verdict is that Christianity is the most reasonable case for explaining the universe
we live in.
Lanier’s, “Christianity on Trial: A Lawyer Examines the Christian Faith”, is well written
book that tries to answer common questions about the Christian faith in sort of a court case
setting. Lanier, himself, is a good lawyer, so it was very interesting to read his arguments that
he put forth in his book, especially in regards to determining what is true. He gives good insight
on how we can know reality itself and God, and he explains that by using scripture. He claims
that the fall is the reason why we cannot completely understand God; however, I think he
might limit the scope of how much we can know God a little too much.
One thing that I questioned Lanier on was in chapter seven when he said, “Scripture
teaches that we cannot construct reality on our own without the aid of revelation”. I don’t think
this claim really holds up. I think we can know the reality that we live in just by the senses that
God gave us, because I don’t think that God would give us senses that would trick our
perception of reality. We might not completely interpret our reality with perfect accuracy
because of our sinful nature, but I don’t think revelation is necessary to grasp our reality. There
was thing that I wished Lanier would do and that would be to provide more evidence. He claims
in chapter one of the book that he will present the evidence and then work it out to make his
case, but he really doesn’t give much evidence in my opinion. A lot of his “evidence” is mostly
his reasoning, which he uses to prove his case even though it’s not exactly hard evidence.
I enjoyed when Lanier would list out worldly views or solutions to problems that people
hold onto falsely. I think he did this three or four different times, and each time he would give
good insight to why each of them were wrong or false beliefs. This understand just how many
viewpoints there are and probably he only listed a few of them. The whole book seemed very
structured and planned out well. It was easy to read and follow along with his case that he was
making. I feel like he could have went into greater detail when explaining his evidence,
especially for the reliability of scripture. Overall, Lanier did well in providing a book that
explores the reasonableness of believing in God and believing in the Christian faith.