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Dinner With Skeptics – Defending God in a World that makes no sense
Author: Jeff Vines
College Press
159 pages
 
In a nutshell, Dinner With Skeptics is an account of the author's marathon dinner party/ambush with the manager of the hotel he was staying at – along with her staff, the manager arranged the evening's festivities as a set-up to probe Vine about everything from God's existence to the nature of good and evil, and how those things figure in our lives.
 
If this sounds like the set-up for a low budget 'gospel film,' that's pretty much the way the book reads. I certainly don't question the author's integrity or motives, but the recounted conversations are so by-the-book, and the reactions to Vine's answers are so melodramatic and sound so much like awkward stage dialog that you'd think the book was ghost-written by Ed Wood, of Plan 9 From Outer Space fame. Now, it's entirely possible that it went down exactly the way it's written – and if so, I owe the writer an apology – but every answer or rebuttal from Vine is met with either an angry-sinner response right out of a Jack Chick tract or humbling amazement at the author's stunning revelation of truth.

Yes, there are definite bad guys and good guys here. Vine's got the white stetson – there's no gray....
 
Being a bit of a skeptic myself, I suppose I have to wonder if this verbal handicap match was actual wrestling and how much was sports entertainment for the spiritual set. Every time one of the circle of skeptics got Vine on the ropes with a 'hey – what about all of the evil in the world? How could a loving God allow that?' the author would answer with a flying drop-kick about Free Will.
 
Certainly there are many very good and valid points made by the author – it's just a matter of style. If I were sitting around that same table I'm afraid Vine would come off to me as a bit of a spiritual bully. There's a sense that Vine has a subtle satisfaction in proving his opponents wrong that overrides the compassion that no-doubt is his actual motive. Still, he can't seem to resist describing the scene, as people's arguments and egos deflate under the weight of his arguments: “Stunned, he sat back in his chair, slumped in defeat,” he writes, in apparent victory. Ironically, he later recalls a stage in his growing up where he says, “In my immaturity I had become more concerned about winning an argument than lovingly helping the other person,” and yet that's exactly the problem that I see in the tone of the book.
 
Dinner With Skeptics is a fine book to read if you want to delineate some of the basic questions often thrown out by those who are opposed to the basics of Christianity, or even of God's existence, but it certainly paints in broad strokes. Vine presents a style of apologetics that I call macho spirituality. In many ways the polar opposite of another recent book, Nick Fiedler's The Hopeful Skeptic, which presents a more agnostic approach to issues that we all question from time to time, Dinner With Skeptics seems to imply that there is no question that the Christian can't answer and answer in a devastating thrust. 'Dinner' is a meal that has plenty of good meat but it's served up fast-food style.
 
Maybe there should be a disclaimer: your results may vary.....
 
Bert Saraco


 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

 

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