God for Those Who Don't Do God,
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This review is from: Unapologetic: Why, despite everything, Christianity can still make surprising emotional sense (Paperback)
This is an extraordinary book. Alive; wriggling; surprising, it seems to come from a place no book has ever come from. Spufford writes as one who knows atheism from the inside; grasps its inner logic; is not unsympathetic to its causes, but who also now has the same insider knowledge of faith.
His claim, in a nutshell, is that the one is no less emotionally viable than the other. Intellectually, it is impossible to come to a final ruling on the central questions posed in the atheism vs faith conflicts. Even in the closing pages of this faith-soaked book, Spufford is prepared to admit that he doesn't know if there is a God: that such a thing is unknowable. But emotionally, it is possible to decide whether faith makes sense; whether the Christian story `fits' the picture of who we are as human beings. And here Spufford excels as a guide and essayist. He relentlessly exposes the inner workings of his own emotional journey, to tell us how it feels to have faith, and why it is that no bus-borne atheist propaganda can erase that feeling. The feeling is real, it is emotionally true. It matters. It all makes - as the book's sub-title suggests, surprising emotional sense.
What is unusual and powerful about this book is the language it is written in. Not just because of Spufford's game-changing use of the `F' word, but because he writes from the heart of contemporary culture. He out-Dawkinses Dawkins and out-Hitchenses Hitchens, describing faith in words that those who don't have faith can readily appropriate. This is hugely refreshing. How often are `defenses' of faith written in such a way that only those who already have faith can appreciate them? What's the point of that? Nobody gets points for self-congratulation. But to face the challenge of describing faith for those who don't believe; who, perhaps for very good reasons, cannot, that is something new.
You won't agree with every opinion Spufford expresses - why would you? He writes with a acerbic wit that occasionally polarises, and some in his own faith community will argue that he has gone too far in re-negotiating faith to make it palatable. Some will question the logic of his views on sexuality; or the adequacy of his doctrine of the cross; or his stark lack of interest in life after death. There may well be conversations to be had in these areas. But these considerations shouldn't distract from the immense achievement at the heart of this book. At it's core, it relates - beautifully and eloquently - the meaning of grace, and argues powerfully for the continued place of Christianity in our world and its future.