You might have noticed, or you might not have, but last year I did not take a single sponsored post, book review or curriculum review. After several years of having multiple weekly deadlines for reading and posting, it was blissful not to review for a while. This year, I decided that I wanted to take a few limited reviews on in addition to my regular blogging, and the first of those books I have chosen for this year is Unimaginable: What Our World Would Be Like Without Christianity.
We often hear from those around us that Christianity is bad for the world. Christians are labeled as intolerant, as homophobic, as full of hate and anti-women. I read a statistic a while back where many of the millennials who are walking away from the faith are doing so because they feel that Christianity is a hate-filled religion. These young people feel that Christianity is not relevant to their lives, and that they are better off pursuing a different religion or perhaps choosing no religion at all.
However, Jeremiah Johnston’s argument is that a world without Christianity is a world without hope. He argues that the church is on the right side of racism, rights for women and help of the poor and elderly. He begins by picturing the world of pagan Greece and Rome around the time of Christ’s birth. It’s a world where children are often exposed to the elements to die, sold into slavery or trained as prostitutes. It’s a world where women have no rights and are often considered the property of men. It’s a world where the life expectancy is often as low as twenty. It’s a world where men attempt to appease the gods, but expect nothing but evil in return from those same gods.
Christianity comes and changes that.
However, in our world, we are often on a slippery slope away from God, and popular philosophers of the nineteenth and twentieth century often reject God, reject conventional morality and find themselves pulled into an evil hedonism. After examining several major philosophers, Johnston pulls out his principle example of the product of this philosophy in the form of Adolph Hitler and his proteges in World War II era Germany.
Following this section of the book, Johnson concludes his book by discussing the good news for every person and why, in such a hostile environment, Christianity flourished. Johnston reveals how Christianity betters the life of those who are disenfranchised and why that is relevant in today’s world.
This is an intriguing book. Johnston makes a good case for why Christianity leads to a different and better worldview than the worldviews that are opposed to Christianity. He really does a good job of showing how your beliefs shape your actions and your world. I enjoyed reading his progressions, and much of what he says about the ancient world confirms some of the information that I’ve read elsewhere.
Johnston also does a great job showing how compromises in theology and changes in philosophy are a “slippery slope” that leads to an increasingly immoral culture. I still would like to see more of a causal link with Hitler. While Johnston made a good case, I felt that in some ways he was kind of straining as he looks to make a direct tie between Hitler and Nietzsche. I would like to spend some time going more in-depth in reading some of the books that he references in these chapters to look for a more direct link in philosophy. However, the similarities are very apparent as you read about the philosophers in these chapters.
I appreciated the further work that Johnston did in why Christianity was appealing to the pagan world. That might have been my favorite section of the book because it answers a question that I have often asked. Reading Johnston’s readings made perfect logical sense to me, so it was a pleasure to read.
The weakest section of the book for me what where Johnston discussed racism. Every time he discusses it, he makes the argument that racism is a product of humanistic philosophy and claims that the church is anti-racism. That doesn’t match my understanding of how the church has viewed racism. While many persons in the church have fought racism, many others have accepted it as status quo or used the Bible to promote slavery and racial segregation. I would have liked to see a deeper consideration of both sides of this issue, and seeing that issue dealt with lightly made me wonder if there were other issues dealt lightly in the book that I just didn’t have the knowledge base to question Johnston’s arguments.
However, having said that, this was an excellent and entertaining read. There was much that I enjoyed in this book and many portions made credible connections that I have not seen before.
Disclaimer: I received a complimentary copy of this book from Cross-Focused Reviews in exchange for an honest review. I have not received any financial remuneration for this review nor will I, and my opinion has not been altered in any way.