Book Review – Why You Think the Way You Do

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  • Paperback: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Zondervan (August 1, 2009)
  • Amazon
  • Christian Book Distributors
  • In this book, Sunshine attempts to explain “the development of Western civilization from the perspective of the changes in worldview from the Roman Empire to the early years of the twenty-first century” (16). While referencing major thinkers on occasion, the interest is more specifically on the non-elite, wider culture. He further contends that one cannot understand Western culture without an understanding of Christianity (17). While this is likely true, Sunshine turns this survey of Western worldviews into an apologetic for Christianity, specifically Evangelicalism.

    Central to his argument is the premise that Christianity has had a positive cultural influence on the West, starting with its transformation and redemption of the Roman world in which it was introduced (54). While Sunshine would likely admit that sometimes Christians have done bad things in history, the overall effect of Christianity has been positive. Clearly, this is directly antithetical to the claims of the New Atheists. Consequently, Sunshine argues that the further Western culture moves away from Christianity, the more it returns to the barbarism of Pagan Rome (211).

    In the interest of accessibility, very few citations are included. This omission makes many of the more controversial historical claims hard to support in dialogue with others who may not share Sunshine’s interpretation. For example, while the flat earth myth has been thoroughly debunked, it would be helpful to cite that since it is a common myth (109). A citation for Pascal, Gassendi and probabilism would have been helpful since at first glance Pascal opposed probabilism in his Provincial Letters and Gassendi was interpreting Pascal’s barometric experiments rather than the other way around.

    While an interpretation of history is often an aspect of communal identity, this work could have benefited from a more balanced handling of the shortcomings of Christians within history. As it stands, the author’s evident bias for Christianity and conservative American political values (such as capitalism and democracy) comes off more like partisanship than a survey of Western worldviews.

    – Reviewed by Adam Reece

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    Book Giveaway – Why You Think the Way You Do

    Later this week I’ll be posting my friend Adam Reece’s review of Glenn Sunshine’s book Why You Think the Way You Do (Zondervan, 2009).  Thanks to the generous folks at Zondervan, I have an extra copy of the book to give away.

    To be entered, simply subscribe to this blog’s RSS feed or email newsletter, and let me know you did in a comment on this post.  If you’re a current subscriber and would like to be entered, please leave a comment as well.

    Here’s a short synopsis of the book:

    People often talk about worldview when describing the philosophy that guides their lives. But how have we come by our worldviews, and what impact did Christianity have on those that are common to Western civilization? This authoritative, accessible survey traces the development of the worldviews that underpin the Western world. It demonstrates the decisive impact that the growth of Christianity had in transforming the outlook of pagan Roman culture into one that, based on biblical concepts of humanity and its relationship with God, established virtually all the positive aspects of Western civilization. . . . Unique among books on the topic, this work discusses Western worldviews as a continuous narrative rather than as simply a catalogue of ideas, and traces the effects changes in worldview had on society.

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