Drew Zahn is a WND news editor who cut his journalist teeth as a member of the award-winning staff of Leadership, Christianity Today's professional journal for church leaders. A former pastor, he is the editor of seven books, including Movie-Based Illustrations for Preaching & Teaching, which sparked his ongoing love affair with film and his weekly WND column, "Popcorn and a (world)view."More ↓Less ↑
One of the hallmarks of our world today is an environment of disinformation where “religion” is concerned. Nihilism has crept in, fueled by the “new atheists” and promoted within academic circles. One could come to the conclusion – after listening to the anti-religion propaganda – that Christianity has been a cancer across the globe. In fact, there are even subtle signs that this worldview is affecting American youth; witness the trend toward being “spiritual, not religious.” There is a real feeling out there that the church of our parents was the problem, not the solution.
How interesting, the use of the word “corruption.” It is the operative word in repressive societies that have banished faith, or tried to scrub it away. “The Grace Effect” is a picture of what America would look like if the atheists got their wish, and their influence is already being felt in the narcissistic attitudes displayed everywhere, most sharply on display perhaps in the inane Occupy Wall Street protestors; the replacing of Christian charity with Big Government socialism; the breakdown of the family; a rapid rise in crime; a decline in education; and an alarming rise in suicides. What atheism touches, it destroys, says Taunton.
The author, by the way, is founder and executive director of Fixed Point Foundation, a non-profit dedicated to the public defense of the Christian faith. Taunton has debated the likes of Christopher Hitchens, Richard Dawkins and Pete Singer. He has also taught at Trinity Seminary, specializing in history and apologetics.
Taunton presents a brilliant treatise here that looks at what American society would be like without faith. That story is told in front of the backdrop of a trip to an orphanage Taunton made. The author understands this conflict of worldviews so well:
“Proponents of a society free from religious influence can point to no nation or civilization that was founded upon atheistic principles that we might call even remotely good,” he writes. “Ukraine is a stark example of the devastating effects of institutional atheism, but Sasha’s story illustrates the gentling power of the grace effect to change not just individual lives, but entire societies.”
Taunton begins his gripping book by telling of an encounter with Hitchens, after a debate. Taunton laments the usual “body counts” employed by both sides: “Christianity is responsible for the Crusades, the Inquisition, etc.” Well, then, “Atheism gave us Hitler, Mao, etc.”
Taunton prefers to get to know the person behind the worldview, and when he asked Hitchens if he believed man was basically good or bad, the answer was almost shocking: “Man is unquestionably evil.”
That really sets the stage for “The Grace Effect,” in that it and Taunton’s overall premise provide a realistic view of the world. Again, by employing the story of a young orphan, Sasha, he illustrates this in a way that academics never could, and shows clearly that the world needs robust Christianity.
Sasha, from the Ukraine, was adopted by the Tauntons, and the exchanges between them are more than heartwarming; they are searing. Here is a little girl, almost destroyed by a godless society, given away by her birth mother, and she finds herself part of a loving family!
At one point, Taunton recalls a profound moment between them; it is bedtime, and he is explaining to her how special she is to them:
“Sasha, look at me.” I took her little face in my hands. She appeared, I thought, angelic. “God wanted you to be with us. He wanted you to be a part of our family.”
“You wanted me?” She was very earnest.
“Yes, we wanted you. And for a year, we pursued you.” She gripped my hands tightly.
“Did God tell you about me?”
“Yes, he did.”
Sasha’s early years were spent in a society that is Darwinian and doesn’t value the individual at all. Larry Taunton’s commitment to her is proof positive that grace can flourish and make all the difference in our battered world.
As he explains in the preface, he doesn’t try to “prove” God’s existence per se, but allows a beautiful story to do that. In accomplishing that feat, he hits the mark with his book, and its message should be universal, pointing the way not only for life-long Christians, but also for the spiritually hungry younger generations who recognize that our world is largely broken and needs people who will be engaged.
The Grace Effect is a very important contribution to a topic that is critical for civilization. Taunton’s discernment – and ability to articulate his premise – is itself a real point of grace for the rest of us.