No time to turn the other cheek
WHAT’S SO GREAT ABOUT CHRISTIANITY
by Dinesh D’Souza
(Washington DC: Regnery)
Hardcover: 348 pages
Rec. price: AUD$54.90
Christianity has come under a heavy battering recently from the new misotheists. But it has also inspired some significant rejoinders as well. The newest and one of the best is this volume by best-selling author Dinesh D’Souza. It courageously takes on all the accusations hurled against Christianity, and finds them all to be more than answerable.
I like the attitude and approach taken in this book. D’Souza reminds us that this is not the time to turn the other cheek, to hide or to run away. It is time to engage the atheists head on. Or, as he writes, it is time to “drive the money-changers out of the temple. The atheists no longer want to be tolerated. They want to monopolise the public square and to expel Christians from it…. In short, they want to make religion – and especially the Christian religion – disappear from the face of the earth.”
But the sad fact is many believers are allowing them to get away with all this. “Instead of engaging this secular world, most Christians have taken the easy way out. They have retreated into a Christian subculture where they engage Christian concerns. Then they step back into secular society, where their Christianity is kept out of sight until the next church service.”
But this is just not good enough. We need to meet the new secular challenge head on. When the very fate of Christian faith is at stake, we dare not hide our heads in the sand, or let the other side win by default. We must instead engage in the battle, and fight on every level: the intellectual, the philosophical and the spiritual. We must contend for the Christian faith, and we must do so in a loving yet firm manner.
This book is more than just a volume listing the achievements and positives of Christianity, as the title suggests. It is really a major face-to-face confrontation with the neo-atheists. The steady and strident attack on theism in general and Christianity in particular by Richard Dawkins, Daniel Dennett, Sam Harris, Christopher Hitchens and others is here powerfully and capably countered.
As such, this is really a book of Christian apologetics, defending the faith against the charges made against it by the new militant anti-theists. It covers a wide range of issues, such as philosophy of religion, history, culture, ethics and science.
The Indian-born, American-based D’Souza is well placed to take on the atheist onslaught. He is well versed in all the main areas of this debate, and his own website, tothesource.org, is devoted to “challenging hardcore secularism”.
This book covers most of the bases of the Christian apologetic. Meaty chapters take on all the major charges levelled against Christianity. These include: What about the problem of suffering and evil? Are Christianity and science at odds? Are miracles possible? Did Jesus really rise from the dead? Is there such a thing as objective morality? Is religion inherently violent and irrational? Is there anything special about being human?
Consider just a few of these important topics. D’Souza reminds us that the important principles of separation of church and state, and political tolerance, are the direct outgrowths of the Christian worldview. These ideals did not first arise out of the Enlightenment, as is often claimed, but predated them by centuries.
When Jesus said we should render to Caesar what belongs to him, and to God what belongs to Him, He set up the fundamental principle of the division of church and state, something that the Greeks and Romans barely considered. Concepts such as religious toleration and freedom of conscience also arise from the Christian worldview.
And the related ideas of limited government and checks and balances go back to the Judeo-Christian vision of man as both made in God’s image, and fallen. Thus Augustine could speak of the two cities, the earthly and heavenly. Political rule is not absolute, and the extent of the jurisdiction of the state is clearly meant to be limited.
What about the charge that Christianity is a bloody religion? D’Souza argues that the claims made by the enemies of Christianity are greatly exaggerated. Yes, some atrocities have occurred in the name of God, but they are far fewer than what has been perpetrated in the name of atheistic regimes.
As just one comparison, D’Souza states that if we take all the major bloodletting done in the name of Christianity – the Crusades, the Inquisition, and the witch burnings – they would amount to some 200,000 deaths over several hundred years. But they amount to just one per cent of the deaths caused by Hitler, Stalin and Mao in mere decades.
Finally, consider the charge that Christianity is anti-science. Quite the opposite, argues D’Souza. Indeed, almost all the leaders of modern science were Christians, including Kepler, Copernicus, Galileo, Boyle, Newton, Faraday, Herschel, Lyell and Pasteur. Modern science arose in only one place in human history: in Christian Europe. This is because of the high place assigned to reason by Christianity, and the belief that a rational creator created an orderly and rational world.
Pre-Socratics had also spoken of a rational universe, but this conception had to wait until the Christian view of an ordered cosmos could create a favourable environment in which science could really develop and flourish. The medieval (Christian) founding of the university played a pivotal role in the rise of modern science.
D’Souza also takes on the silly notion that science somehow demands materialism and naturalism. But real science does not. These are just philosophical presuppositions which some scientists have taken on in faith, not because of the evidence. Indeed, they cannot be proven by empirical science.
Faith in materialism
Naturalism and materialism are not scientific conclusions, says D’Souza. Instead, they are “scientific premises. They are not discovered in nature but imposed upon nature. In short, they are articles of faith.” He cites a number of scientists who have admitted as much, including Harvard’s Richard Lewontin who confesses that “we have a prior commitment – a commitment to materialism”. And he cites numerous world-class scientists who happen to reject naturalism, and are in fact theists and/or Christians.
Many other key accusations made by the neo-atheists are rebutted here in this comprehensive and learned work. It is nice to have all of the major accusations made against Christianity dealt with in a single volume.
Of course, there exist hundreds of good books on Christian apologetics. Much of what is presented here can be found elsewhere. But this volume is significant for its breath of scope, its eye to detail, and its up-to-date nature, taking on all the neo-atheist assaults that have recently appeared. It is well worth the read, and deserves a best-selling status which some of the atheist volumes have enjoyed.