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Unapologetic: Why, Despite Everything, Christianity Can Still Make Surprising Emotional Sense Hardcover – October 15, 2013

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Unapologetic rhymes with splenetic, and that&'s one aspect of British writer Spufford&'s (Red Plenty) rhetorical tour de force, in which he not only takes on the new atheists but also the secularism of his own culture (6% of Britons regularly attend church, the author notes early on). Spufford stakes out ground for arguing the value of Christianity that is neither ontological, teleological, or any-ological. God, he asserts, is the ground of being, experienced emotionally, as one might experience Mozart&'s Clarinet Concerto. Having moved the boundaries of the argument, Spufford has at it, swearing, skewering, and bringing a sense of humor to bear on the question, Why bother to be Christian? A gifted writer, the author is closer to the American William James, who grasped the psychological payoff of religious belief, than he is to fellow Englishman and revered Christian apologist C.S. Lewis. The rhetorical pileup is wearing at times, as are so many contemporary arguments about religion. Spufford&'s style is as bracing as a cup of real English breakfast tea—strong enough to satisfy believers. (Oct.)

From Booklist

Spufford’s defense of Christianity is as unique as it is refreshing. We humans have the potential to really screw things up and too often do. We could use some help. Against the backdrop of human frailty, Spufford retells the story of Christianity: that of a loving and merciful God who seeks us out and leads by example. No one is unforgivable; no one is forgotten. God challenges us to act the same toward others and ourselves, however difficult it may be, and is always there to encourage us to try again when we fail. Because this story of hope, forgiveness, and redemption makes so much emotional sense, Spufford embraces Christianity and proceeds as if God is there, even if it all may not be literally true. This latter admission allows him to refute many of the claims and characterizations of contemporary atheism. With unrelenting passion and honesty throughout, this book successfully accomplishes what it sets out to achieve—namely, making the case for the intelligibility and dignity of Christian faith. --Christopher McConnell

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 240 pages
  • Publisher: HarperOne (October 15, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0062300458
  • ISBN-13: 978-0062300454
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.8 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.1 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (73 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #315,696 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

I'm a writer of non-fiction who is creeping up gradually on writing novels. I write slowly and I always move to new subject-matter with each book, because I want to be learning something fresh every time, both in terms of encountering history and people and thinking which are new to me, and also in the sense of trying out a new way of writing. My idea of a good project is one that I can only just manage. I've written a memoir of my childhood as a compulsive reader, an analysis of the British obsession with polar exploration, a book about engineers which is also a stealth history of Britain since 1945, and a fusion of history with novel called "Red Plenty", about the USSR in the early 1960s. My next book will complete my slow crabwise crawl into fiction by being an honest-to-goodness entirely made-up story, without a footnote in sight. But before that, I have out a short polemic about religion called "Unapologetic". Despite the impression given by some of the reactions to it, it isn't, in fact, an attack on atheism, a position I have no trouble at all respecting. I am a little rude and a little mocking to the likes of Richard Dawkins - but it seems to me that when it comes to the lived experience of faith, Dawkins and co. are, as they say, not even wrong. So, though the book begins at the familiar address where the bust-up over religion has been going on for a decade now, it then goes entirely elsewhere, to try to convey to readers of all persuasions what Christianity feels like from the inside: actual Christianity, rather than the conjectural caricature currently in circulation. The book isn't an argument than Christianity is true, because how could anyone know that? It's only an attempt to show that it is recognisable, in ordinary human terms - made up of the shared emotions of ordinary adult life, rather than taking place in some special and simple-minded zoo. There is a tumblr for the book at unapologetic-book.tumblr.com.

(Oh, biography. I was born in 1964, I'm married with a seven-year-old daughter, and I teach on the MA in Creative and Life Writing at Goldsmiths College, London.)

Customer Reviews

Well done Mr. Spufford.
Dr. Bernadette Toal
This book does a good job explaining why, despite everything, Christianity still makes good sense.
Sam Logan
It's one of the best books I've read in years, but to be clear, it is not for everybody.
J. Storment

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

42 of 50 people found the following review helpful By Ian Smith on January 6, 2013
Format: Hardcover
Is it possible this glorious book was largely written at the corner table by the window in Costa Coffee, Sidney Street, Cambridge, as the author claims? Surely not. For how could coffee inspire such a vigorous stream of consciousness, such a tsunami of words, such a font of creativity, such reverently unshackled irreverence? Where in Cambridge could you possibly expect to hear the words 'auto-sneer' and 'sodomitical', and the acronym 'HPtFtU'?

It's simply a masterpiece, and like any great masterpiece, demands to be read, and read again. Or even better, heard and heard again.

