Popular philosopher Alain de Botton writes that his favorite book of the year was a defense of Christianity:

This year, I was touched by Francis Spufford’s Unapologetic: Why, Despite Everything, Christianity Can Still Make Surprising Emotional Sense. . . . As a non-Christian, indeed a committed atheist, I was worried about how I’d feel about this book but it pulled off a rare feat: making Christianity seem appealing to those who have no interest in ever being Christians. A number of Christian writers have over the past decade tried to write books defending their faith against the onslaughts of the new atheists—but they’ve generally failed. Spufford understands that the trick isn’t to try to convince the reader that Christianity is true but rather to show why it’s interesting, wise and sometimes consoling.

You can read Wesley Hill’s review of the book here and read an excerpt from Mockingbird’s interview with the author.

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13 thoughts on “Why an Atheist Philosopher Named a Defense of Christianity His Book of the Year”

  1. Thanks for posting this. I’ve been interacting with atheists for years. I always appreciate the occasional honest ones I meet or engage in conversation with. So often, atheists are more of the knee-jerk kind (not that many Christians aren’t guilty of the same), so it’s refreshing if one is willing to have an open mind. I suggest that I follow a Christian worldview because I find it the most plausible way of seeing the whole picture (http://thinkpoint.wordpress.com/2013/02/07/the-most-plausible-worldview/). This seems like a better approach to matters when discussing faith with skeptics.

  2. Ken Abbott says:

    “Interesting, wise, and sometimes consoling” is all very well. But we still run up against the hard truth claims of the faith. And when we come right down to it, if Christ has not really been raised then we who believe in him are more to be pitied than anyone else, for our faith is vain and we are still in our sins. I see nothing wise or particularly consoling about believing a lie.

    1. william brown says:

      This is exactly what I was going to say. Ken is right – there is no end of interesting, wise, and consoling falsehoods. That was essentially Freud’s view of Christianity.

      1. J. Srnec says:

        Wise falsehoods?

        1. Ken Abbott says:

          Wise according to the wisdom of the world.

  3. David Zook says:

    Ken:

    You are right … we still have to get the truth, so the question becomes how. I have found that those who reject the traditional truth claims still have a soft under belly. Once I discover what that is, I present our faith in a way that is “interesting, wise, and sometimes consoling”. The doors seem to always open to a deeper discussion as they begin to wrestle with the inconsistencies and incompatibilities of their worldview. A group of us lead one Ivy League hardened atheist to Christ doing this.

  4. AJG says:

    if Christ has not really been raised then we who believe in him are more to be pitied than anyone else, for our faith is vain and we are still in our sins.

    Only according to Paul’s theology should Christians be pitied for believing in a falsehood because he thinks that humans are in a state of sin. If that too is false, and I see no reason to believe it is not, then there’s nothing to pity. If Christians want to believe in a myth that gives them peace and tranquility, and that is more important to you than discovering that your beliefs are probably false, then more power to them. Of course they need to respect the rights of others to also believe what gives them comfort as well even if it contradicts Christian dogma. Everyone thinks they have “The Truth” mainly because of the culture in which they were raised.

    Having said that, as an atheist, I believe that people are better off living a life that confronts reality head on. Better to live the only life we know that we will ever have to the fullest than to live for an afterlife for which there is no evidence.

    1. “…they need to respect the rights of others to also believe what gives them comfort as well even if it contradicts Christian dogma.” Done and done!

      “Everyone thinks they have “The Truth” mainly because of the culture in which they were raised.”
      Everyone? Mmmm…not me! I was raised in a non-Christian home and became Christian after years of atheism.

      1. william brown says:

        AJG said “Everyone thinks they have “The Truth” mainly because of the culture in which they were raised.”

        That is just so not true. But it’s a popular atheist myth. People of all cultures are generally seeking truth and people of varying cultures are accepting different world-views and beliefs in massive numbers.

        You can see no reason for believing that we live in a state of sin? I think it was GK Chesterton who said that the doctrine of original sin is the one Christian belief that is self evident by just reading the front page of the daily news (my paraphrase).

        To live for an afterlife means living this life in a entirely different way. It means living this life in a way that allows loving self-sacrifice because we have eternity ahead of us. And there is a lot of evidence for that.

        How is it respecting others to not engage them honestly about their worldview if you have good reasons you want to share with them for why they are on a wrong path or in error?

    2. kpolo says:

      AJG:

      You say, “Everyone thinks they have “The Truth” mainly because of the culture in which they were raised”
      Is that statement true? Was that a product of the culture you were raised in?

      You say that we should live life to the fullest now. Thats exactly what Christ came to teach us how. Christianity isn’t about how to skip this life for eternal life, but how to live this life to the fullest because it has meaning that will transcend death.
      If you cannot look at death and say as Paul did, “where is thy sting?” you cannot live this life.

    3. Ken Abbott says:

      AJG: Interesting, then, that Paul anticipated your objection. Page on down to 1 Corinthians 15:32–“If I fought wild beasts in Ephesus for merely human reasons [say, a false sense of peace and tranquility, although what peace one derives from fighting wild beasts is beyond my comprehension], what have I gained? If the dead are not raised, ‘Let us east and drink, for tomorrow we die.'”

      Seems Paul confronted reality rather well…

  5. Scott C says:

    AJG,
    I appreciate your candor. I have 3 sets of questions for you.
    1) Since you believe that humans are not in a state of sin, do you believe in objective evil that humans freely engage in? If so, where does this evil stem from? Furthermore, are they culpable for it?
    2) You say Christians “need to respect the rights of others” and what they believe. Is this need to respect others a morally binding obligation that rests upon all humans? If so, why?
    3) Do you believe that objective, absolute, culturally and historically transcendent and universal truth exists that is binding upon all humans whether they agree with it or not? Why or why not?

  6. taco says:

    Spufford understands that the trick isn’t to try to convince the reader that Christianity is true but rather to show why it’s interesting, wise and sometimes consoling.

    Am I the only that read that and said: “Ugh, that is such an atheistic thing to say.”?

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Justin Taylor


Justin Taylor is senior vice president and publisher for books at Crossway and blogs at Between Two Worlds. You can follow him on Twitter.

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