Christianity is good news. But how is it good news for us? Philosopher Gregory Ganssle says the Christian Story is the answer to our deepest desires. In Our Deepest Desires: How the Christian Story Fulfills Human Aspirations, Ganssle describes how the good news of Jesus Christ makes sense of our longings and fulfills our common, human desires. Ganssle (Ph.D., Syracuse) is professor of philosophy at Talbot School of Theology and Biola University and the author of several books of theistic philosophy and apologetics.
In part 1, Ganssle describes what the Christian story has to teach us about personhood, our purpose and meaning, and our capacity for relationships. In part 2, Ganssle claims that Christianity answers our deep expectation for moral goodness. Part 3 explores how beauty points us toward God. In Part 4, Ganssle delves into what the Christian Story has to offer us by way freedom (and how it relates to Christian truth and hope).
As Ganssle explores each of these longings, in turn, he contrasts how the Christian story describes reality, with atheistic and materialistic stories and ways they answer these questions of desire. He differentiates the Christian faith from materialistic Darwinism, existentialism, utilitarianism, and thinkers like Bertrand Russell, Fredrick Nietzche, the New Atheists, etc. Ganssle does this all, with an accessible conversational tone, full of personal anecdotes and pop-cultural references.
IVP Academic classified this book as “RELIGION/Christian Theology/Apologetics”(back cover). I think the ordering of these is essentially correct. Ganssle offers thoughts about the value of Christianity which I think will be instructive and beneficial, primarily for Christians as we think through a Christian understanding of reality, and what difference this makes for our lives. Ganssle explores more the ‘why Christians believe,’ than the ‘what’ Christians believe. This doesn’t mean what Ganssle says is solely subjective, but his emphasis is on the lived benefits of the Christianity—how it gives us meaning and a purpose and the ways it illuminates the true, the good and the beautiful and brings us hope and freedom.
This emphasis on the ‘why’ more than the ‘what,’ characterizes how Ganssle handles the Christian story. Ganssle uses ‘the Christian Story’ as shorthand for what Christians believe about the nature of reality. Ganssle doesn’t explore the narrative of scripture in great detail, though he does note along the way: creation, the fall, redemption, and consummation. Most of Ganssle’s Scriptural references are drawn from the New Testament (though he does reference Genesis 1-3, and, Psalm 19:3). Missing from his Christian Story is both the story of Israel and the Church’s story. However, he is not telling us all of the what, but why the Christian Story answers our deep desires.
As an apologetic, Ganssle doesn’t offer any ‘knock-down arguments,’ but his contrasting of worldviews highlights the ways in which Christianity speaks meaningfully to human longing. Ganssle notes in his introduction “If you recognize your own deep values in what I discuss, you may see that, indeed, Christianity makes a good deal of sense” (13). Seekers who are interested and exploring what the Christian story has to offer may find Ganssle’s answers compelling. The committed atheist will not find these brief reflections as persuasive. But I think one of the most valuable things about apologetic works, is that they show clear thinking and a rational basis for faith for those who are drawn into the Christian story or are staring back from the other side of conversion and wonder if they thought stuff through the issues well enough. To that end, Ganssle describes cogently how the gospel is good news, fulfills our deepest longings. That is pretty valuable.
I would recommend this book for believers and seeking-unbelievers who are exploring, or at least open to, Christianity and are curious as to what the Christian faith has to offer. I give this book four stars. ★★★★
Notice of material connection, I received a copy of this book from IVP Academic in exchange for my honest review.