31 May 2016
The May book club
By Alister McGrath (SPCK)
Alister McGrath is well known as a theologian and as a leading defender of the Christian faith against Richard Dawkins and other members of the "New Atheist" movement. In this recent book, first published in the United States in 2012, he shares his experience as a Christian apologist and encourages others to develop a similar ministry.
In the early chapters, McGrath defines the role of the Christian apologist, whose concern is with encouraging an intellectual and imaginative climate favourable to the Christian faith, and distinguishes it from that of the evangelist. He establishes the value, as well as the limitations, of the apologetic method, and shows how changes in culture have affected the work of the apologist. In post-modern culture there needs to be less emphasis on rational argument and more on the use of images and stories in commending the gospel.
The author sets out a number of 'clues' that point in the direction of belief in God and the Christian faith. These include the "fine tuning" of the universe, so that life as we know it becomes possible, and the "argument from desire" - the common human intuition that there must be a better world than that experienced in our present life. He suggests that the big bang theory on the origins of the universe is compatible with a Christian understanding of creation and was originally resisted by atheist scientists like the astronomer Fred Hoyle, who thought that it might encourage a belief in God.
The author resists providing a set of stock answers, but does suggest ways in which objections to the Christian faith might be tackled. There are sections on suffering and the view of Freud and others that Christianity is really a crutch for inadequate people unable to cope with life. Readers are encouraged to listen to the questions of others and to develop their own approaches to apologetics.
STEP BACK: FINDING THE WAY FORWARD IN LIFE
By Norman Drummond (Hodder and Stoughton)
Norman Drummond's latest book provides a welcome call for readers to step back from their busy lives, find time for relaxation and leisure, and reflect on their goals and purposes in life. The author has wide experience as a head teacher, a business coach, charity head, and minister in the Church of Scotland. The Christian element in this book is fairly low key, and although there are references to Jesus and the Bible there are also quotes from the sacred writings of other major religions. The author's advice is warmly welcomed in an introduction by Princess Anne, and there are endorsements by the late Terry Wogan and management guru Charles Handy. Many of the suggestions on a balanced lifestyle are useful, though some readers will disapprove of Drummond's enthusiasm for yoga and tai chi.
Reviewed by Graham Hedges