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The Grace Effect: How the Power of One Life Can Reverse the Corruption of Unbelief Paperback – Illustrated, November 14, 2011
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What does Christianity give us beyond televangelists, potlucks, and bad basketball leagues? Not much, according to the secular Left. The world, they say, would be a better place without it.
Historian and Christian apologist Larry Alex Taunton has spent much of his career refuting just this sort of thinking, but when he encounters Sasha, a golden-haired Ukranian orphan girl whose life has been shaped by atheistic theorists, he discovers an unlikely champion for the transforming power of grace.
Through the narrative of Sasha's redemption, we see the false promises of socialism; the soul-destroying influence of unbelief; and how a society cultivates its own demise when it rejects the ultimate source of grace. We see, in short, the kind of world the atheists would give us: a world without Christianity―cold, pitiless, and graceless.
And yet, as Sasha shows us, it is a world that is not beyond the healing power of "the grace effect." Occasionally infuriating, often amusing, but always inspiring, The Grace Effect will have you cheering for the courageous little girl who shamed the academic elitists of our day.
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"A very, very powerful book." - Gayle Trotter, First Things
"In his most moving Grace Effect, Larry Taunton reminds us that our lives are the best arguments for what we really believe, and that, whatever the outcome of this or that debate between atheists and Christians in the lecture hall, Christians win hands down against atheists when it comes to how the rival arguments are lived out in the details of real charity, real mercy, real sacrifice, the actual treatment of widows and especially orphans... I most highly recommend it!" - Dr. Benjamin Wiker, author of Ten Books That Screwed Up the World
"Larry Taunton's book is a captivating account of a grim reality with a truly gracious ending. It is a must read for anyone pondering adoption from the former Eastern European Bloc." - Dr. Olivera Petrovich, research psychologist, University of Oxford
About the Author
Larry Alex Taunton is Founder and Executive Director of Fixed Point Foundation, a nonprofit dedicated to the public defense of the Christian faith. Fixed Point has captured the attention of BBC, NPR, The Wall Street Journal, Fox News Network, The Christian Post, and many others. Taunton has personally engaged some of the most vociferous opponents of Christianity, including Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens, and Peter Singer. He lives in Birmingham, AL.
- Publisher : Thomas Nelson; Illustrated edition (November 14, 2011)
- Language : English
- Paperback : 272 pages
- ISBN-10 : 1595554408
- ISBN-13 : 978-1595554406
- Item Weight : 10.2 ounces
- Dimensions : 5.38 x 0.8 x 8.38 inches
- Best Sellers Rank: #321,187 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Top reviews from the United States
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Taunton's vehicle for describing the lingering and morally-corrosive effects of state-imposed atheism is the story of his family's (successful) attempt to adopt an HIV-positive, ten-year-old girl named Sasha from an orphanage in the Ukrainian port city of Odessa. Predictably, in a land in which civic and social capital are weak, the adoption process is neither efficient nor above-board. The author was told the average stay for adopting families in Ukraine would be 40 days, and he and his wife and sons indeed spent from mid-March until the first of May of either 2009 or 2010 in Odessa. The process had to be regularly oiled along the way by bribes to various functionaries in order to keep it moving. The Tauntons witnessed the callousness of everyday life in the former Soviet Union, where there is little kindness or mercy in evidence, especially towards the most vulnerable in society, the very young and the elderly.
Seven decades of enforced atheism cannot be reversed in the two decades since the Iron Curtain came down. It did not help that the `Free' World into which the former Soviet bloc nations emerged is proving to be just as philosophically materialistic as was Communism. The corrupt, young, bleach-blonde judge who approves Sasha's adoption drives a big Mercedes and discharges her duties clad in a mini-skirt and stiletto heels, lending anecdotal support to the conviction that the same class of bottom-feeding survivalists who presided over the Communist regimes converted overnight into ostentatious Turbo-Capitalists. There is no reason to doubt the heightened corruption in Ukraine that Taunton witnessed; although some of his vignettes, such as a scene in a McDonald's in which his son is pushed aside at the counter by other patrons, or the need to keep a tight grip on laptops, purses, and backpacks in public venues such as cafes, are just as apropos to Italy as they are to eastern Europe.
The Tauntons, of course, do manifest grace to the precious little girl they adopt. The author is at his best in evoking the warmth and love of God that he and his family have received, and extending it, in turn, to Sasha. Readers of good will be inspired by this example and will be moved to pray for those left behind in the orphanage system. They will rejoice (vicariously) with the Tauntons as they read the account of Sasha's homecoming.
However, Taunton's attempts to find religious, historical, and even ethnic antecedents that allegedly predispose the pre-Communist Ukrainian and Russian societies to their current predicament work to obscure the book's thesis against atheism.
