Sunday, June 16, 2013

A Friendly Dialogue (Book Review)

What do atheists and Christians have in common?

I recently finished reading a book (Zondervan, 2006) that recorded a multiple-day conversation over numerous topics between Luis Palau, a Christian evangelist, and Zhao Qizheng, a Chinese atheist. I was struck by three points.

First, Zhao states, "I read the Bible, but I am not a believer. Why? Because I cannot understand God" (p. 17). This sentiment echoes a common atheistic argument I have heard before. Basically, if God cannot be understood on their terms, then He must not exist. This seems like strange logic to me. I would think it would be just the opposite - that if God could be completely understood by the human mind, then that would be the evidence that He is not real. Am I alone in that thought?

Second, another objection to theism, in general, and Christianity, in particular, is that there are many religious people who do bad things. A few summers ago, I read works by well known atheists like Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens. Some form of this claim showed up often in their writings, too. It goes like this: if followers of a deity do bad things (i.e. Crusades, wars, etc.), then that means the deity can't be real. Again, I just don't get the logic. The truth is that these tragic historical events carried out in the name of religion are undeniable, and they are further evidence that professing disciples of Christ can fall very short of God's perfect standard. Sometimes, people get so mixed up in their belief systems that their actions don't resemble Jesus at all. A bad job of following does not equal proof that no one is leading. Palau's response seems appropriate: "Religion causes troubles sometimes, but Jesus? No" (p. 120).

Third, what Palau and Qizheng demonstrate is that it is very possible, and even not that difficult, to have a courteous dialogue despite having opposing views. Both men were highly respectful and complimentary toward each other. They were genuinely appreciative of one another's background, insight, and contributions to society. Hopefully, we can follow their example.

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