What do I think of Don Johnson’s book? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.
A couple of months ago, Don Johnson contacted me about a book that at the time of contact and at the time of my writing this piece, had not yet been released called “How To Talk To A Skeptic.” I was more than happy to agree to read it for him and review it.
Now generally, I’ve reached the point where straight apologetics books don’t really interest me as much. It’s hard to read without thinking “Been there. Done that. Got the T-Shirt.” I then came to the book thinking that I could very well get more of the same.
I pleasantly found out that I was wrong.
Now I don’t consider Johnson’s book an apologetics book per se. If you want to know a book that will give you the straight forward answers, this isn’t it. It is a book more in line with a work like Tactics by Greg Koukl.
The very start is excellent in that Johnson points out that too many people treat religion as if it was an ice cream flavor. What we do is go to the skeptic then and relate our great experiences we’ve had of the Christian faith and get the answer back “I’m fine you found something that works for you and I’m happy for you, but it’s just not for me.”
Johnson is entirely correct in thinking that if you go to the skeptic with that and they answer as stated above, you’re stuck. There’s nothing more you can say. The goal then is not to treat religion as a preference, but treat it as a worldview, a truth claim. Do a Joe Friday and go for “Just The Facts.”
Johnson is also correct to point out that too many times, the skeptic is just highly ignorant of what he writes about. There is hardly a better illustration of this than the internet meme. Most memes made to argue against Christianity are so simplistic nowadays that I don’t even bother with them.
Another fine instance of this is in the listing of “Bible Contradictions.” Now to be fair, there are some supposed contradictions that do require real scholarship and interaction to figure out, but there are some that are just simplistic and made by people who haven’t really bothered to study the text. Most of these types think that they’ve found hidden gold without realizing that if they had done any fact-checking, they have quite likely not come across anything some Christian in the past has not addressed already.
Of course, Johnson is also correct that it’s true that many Christians don’t produce a valid response to the criticisms of atheists and in fact perpetuate the stereotype of blind believers. Yet such is the case of atheist fundamentalism. There are blind believers of pro-Christian arguments and there are blind believers of anti-Christian arguments.
Johnson’s approach is to clear away all the misbeliefs about Christianity before discussing the true beliefs about Christianity. This I consider highly important in our age of the internet where fewer and fewer people actually think but rather just read Wikipedia articles or a web site by just anyone who hasn’t really actually done any research.
The next section gets into thinking about God and much of this information is highly important. The question of Hell is answered as well as the question of if Heaven is a boring place. There is also material in here about how to think about the Bible, including getting past the idea that it’s just a fax from God.
The final section does get into some of the data including the idea that Christianity came from pagan myths, something that leads me to suspect that Johnson has an audience one will find on the internet more in mind. Then there are moral issues as well, such as the fact that sex is something that keeps people from the Kingdom. Johnson gives a more powerful viewpoint on the topic and why it is that sex matters so much.
Having said all that, there are ways I would improve.
I would have liked to have seen more on such ideas as the problem of evil and the resurrection of Jesus. There is some of that throughout, but I would have liked to have seen more. The former since it is the greatest obstacle I think to Christianity today, and the latter because it is the greatest argument for Christianity today. (And in fact, properly understood, an answer to the former question.)
I did find the chapter on personal experiences to not be as convincing. If you’re talking about miracles, those are much more objective, but much anything else tends to get into subjectivity and leads to a way that the atheist can discount everything being said.
There were also times that Johnson recommended other books. That’s fine and good, but at some of those times, I was left wishing that more could have been said on his point in the argument. Give me a little sample of why I should go to those other books.
Still, the negatives do not distract from the positive. This is a highly readable and engaging book that starts a conversation with the reader on how to talk about issues of faith. Johnson’s work is an excellent look at this important topic and as one who does apologetics debates regularly, I am glad to commend it.