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The Most Helpful Book I’ve Read All Year

December 1, 2009

I was trying to think of a book to buy for a book exchange at an upcoming ministers meeting, and I thought through what I’d read this year. This book has to rank #1 as the most helpful book I have read in ’09. In What’s So Great About Christianity?, Dinesh D’Souza does a powerful job giving thoughtful, responsible answers to the often irresponsible attacks on Christianity that seem to be increasingly popular these days. The book helps cut through the surface level discussion and get to the heart of why these arguments are taking place. He meets critics like Dawkins and Hitchens on their terms and does not apologize for standing up for faith. I know he has a political background as a Conservative writer/domestic policy analyst, but whether or not you agree with his politics, the book is well worth reading.

Here are some interesting passages (I made myself condense some of these to conserve space, which accounts for the ellipses)…

About the growth of Christianity in Asia and Africa –  In 1900, more than 80 percent of Christians lived in Europe and America. Today 60 percent live in the developing world. More than two out of three evangelical Christians now live in Asia, Africa, and South America…The Washington Post reports that there are 150 churches in Denmark and more than 250 in Britain run by foreigners as “part of a growing trend of preachers from developing nations coming to Western Europe.” (p. 10-12)

On human dignity – In ancient Greece and Rome, human life had very little value. The Spartans left weak children to die on the hillside. Infanticide was common, as it is today in many parts of the world…The greatest of classical thinkers, from Seneca to Cicero, saw nothing wrong with these practices. Christianity banned them, and Christianity introduced the moral horror we now feel when we hear about them. (p. 71)

On morality – Scholars know of no culture, past or present, that does not have a system of morality. Even though moral standards may vary from one culture to another, or even within a particular culture, every culture distinguished “what is” from “what ought to be.” It is impossible for a culture either to rise above morality or to get out from under it…If you are confronted by a relativist who insists that all morality is relative, go ahead and punch him in the face. If he does not respond, punch him again. At some point he will protest, “That’s not right. You shouldn’t have done that.” Then you can explain to him that your actions were purely educational. You were simply demonstrating to him that even he does not believe his relativist doctrine. His objection was not, “I don’t like being punched” but rather “you should not have done it.” He was appealing to an unwavering standard, which he expected you to share, that what you did was wrong. (p. 234-235)

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