Monday, June 18, 2018

Book Review: Unimaginable: What Our World Would Be Like Without Christianity

About the Book

Is God dying? That's what some people think and want. They say Christian beliefs and our way of life aren't relevant anymore. But what critics and even many churchgoers don't realize is the life-changing importance of Christianity.

Showing how the world without Christianity would be a dark place, Unimaginable guides you through the halls of history to see how Jesus' teachings dramatically changed our world and continue to be the most powerful force for good today. (taken from Unimaginable cover description)

My Review

As a life-long student of history, I anticipated reading Jeremiah J. Johnston's new release Unimaginable. Johnston's book is broken into three parts: The World Before Christianity, The World Without Christianity, and The World With Christianity.

Book Format

The World Before Christianity opens with an ancient letter written by a 1st century husband with words of instruction to his wife concerning their unborn child: if it is a son, keep him; if a daughter, cast her to the elements. Johnston then proceeds to set the stage for the wold as it was before the teachings of Christ spread over the world.

The World Without Christianity continues the same theme, only the light falls on a period of history much closer to home: the rise of atheism and post-modernism. This section highlights the teachings of 19th century figures, such as: Ludwig Feuerback, Charles Darwin, Karl Marx, Friedrich Nietzache and Sigmund Freud. The lives and teachings of these “Big Five” is brought into the open, as well as the disastrous fruit it bore in future leaders (i.e. Adolf Hitler, Benito Mussolini, Mao Zedong, etc.) who put their ideology into practice.

The World With Christianity gives the evidence and stories of believers of Christ who changed their world for the better, resulting in the tearing down of racism, destruction of human life, slavery and oppression of women.

Book Pros

On the whole, I found Unimaginable an insightful read, well-written and well-researched. Johnston did a masterful job, not only showcasing how Christianity changed the world, but why it did and how it is vastly at odds with the atheism and post-modern religion of our time. For readers desiring a thoughtful overview of Christianity's impact, Unimaginable is an excellent choice.

Book Cons

I hate bringing out cons, because I did glean much from Unimaginable, but can not in good conscience exclude them from my review. There were two of the author's positions that I found inconsistent with the teachings of Scripture.

First, after denouncing Charles Darwin's teachings of human evolution – including his belief in “superior races” based on their advancement on the evolutionary ladder, Johnston says,

“Before moving on, it is important to note a few things in defense of Darwin. In this chapter I am describing the philosophies of men whose views laid the foundation for the evil that was unleashed in the twentieth century. Darwin himself should not be painted with this brush. There was nothing evil or dehumanizing about the man. He was a faithful husband and a loving father. The death of his daughter, as well as his own ill health, troubled him greatly...Today there are many Christians who are leaders in the various fields of science who speak of evolution and creation. Among these is Francis Collins, who headed up the Human Genome Project. Books like The Privileged Planet, in which strong arguments are made for divine creation, the great age of the universe, and the evolution of life on earth, have been written by devote Christians. Readers should know that the gulf between science and faith has long been bridged. Christian scholars and scientists recognize how Scripture and science, in fact, complement one another.” (Unimaginable, page 79)

The last two sentences I can wholly agree with – but not in the same way Johnston does. Scripture is abundantly clear God created in six literal days with the word of His mouth, not over vast amounts of time through evolutionary processes. There is no room for evolution, a multi-billion year-old universe or many of the theist evolutionary elements promoted by men such as Francis Collins if one will be true to Scripture.

Secondly, Johnston also errors in his interpretation of the role of women in the early Church. In what would otherwise be an excellent chapter on the honorable status Scripture and the influence of Christianity secures to women, Johnston confuses the ministry of women to also include positions that clearly put them as a pastor, deacon or teacher, which is completely inconsistent with 1 Timothy 2 and 1 Corinthians 12. In other words, the Bible honors women based on the fact they are created in the image of God, one with men in Christ and given equal access to the throne room of grace without the need for a human intercessor. Women certainly have a privileged role in the Church, but this does not mean (and can not for Scripture to be consistent with itself) the New Testament Church gave them pastoral or elder roles where they exercised spiritual authority over men. (again, please see 1 Timothy 2).

*I received this book from Bethany House Publishers and happily provide my honest review.

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