A lot of worldview introductions are little more than catalogues of popular ideologies, with descriptions and Christian criticisms of each one. Jeff Baldwin's book is a little different—using the stories of Frankenstein and The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, he attempts to demonstrate how Mary Shelley's invention illustrates an inherently humanistic way of looking at the world, while Stevenson's is a Christian way of understanding the world, man and evil.
For the most part, however, Baldwin sticks to the formula, with chapters covering the major world religions and how they all preach salvation through human goodness, the inherent religiosity of all belief systems and their reliance on faith, competing ethics systems, and the Christian concepts of sin and divine redemption. Overall the focus is on anthropology with special emphasis on man's fallen state and need for a savior—Baldwin relentlessly compares the "humanist" answers to these problems to orthodox Christian solutions to show that Christianity is superior.
The writing is accessible and fast-paced, and Baldwin's unique approach will keep most (mature) high school students and adults interested. He's repetitive in his insistence that Christianity is the only ideology/philosophy/theology that amply explains man's dilemma and offers a clear route to redemption, but he is succinct overall and doesn't spend too much time on any topic. This means you cover a lot of ground, but also that much of the material is severely truncated and lacks in-depth analysis.
More troublesome than this lack of depth is Baldwin's misinterpretation of literature. Frankenstein isn't about the monster's inherent goodness, it's about man's propensity to wreak havoc through science and technology, a point the ideologically Romantic Shelley very much wanted to make at the dawn of the Industrial Revolution. And while Mr. Hyde does eventually triumph over Dr. Jekyll, Stevenson is making largely the same point as Shelley while also celebrating the rational as superior to the irrational (Stevenson was a grandson of the Enlightenment).
Misinterpreting great literature is bad enough. But Baldwin pulls the last straw when he implicitly accepts ancient heresy in place of historical, orthodox Christian anthropology. By embracing The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde as the Christian view of mankind, he also embraces Manichaeism (the belief that good and evil are perpetually at war) and Pelagianism (the idea that man is born good). Dr. Jekyll is not born evil, he becomes so by perpetually giving in to his "darker side" (the idea that man has two nautres is yet another heresy, the heresy of Gnosticism).
Baldwin's book isn't all bad. He adequately (at least for beginners) describes many of the primary philosophies and religious ideologies at work in the modern world, and demonstrates their departures both from reality and true Christian doctrine. The Deadliest Monster will doubtless spark discussion, which is one of the primary means humans reach conclusions and become better thinkers. But his use of a distinctly un-Christian view of human nature to illustrate the Christian attitude is dangerous, to say the least, perhaps even deadlier than the monsters he perceives.
Review by C. Hollis Crossman
C. Hollis Crossman used to be a child. Now he is a husband and father, teaches adult Sunday school in his Presbyterian congregation, and likes weird stuff. He might be a mythical creature, but he's definitely not a centaur. Read more of his reviews here.
Table of Contents:
- Prologue: Mad Scientists
- The Monster in the Mirror
- Blind Faith
- On Our Best Behavior
- A Monstrous Paradox
Review by C. Hollis Crossman
C. Hollis Crossman used to be a child. Now he's a husband and father who loves church, good food, and weird stuff. He might be a mythical creature, but he's definitely not a centaur. Read more of his reviews here
Did you find this review helpful?