deepest differences

May 18, 2009

IVP has been kind enough to allow me to pick out some of their recent releases for review. I look forward to reading the books that caught my attention and sharing them with you here in the months to come. First up is a book called Deepest Differences: A Christian-Atheist Dialogue, by James Sire, and Carl Peraino.

In the last decade, there has been a growing critique of the discipline of apologetics. And when apologetics becomes the loading up minds with a cannon of knowledge awaiting a battle, I share that critique. However, there is value to be had in wrestling with the questions of the nature and existence of God. (And particularly for me, the Judeo-Christian concept of God.) This wrestling best happens not with those who think alike, but with those who think differently.

To put it another way, apologetics should exist not as knowledge, but as dialogue — I am interested in what helpful dialogue should look like in the arena of difference. And for one who wants to engage in those questions, the format of a book like Deepest Differences offers a helpful exchange.

The book began as a conversation at a party between Jim Sire, a Christian writer and professor, and Carl Peraino, an atheist and retired biochemist. They decided to extend the dialogue to an email exchange, which formed the content of the book. I found the exchange tedious at times as they took their discussion to degrees beyond my level of interest. But it is helpful to see dialogue in action, to see mutual respect at work as these two spend as much time exploring where they differ as they do trying to convince the other.

I fear that Christianity tends toward being an echo chamber of voices bouncing our ideas back to each other … and not hearing the views of others. You may or may not be interested in this book because of the subject matter, but I hope you will be inspired to follow the example of these two authors in respectful engagement with those who don’t think like you.

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