GOD IS GOOD FOR YOU: A Defence of Christianity in Troubled Times
by Greg Sheridan
Allen & Unwin, Sydney
Paperback: 320 pages
Reviewed by Therese Mount
You may want to hold onto this book for a while after you read it. Use it as a reference. It is so well researched it could find a home on your shelf quite comfortably.
Greg Sheridan isn’t a theologian, nor is he a philosopher. He is a foreign affairs journalist and is the current Foreign Editor for The Australian newspaper. Yet, while his previous work has focused on politics, Sheridan demonstrates in this book that he an effective apologist for Christianity. God is Good for You explores Christianity as a religion and as a social influence. He is clearly a believer, but the reader doesn’t have to be.
Sheridan has picked up on a theme that is real in our society – the decline of Christianity in Australia. According to census data, in 1966, 81 per cent of Australians identified as Christians. This figure had fallen to 74 per cent by 1991 and to 51 per cent by 2016.
Sheridan frames this rapid decline as being a bad thing. He argues that God is good for you and gives reasons why. His book is split into two sections. The first explores Christianity as an intellectually and ethically solid belief system and the second is devoted to interviewing Australian Christians and sharing their stories.
Perhaps the impetus behind this book was his conviction that someone needed publicly to voice some concern over this dramatic shift in our culture. No one can deny the significant impact Christianity has had in human history. It appears, however, that Christian faith is fizzling out in Australia, with very little commentary in our major media outlets, or even by the Christian Churches themselves. Sheridan is asking the question, “Is this a good thing?”
In the first half of the book, Sheridan focuses on faith and its relationship to reason. He speaks of the intellectual reasons behind believing in a higher being. He proposes that faith is not contrary to reason. He also describes some of the intellectual giants who have helped shape Christian belief.
He argues that much of the intellectual work of Christianity has been neglected for many years. I tend to agree. Who among us could confidently state the five proofs of God’s existence as outlined by St Thomas Aquinas? Who could trace the history of Christianity and its development from the early Church Fathers? Who can even name the 12 apostles? Surely, if one rejects Christianity, one should know what it is one is rejecting.
Sheridan also highlights the social aims of Christianity. He reminds us that recognising the individual dignity of every human person is founded on Christ’s teaching, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you”. He describes how Christ’s instruction to attend to works of mercy has led to the establishment of schools for the poor, hospitals and an impressive number of outreach ministries. Many facets of Western civilisation, including secular politics, human rights and the establishment of universities, have strong links to Christianity.
He also doesn’t ignore the problems that have faced Christianity and touches upon the mystery of suffering and the serious failures of many Christians.
The second half of the book contains the personal stories of different Christians in Australia. He interviews several current and retired Australian politicians. Some were, as he claims, reluctant to be interviewed. They needn’t have worried, as each person’s relationship with the spiritual is described sensitively and with some genuine admiration.
It is a beautiful part of the book and perhaps the more engaging. Sheridan plays to his strengths in this section, engaging in honest and at times powerful dialogue with politicians.
The resurgence of Christianity in small pockets within suburbia is also described. Catholic and Protestant factions are represented truthfully. The book gives voice to those who are working to “keep the faith alive”.
Implicit in the text is the idea that the reason our society heralds love, truth, beauty and justice is because the Christian God is love truth, justice and beauty. He reasons that we, as a nation, built our society upon this belief.
Sheridan suggests that as ever fewer people cultivate a personal relationship with God we are cutting ourselves off from our life force, so to speak. If our personal relationship with God is dying, will we remain a civilised nation without Christ?
I would comfortably recommend Sheridan’s book. It will appeal to a wide audience, including readers with little or no Christian faith. As I suggested earlier, you may wish to keep it as a reference, or, alternatively, send one off to a relative or friend as a gift!