David Madison is a minister-turned-atheist, who has a PhD in Biblical Studies from Boston University. Madison was raised a liberal Protestant, but he gradually lost his faith while serving as the pastor of two Methodist parishes in Massachusetts. He went on to pursue a business career, but he’s recently written a book titled, Ten Tough Problems in Christian Thought and Belief: A Minister-Turned-Atheist Shows Why You Should Ditch the Faith (see here for one critic’s review and here for a more favorable review).
However, what put me off Madison’s book is what he’s written on his own Web page. His recommended reading list of 200 books, put together for people who want to “find out how Jesus, Christianity and theism have all been so convincingly slam dunked,” includes dozens of books by authors defending the kooky view that Jesus never even existed (a view not shared by any reputable historian – and no, Dr. Richard Carrier doesn’t count as one; nor does Dr. Robert Price, who got trounced when he debated Dr. Bart Ehrman last year on the historicity of Jesus, as Carrier himself admits), and only a handful of books addressing the traditional philosophical arguments for the existence of God, of which Raymond Bradley’s God’s Gravediggers: Why No Deity Exists (Ockham Publishing, 2016) and Michael Martin’s The Cambridge Companion to Atheism appear to be the most substantive. (There are other books attacking Intelligent Design on Madison’s list, but these are beside the point, as ID proponents don’t maintain that their arguments, taken by themselves, prove the existence of any Deity.) And believe it or not, H. L. Mencken, whose credibility on religious and moral issues I have demolished here, here, here and here, makes the list, too. Richard Dawkins’ The God Delusion is on the list (has Madison ever read John Lennox’s response, I wonder?), as well as Bertrand Russell’s Why I Am Not a Christian, which has been refuted ably by David Snoke.
For the benefit of his readers, Madison has also kindly provided chapter summaries for his book, which (I am sorry to say) do not inspire confidence. A few excerpts:
God has given his perfect message for humanity in book form, but he had to keep adding installments, first the Hebrew Bible, then the New Testament, followed by the Quran and finally the Book of Mormon.
[Comment: LOL. I don’t know anyone who believes in all four – VJT.]
…[H]ow can it be than a supremely good, all-powerful, all-knowing God has to hear prayers to find out what’s going on and determine what to do?
[St. Thomas Aquinas answered this question back in the 13th century. See also this article from the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy – VJT.]
Christians cannot retreat to the safe-haven of the superior Christian option, because there are now more than 31,000 different brands of Christianity: no one agrees on who’s right about God.
[See here, here and here for why that figure is a myth – VJT.]
Resurrection is a concept borrowed from pagan antiquity…
[An old canard: see here – VJT.]
One of the constant themes of New Testament theology is that God required the sacrifice of his son to enable forgiveness of sins… As Richard Dawkins has said, if an infinitely powerful and good God wants to forgive people, why not just forgive them?
[Has Madison never heard of the theologian John Duns Scotus, who taught that God would still have become incarnate as Jesus Christ, even if Adam had not sinned? – VJT.]
In this chapter I cover ten categories of Jesus negatives, starting with his alarming pronouncement that hatred of one’s parents and family was a requirement for being one of his followers.
[Madison should read the comprehensive response by Jews for Jesus on this point: Did Jesus teach his disciples to hate their parents? – VJT.]
The purpose of this chapter is to show that Paul can fairly be called a delusional cult fanatic… He never met Jesus and had no interest whatever in what the Galilean preacher had said and done.
[Madison evidently hasn’t read New Testament scholar David Wenham’s book, Did St Paul Get Jesus Right?: The Gospel According to Paul. And even if St. Paul were wrong in his beliefs about marriage, government and the Second Coming, as Madison alleges, that would not make him delusional – VJT.]
…[T]housands of gods have been imagined by humans — concocted by our mammalian brains — and worshipped with unaccountable fervor… Humans have bungled religion so badly. Aliens would stay away.
[A majority of human beings now believe in one God, Who created the cosmos, Who maintains it in being, Who is both merciful and just, and Who answers the prayers of those who call on His name. Humanity is moving, albeit slowly, towards a consensus on the question of God – VJT.]
So I have to ask: if this is a representative sample of Dr. Madison’s writing, then why should I trust the factual assertions he makes in his latest book? Would any reader like to step up to the plate and defend Dr. Madison?
One last point I’d like to make is that if Dr. Madison really wants to dissuade people of the truth of Christianity, he should encourage people to read books in which the best Christian apologists debate atheists. If the atheists have really done their homework, as Madison says they have during the past twenty years, then that should be enough to convince any fair-minded reader that there is no good case either for Christianity or for theism.
What do readers think? Over to you.