Grace is the Name of a Girl

Thanks to Booksneeze.com I received a copy of Larry Taunton’s new book “The Grace Effect: How the Power of One Life Can Reverse the Corruption of Unbelief”The Grace Effect

Christian Apologist Larry Taunton, founder of the Fixed Point Foundation has debated with atheists about the value of religion, and Christianity in particular. In fact this book begins with Taunton hashing it out with Christopher Hitchens over dinner. He challenges Hitchens that Christianity answers the problem of evil better than Atheism. He then goes on to talk about the idea of common grace, the idea that when a significant Christian presence infiltrates a culture it brings benefits to the whole society.

The rest of the book is a reflection on this theme through the medium of autobiography. Taunton tells the story of he and his family travelling to the Ukraine to adopt Sasha. Larry’s wife and sons had met her on a short-term mission the year before, fell in love and felt God calling them to adopt her. But as they do they come face to face with the horrors of the orphanage system in the Ukraine and government corruption. They are repeatedly stalled and asked for bribes (gifts). It is clear that the system and government is not
acting in the best interest of Sasha (unlike the Americans when their turn comes). Taunton interprets this as evidence that the Ukraine, nurtured as a secularist state under communism, is inadequate in its moral formation. It has no concept or understanding of grace.

Taunton paints the Ukraine as a place where darkness reigns and is reflective on what it means to take Sasha from there and bring her to America, a place formed by Christian conviction (even in its secular expression). This story is rather heartwarming and it is hard not to feel this father’s anger at the injustice his adopted daughter had to endure and his joy at the knowledge that he brought her into a better life, where she receives appropriate care from family, the medical community, and society at large.

When this book ends, Taunton is again eating dinner with Christopher Hitchens where he observes Hitchens observing Sasha and reflects on how the life of his daughter testifies to the reality of grace.

I remain critical of his characterization of Ukrainian society. He includes a brief history of Russia’s (and the Ukraine’s) conversion to Orthodoxy, and implies that their version of the Christian story is empty of grace. Add to this decades of communist indoctrination about the absence of God and you have a spiritually impoverished society and a bunch of scoundrels. This is no doubt true and his experience seems to warrant some of these conclusions, but he unfairly absolutizes these statements. So when he contrasts corrupt Ukraine with good Christian America, he comes off sounding a tad nationalistic. There are certainly other reasons for corruption besides secularism. The economics of enforced redistribution under communism probably encouraged baseline corruption from the citizenry on the basis of personal survival. I am no atheist, but I just not sure that Taunton has made his case that ‘atheism’ is to blame for all that ails the fallen Communist Regimes. He may be partially right, but I don’t think it is as simple as he makes it out to be.

I do agree with Taunton’s central premise: that the Christian heritage in America has impacted wider society for the common good. I am not sure that he would convince the skeptical through his tale, but it is coherent to those of us who share his faith. And it is impossible to read this book and not love Sasha!

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