Quaker Universalist Voice

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HPtFtU in Defense of the Christian Tradition

A Book Review of Francis Spufford, Unapologetic: Why, Despite Everything, Christianity can still make surprising emotional sense (2013)

This book is highly praised in the media.  The press reviews appear uniformly positive.  Religious and secular leaders speak in glowing terms in support of the book.

This book’s title is odd.  Unapologetic:  Why, Despite Everything, Christianity can still make surprising emotional sense does not fit the text.  The book is an apology (defense, excuse, explanation and justification) for Christianity as a witness to truth and kindness in relation to others and it makes sense to ordinary people on reflection.  Perhaps, a more candid title would be like “Apologetic: In My Opinion, Christianity is True and Makes Sense.”

The book’s tone and language appear refreshing.  Loose, candid, and intemperate language is evident in this theological argument for Christianity. The swearing is intended to make the statements seem more authentic somehow.  He coins the term HPtFtU (p. 27) to carry much of the candor he relishes in the book’s narrative and affirms his people bona fides for his constituency.

The book is a quick write and read.  It offers no index, reference notes, or table of contents, but there are several informative page-bottom notes offered for clarification.  There are chapters that corresponds to an implicit table of contents, which can be summarized as:

  • No defense or apology for Christianity
  • State of the Christian church (primarily the Anglican Church)
  • God
  • Evil
  • Jesus
  • Scripture
  • Christian crimes in relation to political power
  • Consequence of faith in practice

The structure of the book feels like a series of independent essays that do not quite flow together, except for the linkage provided by the energy of vivid language. The style is much praised by secular and Christian leaders, even as it is difficult to follow the argument presented.

The author traffics in long sentences and long paragraphs, which are saved by the conversational tone. The book could use further editorial assistance to strengthen the readability and logic.

The author describes the basics of the Christian witness to reality. The introduction provides a distillation of the argument.

Quakers: If you press through the language and long sentences, it appears that the author is an articulate, profane, undisclosed Quaker speaking.  In this book, the author does not make substantive mention of Quakers, but the Quaker tradition within the British Christian tradition is evident throughout and knowing this at the start aids the reader.   

The author makes the same argument about Christian institutions and behavior in the 20th century that the Quaker movement made in the 17th century.  There is one vague mention of Quakers (p. 185) as the victims of hanging by fellow Protestant New Englander Christians in the colonies.  This is presented as an example of the dilemma of Christians exercising governmental power, which exercise is consistently followed by cruelty and suffering tyranny.

There is a certain foundational universalism in the narrative. The author reminds the reader  that Christians alone are not solely responsible for the HPtFtU in the world and history, but this larger human condition, of which Christianity is a part, is not the focus or structure of his argument in this book.


  • Should Quakers adopt loose language to express the truth of their experience, reason, and tradition and to better attract public attention?
  • Are there important and useful places in spiritual life and its communication for embracing vivid HPtFtU language?
  • Can an apology for Christianity be sound, if the same apology cannot be applied to other religions, including the Quaker tradition within the Christian tradition?


F.rancis Spufford, Unapologetic: Why, Despite Everything, Christianity can still make surprising emotional sense (2013)

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