The First Days of Jesus by Andreas Köstenberger and Alexander Stewart, Free for CAPC Members
Readers are able to experience the supposedly familiar early chapters of Matthew, Luke, and John with new eyes.
“I don’t know why you always have to be judging me? Because, I only believe in science.” —Esqueleto Nacho Libre
I have to be honest, and this is partly due the sub-standard quality of both message and means coming from the “Christian film industry”: when I see a work of Christian apologetics, I instantly cringe. If I notice the work is trying to argue from the vantage point of the skeptic or non-Christian, I will cringe all the more. American Evangelical films are notoriously bad for stereotyping, demonizing, and making horrible caricatures of skeptics and doubters trying to wrestle with the empirical evidence of God’s existence (yes, I’m looking at you God’s Not Dead and your many hideous sequels).Instead of loading the intellectual shotgun and blasting away at any and every so-called “stupid” line of thought, Stokes helps us think and become intellectually informed for our friends’ sakes.
So in being fair and honest, even the title of Mitch Stokes’s How to Be an Atheist had me on edge. I suppose that enough of the “mockumentary” apologetic type discussions that rove around Christian subculture today are at fault for my first instinct. I just tire of skeptics and non-Christians being told how stupid they are for their lack of Christian faith. Titles like God Doesn’t Believe in Atheists are not helpful or irenic in the conversation. After all, we want our skeptical and agnostic friends to really know God’s love. These kinds of works are the Donald Trumps of Christian apologetics — they get a cheap laugh at the expense of someone else, but don’t develop any insight or intelligent thinking about another persons worldview. Too much of Christian apologetics these days are just bent around winning some rational, scientific, or theological argument. Right makes right.
So when How to Be an Atheist by Mitch Stokes rolled into my inbox for this month’s member offering from Crossway, I was a bit troubled. However, let me encourage you to get past the title. And let me encourage you to read this with a skeptic or doubter. This book is made for conversation.
Stokes orients his work around the two major passions in life for many atheists: science and morality. Stokes argues that both are good passions and worthy of pursuit, but they have a place, and both Christian and non-Christian can layer in their presupposed biases into any helpful discussion. Like demonstrating how one came to a conclusion or answer in an algebra class though, one must show their work. And this is what Stokes does. He shows the work of the worldview of a skeptic.
Once we understand how they got to their conclusions, we can can understand how to interact with and converse in those conclusions.
I may be overstating it a bit, but this kind of work is helpful for Christians to read — and not for the reasons we think. It isn’t helpful to read How to Be an Atheist in order to win the argument, or to be able to point out a logical fallacy to our skeptic-friends. This book is helpful in that it should offers us a measure of grace and patience in conversing with these friends. Instead of loading the intellectual shotgun and blasting away at any and every so-called “stupid” line of thought, Stokes helps us think and become intellectually informed for our friends’ sakes.
He also gives Christians a measure of confidence and courage. Our faith in Christ is a solid and stable reality. We have a reasonable and realistic viewpoint in the world, and can and should be able to be confident about it. Furthermore, with Stokes help, we can navigate the thinking and intellectual process of a person who is prone to doubt and skepticism. From all of this we can grow in our thinking and our acting towards those who are not Christians.
Our hope is that this book will generate sound discussion among our readers in what it means to believe, what it means to doubt, and the faith that it takes to get to both places. This book helpfully beckons Christians and atheists alike to “doubt their doubts and believe their beliefs.”
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