Book Reviews

Book Review: Saving Truth (Abdu Murray)

Do we live in a post-truth world? Abdu Murray thinks so. Post-truth isn’t the same as postmodernism or the idea that there is no absolute truth. Post-truth is “the means to forge one’s own destiny free of the shackles of tradition, facts, and even logic” (15). Murray writes,

Where postmodernism failed because it was inherently incoherent, the post-truth mindset may succeed because it is not. It face the problem of truth head-on. Unlike postmodernism, the post-truth mindset acknowledges objective truth, but subordinates it to preferences… In a post-truth age, if the evidence fits our preferences and opinions, then all is well and good. (14)

Post-truth people admit to there being truth while ignoring it.

To try to keep this short, I really enjoyed this book. Murray shows how the contemporary idea of “freedom” often looks more like autonomy. People want the freedom to do whatever they want, but this freedom often ends up hurting themselves and others more than serving and benefiting society. If one is going to grow and flourish, you can’t throw off all restraints. Murray uses the image of an autonomous toddler “freely” playing piano. That is, he’s just banging on the keys. He has no idea how to actually play piano. The person who has spent many hours saying ‘yes’ to practicing piano and ‘no’ to many other opportunities has the actual freedom to play piano, and to do it gracefully.

What do we do when Peter Singer advocates that babies can be killed by their parents even after they are born (hello Netherlands). “Those babies… are not really persons because they lack the mental capacity to value themselves” (64). As the argument goes, parents have (or should have) the autonomy to decide whether their “baby’s value justifies the burden of caring for it. And if that burden impinges on parents’ autonomy, the baby can be eliminated” (64). We are trying to be God, having all power, but we lack his divine wisdom. Hoping to be gods, we have become devils.

But Singer argues that we have a moral obligation to help those who are poverty stricken, and (perhaps) he would say that they are true persons “because they have the cognitive ability to value themselves.” But is cognitive ability the marker of human value? Do the less intelligent have less value? Do humans have dignity if there is no God? If we are highly advanced pond scum, or “just sophisticated machines,” or, according to physicist Lawrence Krauss, perhaps “we’re just a bit of pollution… If you got rid of us… then the universe would be largely the same. We’re completely irrelevant” (98). If the world would be better without humans, why are we even here? If we have evolved, are those who are smarter, faster, and stronger better?

Peter Singer asked, “Why should we believe that the mere fact that a being is a member of the species Homo Sapiens endows its life with some unique, almost infinite value?” Jesus, giving us the positive form of the Golden Rule, tells us, “Do to others as you would have them do to you” (Matt 7:12). Murray writes, “Jesus tells us to treat others well even if they never treat us well” (114). We are all made in God’s image (Murray writes more about God in his chapter on faith and science), and Jesus came to pay an infinite price for us because we all have infinite value. All of us are important, no matter your SAT or ACT score. Christ died for us, and we should treat each other as if we have infinite value in the eyes of our infinite Creator.

Recommended?

Murray covers topics about freedom, human dignity, science and faith, religious pluralism, and sexuality, gender, and identity. I really enjoyed reading (and listening) to this book and highly recommend it! I found this to be an easy read, though I made a lot of notes while reading this book so I could remember Murray’s arguments and logic. Don’t use this as a way to beat people over the head but to listen to them, converse with them, and use Murray’s book as a guide to better thinking.

Lagniappe

  • Author: Abdu Murray
    • Abdu Murray is North American director of RZIM, host of the Embrace the Truth podcast, and a scholar in residence at the Josh McDowell Institute of Oklahoma Wesleyan University.
  • Hardcover: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Zondervan (May 8, 2018)
  • Read the first chapter
  • Watch the first session from the Saving Truth Video Study.

Buy it from Amazon or Zondervan Academic!

Disclosure: I received this book free from Zondervan Academic. The opinions I have expressed are my own, and I was not required to write a positive review. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 http://www.access.gpo.gov/nara/cfr/waisidx_03/16cfr255_03.html.

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