A.S.K. (Ask, Seek, Knock) is the latest book from the prolific pen of Solas founder David Robertson, his last publication before he left Scotland for Australia in the summer of 2019. The book’s subtitle “Real World Questions / Real Word Answers” explains more about its’ content. Every chapter of the book contains a real question about life and faith, from a teenager; followed by an answer, rooted in the Bible.
The fifty-two questions which shape the book cover an incredible range of topics. The first set of questions are around core Christian concepts such as who God is, The Bible, The Trinity and Jesus. Questions that young people asked around these areas included “I don’t get The Trinity – do we worship three gods?” and “Why do Christians believe that Jesus is the only Saviour?”
Then there are questions which focus on problems which young people are having in working out what their faith means. These include perennial questions such as whether animals go to heaven, and the question of suicide and salvation. Big world issues come next, one young person asking, “How would Jesus respond to North Korea?” Then there are ethical questions , like “Help! – my girlfriend is pregnant!” as well as questions about living as a Christian and not falling back into sin.
The questions that drive this book are clearly heartfelt ones, from young people wrestling with faith, doubt, ethics and some very difficult personal situations. The first thing to note and commend about A.S.K. is that these young people have been given the chance to ask these questions, and to engage with serious answers. I know someone who left the church as a child because they were told their questions were not welcome and that they should basically ‘shut up and just believe’. Thankfully those days are long gone, and the existence of this book perhaps nicely emphasises that point.
Each answer given to these questions begins with a quote from the Bible. I gave a copy of it to a seventeen year-old who said:
“The best thing about this was that it started each answer with a Bible verse, so you know where the guy is getting his ideas from. I never know where in the Bible to look for answers to these questions, and I liked the way that this book helps you with that.”
All of the answers which Robertson provides for the young people are short, punchy, biblical and engaging. As anyone who has read David’s work before will know, his answers are not ambiguous, or vague, but communicated precisely and clearly. Also, when he doesn’t know an answer (Such as “When will the world end?”) he’s not afraid to say so, but admit that some things just aren’t known. He’s also not afraid to frankly tell young people that sometimes the church has misled them and been unhelpful, such as with ‘prosperity gospel’ teachers.
Each answer is provided with a “Consider” section, which adds a useful devotional element to the book. So, for instance while the question of “God and Suffering” is examined (p63-5), the young people are then asked to consider, “How would you help someone who is suffering? What did Jesus do to save us from suffering? Do you trust God to bring good, even out of what appears evil to us?” Thought-provoking stuff. Further reading is then offered for each chapter, which would be very helpful for anyone who wanted to read more extensively on any of the given topics. The problem here is that many of the books suggested are probably pitched at too high an academic level for the majority of readers of this particular volume. That however is hardly the author’s fault, as I am not aware of many youth-resources on many of these subjects.
Each chapter then concludes with a prayer, inviting the young person to respond personally to the issues discussed in the chapter. Many of these are based on verses in the Psalms. Others are written specifically for today.
One seventeen year old in Scotland said:
“I like the feel of the book, it doesn’t feel cheap, and I like the cover too, I think that will help people my age to pick it up.”
The fourteen year old I gave it to was equally positive. She wrote,
“It’s very accessible for people of my age, it’s practical with a lot of helpful and useful information. It’s got a good selection of questions, including some I have asked or thought of before, but never had an answer to before. The layout is really clear, which helps too. I also liked the way it answers questions a non-Christian might ask you, giving you a clear and confident idea about what to say.”
I read the book in a couple of days and appreciated its direct, yet thought-through answers, although its 52-chapter format is obviously suited to reading a chapter a week for a year. This is a really useful book, nicely written and well presented. It deserves to be widely read.
A.S.K. is available from Solas here.