- 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: 95 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #154,818 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Unapologetic: Why, Despite Everything, Christianity Can Still Make Surprising Emotional Sense Hardcover – October 15, 2013
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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.)
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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This is a book, not unlike others I have read by Brennan Manning or Donald Miller or Rob Bell, that I expect some will put down as too rambling, too verbose, too overwrought, too profane. And it is all these things - and vile and irreverent to boot. Nevertheless, it is also good and real and captures the human condition like few other books written in the expository style. Stories carry most of the theological water for me, but this cruises past many a novel or autobiography.
Yet, where the apologia stops, the love story begins. The author does reach limits with his love story: his description of his Beloved and even his love of Christianity and the Church are dissonant at times. But he doesn't let that stop him. He writes on, weaving and meandering, stumbling even, stretching metaphors, trying to finish fights started long ago, allowing himself ecstasy, until, vocabulary exhausted, he falls into a heap and looks up and admits he has no more. Still, I pressed on, trying not to get too bogged down in his labyrinthine prose. And there, surprisingly, I found quite a few nuggets along the way: ways of seeing which I hadn't seen before; keys to doors previously locked; and even doors to rooms I hadn't known existed. "Unapologetic" is solid and filling and ethereal and free-wheeling all at once.
It's no cakewalk though. Spufford's appetite for honesty is a lot greater than his desire for comfort, sending his outlook careening headlong into depressing territory at times. He is like a man at war. But that's the reality of our world, if we can look past the affluent (Western, American) parapets that we live behind. I'll admit to being wounded more than once by this author, but he didn't leave me for dead. He dragged me through essential battles and into a perceptibly hopeful, though tempered, forecast of Christianity and the Church. And along the way, he fought wars that I didn't even know were raging (and took his time doing it). But my ignorance and impatience aren't really grounds for complaint since Spufford's audience is both spatially and temporally humongous.
I didn't agree with all of his logic or conclusions, especially where they were tainted with chronological snobbery. Like all of us, Spufford starts with personal beliefs - wanting God to be a certain way - and works outward from there, inducing a conception of God in as tight an enclosure as he is comfortable holding him in. Moreover, he seems to take a dialectic approach to some controversies, but is more conservative in his arguments about things he is clearly passionate about. I wish we'd seen the former throughout. Nevertheless, get through these biases and watch him bring most of it around, closing his arguments as neatly as possible in this physical world which can never fully fathom its metaphysical integral.
Yes, the world is a crappy place.
Yes, you and I are part of the problem.
Yes, the problem of pain creates questions and doubts about the goodness of God.
No, the Church can't provide answers for all those doubts.
No, the Church isn't here to save the world from being crappy.
Yes, sometimes the Church is crappy too.
Yes, sometimes the Church is crappier than other secular institutions.
No, none of this negates the truth of Christianity.
No, the Church hasn't outlived its usefulness.
Yes, the Church will remain relevant, but the pendulum will swing.
The Church is still a vehicle for grace and a constant reminder that Someone out there cares. Things just might get worse for the Church, but God does love an underdog.
So blunder on. Read. Get through it if you can. If you read just the Preface, you'll be better off than 99% of the population. For this is a book to be read more than once in a lifetime, even if it's in fits and starts. There's so much here. Point and Counterpoint. Centuries old controversies. Modern day dilemmas. Essential dogma. Common sense. And occasional, stuttering brilliance.
The first chapter which describes Spufford's goals , and the central chapter which retells the story of Jesus (titled "Yeshua"), are the strongest of the book. In both, Spufford's gifts as writer are most evident and in the Yeshua chapter he succeeds remarkably well in providing a fully fleshed Jesus, making the familiar slightly unfamiliar. Perhaps surprisingly, given Spufford's overall theological inclinations, sin (which Spufford identifies as the HPtFtU - the "Human Propensity to F*** things Up") is central to his experience of faith and what he sees at the heart of Christianity. And, part of the satisfaction of the book is Spufford's willingness to label failure as failure, human destructiveness as destructiveness. I do wonder though whether God ends up becoming more or less "the solution to the HPtFtU" rather than having any identity of his own. Who is God without us? The joy of knowing God, the possibility of healing, of transformation, seems somewhat absent and not nearly as fully realized as Spufford's descriptions of "human cussedness" (to use Frederick Buechner's phrase). The hope of sanctification, of restoration, is muted.
There are other complaints (why does Spufford's Yeshua never pray? does the relationship between feelings and ideas always run in one direction? why the strict opposition between present concern and the eternal hopes? etc. etc.) - but, part of what makes some of my frustrations with this book so sharp is that its pleasures are so satisfying. The times I was saying, "yes! that's exactly right!" made the moments when I disagreed (sometimes sharply) or felt misunderstood (sometimes badly) a little more painful. But, Unapologetic accomplishes what it sets out to do, and does so with a tremendous amount of energy and imagination. After finishing the "Yeshua" chapter I immediately went back and read it again, it was that good.