Book review: The Swedish Atheist, the Scuba Diver and Other Apologetic Rabbit Trails

by Randal Rauser

★★★★★

My kind of Christian apologetics! A friend on Goodreads recommended this book to me, and he guessed right. I loved it.

Rauser leads us into a quaint little coffee shop for an afternoon of friendly argument, where he spies the perfect target: an atheist named Sheridan who is versed in apologetics just enough to make the conversation interesting. Sheridan argues that the geographic distribution of various types of believers proves that religion isn’t objective; he wonders why Zeus isn’t just as likely to be a real god as Rauser’s Most Perfect Being; he insists that morals are an evolutionary accident, with no need for divine intervention; he confronts Rauser with the problem of evil, and in particular the absurdity of everlasting punishment; and he argues that what Christians recognize as signs from God are no more than coincidences. Except for the whole “Yahweh condones evil” thing (where Rauser’s best defense is to shrug and admit that he’s not a defender for the “home team” but rather a pursuer of truth), Sheridan’s objections to Christianity get shot down.

You might recognize already that Rauser’s idea of apologetics is not about debating atheists until they succumb to logic and beg for baptism, but “rigorously pursuing truth in conversation.” This book isn’t going to shoot the moon. None of that “I can prove Jesus rose from the dead” stuff. Just reasonable exploration leading to a reasonable conclusion that Christian beliefs are not unreasonable.

I hope you don’t take this as a spoiler, but here’s my take on the coffee house conversation: Rauser provides some solid argument for the possibility of some sort of unexplained, intelligent creator and guide, who could be just about anyone but Yahweh of the Old Testament (as least the way its writers understood Him, since surely a “perfect being” wouldn’t really condone the genocide that was done in His name). Some arguments are better than others, and like I said, Rauser provides no conclusive proof that Christianity is the One True Religion. So, we’re left with a mystery, but one that should at least keep us from sneering at those who choose a Christian interface with this mystery.

All in all, this is a really fun book. Randal, if you write more, please consider more Dubious Disciple reviews!

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