In a breezy gloss on the conversion of Kievan Rus in the tenth century to Christian Orthodoxy, Taunton avers that the eastern Slavs were condemned to a sub-biblical, crypto-pagan, graceless substitute for `real' Christianity. The embrace of Orthodoxy was tragic because it isolated the Slavs from the "Western world," ensuring that they "never experienced the Renaissance, the Reformation, the Enlightenment, the Scientific Revolution, the Industrial Revolution, or the French man-purse craze." In spite of the last item in that list, I accept that the author, who makes his living trafficking in the history of ideas, is being serious. But less than a moment's reflection would disclose that this train of development, experienced to the full by western Europe and North America, has not been, to grossly understate matters, an unalloyed good from the standpoint of a Christian society. In his gloss on Orthodoxy, the author manages to play to the reflexive theological suspicions of a largely evangelical readership while invoking a secularist Whig interpretation of Progress that a Christopher Hitchens could endorse.
One gets the impression that there has never been anything redemptive about eastern Slav society. Taunton writes that their experience has been `nasty' and `ruthless', due to the Mongol occupation, as well as continuous fighting with the Turks, Poles, Lithuanians, Swedes, and Germans. What is missing from this account is any context that might motivate an American Christian reader who otherwise knows little of eastern European history to empathize with Ukrainians. Rus was the eastern frontier of Christendom. Situated on the wide-open Eurasian steppes, it was easy prey to invaders from all directions. Thus, while Western Europe was able to develop in relative tranquility, the Slavs were the Christian shock absorber of aggressive Islam. From the opposite direction, the Poles, Swedes, and Germans were the tools in the Papacy's unsuccessful campaign to compel submission of Rus to the Church of Rome.
Ukrainians and Russians have had contact with ideas from Western Europe for at least three centuries. The magisterial Reformation model of erastian church-state relations was imposed on the Russian Orthodox Church in the seventeenth century. This fostered the lack of spiritual vitality in the Church that made many bourgeois and upper class Russians and Ukrainians susceptible to revolutionary propaganda. Taunton acknowledges that the first bid to re-make society, to return to "Year One," was the French Revolution. As the most virulent strain of the Enlightenment project, violent and abrupt social revolution was the guise in which most eastern Europeans were introduced to the philosophical currents that had been gestating in Western Europe for centuries. Ukrainians and Russians have been the force-fed guinea pigs of modernity.
In chapter 15, Taunton asserts that Russia and Ukraine have acute identity crises as they swing "between Oriental despotism and earnest efforts to reform and westernize." He posits that they need a "new" and "better" identity. The only legitimately new identity for a formerly-Christian people is to return to Christ, and that is the identity available in the often-ignored, much-misunderstood, periodically-corrupt, but grace-filled Orthodox Church. This is the key to the better identity, because it is a resumption of the providential calling and experience of the eastern Slavs, to their highest and best values. Attempts to supplant or marginalize this Church will exacerbate the identity crisis, not heal it. Otherwise, there are ways in which American Evangelicals and Russian Orthodox can benefit each other. I am sympathetic with Tauntion's overall thesis; and I do think that he is on firm ground when he speculates that in the coming century, Eastern Europe will likely be sending missionaries to North America.
Written by Larry Taunton, it explores the effects of institutionalized atheism on a culture. It then contrasts that with the common grace that is still present in a place such as the United States even after secularism has been so rampant for so many years.
It does this by looking at the story of the adoption of a young Ukrainian girl by an American family and the ordeals they faced in getting that accomplished while dealing with a corrupt bureaucracy. It is very clear in showing the way that widespread atheism is so damaging to a culture.
This book is way more captivating than I had expected. I bought it mostly because I had a bit of familiarity with the author from watching him debate the famed atheist Christopher Hitchens and defeat him handily even though Hitchens was a best selling author and atheist evangelist while Taunton was previously unknown to me. I saw that there was some discussion of that debate in the book, which is why I got it, but it is really so much more.
The story of the adoption of Sascha is fascinating both on the emotional level as well as from a standpoint of analyzing the incredibly negative effects of atheism.
I think that readers will enjoy this book a lot, as I did.
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The book itself is not quite what I was expecting. Whilst the author is a world leading Christian Apologist this book is notably not very apologetic in nature. Instead it focuses mainly on the daughter whom he adopted from Ukraine, and how difficult/trying the process was.
Nevertheless, whilst a book about adoption, it is also a book about Christianity, and most noticeably the `grace effect'. The central thesis here is that cultures influenced by Christianity outperform, in terms of compassion, secular/atheistic cultures. To show this to be true the author uses the Ukrainian system as his point of contrast. Being that that side of the world has tasted full on communism and state sponsored atheism, it is a worthwhile contrast.
The book itself is touching and the lengths that the Tauntons go to to adopt this little girl who has so many problems are simply speaking, nothing short of sainthood material. The circumstances she endured in Ukraine are enough to sadden even the hardest of hearts, and in this way I thoroughly enjoyed the book. You can't help but want to read on, just to find out if the girl's life has a happy ending.
Still, the book succeeds in showing that Christian cultures are more compassionate than atheistic cultures. In this respect readers of this book may also enjoy Peter Hitchens book, Rage against God - which in a similar fashion covers similar subject material. Interestingly, Hitchen's book also focuses on the Eastern block.
Also of noticeably interest are the references to the author's friendship and conversations with Christopher Hitchens. To see that Christopher actually had a nice side was likewise refreshing.
On the other hand a beautiful account of what must have been a desperately difficult but ultimately successful struggle to adopt a little girl out of that terrible environment.