Book Review: God?: A Debate Between A Christian And An Atheist

God?: A Debate Between A Christian And An Atheist, by William Lane Craig and Walter Sinnott-Armstrong

I borrowed this particular book from a friend of mine, as I enjoy reading about rational and philosophical proofs of God from time to time [1], and I wanted to see what it offered in terms of the classic debates between theists and atheists. Truth be told, there is little new to be found in this debate, which is divided into six chapters, alternating between theism and atheism, ending up with both of them convinced of their same opinion still, but each of them hoping to have persuaded the fair-minded of neutral reader, if such a reader exists. I know, for example, that I am not an unbiased observer in such matters given my own clear Christian worldview, which I write about often enough for it to present an occasional entrance into my own debates with skeptics and unbelievers due to my own writings and my own critiques of the writings of others that touch on the subject of faith and science or faith and history. That being said, the essays themselves were very conversational, which made the book easy to read even if it did not tend to cover any new territory.

Although, as a committed theist myself, I found Craig’s arguments to be far more compelling, there was still something interesting in noticing the contrasting approaches of the two debaters. Craig was the hedgehog, sticking to his thesis, drawing on an impressive and varied support, sometimes from his debate partner’s arguments themselves, while Sinnott-Armstrong was the fox, trying all kinds of arguments, some of them mutually contradictory, in order to find some space where the existence of the biblical God could be doubted enough to allow some space for the philosopher to choose his own way to live life without any fear or likelihood of eternal judgment. It struck me that Craig’s arguments were of a different kind than his opponent’s. Craig’s arguments were complementary and added to each other to present a bigger picture, while his opponent’s were ad hoc arguments designed with tactical rather than strategic aims in mind, seeking to make a case for agnosticism but claim it as a case for atheism, to shift gears, to make up fallacies, to set up straw men to knock them down, to assume that which he sought to prove, and to utterly fail to engage in any meaningful sort of thought experiments that would help him understand where theists were coming from.

What does a debate like this actually prove? For one, it proves that people tend to argue from their premises, and not to examine those premises particularly closely, regardless of where they are coming from. We tend to rate higher that evidence or those authorities that bolster aspects of our case and downgrade our view of those authorities that are hostile to our perspectives. We do not always examine the long-term ramifications of what we believe, or claim to believe, and in arguments we may seek to downplay what we actually believe in order to appeal to a wider audience than would support our positions if they knew what they truly were. Additionally, when we debate the existence of God, all too easily the argument descends into attempting to argue about the purposes of God’s behavior, whether that is allowing evil or being so implicit and indirect in his dealings with mankind, or what counts as independent and corroborating evidence. Those whose minds and hearts are closed simply have no openings by which they can change their ways, and it is better if people do not let themselves get hardened against God or others in the first place. That, though, is far easier said than done, as a look at our lives and the world around us will demonstrate far beyond reasonable doubt.

[1] See, for example:

About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
This entry was posted in Bible, Book Reviews, Christianity and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Book Review: God?: A Debate Between A Christian And An Atheist

  1. Pingback: Book Review: The Comeback | Edge Induced Cohesion

  2. Pingback: Burden Of Proof | Edge Induced Cohesion

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