Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Book Review of the Passionate Intellect by Alister McGrath

Atheism is a bankrupt and intellectually dishonest worldview. So explains Christian apologist/theologian, British intellectual, former chemist and all around critical thinker Alister MacGrath. Actually, according to McGrath, 21st century Atheism, espoused by such proponents as Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens and Sam Harris is nothing more than a vain attempt to move intelligent thought back into a very narrow and truncated version of the 19th century age of the Enlightenment.

McGrath's book, subtitled The Christian Faith and Discipleship of the Mind, calls for Christians to be passionately engaged with the world God created, intellectually as well as imaginatively.

I particularly enjoyed the first half of the book which dealt with the Christian imagination. McGrath does a wonderful job of showing how George Herbert interacted with Christian doctrine through poetry and encourages Christians to find similar ways to engage the culture through creativity.

In the second half of the book McGrath interacts with Charles Darwin and his famous book Origins, exploring some of the faulty conclusions of evolutionary theory. McGrath also engages with some leading atheists of our day and their erroneous "god of the gaps" theories. He also talks about his own journey of faith which began as an atheist at Oxford University in Great Britain as he kept running into road blocks trying to understand the world through "naturalistic" eyes.

My favorite quote of the book came from Voltaire of all people: "Superstition is to religion what astrology is to astronomy; the mad daughter of a wise mother."

McGrath's book is a very accessible introduction to Christian apologetics and theology for thoughtful people who want to be honest about their presuppositions. It is also a passionate call for Christians to use the brains, gifts and talents God has given them, not just to process things rationally but to be engage with God and Christian doctrine through the imagination as well. McGrath joins a long list of authors and Christian thinkers who are encouraging Christians to have a fully-integrated biblical worldview which would include the arts, science, government and philosophy, etc. In other words a fully-orbed Christian/biblical worldview. I highly recommend this book as a welcome addition to that conversation.

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