A review of Ravi Zacharias’ book "Deliver Us from Evil"

Russ Carlson - Presented at the CFF meeting on March 18, 1999.

After agreeing to review this book, I soon realized that it had been some time since I had read it. Consequently, it was necessary to read it through again (albeit a bit more quickly this time). This past Sunday evening, I was just finishing the book for the second time after a rather busy Sunday with Sunday School, the worship service, dinner at church, followed by services at two nursing homes. I decided to put the book "Deliver Us From Evil" aside for awhile and flicked on the TV—"Schindler’s List". I concluded that I was not going to escape the subject of this book after all.

I would like to begin this review by considering the theme of a book by another author with whom we are all familiar, and since it was 1944, the time period for the movie "Schindler’s List", he also probably had the subject of evil on his mind. That author is C.S. Lewis, and the book is "The Abolition of Man". In fact R.Z. discusses a portion of "The Abolition of Man" toward the end of his book. Also, it is the end of "Deliver Us From Evil" that is most fresh in my memory and, therefore, it is probably best for me and for you that I begin at this point.

The subtitle of C.S. Lewis’ book is "Reflections on Education with Special Reference to the Teaching of English in the Upper Forms of Schools". Lewis begins with some pointed criticism of an instruction book on the teaching of English. In that instruction book, the authors (Lewis gives them the pseudonyms "Gaius" and "Titius") quote a story about two tourists at a waterfall written by a man named Coleridge. One of the tourists calls the waterfall "sublime", the other calls it "pretty". Coleridge disagrees with the "pretty" description. Gaius and Titius state, in their effort to demonstrate certain uses of language, that when the one tourist stated that the "waterfall is sublime" he was not really making a statement about the waterfall, but, rather, about his own feelings, e.g. "I have sublime feelings". Gaius and Titius go on to state that such confusion is common in language, that "We appear to be saying something very important about something; and actually we are only saying something about our own feelings". Lewis says that instead of teaching English, Gaius and Titius are teaching (perhaps unknowingly) ethics and philosophy; namely, that a statement of value ("the waterfall is sublime") only reflects the speakers emotional state, and that such a statement is unimportant.

I have a personal story regarding this topic told to me by my brother (Dwight) about my father, who is now 86 and has suffered two heart attacks (actually he’s doing quite well at the moment). Last year Dwight decided to take our parents to see the Grand Canyon—they had never been there before. As you may know, the canyon is hardly visible until you are right up to the edge, and then the whole incredible view, which no camera can do justice, overwhelms one’s senses. Well, my father’s reaction was rather different. He walked up to the edge, looked over, and stated "My, what a monstrosity!". Dwight and I had a great laugh at that reaction. Of course, we think we know what Dad really meant, but why is that description—that the Grand Canyon is a "monstrosity"—humorous? It is humorous because everyone knows that the Grand Canyon is "awesome", "magnificent", "incredible", "unbelievable", and perhaps even "sublime". It is not "a monstrosity". There is a proper description of the Grand Canyon (and of Coleridge’s waterfall) because those objects merit such a description, i.e. there is real value in those natural phenomena that brought forth the emotion of "it is sublime". Lewis goes on to say that to go along with Gaius and Titius is to say that (1.) there is a "world of facts without any value" (e.g. a waterfall is water dropping off a sharp incline, or the Grand Canyon is a large indentation in the earth caused by flowing water), and (2) there is "a world of feelings without one trace of truth or falsehood, justice or injustice", and (3.) there is no connection between the two worlds. To illustrate this a bit further, let’s go back to the movie "Schindler’s List". As I watched that movie, I found the actions of the Nazi’s repulsive, nauseating , contemptible, horrifying, etc. According to views of Gaius and Titius, these conclusions would neither be true or false, they would only reflect my feelings which are unimportant. In this example, it is easy to see the moral bankruptcy of such thinking. Lewis points out that in contrast to this misguided thinking, is the "doctrine of objective value, the belief that certain attitudes are really true, and others really false". It is as J. Budziezewski premised in his lecture "Can We Be Good Without God"; we all really know what is good, but we repress what we know, and we delude ourselves. That we all really know what is good is the concept of "Natural Law" (see "Written on the Heart" by J. Budziezewski). It is also described in Scripture (e.g. in Romans), and in the writings of many other cultures (many examples are illustrated in the Appendix to Lewis’ book). This doctrine of "Natural Law" is not something that is to be proved—it is something on which to base proofs. It is what makes us human, and, thus, to remove it is to abolish humanness—hence Lewis’ title "The Abolition of Man".

While C.S. Lewis was a prophet warning us of what would come (in fact, had come in Nazi Germany) if objective truth is abolished, i.e. humanity would be abolished, "Deliver Us From Evil" addresses the current results of such thinking—the loss of respect for human life, and greater and greater evil actions. In fact, he describes that it has now gotten to the point where many people are raising their voices saying, "What has happened to us, and what can be done to Deliver Us from Evil"? This book describes how we got to where we are, and what might happen in the future. It is divided into three sections: 1. "The Moods of the Present". 2. "The Voices of the Past". 3. "The Face of the Future".

In the first section, R.Z. describes how (a.) secularization has led to a loss of shame resulting in evil even against those we love, (b.) pluralization has lead to a loss of reason resulting in evil toward those we choose to hate, and (c.) privatization has lead us to a loss of meaning, generating evil against ourselves.

With regard to secularization, let’s remember Lewis’ premise in "The Abolition of Man"; that if we follow the view of Gaius and Titius, namely, that statements of "value" only reflect the speakers emotional state (his feelings), and are unimportant, we reach the conclusion that there is (1.) a world of facts without any value, (2.) a world of feelings without a trace of truth or falsehood, justice or injustice, and (3.) that these worlds have no relevance to one another—they are not connected. Such a view is commonly brought forth in evolutionary thinking that is based on materialistic thought; if you recall the NAS Guidebook on Teaching Evolution, one of its goals is to teach students, that religion is faith, and science is knowledge—these are the same two worlds mentioned above; religious faith is in the world of feelings and personal opinion, and science is a world of facts (knowledge and, therefore, important), and these two worlds are not connected in any manner; in fact, they should not be allowed to be connected. R.Z. states that secularization is the view that all public life should be conducted without reference to religion or any notion of transcendence. Thus, secularization is the imposition of materialist philosophy on all aspects of public life. R.Z. does a good job of describing the origin and development of secularism—that "man is the measure of all things" (first put forth by Protagorus and the Sophists), and that this basically means that "individuals are not responsible to any transcendent moral authority for the