The Atheist Who Didn’t Exist by Andy Bannister
In the world (sometimes alternate universe) of apologetics, many good arguments are made but merely slip through the cracks of irrelevance due to disinterest, disengagement, and dog on unpopularity.
On the other hand, if someone in Christendom makes a bad argument, it is immediately exposed by “to whom it may concern”. Atheists and Secularists are relentless in their efforts to deconstruct the Christian Faith. Our responsibility is to make not only convincing arguments but also sound and valid. As Christians who claim to be bearers, proclaimers, and defenders of the truth, we don’t have the luxury of being sloppy when it comes to our presentation. This is the front line of the so-called culture war and frankly, it’s one of the reasons we have lost so much relevance as culture engagers.
Congruently, skeptics, secularists, atheists, agnostics, materialists, Neo-Darwinists, and the list goes on, display an entire array of un-critical thinking on a variety of issues. Some of their fallacious forays focus fearful flocks on seemingly insurmountable logic, when more often than not they’ve let their mouth overload their tail.
Bad arguments are a problem.
There are lots of people out there making arguments and there are many of them bad. That is reality for Christians and non-Christians alike. To be sure, when Christians make bad arguments the consequences are far more detrimental.
I made an effort to point that out last year when I argued that several Christian leaders were making a bad argument when it came to the issue of the Confederate Battle Flag. In my blog post Arguments Matter, I pointed out the logical outcome of their argument. Even though they may have been well-intentioned and even possibly correct, their argument will lead to some unintended consequences and the Church will pay a price.
How important is it to make good arguments? What are the results of making a bad argument? What is at stake? How can we recognize a bad argument?
That is the point of Andy Bannister’s latest book, The Atheist Who Didn’t Exist or the Dreadful Consequences of Bad Arguments.
Who is Andy Bannister?
Dr. Andy Bannister is the Director of the Solas Centre for Public Christianity and an adjunct speaker for RZIM. He holds a PhD in Islamic Studies and speaks regularly in Canada, the US, and the UK.
Andy resides in Canada but is definitely British, which explains the constant “ou” he uses in words like ‘favorite’ to confuse Americans. He is a well-known apologist and a joy to read. He’s authored a academic read An Oral Formulaic Study of the Qur’an which is an excellent resource and Heroes-Five Leaders from Whose Lives We Can Learn. Both are serious reads for the serious Christian.
The Atheist Who Didn’t Exist strays from that ilk a bit.
If you are from the South (the Southern US), you are probably familiar with Lewis Grizzard. In my hometown, he was featured in the local newspaper for several years. His comical stories of Southern life gave many folks a laugh by telling stories about ‘real’ life and ‘real’ people. The personal feel gave the reader something to hold on to, dirt to put your hands in, so to speak.
That made the truth in Grizzard’s stories much easier to swallow for they were not without a point. A little honey makes the vinegar go down…
Andy’s newest book is a whole lot of helpful truth packaged in a great deal of honey, if you’ll excuse my metaphor. The Atheist Who Didn’t Exist is one of those books that is not only good for the apologist who may go off halfcocked at times, it’s a book that is accessible to anyone in the pews, and it’s a joy to read!
What’s in it?
Chapter after chapter a story is told, an argument presented, and what ought to be obvious but is easy to miss is exposed. Andy has done a superb job at representing some of the rhetorically strong but logically weak arguments used by many of the New Atheists and their followers. From the “One less God” argument to the “Flying Spaghetti Monster”, Andy peels back the layers of logical licentiousness and exposes the rotten root of a bad argument.
On the surface, there is an obvious benefit to the reader who has struggled with any of these specific arguments. Underneath, the benefit is much greater. The reader has the opportunity to learn how to recognize a bad one. Give a man a fish, he is fed for a day. Teach him to fish, well, you know the rest.
The Atheist Who Didn’t Exist is a training exercise from front to back.
Because the personal stories are tangible examples the reader can experience with Andy, reality teaches perception by instilling a real discernment rather than an abstraction. That very accessible feature of this book is the dirt under the fingernails missing in many apologetics reads.
The humor keeps laypeople turning pages. That not only benefits those readers, it benefits the Church. All too often, apologetics books are written for apologetics professionals, but to be honest that’s a top down approach to a grass roots Faith. Christianity’s most effective apologists and most contested engagers are sitting in the pews, not across the microphone on Unbelievable, no offense to Justin Brierley. Thank you to Andy for remembering the little guy who also needs to be equipped to recognize bad arguments.
There are a few books that I’d recommend for anyone taking it upon themselves to present Classical Christianity, especially those who want to be prepared to argue convincingly for its truth. In fact, there are now four that have to do specifically with arguments and this is one of them.
Greg Koukl’s Tactics is a must have for those who want a way to engage effectively but aren’t sure where to begin.
How to Argue Like Jesus: Learning Persuasion from History’s Greatest Communicator by Joe Carter and John Coleman is a great way to learn how to argue from the Master, literally.
Vox Day’s book, SJWs Always Lie is not necessarily a traditional Christian read, but it’s a great look at why arguments are often unconvincing and how to use rhetoric to move forward.
Now, Andy Bannister’s The Atheist Who Didn’t Exist rounds them out as very useful to help the reader learn to recognize bad arguments and avoid their consequences.
If you’re teaching a Sunday School class, teaching apologetics in church, leading a small group, or discipling a brother or sister, Andy Bannister’s The Atheist Who Didn’t Exist is a great tool to teach as well as a great read to recommend.