HOME SCHOOL BOOK REVIEW
Book: Letter to a Christian Nation: Counter Point
Author: R. Chris Metcalf
Publisher: iUniverse Inc., 2007
Related website: http://www.iuniverse.com (publisher)
Language level: 1
(1=nothing objectionable; 2=common euphemisms and/or childish slang terms; 3=some cursing and/or profanity; 4=a lot of cursing and/or profanity; 5=obscenity and/or vulgarity)
Recommended reading level: Older teens and adults
Rating: ***** 5 stars (EXCELLENT
Reviewed by Wayne S. Walker
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Metcalf, R. Chris. Letter to a Christian Nation: Counter Point (published in 2007 by iUniverse Inc., 2021 Pine Lake Rd., Suite 100, Lincoln, NE 68512). When our older son Mark was a junior in high school, 2007 to 2008, and wanted to read the arguments of atheists from their own sources, I chose Letter to a Christian Nation by Sam Harris, who argues that religion generally and evangelical Christianity specifically are a highly negative component of American culture, along with a couple of books, one of which was this one by R. C. Metcalf, so that he could read both sides of the issue. Dr. Metcalf, a scientist who was raised in an atheist home and trained in secular universities, is a member of American Mensa, holds a Doctorate in the health professions, and has served in research positions with both the U. S. Food and Drug Administration and the National Institutes of Health, but has been a Bible believer for over thirty years. As a result of his experiences, he is uniquely qualified to answer the following questions posed by Harris: Does faith inhibit honest science? Is Christianity a danger to society? Are Christian morals irrational? Does evil prove that God doesn’t exist?
Not all believers will concur with Metcalf’s position on original sin. On the one hand, he says, “We are not all born with the burden of Adam’s specific sin pressing down upon us. Rather, we are each born with an inherent tendency toward sinful behavior.” I would generally agree with this, except that instead of “an inherent tendency” I would say “the capacity and thus the possibility.” Yet, he also writes, “Do we all inherit original sin? Absolutely. Does this mean that we have no capacity to do good? No, only that we do not have the capacity to only do good; we must also sin” (emphasis his, WSW). I do not share this conclusion. Otherwise, Metcalf does a fine job of meeting Harris argument for argument. I would have preferred to have some of his points more fleshed out, but the book was simply intended to be a concise response to Harris’s book in the same popular style in which the atheist wrote rather than a complete study of apologetics.
Of course, unbelievers and skeptics will not like it, as one who condescendingly and smugly claimed that it is filled with “various fallacious arguments.” However, in contrast to the caustic wit and bitter barbs of Harris, which picture Christians as throw-back, superstitious, unenlightened religionists, Metcalf offers an intelligent, reasoned, and relevant, yet gracious, discussion of the issues. He does a great job of pointing out how Harris massaged facts, misappropriated them, and selectively gleaned only the portions of data useful to his view. Metcalf’s “Personal Reflection” towards the end is powerful. Here is his conclusion: “The atheist has nothing to offer the dying man or woman who struggles with end of life concerns other than the legacy that may continue from the contributions made during his or her lifetime. The atheist offers no solution to the problem of apparent gratuitous evil. If we are all mere products of a Godless form of natural selection, many of us will have little more to look forward to than a life without hope, filled with unexplained suffering and ending in personal extinction. God provides the ultimate solution to the problems of evil and death, for He has offered to every one of us a means of living a life that counts forever and entering into the incommensurable joy of an eternity with Him.”