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Is Belief In God Good, Bad Or Irrelevant?: A Professor And A Punk Rocker Discuss Science, Religion, Naturalism Paperback – Sep 1 2006

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 165 pages
  • Publisher: Intervarsity Press (Sept. 1 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0830833773
  • ISBN-13: 978-0830833771
  • Product Dimensions: 14 x 1.3 x 21 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 295 g
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars 1 customer review
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #247,184 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product Description


"I've overheard numerous conversations but none as captivating as this. Greg Graffin and Preston Jones disagree agreeably while discussing the things that matter most. I learned from both, grew in appreciation for the creative music of Bad Religion and reflected on how better to flesh out my faith in a pluralistic world. I hope all my friends accept their invitation to listen in. This is a book that needs to be not just read, but discussed."--Denis D. Haack, Director, Ransom Fellowship, Editor, Critique, and visiting instructor in practical theology, Covenant Seminary

"In books that seek to commend the Christian faith, often the conversation is one-sided, lacking 'apologetic tension.' Not so with this new work edited by Preston Jones. In a dynamic conversation (actually an e-mail exchange) between Jones, the Christian history professor, and punk rocker Greg Graffin over matters of consequence, we see elements of Christian theism and scientific naturalism going head to head. I was drawn deeply into their intellectual volleys, their spiritual perspectives and their friendship. I also learned about books and issues that were new to me. This work is a model of civility on the part of both parties, and an enlightening one at that!"--David Naugle, professor of philosophy, Dallas Baptist University, and author of Worldview: The History of a Concept

"A good spirited conversation can be very educational. It gives people the freedom to draw their own conclusions, which is usually more powerful than forcing one down the reader's throat. Preston Jones has 'authored' a great read simply by keeping the conversation true to what was 'said' via his e-mails with Bad Religion frontman Greg Graffin. This collection of back-and-forth debate concerning the worldviews of a naturalist and a Christian is fascinating and as compelling as a suspense novel, as educational as a college course and as relational as a blog. Anyone young enough to love rock and roll and smart enough to know that the Christian faith needn't back down from any philosophy will appreciate the frankness found inside this book."--Doug Van Pelt, editor of HM Magazine, and author of Rock Stars on God

Jones proffers a case for Christianity that is free of biblical proof-texting, which non-believers might find refreshing.--Bradford McCall for Religious Studies Review, April 2007

Here is an e-mail exchange like few others. I would recommend it for anyone interested in how a Christian and an anti-Christian can intelligently and peacefully interact.--Perspectives on Science and Christian Faith, June 2007

About the Author

Preston Jones has been a U.S.-Canada Fulbright Scholar and a fellow of the Pew Program in Religion and American History. He publishes in both scholarly journals and national newspapers such as the "San Francisco Chronicle" and the "National Post" (Toronto). He completed his doctorate at the University of Ottawa in Canada in 1999. He teaches history at John Brown University in Arkansas.

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So, you're a Christian who likes punk rock (specifically Bad Religion) and apologetics/theology/philosophy? Wait, no, you're an open minded atheist puck rocker with who likes to chat with Christians friends about the meaning of life etc.?

Ok, either way, if you fit either one of these descriptions then read this book!

It's a level-headed, open-minded email discourse that everyone of us wishes we could have with somebody from 'the other side.' It's clear and insightful. They are both fun, intelligent guys - even if one of them is totally wrong and completely out to lunch :)
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) HASH(0xa519de10) out of 5 stars 55 reviews
88 of 90 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x9f78daec) out of 5 stars Will there be punk rockers in heaven? Sept. 27 2006
By Bill Muehlenberg - Published on
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
What do you get when put a conservative university professor who happens to be a Christian in the same room with a punk rocker who happens to be an atheist? Trouble, you would expect.

Well the two may not have shared the same room, but thy have shared in a lot of correspondence, debating and discussing their worldviews. And trouble was not the outcome, but a spirited, intelligent and no-holds-barred exchange of ideas and beliefs.

Preston Jones, a history professor and committed Christian, had long enjoyed the music of Bad Religion, especially its lyrics. He eventually wrote to the band's front man and song writer, Greg Graffin. A lively correspondence ensued, and that exchange is the subject of this book.

The letters written by these two are frank, forthright and forceful. Their discussions are lively and vigorous, sometimes heated but always irenic. The respectful debate encountered here covers a wide range of topics, music included.

