Unapologetic-Francis Spufford

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Well I guess I’m still on that economy drive.  This was a book I picked up for £1 in a remaindered tray in Waterstones, Plymouth, a few weeks ago.  It was pretty good value.

Unapologetic probably didn’t sell because it has a rather dull cover and a very long subtitle – Why, Despite Everything, Christianity can still make Surprising Emotional Sense – but you can see that from the picture!

I’ll try and summarise the argument, chapter by chapter, though it’s a sketchy and brief summary.

  1. Atheism is fashionable but it’s still a matter of belief.  Dawkins comes in here.
  2. There’s a crack in everything – he calls it The Human Potential to F*** Things Up, an imperfect world.  (He omits the stars, replacing them with letters.)
  3. Humanity has a capacity to wonder and worship.  At times, when he prays or meditates he has a sense of otherness, a sense of God – Big Daddy, in his words.
  4. The question of suffering.  He looks at the traditional philosophical explanations of how a just and merciful God can allow suffering, and dismisses them all.  He explains that he can’t see the point of suffering for the Muslim and Jew – for them God is outside the world, apart from suffering.  He claims that for the Christian the issue is less difficult as God, in Christ, shares the suffering with us.
  5. Yeshua: he gives a crisp account of the life of Christ, amalgamating all the gospels and creating a summary of the historical accounts, which allows him to focus on the key issue – God’s love shown in Christ, and the potential for forgiveness and renewal.
  6. He tidies up some issues – etceteras – such as the other “gospels” that didn’t make it into the Bible, alternative accounts of Christ’s life, and earlier mythic accounts of gods that some claim gave rise to the “myth” of Christ.
  7. He looks more closely and in more detail at the nature of God’s forgiveness – its extreme quality, its boundlessness.  He looks at some misconceptions about Christianity that turn people away.
  8. He concludes by asking what we should do in the light of the possibility of belief, claiming that Christianity, or Christian belief can give rise to many different systems of behaviour – from the Marxism of liberation theology to the right wing republicanism of the Bible belt USA.  At its heart is the message of love and forgiveness, of hope and renewal.

Spufford is interesting.  His faith sounds real – especially in that it admits doubt, in fact suggests that doubt is an authentic expression of faith.  Spufford says he is more interested in this life than the next; that Christianity offers a solution to the problem of being a human being, of being continually faced by our own ability and tendency to mess things up; a solution to our own continual inadequacy and failure.

I guess I tend to agree with most of what he says.  I wondered if I might give this book to someone to explain what it means to me to be a Christian.  I’m not sure.  Spufford wrote all this at a table in Costa Coffee, Cambridge, Sydney Street branch.  There are no academic references, it’s a plain account, but at the same time it gets pretty complicated in places, and I think you’d need to be quite committed to the ideas to get through it.

Having said that, the chapter on Yeshua is certainly worth a look for everybody.  It gets right to the heart of the story, puts its finger on the pulse if you like, of what Jesus, and the gospel, is saying.  Most people could read that chapter, and benefit from it.

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