Tom Gilson

Reading Opposing Views

I ended my last post with this:

Agree or disagree with what he has to say–either way, you’ll find a lot to learn in it.

I got to wondering as I wrote that: do you read authors you disagree with? I’m especially interested to know if atheistic/agnostic visitors here read good Christian authors. I commend you for visiting a Christian blog–that certainly indicates your willingness to grapple with opposing views. But this is a short form, and there are better authors than me.

I could not be confident in my own beliefs if I hadn’t read some of the best from atheists or strict evolutionists: Ehrman, Ruse, Dawkins, Dennett, Harris, Hitchens, Gould, Mayr, Forrest and Gross, Miller, etc.. Atheists and agnostics, have you read Moreland, Craig, Willard, Plantinga, Geisler, or Habermas (more than articles, that is)? Have you looked through MikeGene’s work on Intelligent Design, The Design Matrix? (I haven’t reviewed it yet, but it’s on the list. Here’s a preview: far and away, it’s the one book I would most recommend to ID skeptics.)

It comes down to this: are your convictions against Christian faith directed against the real thing? How do you know?

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6 thoughts on “Reading Opposing Views

  1. I recently read a debate, in book form, between Craig and Sinnot-Armstrong. I think it was simply titled “God?”. I really enjoyed it. I’ve also perused “The Existence of God” by Swinburne, and a Plantinga reader called “The Analytic Theist”, although I confess I haven’t actually read either of them cover-to-cover (yet). I’ve got a couple of Process Theology books in the queue as well. I imagine that, if I ever become a theist (doubtful as that seems at the moment), it’ll be through Process Theology or something like it.

    It’s just a matter of finding time to sit down and read. Usually, when I get home from a stressful day at work, reading is the last thing I feel like doing.

  2. Tom, I tend to the shorter forms, like this blog, because I find I can’t read a longer work when it’s not making any sense from the get-go. A complex work creates a complex logical structure, so when I find myself disagreeing with the foundation, from the beginning, I see there’s no hope of sustaining the argument, so I have no incentive.

    I applaud you as a theist yourself for reading those atheist authors.

  3. I think it’s imperative that you read substantial works from opposing viewpoints; I don’t see how you can arrive at a real conclusion/conviction otherwise. I was pleased to learn recently that “The God Delusion” is being read by at least one professor’s philosophy students at Moody Bible Institute. Yet I’m routinely shocked to discover how little exposure my non-Christian acquaintances have to better Christian books, or the Bible, or even to evangelical Christians.

  4. It tends to be more edifying intellectually to read someone you disagree with, I find. I already have a one-up on my side of the issue, so keeping up with the other side seems to almost take precedence to me. I’m extremely under-read, but that’s a good principle, I think.

    Ehrman just came out with a new book–saw it at Barnes & Noble the other day. It is the case that the Bible does not give a satisfactory solution to the problem of human suffering. Very personal for him; apparently that was the direct cause of his loss of faith.

  5. Ehrman was just on Fresh Air on NPR:
    http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=19096131

    Really, I think he’s a good example of what happens when someone commits fully to a line of thinking (particularly a doctrinally idiosyncratic one, which seems to be a prerequisite in cases like Ehrman’s) and only discovers much later that there are good arguments on both sides. He wouldn’t be the first person I’ve heard express a feeling of betrayal in finding out that there were well-reasoned arguments against the Christian faith in existence, after some time of having no exposure to them. I think Ehrman’s challenges are pretty impotent myself, but maybe that’s because I’ve heard them before.

  6. Some friends of mine are on their way out of the Faith because of the relatively trivial problem of contradictions in the Bible. Considering some of the powerful arguments of men like Dawkins and Russell, it is strange that they should become unhinged over something so insignificant. In any event, if Christians would read more of the opposition, they would be better prepared to deal with their arguments and would be better able to spot their errors in reasoning.

    Kind regards,
    Russ

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