Posted by: Billy Marsh | March 14, 2008

D’Souza Defuses the New Atheism

Let me begin with a blurb from the first few pages of this book:

As an unbeliever I passionately disagree with Dinesh D’Souza on some of his positions. But he is a first-rate scholar whom I feel absolutely compelled to read. His thorough research and elegant prose have elevated him into the top ranks of those who champion liberty and individual responsibility. Now he adds Christianity to his formula for the good society, and although non-Christians and non-theists may disagree with some of his arguments, we ignore him at our peril. D’Souza’s book takes the debate to a new level. Read it. ~ Michael Shermer, publisher of Skeptic magazine

I had never heard of Dinesh D’Souza until about 4 or 5 months ago. This is primarily due to my political ignorance of which I am greatly embarrassed. I first encounterd him as well as this book on Randy Alcorn’s blog, who was endorsing it at that time. Then, it wasn’t but probably a week later that I saw Dr. Al Mohler devote a post on his blog to promoting D’Souza’s book as a sound, thorough, and evangelical treatment of the current debate between Theism (mainly conservative evangelical Christianity) and the “New” Atheism.

What’s So Great About Christianity? ~ Dinesh D’Souza

Having an interest in this topic and cultural matter, I researched D’Souza’s book, and like any good book-reader, I immediately read the blurbs on the back cover and on the first few introductory pages. Most of them were pretty typical, but Shermer’s comment, and just the simple fact that he was included, communicated to me the extreme necessity for me to quickly digest D’Souza’s What’s So Great About Christianity?. I mean let’s just be honest. When a member of the opposition emphatically states that it would be to his side’s “peril” to overlook his attacker’s book, then that should speak volumes for how pertinent it is that those of us who have claim on the side of the truth read the book or either be familiar with its argument.

At first glance, I had two apprehensions about giving consideration to D’Souza’s work. First, his name was not registered in my mind’s database of respectable and credible Christian authors. And second, I was unfamiliar with the publisher of his book. As a seminary student, when you see books that are supposedly “Christian” but are published by companies other than the normal ones such as Zondervan, IVP, Baker, Broadman & Holman, and Crossway, there is an immediate warning signal that sounds in your head. And, most of the time, it is warranted. However, in this case, I would strongly persuade you all “not to judge the book by its publisher”. After only a few pages into the material, you will see that both the author and his writing deserve to be accepted and heard by the evangelical Christian community.

Dinesh D’Souza

D’Souza is a former White House domestic policy analyst. Presently, he is the Rishwain Research Scholar at the Hoover Institution at Standford University. He has other publications which are purely political in nature; this is his first Christian work. However, let me say that if I ever make into publication, I hope that my first book will be as solid and equipping as his.

I’m not going to go into just exactly how D’Souza “Defuses” the New Atheism; I’ll let him do that which is the purpose of me endorsing the book. But, I will say that, drawing from Shermer’s blurb, he does a superb job of dismantling systematically one major argument after another in a relatively tender fashion combined with smooth literary eloquence. This is the first book I’ve seen that is intended to specifically tackle the major works and attacks from all of the foremost proponents of the New Atheism movement such as Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, Daniel Dennett, and Christopher Hitchens (Mohler refers to them as the “4-Horsemen of the New Atheism”). D’Souza’s engagment with all of the primary objections to both Theism and Christianity that each of these men loudly and forcefully promote is both extremely thorough and unavoidably convincing. The book overviews all the usual areas of concern such as history, science, philosophy, experience, evil, and ethics in relation to the validity of Christianity. But what I like most about the book is that it is overtly evangelistic.

I was astonished at just how unshamedly from the outset D’Souza was with regard to persuading his unbelieving readers not only to accept his case, but also to believe in the gospel. In a short introductory chapter titled, “A Challenge To Believer–And Unbelievers,” he writes:

Death forces upon you a choice that you cannot escape. You must choose God or reject Him, because when you die all abstentions are counted as “no” votes. So if you are wondering if this book is an invitation to convert, it is. I hope you will read it as if your life depended on it, because, in a way, it might (xvii).

