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Surprised by Meaning Paperback – 12 Oct 2010

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Product details

  • Paperback: 136 pages
  • Publisher: Westminster John Knox Press; Original edition (12 Oct. 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0664236928
  • ISBN-13: 978-0664236922
  • Product Dimensions: 14 x 0.9 x 21.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 149,010 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Review

"McGrath provides a crisp, readable, and deeply personal witness to Christian faith in the age of science. Easily dismissing the unreasonable and self-contradictory beliefs of the 'new atheists,' McGrath's book offers an inspiring theological vision, one that can make very good sense of contemporary scientific discoveries." John F. Haught, Georgetown University, and author of God and the New Atheism and Making Sense of Evolution

About the Author

Alister E. McGrath is Professor of Theology, Ministry, and Education and Head of the Centre for Theology, Religion, and Culture at King's College in London. A world-renowned theologian and Christian communicator, he is the author of numerous influential books, including The Dawkins Delusion, Christianity's Dangerous Idea: The Protestant Revolution--A History from the Sixteenth Century to the Twenty-First and A Fine-Tuned Universe: The Quest for God in Science and Theology (WJK).

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35 of 36 people found the following review helpful By Andrew Morton on 12 April 2011
Format: Paperback
Alistair McGrath is always worth reading. In recent years he has written a number of excellent critiques of the "New Atheism" of people like Richard Dawkins and Daniel Dennett. As a convert from atheism he has an insight into the fallacies of that movement which he exposes with great skill. In this book, though, his horizons are broader and more focussed on Christianity. His purpose is to show that Christian belief is rational, reasonable, is in accord with the world we see around us and - most importantly - makes good sense of that world. He is particularly clear that, whatever religious perspective one might come from - including Atheism - we feel driven to create patterns of meaning in what we see around us, and that those patterns of meaning always spring from unprovable beliefs
One weakness the book has, though, is that its origins as a set of separate lectures is sometimes a little too obvious. The progression from one chapter to the next is not always as smooth as it might be and occasionally we find ourselves reading the same thing several times over.
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32 of 33 people found the following review helpful By rossuk TOP 1000 REVIEWER on 11 April 2011
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
In the book he looks at different aspects of the Christian world view, using the lens of science and theology. The book is based on a series of lectures in London, Scotland and Hong Kong delivered between 2009 and 2010. This time the book includes an index. This is vintage McGrath with a wider range of topics than his recent books on the New Atheism; as usual he is a very enjoyable read. Here are the chapter headings:

1. Looking at the big picture
2. Longing to make sense of things
3. Patterns on the shore of the universe
4. How we make sense of things
5. Musings of a lapsed atheist (here he looks at the New Atheism)
6. Beyond the scientific horizon
7. A Christian viewpoint
8. The deep structure of the universe (here he looks at the Anthropic Principle)
9. The mystery of the possibility of life (a further look at the Anthropic Principle)
10. The accidents of biological history? (a look at Darwinism)
11. History, culture and faith.
12. The heart's desire: Longing for significance
13. Surprised by meaning

NB My copy of the book has 136 pages not the 112 pages as shown on Amazon.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By HamzahF on 17 May 2012
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I found this an interesting and reflective summary of some of the arguments and themes covered in McGrath's earlier works on New Atheism. The first chapter was rather woolly and almost failed to hold my interest to continue, instead I followed up McGrath's reference to Terry Eagleton's marvellous book Reason, Faith, and Revolution: Reflections on the God Debate (The Terry Lectures Series) cited at the start of chapter two. Invigorated by Eagleton, I returned to this book which I have to say improved markedly in subsequent chapters.

I am left to ponder how many more rebuttals of New Atheism it is necessary to read however; the driving force of New Atheism seems to have demonstrably lost the intellectual credentials it aspired to portray that would set it apart from religious thinking. There are perhaps other writers to engage with now, not least other more incisive atheist writers.

This book provides some nice short overviews of areas of the philosophy of science and in particular the anthropic principle. For me it provides a good summary and a pointer to other books for further study.

I am perplexed about the emphasis on Christianity however. In the book McGrath makes numerous statements about this or that aspect supporting the Trinitarian viewpoint contained in Christian theology. I could not see that however; he appeared to be making pro-theist arguments or more specifically those consistent with the Abrahamic faiths, but rarely until the very end of the book was Christ specifically mentioned to support this pro-Christian argument.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Roscoe on 9 Feb. 2012
Format: Paperback
An excellent review of the current position of Neo-Darwenism and the New Atheists. The book makes a reasoned claim that whilst science is neutral with regard to proof or otherwise of a creator, there are clear pointers suggesting an intelligence behind creation, refuting the claim of of the new atheists that Darwen has destroyed religeon. One problem with the book is that a dictionary is necassary whilst reading it.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Dr. Peter Davies TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 8 Jan. 2012
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
This is an excellent book. It shows the coherence of the Christian worldview, and how meaning naturally arises from our encounter with the wonders of the world. The incoherence of athiest viewpoints that "it's just the way it is around this universe" is well shown.

McGrath has written this book well, arguing through to his conclusions gradually, and acknowledging other views both for and against his own.

I can recommend this book to other readers, particularly Christians for enjoyment and education. Atheists will mostly dislike this book, as it is dismantling their pieties and certainties in a thorough and well argued manner.
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