God is No Thing

Coherent Christianity

March 2016 9781849046374 136pp
Temporarily out of stock
July 2024 9781805261612 136pp
Forthcoming Pre-order
EU Customers


‘God is no thing, but not nothing.’ These words from the renowned thinker Herbert McCabe point to a fallacy at the heart of New Atheist polemics against religion: the deity rejected by Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens, Sam Harris and their followers is not God as taught in classical tradition, but merely a blown-up thing. From this basic error flow many more misunderstandings about Christianity and other creeds. As a result, debate on life’s biggest questions has grown vitriolic as well as confused.

Although parts of the Western world now appear almost totally secularised, Christianity remains the most potent worldview on earth alongside Islam. In this compelling book, Rupert Shortt gracefully argues that Christianity is a much more coherent, progressive body of belief – philosophically, scientifically and culturally – than often supposed by its critics. Alert to the menace posed by religious fundamentalism, as well as to secularist blind spots, he shows how a self-critical faith is of huge consequence to wider human flourishing, including through promoting peace and environmental sustainability.


‘[A] meditative exploration of what Christian commitment means in the contemporary world.’ — Anglican Theological Review

‘This is a case for Faith which will trouble the doubting with reason’s light.’ — A. N. Wilson

‘A powerful indirect commendation of Christian faith … [T]his is an excellent book, spirited, lucid and plainspoken without losing generosity. It deserves a place alongside the best of the recent crop of intelligent responses to the New Atheism.’ — Rowan Williams, The Guardian

‘Rupert Shortt takes no prisoners. This is Christian apologetics with shirt-sleeves rolled up.’ — Diarmaid MacCulloch, Professor of the History of the Church, University of Oxford, and author of A History of Christianity: The First Three Thousand Years

‘[Shortt] is in a line stretching back to C. S. Lewis, Dorothy Sayers, and G. K. Chesterton … his evident learning, combined with an engaging style and light touch, makes this a book that can be confidently placed in the hands of even the most stubborn sceptic with some hope of a fair hearing … This short book packs a punch.’ — Bishop John Saxbee, Church Times

‘Shortt offers a conception of nature which grants us the right to say that it brims over with intimations of the divine.’ — The Times Literary Supplement

‘[Shortt] sets out with modesty, sensitivity and unfailing courtesy to demonstrate the coherence of Christian belief, managing along the way to encompass a remarkably wide range of topics, with elegance and economy. … But for all its courtesy and absence of scorn, God is No Thing unflinchingly tackles the philosophically naive parodies of Christian belief targeted in secularist criticism.’ — The Tablet

‘An intellectually robust case for Christianity … [Shortt] brings thoughtfulness and intellectual rigour to his defence … deserves to be reflected upon and debated by believers and unbelievers alike.’ — The Catholic Herald

‘Brilliant … [Shortt] demonstrates that Christianity has a beautiful intellectual coherence, which is often lacking in today’s atheists.’ — Methodist Recorder

‘good evidence that Christian apologetic is often best attempted by lay people … [Shortt] takes critical and sceptical theology in his stride … a thoughtful and welcome attempt to defend Christianity as a faith that is both credible and attractive.’ — Angela Tilby, Canon Emeritus, Christ Church Cathedral Oxford, Theology Journal

‘Deft and timely: a primer for believers, and for everyone else, of the ways in which Christianity feeds heart and mind.’ — Francis Spufford, author of Red Plenty and Unapologetic

‘Rupert Shortt’s passionate book is a fine antidote to the distorted and simplified views of Christianity widespread in the current debate about religion. Many books have attempted to describe what is wrong with the “new atheist” account of religion — Shortt’s is one of the best. In articulating a “grown-up form of Christianity between scepticism and fundamentalism”, it will surely speak to those believers who have “lived themselves into a new way of thinking”, in Shortt’s memorable phrase. But it ought to be of interest also to those atheists who want to understand what the Christian life might genuinely be like.’ — Tim Crane, Knightbridge Professor of Philosophy, University of Cambridge

‘Rupert Shortt’s intellectually and emotionally engaging essay succeeds admirably in bringing out how far authentic Christian belief diverges from the crude caricatures of its secular critics and the misguided literalism of its fundamentalist advocates.’ — John Cottingham, Professor Emeritus of Philosophy, University of Reading

God Is No Thing is a beautifully written spiritual tour de force, drawing on rich and profound sources in philosophy, theology and comparative religion. At its heart is a compelling argument that contrasts authentic religious pluralism with religious relativism. The reader is ultimately brought to his irresistible conclusion—that Christianity is the religion of love that most fully fits the human heart.’ — John Cornwell, Fellow Commoner at Jesus College, University of Cambridge, and author of Darwin’s Angel

‘The cultured despisers of Christian faith often set up caricature versions of it to knock down. Rupert Shortt shows that mainline Christianity remains more than able to withstand intellectual attack, and in a robust, lucid style opens up the philosophical and doctrinal arguments for the non-specialist reader.’ — The Very Reverend Dr Jeffrey John, Dean of St Albans

‘Is there a case, now, for Christianity as a coherent set of beliefs? Rupert Shortt has made it here, extraordinarily well. Wide-ranging in reference, rigorous in its theology, and sharply written, this book is a resounding challenge to Christians of all stripes as well as to agnostics and atheists. It is also an exhilarating read.’ — Lucy Beckett, author of In the Light of Christ: Writings in the Western Tradition

‘One word that is attached to the reality of God is transcendent — he is like goodness and truth and life, only more so. But as Rupert Shortt … reminds us, God is also, in the words of St Augustine of Hippo, closer to us than we are to ourselves.’ — The Telegraph

‘To call God is No Thing a work of Christian apologetics rather than a detailed analysis of claims about the ontological status of religious phenomena is not to underestimate its extraordinary achievement. In no more than 120 pages of rich theological argument, Shortt brings cool reason, and an added measure of acid polemic, to bear against the pretensions of the anti-religious secularism of the so-called New Atheists.’ — Thinking Faith


Rupert Shortt is a research associate at the Von Hügel Institute, University of Cambridge. He was religion editor of The Times Literary Supplement from 2000 to 2020, and has written for publications including the Financial Times, The Guardian and The Spectator. His books include Benedict XVIRowan’s Rule: The Biography of the ArchbishopOutgrowing Dawkins: God for Grown-UpsThe Hardest Problem: God, Evil and Suffering; and Faltering Faith: Christianity’s Eclipse and Why It Matters (forthcoming).

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