Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Book Snap: Jeffrey Burton Russell's "Exposing Myths About Christianity"

Exposing Myths About Christianity is a collection of 145 entries providing short discussions about "myths" -- on the average, I'd say a page each. The topics include theological, historical, exegetical, philosophical, and science issues. I can't quite recommend this book or disrecommend it; it's the sort of project I'd like to see more of, but would also like to see done better. 

Russell is a professor of history, and so it is not surprising that he is at his best overall when discussing historical matters. His treatment of matters like the Inquisition, and Hitler being a Christian, have the best quality in the book; they are not of course depth discussions, but they hit on enough major points to give doubters pause. The range and variety of myths touched on is also impressive.

In contrast, in other subject matters, Russell is not that strong: He too easily takes the route of "yes, Christians have a lot of opinions on this" as a response, and in other issues seems too ready to move to compromising positions designed to appease a doubtful readership (e.g., it is "conceivable" that Biblical teachings about homosexuality were made without concern for the possibility of "committed relationships"). And my creationist friends will not be happy with Russell's take on theistic evolution.

I am also not particularly enamored of Russell's writing style. He has a remarkable ability to make even the shortest entries seem interminable. Admittedly, this may not be a fault in a work that seems to be designed as a ready reference rather than a read-through narrative.

So, I can't say this one will be of much value to the reader already familiar with depth material on these subjects, as many readers here will be. It  may have some value for the uninitiated.

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