Johnston has written this book to show that the world would be a much darker place were it not for Christianity. (195) He includes great stories of the benefits Christianity has brought to humanity. He looks at atheists and how they have influenced the world. He includes critiques of their characters and works.
While there is much to like about this book, there were some aspects of it that disappointed me. One was some of the unfounded statements Johnston made. He writes, for example, “Readers should know that the gulf between science and faith has long been bridged. Christian scholars and scientists recognize how Scripture and science, in fact, complement one another.” (79) My goodness, I wish that were true. Truthfully, there is still much controversy in reconciling science and Scripture. This is evidenced by a recent critique of Theistic Evolution that is a thousand pages long.
Another area was a sort of white washing of Christianity where it has not been practiced correctly and has not been as good as it could have been. An example is marital infidelity. Johnston makes a big deal about the marriage failures of atheists. Yet he never mentions similar marriage failures among Christians, especially pastors. Nor does he mention the recent sexual molestation scandals involving Roman Catholic priests. While he mentions that Dawkins was molested at a young age in an Anglican boarding school, he does not take ownership of that event as an example the failure of Christianity as it is sometimes practiced. (104)
He writes about how slavery was not done away with in secular societies. While he mentions how Christians in the U.S. south referenced the Bible to defend their use of slaves and their continued practice of slavery, he says we are not to take such errant use of Scriptures as the norm for Christianity. Never mind that those Christians did not think their use of Scripture was errant at the time.
He has glowing remarks for Christianity and racism yet I saw hatred and extreme racism from “Christians” in the last U.S. presidential campaign and election. He writes about how women are treated so terribly in non-Christian societies yet never addresses how, even in the “Christian” United States, women had to fight for the right to vote, the right to own property, and the right to equal pay.
This is a book for Christians to make them feel good about Christianity and its role in history. Unfortunately, since Christianity is lived out by imperfect people and that was not pointed out by Johnston, there is much in this book atheists will be able to criticize. If we are going to draw attention to all of the good things done in the name of Christianity over the centuries, we need to own up to the bad things too. Be sure to know that critics of Christianity will point them out to us if we do not recognize them ourselves.
If we lived in a world where Christianity was lived out perfectly, now that would be truly unimaginable.
My rating: 3/5 stars.
Jeremiah J. Johnston is a New Testament scholar and frequent contributor to national publications and shows. He ministers internationally in partnership with the Museum of the Bible and is president of the Christian Thinkers Society, a resident institute at Houston Baptist University, where he serves as Associate Professor of Early Christianity. He and his family live in Houston, Texas.
Bethany House, 240 pages.