Review of Gen Scrivener, The Air We Breathe, UK: The Good Book Company, 2022.

            Glen Scrivener has almost tried to Christianise Tom Holland’s Dominion, and in doing so avoids some of the traps in Holland’s approach. Holland sees Christendom everywhere in the West – in Donald Trump and in Joe Biden; in the MeToo movement; and even, as a dim echo, in communism. The result is informative, but potentially dangerous, or at least seriously deficient. Scrivener, on the other hand, investigates seven values that are in ‘the air we breathe’: equality, compassion, consent, Enlightenment, science, freedom, and progress. He does not argue that ‘West is best’, but he does see these seven values as anchored in Christianity, and, in that sense, in ‘the air we breathe’.

            This paradigm is stimulating but might not be the most convincing. The law of God is written on the heart of every human being (Rom.2:14-16). Scrivener tries to interpret ancient Athens as being ruled not by democracy but by the divination of the Delphic Oracle. The voice of the people is not so readily set aside – as Socrates found. Furthermore, Christianity holds the virtues together. For example, equality is not a primary Christian virtue. It is present in the mix, but there an obvious biblical emphasis on order which co-exists with it.

            Compassion can provide another example. In 2014 Richard Dawkins advised women who found they were carrying a child with Down Syndrome: ‘Abort it and try again. It would be immoral to bring it into the world if you have the choice.’ Scrivener is impressed that there were objections to Dawkins’ tweet, and sees this as a reflection of the Christian view that the sacrifice of the fittest for the sake of the weakest is the motivation for Calvary. The pre-Christian ancient world had little concept of compassion – that part is true – but post-Christian distortions of it have been used to justify abortion and pandering to the what is seen to be a vulnerable LGBTQI community. Compassion cannot stand on its own two feet; it requires a Christian foundation. And it requires a Christian partner in justice.

            Scrivener is right in warning that ‘The secular river is running dry.’ Yet the danger is not just from secularism. A Christless, Spirit-less, Bible-rejecting ‘Christianity’ is just as dangerous. Scrivener presses his point home in his last section on ‘Choose Your Miracle’. Only the resurrection of Christ explains what would otherwise be absurd. Here, Scrivener chases after his reader and is wonderfully relentless in pointing to Christ.

Overall, there is much here that will help Christians and challenge non-Christians, and is to be recommended most strongly.

– Peter Barnes