Book Review: How to Talk to a Skeptic

by Paul Buller

[I have written two blog entries on this book, the other at my Arguing with Friends blog. I look at this book from two perspectives in these two reviews.]

Donald J. Johnson’s book “How to talk to a Skeptic” is an important contribution to the growing literature that aims to help Christians better understand how to dialogue with their unbelieving friends, colleagues, family and neighbours. While Johnson’s book focuses primarily on the category of “Skeptics” (a category that gets a lot of attention these days) many of the principles contained in it will apply to conversations you may have with folks of any non-Christian (and ex-Christian) persuasion. But first, a high-level look at the book.

The book is divided into three sections. The first struck a chord with me because I wrote an entire book on that subject (hence my other blog), and it gives an overview of what a successful conversation ought to look like. The second section explores how to present the Christian Gospel in such a way as to make it intelligible to your skeptical audience and the last section explores some of the reasons we have for believing that the general paradigm outlined in the second section may, in fact, be true.

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The book is clearly written to draw Christians into the world of sharing and defending their faith which means its primary audience is Christians who probably haven’t heard a lot of this “Apologetics” stuff before. If ever. That’s a very large target audience, unfortunately, and there is a growing body of literature aimed at helping them grow in this recently overlooked area of Theology.

What are some of the strengths of the book? Considering the target audience I think Johnson does a fabulous job of giving enough of an overview of the subjects one is likely to end up dealing with, without turning each of the subjects into its own treatise. There are enough tomes out there that the interested Christian can turn to if they need help filling in the gaps and that’s not Johnson’s goal…

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