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A Father and Son Mismatch: A Dialogue on Faith
on January 5, 2002
In about four days after receiving this book as a Christmas present, after quickly finding I liked it and having difficulty putting it down, I promptly had it read. Desirous of quickly giving the gift-giver my impressions of the book and being curious about what others thought of it, I went to Amazon.com, since one usually can find editorial and customer reviews for any book it sells. And I wasn't disappointed: I was able to find plenty of reviews: frankly, all quite laudatory -- but, strangely, none written by skeptics! A fact from which might lead me to infer that skeptics apparently don't do much reading in the area of Christian apologetics. So, to remedy what I regarded as an imbalance -- a one-sided presentation -- I decided to tackle the job myself.
A few general comments first. I found the book to be a well written and argued defense of Christianity -- for someone predisposed to such belief and/or seeking confirmation for such. But it is not so strongly argued that it is likely to convince a well-read skeptic, or bring someone back to the fold who has thoroughly examined, and been persuaded of, the evidence for nonbelief.
The book consists of a series of letters between a son (Dr. Boyd), who is a well-credentialed (multi-degreed, culminating in a P.H.D from Princeton Theological Seminary) Christian apologist (minister and college professor), and his father -- a skeptic, from his mature years, but born and raised a Catholic.
The avowed purpose for the letter exchange -- dialogues carried on over a three-year period -- is for the son to get his agnostic father to become a believing, born-again Christian. Which is what eventually occurs. However, I felt that the father lacked the background to counter his son's arguments. He was simply overwhelmed and outgunned. What struck me right off, though, is that it didn't seem to be a fair matchup. The father, although supposedly well educated and highly intelligent (but oddly, no mention is made of his educational background), spent 35 years in sales management at Uniroyal Tire Company. So I seriously doubt that he had either the time or the inclination to pursue serious religious studies. And his remarks evidence that: he makes no mention of philosophical or scholarly writing of any kind dealing with the subject of religion. A familiarity with such writings, I believe, may have equipped him to rebut some of his son's arguments, e.g., his son's claim for the historicity of the Gospel accounts, a viewpoint the father doesn't challenge and seems to accept too readily! A more equal matchup would have been between two people who were both equally qualified to argue their respective positions.