Here we review important books and articles, new or old, that relate to the issues surrounding Christian Apologetics. This review focuses on David Bentley Hart’s, Atheist Delusions: The Christian Revolution and Its Fashionable Enemies, published in 2009 by Yale University Press.
Atheist Delusions, by David Bentley Hart, 2009.
Francis Bacon reminds us that “Some books are meant to be tasted, others to be swallowed, and some few to be chewed and digested.” Atheist Delusions is of the “chewed and digested” category. It is a response to the New Atheists, the Triumverate of Christopher Hitchens, Richard Dawkins and Sam Harris. But Hart’s is not a point-by-point rebuttal. It is a studied and brutal expose of their uniform ignorance of the history of Christianity and the world into which it was birthed and grew. Indeed, he reminds us all that the very moral air we breathe today was first exhaled two millenia ago by Christianity’s uniquely clear moral vision of humanity.
It is immediately obvious that Hart is entirley at home and comfortable in the world of ancient Greece and Rome and their development through the Middle Ages. He is a first-rate historian who has given his life to the study of the thinkers of that period and their contribution to Western civilization. Hart is not interested in portraying Christianity as the answer to all of the ills of society. He is objective enough to recount its failures as well as successes. As he writes, “I feel no need to evade of excuse the innumerable failures of many Christians through the ages to live lives of charity or peace.”
His “ambitions are small” and “concerns the history of the early church, or roughly the first four or five centuries, and the story of how Christendom was born out of the culture of late antiquity.” His chief ambition “is to call attention to the peculiar and radical nature of the new faith in that setting: how enormous a transformation of thought, sensibility, culture, morality, and spiritual imagination of Christianity constituted in the age of pagan Rome; the liberation it offered from fatalism, cosmic despair, and the terror of occult agencies; the immense dignity it conferred upon the human person; its subversion of the cruelest apects of pagan society; its (alas, only partial) demystification of political power; its ability to create moral community where none had existed before; and its elevation of activy charity above all other virtues.”
Some might argue that if Christianity had never existed then we would find ourselves today in much the same moral climate. It is a case that cannot be made since history did not happen this way. And so we can only trace with the fingers of study how Christianity did, in fact, influence our world for better in a number of critical ways.