- The Washington Times - Friday, July 2, 2010

EVERYTHING YOU ALWAYS WANTED TO KNOW ABOUT GOD (BUT WERE AFRAID TO ASK) - THE JESUS EDITION
By Eric Metaxas
Regal, $19.99
222 pages

Here’s an interesting challenge: Take the subject of “The Eternal Creator and Sustainer of the Entire Known Universe” (aka “God”) and tell everyone on the planet everything they need to know about this Creator in a series of books.

Apparently, the only one with the temerity to step up to the plate is Eric Metaxas with his smooth-hitting “Everything You Always Wanted to Know About God (But Were Afraid to Ask): The Jesus Edition.”

Mr. Metaxas has, in fact, been taking on this robust challenge for several years now - and not just in book form. “Socrates in the City,” a speakers forum meeting periodically in several sumptuous New York City locales, examines “Life, God, and other small topics.” “Socrates in the City,” a Metaxas creation, hosts such interesting and entertaining theological heavyweights as N.T. Wright, Sir John Polkinghorne and Os Guinness.

In this third installment of the book series, “Everything You Always Wanted to Know About God,” Mr. Metaxas focuses all eyes on the person of Jesus. In a humorous question-and-answer format - with the author himself in the role of “A. - Answer” and his inquisitive Doppelganger playing “Q. - Question” - Mr. Metaxas takes us step by step through events, characters and themes from both the Old and New Testaments of the Bible. Overall, the major subjects covered in just over 200 pages are impressive: Is there proof that the person we know as Jesus really did exist? Did this same Jesus really rise in bodily form from the grave? Is the Devil a real person? Did God create Evil? And, is Neptune a Christian planet?

“Everything God/The Jesus Edition” is as theologically rich as it is disarmingly funny. I found myself becoming totally immersed in the common-sense logic of Mr. Metaxas‘ arguments, then suddenly laughing out loud at the off-the-cuff, left-fieldish comments. Though hard to imagine, the author strikes this balance perfectly, engrossing the reader with both his humorous style and his deep theological substance.

Several times in “Everything God/The Jesus Edition,” Mr. Metaxas draws us into a world of his own, real-life parables. Of particular note is his meeting up with Dick Cavett to go see Mickey Rooney in a nightclub performance. After the show, while having some beers with Mr. Cavett at a local bistro, Mr. Metaxas spots another friend of his, who just happens to be a Catholic priest. Mr. Cavett proceeds to ask the priest where the famous Golden Rule (“Do unto others as you would have them do to you”) originated. Although the entire event sounds like the beginning of some twisted joke “A writer, a comedian and a priest walk into a bar,” the theological results of the meeting give intriguing insight into the totality of Jesus and his mission being the fulfillment of Old Testament prophecies.

At this point, I must mention that if you think Mr. Metaxas has written a “Rah, rah, yay for Christians” book, you’d be off base. He takes a deserved jab or two at those annoying folks you find screaming Scriptures on the subway like some banned 1980s boombox. And, for all you “second” brothers of the Prodigal Son story - well, don’t get him started.

Possibly the book’s best - even key - chapter is called “Making the Cut” (subtitled “Forgiveness”), where the author quite dexterously sets the record straight about the concept of salvation. So many people, even some Christians, believe that if their good deeds outweigh their bad, God has the obligation to let them into Heaven. But Mr. Metaxas clearly reveals the reality of what the Bible says through the person of Jesus about this uber-serious matter.

Overall, perhaps the most amazing thing presented is a very powerful argument for the existence of, yes, the God of the Universe. To a Richard Dawkins or a Christopher Hitchens, God may be a “delusion” who is “not great,” but the challenge to an inquisitive person is to read “Everything God/The Jesus Edition” and not walk away without further examining the facts presented.

By the way, if you’re not of a certain generation, you may be unaware that the title is a takeoff on the 1972 Woody Allen film, “Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex (But Were Afraid to Ask),” which, believe it or not, was itself based on an actual book by the same title written by a physician, Dr. David Reuben, in 1969.

Albin Sadar, author of several humor books, lives in New York City.

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