Francis Spufford has succeeded in describing Christian faith from a practical angle. As the title, Unapologetic, suggests, it is not an apologia of the Christian faith, as prominent writers have done in the past (CS Lewis and NT Wright to name but two). There is a place for these, but Spufford has decided not to counter the new atheists arguments on the same terms, but to set out an emotional response. There is so much more to living than what we can prove or intellectually argue, and this is the angle he attempts to make with this book. (There are some more traditional apologetic responses to certain questions, but these are mostly dealt with through the footnotes).
The centrepiece of the book is a wonderful, engaging prose on the life of Jesus, taking the essence of the gospels and attempting to help us to hear Jesus afresh in them. For many of us, the gospel accounts have become so familiar that it takes a bit of work to hear them as they would have at the time. Spufford’s chapter on Yeshua (Jesus) gets beneath this, and made me marvel at Jesus all over again.
This is the centrepiece, but there are many other notable parts. His description of human brokenness (sin), which he calls HPtFtU – the Human Propensity to F*ck things Up – is so cutting that anyone can identify with it. It is a human experience after all. And he succeeds in getting away from the contemporary understanding of sin as ‘just a little bit excitingly naughty’. (I’ve already been influenced by some parts of it here, and there will be a couple more quotes to come). The section on communion is so beautiful too.
If you can cope with his writing style, which is rather like stream of consciousness, then this is an excellent book. But then the style adds to the emotional angle he is writing from. It is one that is sure to annoy new atheists as it argues in a way that many are not used to engaging with. For those who are open to the idea of faith, or who are already believers, Unapologetic is sure to assure you that it is ok, it is ‘reasonable’ to believe the Christian story. And it works.