Saturday, January 23, 2010

Book Review: Atheism Remix by Albert Mohler

Atheism Remix: A Christian Confronts the New AtheistsAtheism Remix: A Christian Confronts the New Atheists by R. Albert Mohler is basically a quick and easy guide to the New Atheism. Based upon the W. H. Griffith Thomas Lectures delivered in 2008 at Dallas Theological Seminary, this small 108-page book covers a remarkable amount of useful content in a very accessible way. Mohler’s goal: to define the New Atheism, introduce its primary personalities, explore their ideas and writings, and offer a brief critique. As Mohler puts it, “the New Atheism presents a significant challenge to Christian theology – a challenge that demands our closest attention.”1

Mohler begins with a brief history of atheism. Here he shows the differences between the old atheism and the new and explains how this new movement came about with a chronology that leads up to our present day. “This is the situation – a world in which the elites have declared that it is impossible and even dangerous to believe in God. This new event has provided the opening for the New Atheism.” (37) What follows is a guide to the the so-called “four horsemen of the new atheism:” Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens, Sam Harris, and Daniel Dennett. The author supplies excellent, accurate, and brief summaries of the new atheists’ main thoughts, ideas and  publications. “All of these writers to some extent … are really trying to embolden fellow secularists. They are trying to make secularism more mainstream.”2
Mohler describes what he has identified as the eight hallmarks of the New Atheism: 1) the New Atheism is marked by an unprecedented new boldness; 2) there is a clear and specific rejection of the Christian God of the Bible; 3) the New Atheists explicitly reject Jesus Christ; 4) the New Atheism is specifically grounded in scientific argument (or, perhaps more appropriately, scientism); 5) the New Atheism is new in its refusal to tolerate moderate and liberal forms of unbelief; 6) the New Atheism’s attacks toleration; 7) they have begun to question the right of parents to inculcate belief in their own children; and 8) the new Atheists argue that religion itself must be eliminated in order to preserve human freedom.

Mohler also spends some time describing some of the responses  to the New Atheists by philosopher Alvin Plantinga and theologian Alister McGrath. He summarizes their critiques and shows some of the remarkable deficiencies in many of the arguments of the New Atheism. However, Mohler believes that limiting the response to the New Atheists to philosophical and scientific critiques falls short:

The credibility of Christian theology is thus essentially tied to the credibility of biblical revelation. The refutation of the New Atheism and the critiques offered on the basis of scientific theory and philosophy are helpful. But in the end, the self-authenticating character of divine revelation is the only ground upon which a distinctively Christian theism can be established.3

Mohler sums up his analysis with a challenge for Christians to both understand the seriousness of the situation and respond with the full measure of conviction. His insights are clear and pointed: “In the final analysis, the New Atheism presents the Christian church with a great moment of clarification. The New Atheists do, in the end, understand what they are rejecting,” and he clarifies what he sees as the real issue: “That is to say, even the New Atheists recognize that the only God that matters is a supernatural God – a personal God – who will judge.”4 Mohler concludes, “The New Atheists are certainly right about one very important thing – it’s atheism or biblical theism. There is nothing in between.”5

There is no shortage of books dealing with the so-called New Atheism. But finding one that provides this much content, critique and analysis in such a small package is rare. For those not as familiar with the personalities, publications, and the significance of the New Atheism, Atheism Remix is a great book to start with.

For those interested in hearing the lectures, check out this link.

1 Albert Mohler, Atheism Remix: A Christian Confronts the New Atheists (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 2008), p. 17.
2. Ibid., p. 51.
3. Ibid., p. 85.
4. Ibid., p. 107.
5. Ibid., p.108.