book report: The Grace Effect by Taunton (2011)
Larry Taunton's book, The Grace Effect: How the Power of One Life Can Reverse the Corruption of Unbelief (2011), sets in contrast his friendly conversations with New Atheist Christopher Hitchens about evil with his experience of evil as he tries to adopt a Ukrainian orphan with HIV. In a post-debate conversation with Hitchens about absolutes he posits
Then it seems to me...that the question is this: which philosophies or religions restrain our darker impulses, and which ones exacerbate them? ... Christianity...begins with the premise that man is evil and that he needs to be saved from himself. Atheism, on the other hand, offers no compelling reason why I should not do precisely as I want to do. pp. 4, 5.I never thought about it from this angle so I was really intrigued how Taunton would develop this.
He tried to demonstrate it through his experience with the extremely corrupt Ukrainian government as he tried to adopt a young girl living in the awful conditions of an orphanage, which his wife and son had visited on a short term missions trip with their trip. It was on that trip that the vivacious girl made such an impression on them. They considered adopting her, but really did not consider it possible until God motivated people to open their wallets to them. There are official costs to adopt then there are the unofficial bribes necessary to adopt. Taunton uses the former Soviet way of life as an example of the atheist dystopia. He writes,
In the biblical worldview, the state is a temporal institution meant to serve man, an eternal being. In the socialist model, this is reversed: man, a temporal being, serves the eternal state. p.84Any possible sympathies Taunton might have had to socialism were crushed after his experience in a still-recovering socialist state, Ukraine. He has little positive to say about the Ukrainian government workers or its nihilist culture, although he tries to show some sympathy for them be reviewing their history. He is extremely critical of the Orthodox church before the communists and since the communists. His national adoption advocates, in contrast are presented as wonderful human beings, showing that not every Ukrainian is a miserable, greedy wretch because of their country's communist past. The up and down story of his daughter's adoption is a story that stays with you and calls you back after you close the book for the night. We know they get her, but how?
Taunton wants us to see that communism offers no restraint to our wicked nature. He also wants us to see that those seeking to bring life and hope to orphanages are Christians on sacrificial missions, seeking the good of others and not themselves. He wants us to know that atheism is a selfish philosophy that reinforces this wickedness. But he also wants us to know that God offers grace and redemption, as subtly hinted at, but not loudly proclaimed, by the example of their adoption.
His ministry, Fixed Point Foundation, looks like a great resource for the defense of the Christian faith.
Many thanks to Booksneeze for the free book in exchange for my review.
Thomas Nelson has been recently offering many excellent books interacting with New Atheism, see below.