Unapologetic: Why, Despite Everything, Christianity Can Still Make Surprising Emotional Senseby Francis Spufford
Francis Spufford's Unapologetic is a wonderfully pugnacious defense of Christianity. Refuting critics such as Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, and the "new atheist" crowd, Spufford, a former atheist and Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature, argues that Christianity is recognizable, drawing on the deep and deeply ordinary vocabulary of/em>/em>… See more details below
Francis Spufford's Unapologetic is a wonderfully pugnacious defense of Christianity. Refuting critics such as Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, and the "new atheist" crowd, Spufford, a former atheist and Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature, argues that Christianity is recognizable, drawing on the deep and deeply ordinary vocabulary of human feeling, satisfying those who believe in it by offering a ruthlessly realistic account of the grown-up dignity of Christian experience.
Fans of C. S. Lewis, N. T. Wright, Marilynne Robinson, Mary Karr, Diana Butler Bass, Rob Bell, and James Martin will appreciate Spufford's crisp, lively, and abashedly defiant thesis.
Unapologetic is a book for believers who are fed up with being patronized, for non-believers curious about how faith can possibly work in the twenty-first century, and for anyone who feels there is something indefinably wrong, literalistic, anti-imaginative and intolerant about the way the atheist case is now being made.
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 (English & comparative literature, Goldsmith's Univ. of London; I May Be Some Time) is one of the most admired writers working today. This memoir, really his second after The Child That Books Built, may come as a surprise to his readers, since it is a profession of his Christian faith. Lest his secular readers fear that his faith requires a sacrifice of the complexity of his mind, Spufford here exhibits his trademark brilliance, humor, and acumen, demolishing the intellectual emptiness of the New Atheism along the way. VERDICT Richly rewarding to mind and heart, and a fine example of one of the era's best writers at full tilt, this book deserves a wide audience.
A highly personal--and unconventional--defense of belief in Christian doctrine. Well, not defense of doctrine, exactly, but defense (the root meaning of apologia) of Christian emotions and their "grown-up dignity." Besides, writes Spufford (Red Plenty, 2012, etc.), going on to the second meaning of the term, "I'm not sorry," even though as an Englishman writing about religion, "I'm fucking embarrassed." Spufford's language isn't exactly Aquinian or Augustinian, but it gets to the point--to several points, in fact. One, bouncing off the trope of the messages emblazoned on buses in Britain to the effect that since there probably isn't a God, we should all just try to be happy on our own, gets Spufford's dander up sufficiently to mount a crusade fought in naughty words: "New Atheists aren't claiming anything outrageous when they say there probably isn't a God. In fact they aren't claiming anything substantial at all, because really, how the fuck would they know?" Yes, and vice versa: What's the ontological proof? Spufford is short on arguments that would cause Christopher Hitchens to budge an inch from the position of nonbelief, but his cause seems more personal than all that: He's explaining his belief in the context of what he brightly calls "the human tendency, the human propensity to fuck things up"--that is, to lay waste to all the things that matter and then spend the rest of our lives either trying to patch them up or trying to pretend that it doesn't matter. "I don't care about heaven," he professes. "I want, I need, the promise of mending." C.S. Lewis might not approve of the language, but he'd surely approve of the sentiment. A thought-provoking entertainment.
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