Where do you go when you open a book? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.
Most of my time is spent reading non-fiction. The rule I am giving does not apply to fiction and does not necessarily reply to material that is more devotional or self-help in nature. However, if you read a book arguing that another position is wrong, I want to make a recommendation on how to start.
Recently a skeptic I have interacted with wanted to send me a book he wrote on Christianity. I agreed to this. The book will be reviewed when I finish it so I won’t say what it is for now, but I did pick it up and check recently the bibliography. That was a section that confirmed many of my concerns.
When I went, for the most part, I pretty much just saw the Bible quoted over and over. If there was any Christian scholarship interacted with, it was certainly the very rare exception and right now, I can’t remember any of it that I saw. I could be mistaken, but that is what I saw.
Now some atheist who wants to apparently claim some piety might say “But isnt’ the Bible the Word of God? Shouldn’t quoting it be sufficient?” Well, of course not. You see, if you’re arguing that the Bible is wrong, you really need to take it on in the most serious way possible. It’s ridiculous to think you can take a book written in another context, place, language, and culture, and just quoting it in your English translation is enough to show you seriously understand all of those aspects that affect it.
If you say God should make it that way, then your objection is really a theological one and I want to know how you know this. Who told you that God should do it this way because it would be easier on you? Who said that He should be beholden to follow your rules?
By the way, I hold Christian books to the same standard. When I read a Christian work like this, I expect it to argue with that which is on the other side. There are a number of “apologetics” books that I have gone after because the author did not do this. If we want our opponents to take us seriously and really interact with the scholars on our side, we should do the same with them.
This doesn’t apply to just Christians and atheists. A Christian writing against any position should quote the other side regularly. This even includes more debates that are in-house. I have been reading on Protestantism, Catholicism, and Orthodoxy more lately and I would think a Christian writing about the other side being incorrect on something should be quoting that other side often. Show me that you have seriously interacted with the material.
When you get that book then, go look at the bibliography. If you’re at the bookstore and want to get a serious investment, do the same thing. Of course, you will need to know the scholars on the sides you’re talking about in order to examine this claim, so again, you have to study as well. Perhaps you want to read a book with a bad bibliography just for amusement or some other reason. That’s your choice, but don’t expect a serious argument.