In Part 8 (Christianity and You), the final section of his book, D’Souza devotes two chapters for an apologetic proclamation of the gospel in Jesus Christ: Chapter 25-“Jesus Among Other Gods: The Uniqueness of Christianity” and Chapter 26-“A Foretaste of Eternity: How Christianity Can Change Your Life“. In chapter 25, D’Souza walks step by step through a standard gospel presentation covering the topics of man’s sinful nature, the necessity of penal-substituionary atonement, and salvation by grace alone. But, what surprised and delighted me the most was his insistence for unbelievers to redefine their view of the gift of salvation. He posited,

God Himself is the gift. Heaven is best understood not as a place but as a description of what it is like to be with God. To be with God requires that we want to be with Him, that we accept His present of Himself (290).

This is the message of salvation people need to be confronted with today.

In chapter 26, “A Foretaste of Eternity,” D’Souza gives a few more apologetic reasons for the supremacy of Christ over and against all other religions, but concludes with a 6 part summary of how Christianity is the only religious system that truly gives sufficient answers to this life. Here they are in order.

  1. “Christianity makes sense of who we are in the world.”
  2. “Christianity also infuses life with a powerful and exhilarating sense of purpose.”
  3. “Contrary to what secular critics say, the Christian does not and cannot hold our life on earth to be unimportant. Indeed, it is of the highest importance.”
  4. “Christianity also offers a solution to the cosmic loneliness we all feel.”
  5. “Christianity enables us to become the better persons we want to be.” *Don’t mistake this for an “Osteen fallacy” (Yes, I said it). Instead, D’Souza goes on to clarify what he means by “better”: “Rather, we are pursuing our higher destiny as human beings. We are becoming what we were meant to be. . . . we are called not only to happiness and goodness but also to holiness (304-04; emphasis mine).”

D’Souza’s book is a New York Times Bestseller, and in my opinion, will be the “Christian” book that unbelievers read as they seek to evaluate the theistic side of this debate. Thus, it would be greatly beneficial for us to be familiar with his work. As far as personal education and edification, I was immensely informed and blessed by his book and would heartily recommend it for anyone to read. I cannot think of a more pertinent and important work right now for evangelical Christians to own and read who desire to be witnesses in this day and age.

  • Watch D’Souza debate Christopher Hitchens.
  • Visit D’Souza’s website.
  • Listen to Gregory Koukl interview D’Souza.
  • Listen to Dr. Al Mohler lecture at DTS on “The New Atheism”.
  • Purchase D’Souza’s book.
  • Purchase John Piper’s God is the Gospel.
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Responses

  1. Yes, yes that is all good- but is it true? That is the important question- and the only one that matters.

  2. Well, I suppose that you are asking if Christianity is true? Absolutely! That’s kind of the point of D’Souza’s book which I thought that I communicated throughout the post clearly, even though I was writing with primarily believing readers in mind. You’re exactly right, that is “the important question” to be asking. That’s why D’Souza writes his book which functions as an apologetic for the truthfulness of Christianity as well as responding to specific attacks launched from current books such as The God Delusion and God is not Great.

    The answer can be as simple as giving just a “Yes” or can take the form of a well-thoughtout and carefully constructed argument that shows that Christianity is undoubtedly true, and is actually supported by all the areas that are usually perceived to be against its validity such as the sciences and philosophy.

    If you have more questions, send me an email through my “Contact Billy” tab and I would be happy to dialogue some more.

  3. First of- backround. I’m a strong atheist and an antitheist. Zero chance of converting. Sorry.

    The reason I pointed this out is that all the reasons he gives have no relation to the truth value of the claim. In fact you can get similar results from communism (I know- my cousins went that way. Fortunately they recovered their senses). What he is talking about is purpose and drive- which can be gotten from many sources. Remember though- winning isn’t the most important thing, being on the right side is.

    Also for the Shermer quote, Shermer believes in NOMA, atheism is bad and you shouldn’t upset believers. Despite being the head of the skeptics association he seems to turn a blind eye to relgion. Irrelevant, but I think the man should realize NOMA is insane (a point that D’Souza makes with his book- one of the few I agree with).

  4. Samuel,

    Thanks so much for your dialogue and comments. Though you describe yourself as an “antitheist,” I appreciate your openness to talk. You do not seem antagonistic and that is a blessing. As far as your reference to the strength of your atheism, that has no effect on your ability to convert. I know you disbelieve it, but, conversion to Christianity is much more than ascent to a certain list of facts; it is a supernatural, spiritual work that can only be wrought by God because of the saving work of Jesus Christ and by the power of the Holy Spirit. Converison is accessed by faith and repentance. Once a person has said “Yes” to the truthfulness of Christianity, the next question is “So what?” That’s when a choice is made to either accept or reject God’s gift of salvation in Jesus Christ.

    I know you probably are aware of most of that, which is pretty basic to the gospel. But, I just wanted to clarify that I’m incapable of “converting” you. My purpose in defending Christianity is to present to you Jesus and the gospel; what you do with him must be your decision based upon the workings of God in your own heart.

    As far as your response to the final 6 points that I listed from D’Souza’s book, I must clarify a few things. First, the post was not written with the intent of attacking atheism per se which affected what I included and left out of my book review. The post was constructed to present D’Souza’s book to a Christian community that is probably unfamiliar with him and his writings. I wanted to persuade my believing readers to purchase the book and read his arguments against atheism for themselves. I did not intend to provide the “meat” of his discussion; I wanted to encourage others to go and read for themselves.

    Christians are often apprehensive towards apologetic books because Christianity is based off of faith and not merely intellectual ascent, though not exclusive to it as some may think. The final 6 points were included to show Christian readers that D’Souza was promoting orthodox, evangelical Christianity and not some perverted or distorted gospel message that usually comes from books that are written by non-typical Christian writers and non-typical Christian book publishers. Those 6 points only have meaning and influence insofar as they are connected to the gospel message in Jesus Christ. I know you made the comment that one could find the same ideas in communism or other systems of belief which I would wholeheartedly disagree with, but that is an issue that cannot be resolved in a comment. But, you’ve read D’Souza’s book and he addresses some of those issues, so I won’t waste time rehashing them.

    Christianity isn’t about winning; it is about the truth. The Gospel of John especially deals with what is the “truth”. And, just as Jesus suffered so harshly in John’s Gospel, we also see that in his person the truth was persecuted as well. Jesus says in John 14:6, “I am the way, the truth, and the life, no man can come to the Father execpt through me.” At his trial before Pilate and the Jews in Jn 18-19, we see Jesus declaring that his kingdom is about truth, yet Pilate replies, “What is truth?” And despite the fact the neither the Jewish leaders nor Pilate could find a criminal charge to execute Jesus, the only sinless and innocent man, he still was sent to the cross. But, he did so willingly, joyfully, and sovereignly and resurrected victoriously and has made a way for salvation for all of those who would believe in his name for eternal life. Christians suffer now on this earth in the name of truth more than ever. There are more martyrs dying on behalf of the gospel in nations around the world than all of the centuries combined leading up to the 20th century. Though this type of persecution isn’t present right now in America, Christians still must stand for the truth in different ways. But, much like the concept that defined Francis Schaeffer’s ministry, I want to be open “to give honest answers to honest questions” in the love of Christ.

    Thanks again for your comments, I really do appreciate them because it helps to push me on in my walk with Christ and I will be in prayer for you that you will come to know not only the truth of Christianity, but more so, the personal Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

    Billy

  5. Well, you didn’t really make an argument so I can criticize you on that- you are probably right that this is a.. waystation? for all things christian.

    You are right about D’Souza being orthodox- unlike other authors who go to odd forms of deism, he sticks to doctrine Chrisitanity. He is wrong, but it is nice to see a person make only one error instead of the many many apologists make.

    Just remember- don’t let the strength of your convictions blind you to the truth. I’ve seen that happen before- for humorous examples go to Star Wars vs. Star Trek arguments. It is too funny- at least they don’t kill each other, and the shows have living producers. I’m not “strong” in my atheism- I’m strong in my rationalism, from whence atheism flows (similar, but not the same as reason- one is the method, the other is application).


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