Graffin is not your run of the mill punk rocker. He has written a PhD in evolutionary biology, and his lyrics drip with deep reflections and careful thoughts. They express, of course, the mind of a sceptic. Graffin does not believe in God, and he is willing to face a world without God head on, with all that entails.

Yet despite his commitment to philosophical naturalism and his unbridled faith in science, he has questions, he is searching, and he is aware of his own limits. His songs are filled with thoughts about religion, life, meaning and purpose.

Jones, on the other hand, is a believer who offers many insights and explanations from his own Christian faith, but can appeal to other sources as well. Thus they discuss not just biblical matters, but literature, music, science, art and many other topics. The two square off on numerous hot potato issues, such as the problem of suffering, the meaning of personhood, the theory of evolution, and the search for significance. No topic is too sacred to cover, and no avenue is too off limits to explore.

This informed, entertaining and valuable collection of letters shows that people from two quite differing worldviews can still treat each other with respect as they passionately share their own beliefs and challenge those of the other person.

Because this book is published by a Christian publisher, and the editor is a Chrisian, it of course takes on an apologetic approach. But it is not preachy nor moralistic. It simply lays out the honest thoughts of two deep and committed thinkers. Jones includes study questions, quotations and other bits of information throughout the book to help the reader go further with these discussions.

By the end of the book Graffin has not yet "seen the light" but he shows an interest in, an appreciation of, the Christian worldview, and the case Jones seeks to make for it.

And Jones sees in Graffin an intelligent and thoughtful proponent of atheism. The fact that Graffin is willing to dig deep in his reflections and probe thoroughly the big questions of life makes him superior to many believers with their easy believe-ism and shallow, uninformed faith. Indeed, Jones says he is more "at ease with thoughtful atheists than with Christians" who refuse to acknowledge the many challenges and mysteries of life.

At least Graffin is asking the right questions - and the hard, probing questions. Too many believers settle for a simplistic faith that does not grapple with the serious issues of life, be it suffering, doubt or mystery.

Thus Jones is more than happy to enter the intellectual arena with Graffin, and exchange blows. Iron sharpen iron, and believers need the challenge of non-believers to keep them on their theological toes and to keep themselves spiritually fresh and focused.

Many people - believers and nonbelievers alike - are simply not thinking about, and agonising over, the difficult questions of life. But many are. And it is to this later group that a book like this has so much to offer.

Non-believers will find here a case for Christianity that is free of clichés and biblical proof-texting, and one that is based one serious reflection, personal struggle, and solid answers. And believers will find here the thoughts, questions and feelings that many nonbelievers are grappling with. This will challenge them to take their faith more seriously, and remind them that honest questions deserve honest answers.

It is hoped that by reading this book many more such dialogues will begin. We have a lot to learn from each other, and really hearing what people are saying - on both sides of the debate - is an important means by which believers can share their faith and seekers can get some welcome feedback. Let the debate continue.
44 of 44 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x9f78dd38) out of 5 stars Gentlemen and scholars July 10 2006
By S. Martin - Published on
Format: Paperback
It is rare to find a such balanced and informed discussion regarding religion. The participants pose thier arguments in a friendly manner, but they are both clearly well studied in their respective fields. I'm a Bad Religion fan, and thus am quite familiar with Greg Graffin's opinions. I find Preston Jones quite impressive, he's clearly a devout Christian, but not fundimentalist, and is refreshingly accepting of other ideas. This conversation would have been very different - if not impossible - if it were between Graffin and oh, say, Pat Robertson. What makes this book so engaging is the fact that both men were able to HEAR what the other was saying, then give an informed response without resorting to the name-calling and finger-pointing so prevalent on the cable news networks. This is the kind of debate this country needs.

I read this book at the same time as reading Graffin's PhD thesis, and together they've underscored the fact that my personal beliefs are much more in line with Graffin's than with Jones's. But, while I don't always understand Jones's opinions, I greatly respect him as a scholar and educator.
29 of 36 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x9f78dfb4) out of 5 stars Disappointing and One Sided May 22 2009
By Aranion - Published on
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
The premise of the book is a terrific idea: an informal, ongoing exchange between someone holding a conservative Christian worldview and someone holding an atheistic, naturalistic worldview. Unfortunately, the end result is disappointing and leaves the reader with a sense of what *might* have happened rather than what *did.*

I will agree that both authors are to be lauded for their courtesy, patience and willingness to talk to each other - as well as share the conversations with us. I also agree that more open-ended dialogues like this would benefit many groups that hold opposing worldviews.

