The constant debate between Christians and Atheists seems to always to orbit around the problem of a benevolent God with the reality of a broken, evil world. While this struggle has been going on for centuries, D'Souza brings some fresh perspective to the table, invoking modern day science as proof for theism. At first blush, this may seem counterintuitive, but D'Souza's arguments are balanced and compelling. These insights would have inspired a 5 star review from me, that is, until I got to the last chapter of the book which talked about the afterlife. Here, D'Souza completely drops his logic utilized in the first 90% of his book and goes with a typical Evangelical pat answer. There is a tremendous amount of good in this book that should be praised. With that being said, there is some ugly in this book that needs to be addressed.
The biggest issue in defending the Christian faith is the problem of theodicy. Why did an all loving, all powerful creator make a world with so much pain and evil? This is typically the biggest arguing point from atheists and their concerns are legitimate. Yet D'Souza fearlessly tackles these concerns using empirical evidence from modern sciences like Astronomy, Biology and Geology. Many of his arguments are nothing incredibly new - he employs many of the typical free will defense logics and things like the anthropic view of the Universe in his case. However, while many of his arguments are often used to defend the existence of God, he uses them in a way to reconcile the problems between an all loving God and a suffering world. In modern Christianity, where tragedy and suffering is gratuitously met with the pat answer of, "it was God's will", D'Souza's wonderful perspective is badly needed. I sincerely hope that more people run down the road he has pioneered.
Another important feature of D'Souza's arguments is that he compellingly uses evolution as a theodicy defense. Not only does this make the case for Christianity much stronger, it should also help Christians come to grips with the seemingly obvious fact that evolution is scientifically proven and the world and universe are really, really old. Christians who believe in a literal six day creation may have some epistemological shock when reading D'Souza's book since many of them were ingrained to believe that evolution threatens the Faith. Yet D'Souza argues that Darwin's evolution was a gift and actually helps to prove the existence of God and the problem of theodicy.
There were pages upon pages of facts and quotes that were just begging to be highlighted (which was sad for me because the book was a loaner). D'Souza did a respectful job in presenting the case of his opponents before he attempted to refute them. His logic was seemingly free from any straw man arguments. Although many of his thoughts were particularly new, the way he presented them were wonderfully fresh. I particularly enjoyed his take on wounded theism and global perspectives of suffering.
There aren't many nuances to criticize in the book. D'Souza tackled quite a broad topic and because the book wasn't all that long, some of his chapters felt crammed and glossed over. D'Souza admittedly tries to address both Christians and atheists, but I felt his writing was largely focused on refuting atheists. Not that there's anything wrong with this, but some of the more theological aspects of the book felt rushed through. Certain aspects may leave Christians on edge, like his belief that God doesn't have feelings. While this is a completely legitimate view, it can be quite a jarring statement if it's not properly fleshed out. While he is against anthropomorphizing God, he does this very thing in trying to explain the Atonement. God "suffered the death and loss of his son", D'Souza writes, but this statement is logically inconsistent with the fact that he stated that God does not have feelings in a few chapters prior.
While the majority of the book was logically coherent, some of his examples here found wanting. D'Souza devotes an entire chapter to the problem of evil in the Old Testament. His defensives were on the right track, but D'Souza sort of gave up the fight at the end. One can't put too much critique on D'Souza since the issue of the Old Testament alone merits volumes instead of mere pages, nevertheless, I was left a little disappointed.
Up until this point, my review, with the exception of a few nuances, has been praiseful of this book. However I must say that I found the last chapter of the book, which deals with the concept of eternal hell, to be borderline disturbing. I will say that many Christians, particularly Evangelicals, would disagree with my critique. I can respect that. It is true that I passionately disagree with D'Souza's view on some sort of eternal conscious torment. But I'm not one to just give a bad review because I disagree. I found his arguments on this topic to be woefully inconsistent and damaging to the rest of the book, thus my reason for criticism.
The entire scope and reason for D'Souza's book was to address the problem of evil by using science as its chief argument. And yet, when it comes to the problem of a omnibenevolent God sending people to Hell for eternity, he throws his former logic right out the window. His response to Hell, put plainly, is the woefully Evangelical pat answer of "God wants to save everyone, but his justice prevent him from saving those who reject him".
D'Souza admits that this is the biggest problem with proving that God is all loving, yet he spends the least amount of time defending it. In fact, his defense makes other parts of his book painfully contradictory. In previous chapters, D'Souza rightfully combats the argument that says the world is so full of suffering that it would have been better if God wouldn't have created us at all. D'Souza uses the example of an amputee and compellingly argues that even in the face of suffering, there is still enough beauty in the world to make life worth living. This is well and good...if eternal suffering weren't in the equation.
Life is indeed worth living, even at the risk of excessive suffering. But if by existing meant the possibility of eternal conscious torment, then it would be much more beneficial if none of us ever existed. To put it another way, if there were any chance that my two sons would go on from this life to experience eternal conscious torment, as much as I love them, it would have been morally repugnant for me to bring them into the world. This is a powerful and devastating argument held both by atheists and certain Christians, yet D'Souza glosses over it with one of the flimsiest church traditions.
It gets worse. D'Souza goes out of his way to argue that Hell is essentially a blessing from God. He says, "Hell, too, is a tribute to God's generosity. How? By being a testament to God's commitment to human freedom."
There is no sliver of logic in this maddening quote. How can any sound-minded individual honestly believe that the invention of eternal torment is a gift from God because it upholds the integrity of human free will? If by having free will meant that the majority of history's humans were consigned to eternal torment, I'd much rather God made us all robots.
But D'Souza doesn't stop there. He spends approximately half a page in "refuting" the doctrines of annihilatationism and universal reconciliation. While these two doctrines are respectfully held my many Christians, fully arguable from a Biblical standpoint, and easily more reconcilable with theodicy, D'Souza writes them off by saying they're "clearly opposed to what the Bible repeatedly teaches". He then goes on to defend his view of hell that, by-and-large, renders much of his book null and void.
I was very excited for this book and loved it all the way up until the ending. Unfortunately, with all of his compelling arguments, atheists will always have an upper hand in the debate for exposing a doctrine that makes God a moral monster. I would still definitely recommend this book for Christians who wish to sharpen their apologetical skills and acquire a healthy view of why God allows suffering. However, I'm afraid that this book will do nothing in compelling an atheist to believe in God. The gravest concern about our faith was met with an underwhelming, and maybe even counterproductive, response.