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4 Stars Out Of 5
A Lot to Tackle in One Book
July 23, 2012
"God Forsaken" by Dinesh D'Souza is a brilliant read. I chose to read it as part of Tyndale House Publisher's summer reading programâ€”an opportunity to earn free books! But I'm so thankful for this prompting. I loved this book!
The book has multiple purposes, clearly noted throughout and summarized in the concluding chapter. (My high school English teacher would have loved D'Souza's perfect research paper presentation skills. I know I appreciated them; they made the flow of his ideas so easy to follow. But that's beside the point. The content of this book is incredible.)
Simply put, D'Souza comprehensively and systematically tackles all of the atheist arguments against the existence of God while also helping Christians understand why bad things happen to good people and how to cope with the resulting suffering all within the pages of one 13 chapter book. He refutes the arguments of atheists such as Nietzsche and Hawking while expanding upon the thoughts of C.S. Lewis and other great Christian thinkers who have written on this topic. His research is thorough and his personal ideas are clear. (He lost me for a little while at the beginning of Chapter 10, but then came at his point from another angle and brought me on board again.)
Those who enjoy absorbing new thoughts on these continuing debates, the existence of God and the problem of suffering, will most definitely want to read D'Souza's new book.
I've seen the impact of evil on this world. Most likely, so have you. Cancer. Babies abused. Natural disasters. Fatal car accidents destroying families in an instant. Child-sized coffins that shouldn't even exist.
"Bad things happen." That's what Dinesh D'Souza tells us right from the beginning in his book, Godforsaken. This book, then, is an attempt to answer whether we can believe in a God who cares in light of this fallen world.
His forward and opening chapters are phenomenal. There are sections of this book, with their depth and unique insight, that are great. He discusses in detail the different ways the East and the West consider suffering. Originally from India, he writes as someone who knows that, "Christians are the only people who raise the anguished question, 'Why does God allow this?'"
After debating and even befriending so many of the leading advocates of atheism, he also is uniquely positioned to tell us that most staunch atheists are really wounded theists. It's the evil in the world that so often draws us to God or pushes us bitterly away from Him.
I had two issues to squabble over with the book, one minor, one not so minor. The first is stylistic. D'Souza perpetually tells us "my argument is going to be unique, I'll talk about that later, I could argue this but I won't, instead my argument will be something different." In other words, he is constantly building up to his argument, postponing it as if to make this book a cliffhanger. Perhaps he's been writing academic papers too long, where you need to tell us what you're going to say before you actually say it. For a nonacademic work, this is frustrating and rather annoying. Just say it already. Don't talk about saying it.
More importantly, it was abundantly clear, even more so as the book went on, that D'Souza espouses a more symbolic interpretation of Scripture than I would like. One of his arguments on cruelty in the animal kingdom, in fact, says that we can't fully blame God for such evil because God perhaps used evolution to form the world. So, it's really evolution's fault. He also talks about mankind as if we've been around for 100,000 years, but God only really got involved with us about 5,000 years ago with the start of Genesis.
This is more than disappointing. It's a make or break for me. If an author doesn't accept the reliability of the Genesis account, if he's determined to water it down by making it "symbolic," then his arguments lose weight and merit. I can't trust his authority. This book is worth reading for the Forward and some of the early chapters on wounded theism, and even the discussion on moral evil. Yet, the theological mis-steps place some of the philosophical arguments on shaky ground.
I received this book free from the publisher, Tyndale House. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.
Some reject Christianity because there is evil and suffering in the world. How could there be a God as described in the Bible with such suffering? Dinesh has thought about this for decades and finally feels he has something original to say.
He argues that God, wanting to make a universe with conscious, rational human beings, constructed the universe in the only way it could be done. God could have created a different universe with different laws - in which case he would have gotten different creatures. God could not have created a universe without evil and suffering and still have us in it. There are outcomes that can be obtained only one way, this universe being such an outcome. Of the Anthropic Principle, he says, "Consequently it is reasonable to suppose that if God wanted to make creatures like you and me, there was, as far as we can tell, only one formula available to him. And he used it." (176)
Dinesh explores why the natural world must be the way it is, earthquakes, tsunamis, disease, etc. He argues that evil and suffering in the world are necessary for a greater good, a greater plan of God. We may be unhappy about evil and suffering but we can understand "that it is an intrinsic part of the formula that produced us." (34)
Dinesh also addresses the evil that God fails to prevent and whether God is the perpetrator of evil. He also looks at hell, arguing that it is actually a good idea and is required by the goodness of God.
Dinesh says his book has three purposes: to answer the atheist's argument that evil and suffering contradicts the idea of a good God, to convince everyone that there is purpose for evil and suffering in God's plan and providence, and to address Christians who are suffering.
I have read a number of books on this issue and it does seem that Dinesh brings new thoughts to the table. I am not sure any argument will convince atheists of the existence of God but this book certainly provides a great deal about which they will need to think.
There were two areas Dinesh discussed that were of particular interest to me. The first was, "Does God have emotions?" This is apparently an issue addressed by theologians beginning with the early church fathers but it was new to me. The other issue was Dinesh's argument that God's plan for a fallen mankind is better than a plan with no fall of man.
Reading his book has certainly given me much to think about and has already stimulated a couple of discussions with friends. Anyone interested in the question of the existence of evil and a good God will benefit from reading this book.
I received a complimentary copy of this book from Tyndale House Publishers for the purpose of this review. The opinions expressed are my own.