For this is a book to read out loud - preferably with someone else in the room. Because you won't be able to stop yourself; I have never read a book I wanted to quote from quite as much as this one. It reads like a radio broadcast; a flow of creative consciousness with inescapable logic. I happened to be reading CS Lewis's 'Broadcast Talks' at the same time as 'Unapologetic'; the similarities are remarkable - with the exception of the liberal use of profanity! But profanities always used in context. It's sad that many of a still find language more shocking than truth.

He is also a great story teller. Read chapter 5, and like me, find the gospel coming to gritty life again in a way I wouldn't have thought possible.

You won't agree with his theology all the time - I certainly didn't - but he has done more to restore and challenge my faith than just about any other writer.

Another book I would plead to read.
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42 of 51 people found the following review helpful By Aoife VINE VOICE on June 9, 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I bought this on the strength of an excerpt I read online (I think on The Guardian?) that was funny and touching and direct. This turned out to be the introduction to the book, and there are moments here and there in the body that are similar. But once the novelty of the foul mouthed cutting irreverence wears off a little, it starts to get grating. Especially because just when I most needed Spufford to bring the point home, he kept evading. The discussion on theodicy is just one example. Of course he's not going to offer a solution for the problem of pain in a brief, light book of essays. But he doesn't even try to take the question all that seriously. A sense of the absurd is well and good, but I came away from this book honestly unable to explain WHY Spufford believes and WHAT he believes that distinguishes him from the average sentimental agnostic.

I was hoping that Spufford's irreverence would let him really cut to the heart and talk about some difficult truths with humor and perspective. Instead it's just more boring liberal Protestant moral therapeutic deism with an edgy tone of delivery. Oprah spirituality dressed up in a leather biker's jacket, trying to look badass. I started to get depressed and had to skim the rest.
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63 of 79 people found the following review helpful By J. Rios on November 13, 2013
Format: Hardcover
Rave reviews have lauded Francis Spufford’s 2012 foray into the field of Christian apologetics, titled “Unapologetic: Why, Despite Everything, Christianity Can Still Make Surprising Emotional Sense.” Commentators praise his freshness, intelligence, sensibility, and novel approach. Even Christianity Today, that bastion of Evangelicalism, gave the work a glowing review.

For my part, I thought the book was utter rot.

The fact that Unapologetic has been so well liked is deeply troubling to me. It tells me that these reviewers are unaware of the book’s errors. It implies that they are blinded to the deeply troubling assumptions which underlie Spufford’s un-apologetic. As a consequence I am led to suspect that the appeal of the book—its seeming ‘freshness, intelligence, and sensibility’—is grounded in the fact that it is a thoroughly cultural book. I don’t mean that in a good way. It is a book which conforms so readily to the spirit of the present age—sounds so good to the modern ear—precisely because it lacks the distinctive Christian elements which challenge and undercut modern culture. Spufford’s book outlines a fundamentally accommodated Christianity, and because of that, far from being the next best apologetic, it is an insidiously dangerous work. You might like what you read. What you read will not have been very Christian.

So, then, what is the book, and what’s so wrong with it? Perceiving—or rather feeling—the pronounced attack essayed against Christianity by the so-called “New Atheists,” Spufford has penned what amounts to a response to them, attempting to side-step the technical debates which feature prominently in typical atheist-Christian dialogue, and offering instead a ‘novel’ argument about the “emotional sense” of Christianity.
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27 of 34 people found the following review helpful By Clay Hardwick on January 19, 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I just finished reading this book today and honestly I wish there were more reviews of it here on Amazon. I was interested to read Francis's book after listening to him on a podcast. I find that he has an amazing insight but his thoughts (at least for someone of my reading ability) are tough to follow at times. I guess I would even go so far to say as that I found him incoherent, scattered, and disordered at times. I feel that Francis must be an extremely intelligent person who is philosophizing on a fairly regular basis and that even though some of his concepts hold together well (I really enjoyed the HPFU concept), I can't say that this book followed any good outline whereby the reader could easily separate out all of what he hoped for the reader to understand. Perhaps, that is why I would really enjoy seeing other reviews. I know I could stand to learn a lot from Francis, if I was a personal friend....as he would be able to elaborate more on his concepts with my interview questions.

Altogether, I truly respect him for diving into the philosophy non-fiction genre but I would think that if more trained philosophers would write some reviews, it could only be of benefit to others who are on the same reading level as myself. So, I would say in summary, that if you are a reader who appreciates writers with a "structural and well-organized" frame to their books, then you may find this book a bit stretching. Most anything in the philosophical area is going to stretch the reader's mind but the flow of this book is particularly stretching. Even though my review may seem a bit negative, I did find myself glad to have bought the book. I do hope for more reviews from greater philosophical minds than myself who will be willing to comment more on the concepts Francis offered.
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