With Skeptics Defending God in a World that makes no sense
Author: Jeff Vines
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.....