A writer seeks to restore a rationally defensible interpretation of Christianity and re-establish its much-needed authority.
According to Shane (The Authentic Life, 2017, etc.), the world has been thrown into disarray by “unprecedented upheavals” and now “seems to be sliding closer and closer to the abyss of some primeval darkness.” Moral turpitude, avarice, war, and the wanton depletion of Earth’s resources engulf people, but the Christian church, the only institution capable of saving humanity from itself, is addled by a loss of authority and purpose. The author sees “muddled views” and “false doctrines” as the primary obstacles to a rejuvenation of the church’s power, and so this book is devoted to debunking them. Shane tackles this daunting task from three angles: confusion regarding the nature of the created world; the strategic plan God has mapped out for humankind; and the meaning of Christian eschatology. In the first section, the author criticizes Christianity for its “disinterest in science,” especially contemptible since God created a rational and therefore knowable universe. He argues that a proper conception of biblical Creation and Darwinian evolution demonstrates their compatibility. In the second part, Shane articulates the fundamental elements of God’s plan for humanity—to enjoy a loving and eternal bond with him, a scheme that was stewarded by Abraham and Jesus after Adam and Eve soiled it with sin. The author carefully explains the roles of both Israel and the United States in the progressive unfolding of God’s divine program. Finally, Shane objects to the passive fatalism that issues from the unbiblical view of a cataclysmic rapture and instead argues that humanity can look forward to a deliverance from sin and godlessness.
The author’s interpretation of Christianity boldly advocates for a rational theology that makes its peace with science—he rigorously argues for a détente that presupposes a deeper vision of both. In addition, his version of Christianity is a refreshingly hopeful one, replacing doomsday readings of prophecy that undermine human agency with an optimistic understanding of salvation that empowers and ennobles it. But he never quite makes it clear why this is the worst of times, an argument he should have to make given the popularity of the opposite view, espoused by famous writers and scholars like Steven Pinker. In addition, while Shane acknowledges that not all of the Bible can be read literally, he refuses to concede that this can lead to variant exegetical renderings arrived at by an equal measure of rational good faith. As a result, the tone of the entire work is gratingly peremptory—the author has little patience for dissent: “Darwin did not create the geological column or the fossil record, God did! What scientists call ‘evolution’ is nothing more than the creative economy of God at work in the natural realm. If scientists want to call it ‘evolution’ that’s fine with us.”
A captivating account of Christianity hampered by dogmatic rhetoric.