This book is a bit of an odd one, because I can’t quite nail it down. I suppose I was expecting a comparison between Calvinism and Arminianism, and this is definitely not that. It’s quite academic in flavour, looking at the philosophical and psychological history of belief in free will along with an analysis of societal contexts within which a stronger belief in free will would help.
First things first: I found this pretty interesting. I’m sure I’ll bring up stuff I’ve read here in conversations, and it definitely got me thinking. I’ve never put any time or effort into thinking through the ideas of whether or not we have free will, or whether or not belief in free will makes any difference, and this book has kick-started that thought process for me.
However, it’s fair to say that I don’t really get this book. It’s very academic in everything except the overall structure, which is frustrating – it took a while for me to understand where the author was going with this, and after having read it I’m not sure I get it even now, other than him saying that we ought to believe in free will. To say it’s branded as a Christian book that Christian input is fairly quiet throughout, and even when it comes in it’s analysed in the same way as any other philosophical source. The Bible’s quoted to back up Begley’s arguments and not to initiate thought, so I certainly didn’t feel like I’d learnt ‘the Christian view’ of free will here.
What particularly frustrated me was the way that the book looked at a couple of examples to demonstrate how belief in free will affects society, but the focus then shifted too far (in my eyes) onto the author’s own view of those particular situations; apparently offering financial support to the unemployed makes them lazy and reliant on good, hard-working citizens; of course communism is an idea from the devil himself; and scientific evidence shows that child abuse isn’t as harmful as society tells us it is. Yes, that last one is perhaps slightly skewing what the author says, but the particular chapter it’s in is long story about the American Psychological Association and the American Psychiatric Association and the confusion between the two – I still have no idea what the difference is, and I still have no idea how that relates to a belief in free will.
So in conclusion this has started some good thought processes, but I don’t think it’s done the best job at it – it’s got an academic tone without an academic objective, it gets too bogged down with the examples without explaining fully what we should conclude, and it doesn’t reinforce a Christian focus enough.
I got this ebook for free from BookSneeze.com in exchange for an honest review.