However, the dialogue as presented here seemed entirely one-sided. As noted, Graffin's PhD in evolutionary science was earned; he knows what he's talking about. Jones, much to my frustration, knew almost nothing about evolutionary science and almost as little about how science works overall. Jones presented many evangelical stereotypes and out-dated arguments and positions; Graffin was far more patient than I would have been (and I count myself as a Christian). Jones also doesn't seem spurred to do any research or follow up thinking once Graffin replies, which robs the reader of some potentially great critical analysis of both sides' positions.

Indeed, Jones comes off almost as an adoring teenage fan rather than an adult professor of history. Only when the topic lands squarely in Jones' bailiwick does his text grow some heft - and that is only for a few pages at most. Jones' grasp of Christian theology seems both basic and, well, infantile; he fails to seriously challenge Graffin on any points, instead generally taking a drubbing.

Other reviewers are quite correct in saying this is *not* a debate; however, the lack of substantial arguments, ideas, or displays of knowledge from Jones were, for me, fairly discouraging. Graffin shows an impressive ability to articulate and support his ideas, while Jones relies on stale and one dimensional standard "arguments" or rhetorical statements.

While this really has nothing to do with the quality of the content, Graffin oddly comes off as awkwardly detatched; the tone of most of his emails seems fairly distant or impersonal. Jones' notes, on the other hand, convey warmth and friendliness. If the quality of the exchange wasn't so one-sided, this contrast might not be as apparent or off-putting, but as the book is, Graffin sometimes comes across in print as bored or exasperated by Jones' comments and mistakes.

Since the book is *not* a debate, it just sort of ends...neither participant seems changed or challenged by it, and the reader doesn't get the sense that the exchange made any real impact on the writers.

Unsatisfying and lopsided; I recommend searching for other books based around formal debates for better results.
9 of 11 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x9c513174) out of 5 stars Really enjoyed it! Jan. 5 2007
By William M. Reynolds - Published on
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Really enjoyed reading this. I'm a big Bad Religion fan, and share many of the views expressed by Dr. Graffin. Many of the people in my life are very hardcore Christians and we frequently agree to disagree.

As both Graffin and Jones stated, "score keeping" misses the point of this book. It's fun to be a fly on the wall listening to two very intelligent men debate the topics. Again, as they both said some will declare a winner to the debate. If that makes 'em be it. Looking past winners and losers though, most will have an enlightening look at "the other side" of many issues that most are afraid to discuss.

In the end, Preston Jones didn't change my mind. I still believe what I believe. But I always enjoy stimulating thought from a different perspective.

Definately recommended for those with an open mind!
6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x9c513048) out of 5 stars An Interesting Conversation Better Suited for a Blog Oct. 20 2008
By Trevin Wax - Published on
Format: Paperback
This is an odd book. It is a series of emails between a professor of church history and a punk rocker who embraces naturalism. As an apologetic, this book doesn't come down on either side. Greg (from the group Bad Religion) gives good arguments for adopting the naturalistic worldview, and he corrects many of Preston's misconceptions. Preston gives good arguments for the Christian worldview, and he also corrects many of Greg's assumptions.

But the book ends without much of a solution. Neither one is converted to the other worldview. Nothing has changed by the end of the book, except that they have enjoyed some good intellectual stimulation through their exchange.

Intervarsity Press put out this book last year, so I'm assuming that the publishers at IVP thought that Preston clearly comes out better than Greg in the emails. That's not necessarily the case, though. Greg has some strong arguments, and Preston doesn't answer all the tough questions. Unfortunately, some of the hard questions that Preston does answer lean in the direction of open theism and not historic Christianity.

This book is interesting. It's neat to see the correspondence between these two men. But I think a blog would've been a better place for these letters to be published. It's as if the publishers just copied and pasted the emails into a new document, changed the fonts, and then sent it to the print shop. I'll admit that there are some good portions of the book. But to get to them, you have to wade through the small talk about Greg being "under the weather," Preston's favorite Bad Religion CDs, and the niceties that fit well into emails and letters, but should never have made it to the final draft of a book.