How to talk to a Skeptic – book review

 by  at Arguing with Friends

[I have written two blog entries on this book, the other at the WhyJesus blog. I look at this book from two perspectives in these two reviews.]

When I set out to write Arguing with Friends I made a decision that I second-guessed a lot. In fact, other people also questioned the wisdom of my decision. I wasn’t sure whether to merely focus on the “how” of having these kind of major worldview conversations, or whether to also include some basic data that a Christian can bring to the conversation. In other words, to what extent should I include some of the defence of the faith stuff – arguments for God’s existence, historical defence of the reliability of the Bible and so on – and to what extent should I just explain the difference between conversations you can be proud of and conversations you wish you could redo? I did end up outlining the various subjects that were likely to come up and where the reader could get more info, but I did not provide any answers or any data beyond some resources the reader could look up.

Donald J. Johnson’s book “How to Talk to a Skeptic” looks a bit like what I imagine mine might have looked like if I had spent more time on the subject of defining and defending the faith. Perhaps I’m being too generous to myself. I should say it looks a bit like what mine would have looked like if I wrote it with that goal in mind *AND* if I was drawing on the wealth of ministry knowledge and experience that Johnson is clearly drawing from. By comparison I feel like an absolute amateur. However this isn’t about me but about him and his book, so I digress.

At the other blog I consider the content of the Apologetics arguments in “How to Talk to a Skeptic,” so I just want to highlight a few thoughts at this blog about the conversation itself. I was impressed with the unstated expectation that the Christian is bringing maturity to the conversation. Maturity not merely in the sense of behaving oneself, but in the sense of staying on topic, listening carefully to the other person and taking their views seriously, considering the subject from a big-picture perspective and so forth. There is an expectation of intellectual rigour on the part of the Christian that I found refreshing in his book.

Furthermore, I appreciated the fact that his “easy to follow” guide (as the book’s subtitle suggests) is actually not particularly easy. If you take what he says seriously you can expect a time-consuming conversation involving a wide array of inter-connected subjects that could involve some heavy research and perhaps some emotionally charged conversations along the way. Although I’m not sure what inspired the “easy to follow” claim on the front cover, I am delighted that the content of the book presents a very realistic portrayal of what to expect in these kinds of conversations; far from being easy it will be challenging but rewarding.

So, in brief (my longer review is at the other blog), “How to Talk to a Skeptic” is a good, easy read (it’s easy to read, not so easy to implement) that presents very solid wisdom that Christians need to bring into their conversations with non-Christians of every flavour, not just Skeptics. His approach to these conversations is a healthy approach; a standard worth shooting for. I recommend it.

Now that I have recommended his book, if I could go back, would I change my book to be more like his? No. Neither approach is “right” or “wrong” but I do think the various books on the subject (there are more than merely our two) all offer different perspectives. No single book paints the entire picture, but if you read enough of them then you start to see the collage take form. I see great merit in his approach, but I think my book scratches a particular itch that others do not.

Though I do wish my book looked as cool as his. It’s totally obvious that mine’s self-published and he had the help of a real publishing company. Very visually appealing!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: