Thursday, February 3, 2011

Reading an Atheist

I have recently realized that the books I read tend to come from a narrow view of theology.  My library could almost be described as "Reformed." I've got a large variety of books by Piper, Sproul, MacArthur, Packer, Dever, Mohler, etc.  There are even a few by Calvin, Luther, Owen, and Edwards (although I confess to struggling with reading those).  What do all these authors have in common?  Their view of salvation is basically exactly the same - even down to the details.

I no longer think it's healthy to read from a narrow band of authors. Therefore, I'm branching out.  Specifically as I study the church I'm hoping to hear what those outside the Reformed group think.  Right now I'm reading through Watchman Nee's The Normal Christian Church Life. Waiting on the shelf are The Rabbit and the Elephant, Generous Justice, and The Deep Things of God.

I also realize that I need to be careful to not only read about the church from authors who espouse only simple church/organic church/house church beliefs.

So far I've only mentioned Christian authors.  What about non-Christians?

Specifically, what about atheists?  Can we learn anything from them? What if they write about their reasons for not believing in the divine?

Moving far outside my norm, I've begun reading through atheist Christopher Hitchens' God is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything.  I didn't purchase it; instead I just checked it out of a local library.

I'm reading this particular book for several reasons:
1. It was a best-seller and therefore has had a large influence on society in general.
2. It tells what an atheist thinks from his own perspective (not what a Christian says an atheist believes).
3. It challenges me to know why I believe what I believe.
4. It prepares me for arguments from atheists.
5. It will (I hope) better prepare me for evangelistic discussions with atheists.

So, what do you think?  Is this type of book beneficial to a Christian?  I'm not going to read too many of this type of text, but I may gradually try to read through those that have significant influence (another is Richard Dawkins' The God Delusion).

Have you read books by atheists?  What did you think?  Was it helpful in any way?


reformedlostboy said...


I have read The God Delusion by Dawkins. It was very informational and I have found that as I converse with atheists most if not all of their arguments are covered in his book. I recently requested a book from booksneeze by Brian McLaren. I am still waiting for it to arrive. My bookshelf is filled with reformed books as well but recently I have been mixing it up quite a bit. I have even been reding some fiction(thanks to the free kindle books from Amazon) and I have enjoyed the variety very much. In every book there are things to receive, reject, and redeem and hopefully I am perfecting my skills in this. By the way_ I own Dawkin's book if you would like to borrow it. That way you could feel free to highlight and note at will.

Anonymous said...


I guess someone has to be reading that stuff or else there wouldn't be much material for all that apologetics stuff. I think the concern I would have is lumping all non-believers into one group, that is kind of the problem I have with apologetics in general, just because this one author is an atheist for reasons x,y, and z certainly doesn't mean that your buddy at work has the same reasons and I think there can certainly be a pitfall there where we need to understand why that one particular person believes what they do and not assume they have the same reasons as anyone else. I read Ayn Rand, who was an atheist because I agree with her political views but I assume we're talking specifically about reading arguments against Christianity or for atheism so that may not be relevant.


Eric said...


Thanks for the offer about the Dawkins book. I'll probably take you up on it, although I won't be reading it for a while.

I'm interested to know what you think of McLaren. I find him much more dangerous than any atheist because of his false teachings on core doctrines (like the questioning of Hell).

I agree with you that we can take something from every book we read. Discernment is key. I hope we all grow in this.

Eric said...


You make a good point that not all unbelievers think along the same lines. I imagine there are even numerous reasons that people choose to be atheists.

I'm reading Hitchens because his book was so popular. It undoubtedly has had significant influence among some atheists. Therefore, I'm hoping to better grasp what at least some of them think.

Arthur Sido said...

Books by Calvin and Owen are for displaying, not reading.

I have, like you, been reading outside of the Reformed ghetto and been surprisingly blessed. I can't quite bring myself to read Dawkins or Hitchens yet with all of the books I have waiting but someday perhaps.

Eric said...


I'll let you know how it goes and whether or not it was of benefit to me.

The difficult part is that right from the beginning Hitchens speaks with a condescending tone. I'm trying to look past that, remembering that he is, after all, unregenerate.