God is good for you: A defence of Christianity in troubled times
ALLEN AND UNWIN, 2018
Christianity in Australia is in crisis. Greg Sheridan is a committed Catholic layman deeply concerned about Christianity’s demise and wanting to offer hope. A journalist by trade and writing on international affairs for The Australian he has a handle on the state of Christianity across the West as well as insights into other faiths.
Sheridan moves deftly between popular culture and academic engagement to understand what has been happening in Australian society. He charts the increasingly negative way Christians have been portrayed in films and television through recent decades. He is not afraid to tackle key theological issues—he critiques the New Atheism from an orthodox Christian position, he explores the issue of eternal judgement and its attendant questions, he sets out a Christian apologetic for evil and suffering and the sins of Christians, he offers a defence of the Old Testament as inspired literature and worth a read. As well, he puts the case for Christianity producing the progress of Western Civilisation. This chapter title says it all, “What did we ever get from Christianity—apart from the idea of the individual, human rights, feminism, liberalism, modernity, social justice and secular politics?”
His theology is written from a lay perspective with popular questions in mind. He is open about his Catholic foundations but has a handle on Protestant and evangelical understandings. For example he is aware of Tom Wright and Tim Keller. Sheridan’s theological conclusions are stated in a way that welcomes debate and therefore this is a good book for the skeptical reader.
The second half of the book is probably what most people will find interesting. Here are interviews with both prominent and not so prominent Christians. The faith of Kevin Rudd, Tony Abbott, Malcolm Turnbull, John Howard, Bill Shorten, Penny Wong, Kim Beasley, Kristina Keneally, Peter Costello and many others is covered. The interviews are all sympathetic while the answers range from superficial to very profound. Most of the politicians seem to be at pains to separate their faith from their politics for fear that the voting public will think they are claiming divine inspiration for their policies. Kevin Rudd, in my opinion, gives the most astute integration of his faith with his politics.
Institutions making an impact are also covered - Planetshakers Church in Melbourne; a Benedictine Monastery in Hobart and Campion College, a small liberal arts tertiary college located in Old Toongabbie, near Parramatta. These are all places which are experiencing growth amidst the current decline. Sheridan concludes with a prescription for the future. The basic premise is to accept that we’re a minority and play to the strengths of being a minority. He uses a military metaphor:
‘Intellectually, the majority controls the towns and bridges and must defend them. The minority is a real force that can choose its targets.’
He encourages Christians to be a bold, nimble minority, confident in their historic faith and offering a radical alternative to the mainstream.
CHRIS JOHNSON, QLD