What If Jesus Had Never Been Born? by D. James Kennedy and Jerry Newcombe
This book was not quite what I expected it to be. I expected, and would have preferred, a book that gave a general positive defense of Christianity as a whole , perhaps with a hint of counterfactual history, and to be sure, this book had some of those elements. This book, although short at around 250 pages, would have benefited in addition by subtraction, or at least in going in a different direction, since throughout the book it is apparent that not only does the author laudably wish to defend Christianity from its detractors but specifically wishes to promote an unbiblical and often uncharitable Calvinist worldview that is far less laudable . At many times this book moves from an excellent defense of Christianity which I support to a far less acceptable promotion of Calvinism, and so this book is not nearly as worthwhile as I thought it would be upon beginning it. To be sure, those among my acquaintances who enjoy reading encomiums of Calvinism, but I have enough books to read that I would prefer not to waste my time in such efforts if I had not already committed myself to reading it as I had done in this case.
This book is made of sixteen relatively short chapters that average around fifteen pages apiece and they cover a wide range of topics, including: an overview of Christ’s impact on world history, Christianity’s impact on the value of human life, science, economics, sex nd the family, health and medicine, morality, and arts and music, Christianity’s contribution to helping the poor, education, and civil liberties, Christianity’s impact on the founding of the United States, accounts of lives changed by Jesus Christ, some negative aspects of Christianity in history, what happens when Christian restraints are removed, and how Christians can fulfill our purpose in the twenty-first century, something we are not doing very well at present. Even when the author acknowledges the sins of Christianity, he does so in a way that attacks secularists, in comparing the deaths due to Christianity over the entire course of its history against the deaths due to Communism and Fascism in the twentieth century. Even where, as in this case, the author manages to be correct, his attitude can be rather injudicious, lacking in compassion and subtlety, and showing himself to be an all too typical polemical Calvinist. It is unfortunate that the author himself harms the worth of this book rather than helps it as he would want to do.
Ultimately, this is a book that could have been great and ends up rather more mixed. The achievements in this book are largely due to the positive effect of God’s ways on human society, ways that are so obvious that a case can be made for them even by such an author as this. This is a book that would have been far better written by someone who was not interested in promoting a sectarian view of Christianity and was more interested in defending Christianity as a whole. Then again, for whatever reason this was a book urged by the publisher, who for some reason did not see the author’s perspective as potentially alienating the a large amount of the book’s target audience. This sort of tone-deafness is not too surprising given that the book was published in the 1990’s, given the fact that Calvinists are still nominated for major offices and regularly make gaffes because they do not realize how offensive their worldview strikes other people, even those who are devoted and public Christians.
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