This is the second part of my three part review of The Passionate Intellect: Christian Faith and the Discipleship of the Mind by Alister McGrath from IVP-Academic. In the previous post, I provided background on the author, and in this post, I will provide an overview of the contents.
The breakdown of the book is fairly simple. McGrath divides the book into two parts, the first being “The Purpose, Place and Relevance of Christian Theology” and the second “Engaging with Our Culture.” In the overall scope, I had a difficult time detecting a progression of thought, rather the book feels a little more like collected essays. I don’t think this was the intention, but in the introductory chapter, McGrath does state that the book reflects material developed for a number of public lectures he gave from 2008-2010 (see pages 8-9).
The first part of the book begins by discussing theology more generally, then moves to more specific topics. Thus, the first two chapters are entitled “Mere Theology: The Landscape of Faith 1” and “Mere Theology: The Landscape of Faith 2.” Immediately, many will notice the influence of C.S. Lewis in this book. This influence manifests itself throughout the entire first part of the book, though McGrath does include some critique of Lewis. The final four chapters of this part of the book deal with the gospel, suffering, nature and apologetics. I will state already that I find McGrath’s chapter on apologetics helpful since he critiques modern approaches taken by many religious believers.
The second part of the book, while having the general title of “Engaging with Our Culture,” deals with religious belief and science, in particular. Within this focus on religious belief and science, McGrath focuses intently on the new atheism. A more specific critique of Dawkins plays prominently. This focus on the sciences and the new atheism might not seem to make sense in a book entitled “The Passionate Intellect.” Yet when considering McGrath’s initial study in the sciences (mentioned in the previous post), one can see that this is one of his intellectual passions, whether or not it is one of the reader’s. Three chapters in this section deal with the sciences and the final two deal with the idea that religion “poisons everything” and the relationship between atheism and the enlightenment.
The book ends with requisite notes and an index. The notes contain enough for the interested reader who wants to go further to find many helpful resources. In the next post, I will include my personal reaction. You might look for that around Monday or Tuesday.
I hope everyone has a nice weekend!