23 of 32 people found the following review helpful
This review is from: Is Christianity Good for the World? (Hardcover)
When America's most influential conservative thinker (and Catholic) William F. Buckley died early this year (2/27/08) my sense of loss centered on this one thought: When Bill Buckley's "Firing Line" disappeared from television (almost a decade ago) we lost perhaps the greatest `give-and-take' (liberal/conservative debates) ever to grace our TV screens.
Buckley's record-setting program ("longest-running TV show with just one host,") treated us to the very best in debates. (How could it not, with a guest list that ranged from Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan, to Clare Boothe Luce and Henry Kissinger, Muhammad Ali, Jesse Jackson, Jimmy Carter, William Kuntsler, Daniel Patrick Moynihan, Louis Auchincloss, Tom Wolfe and Allen Ginsburg (and a host of other 'bright lights').
Most of Bill's shows were `political' . . . but my all-time favorite featured a former atheistic journalist (turned Catholic) Malcolm Muggeridge -- a program that, (like this book) is at the heart of the perennial subject most worth debating . . . the "existence of God."
When I mentioned this book this morning at breakfast, my wife said: "Christopher Hitchens IS an intelligent man, isn't he?" And I thought (to myself, but didn't say out loud) that, "I've heard better, historical `apologetics for atheism' than those advanced in this book!"
What I said (out loud) though, was: "Yes, he IS (smart) and - for that reason -- you'll really enjoy the `point/counterpoint' from the "Christian apologist" here, Douglas Wilson. [I'm certain Bill Buckley would have enjoyed 'hosting' this one!]
Anyway, it would take a better mind than mine to recapitulate in fewer words, Mr. Wilson (who writes with a C.S. Lewis 'economy-of-style') in his brilliant reflections on Mr. Hitchens' best arguments. May I share a couple of favorites: See if they don't `speak' to your heart and mind (and life experience):
"Your first point (is) that the Christian faith cannot credit itself for all that `Love your neighbor' stuff -- not to mention the Golden Rule, and that the reason for this is that such moral precepts have been self-evident to everybody throughout history who wanted to have a stable society.
"You then move on to the second point, which contains the idea that the teachings of Christianity are `incredibly immoral.' Apparently, basic morality is NOT all that self-evident. So my first question is: Which way do you want to argue this? Do all human societies have a grasp of basic morality, or has religion `poisoned EVERYTHING'?"
"The second thing to observe in this regard is that Christians actually do not claim that the gospel has made the world better by bringing us turbo-charged ethical information. There have been ethical advances that are due to the propagation of the faith . . . but that is not `where the action is.' Christians believe - as C. S. Lewis argued in THE ABOLITION OF MAN - that non-believers do understand the basics of morality.
"Paul the apostle refers to the Gentiles, who did not have the law but who nevertheless knew by nature some of the tenets of the law (Rom. 2:14). But the world is not made better because people can understand the ways in which they are being bad . . .
"It has to be made better by `Good News' - we must receive the gift of forgiveness, and the resultant ability to live more in conformity to a standard we already knew (but were necessarily failing to meet.
"The gospel makes the world better through (that) Good News, not through guilt trips or good advice."
[And in a final point made by Douglas Wilson to Christopher Hitchens]
"You make a great deal out of your individualism and your right to be left alone: Given your atheism, what account are you able to give that would require us to respect the individual?
"How does this individualism of yours flow from the premises of atheism?
"Why should anyone in the outside world respect the details of your thought life any more than they respect the internal churnings of any other given `chemical reaction'? If there is a distinction, could you show how the premises (starting assumptions) of your atheism might produce such a distinction?
I'm delighted that our Canadian edition (published by our largest publishing house, McClelland & Stewart) includes an astute, fun-to-read 'Forward' by Jonah Goldberg --- my favorite alumnus of Billy Buckley's "National Review" magazine (too young, alas, ever to have appeared on "Firing Line").
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Showing 1-5 of 5 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Sep 25, 2008 11:46:25 AM PDT
Craig Matteson says:
I used to think that Christopher Hitchens was an intelligent man. Now I just consider him glib. He isn't half as deep as his sotted mind supposes he is. I much prefer his brother, Peter Hitchens, whom you can easily find on the web or Wikipedia. Brothers with very different views of the world. Nice review, Mark.
Posted on Sep 25, 2008 4:34:25 PM PDT
Steven A. Peterson says:
Fascinating review. I have not read this book; I have read Dawkins' book on the subject, though. And while I like much of what he said, I also am unhappy with much of his tonality and his mixing of two distinct discourses on human knowledge--science and religion. Trying to mix those two creates problems--and Dawkins' work nicely illustrates that problem. Anyhow, a thought-provoking review.
Posted on Sep 26, 2008 9:24:55 AM PDT
Last edited by the author on Sep 26, 2008 9:25:18 AM PDT
Terry Fenwick says:
As always, Mark, a great review but I need to read it again and again to get the fullness of the words. Like MacArthur, "I shall return . . ." but with a better comment.
Posted on Oct 4, 2008 11:42:01 AM PDT
Last edited by the author on Oct 4, 2008 11:43:36 AM PDT
Judy K. Polhemus says:
Mark, what an interesting selection of quotes and approach to a review. To imagine Bill Buckley as the host is priceless!
Another great host you probably admire is Steve Allen. Imagine Steve, Hitchins, and Bill B or perhaps substitute CS Lewis. Or better, add Monica, Augustine's mother for a woman's point of view! What a show that would be!!!
Posted on Oct 8, 2008 5:55:36 PM PDT
Miz Ellen says:
People who try to deny the good Christianity has done are blind to a large area of human striving to eliminate the suffering of fellow human beings that stems from the missionary impulse. As long as that energy is not misdirected or used to become part of the machinery of oppression...religion like any other human endeavor is subject to human flaws. Very thought provoking review, Mark!
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