A Skeptical Look at
Dan Barker's "Losing Faith in Faith"
David G. Powell
Occasionally, I revisit the Internet or the "religion" section of
secular bookstores to see if there are any new entrants into the field of "
adversarial apologetics". They don't appear as often as one might
think. To be sure there are always a few newbies who believe they have
discovered the nail that will shut the lid on Christianity for good.
Sometimes they are able to quickly garner a few adherents. Eager to back
up their own intolerant views with whatever "evidence" is handy and
believable the same arguments are circulated from one skeptical web site to
That's how I found out about Dan Barker's Losing Faith in Faith,
on the Internet, and being used as reference material by the
same crop who are still telling each other that the bible teaches
that the earth is flat.
In his book, Mr. Barker is almost apologetic about the struggles
with his former Christian faith and at some points you almost feel sorry
for the guy. His biographical material briefly mentions his association
with Katherine Kuhlman ministries (circa. 1970) but he never cites his service
there as a reason for his skepticism. He apparently entered into further
ministry engagements on his own while battling with his beliefs and recounts how
he eventually found himself preaching what he no longer
But Barker's rejection and renunciation of Christian faith is
plain enough and you can quickly feel your pity for him draining away as
you find yourself grouped with witch-burners and Spanish Inquisators.
He fancies himself a "free-thinker" and an intellectual and by
his writing we are assured that his conclusions were the result of
objective research. Yet the recorded scholarship of his newfound doubt
belies both his Christian experience and his research. Indeed, I was
almost disappointed, expecting more from someone who's credentials include
former association with high-level evangelicals.
SO WHAT ABOUT THE BOOK...?
First, we can reduce the amount of text we need to deal with by
about two-thirds by disregarding Barker's "Arguments Of Outrage". Barker
apparently finds concepts like original sin and eternal punishment particularly
unpalatable. He discounts biblical creation favoring a more scientific
(read "evolutionary") explanation. He further cites his growing attempts
to "satisfy his intellectual hunger" with science magazines, philosophy and
psychology as a precursor to his falling away. Later experimentation with
the views of Tillich and Bultmann further eroded his concepts of God.
But these are shamefaced objections by pure emotion. They
are not rational arguments against theism. We can look at the evidence
available and conclude whether there is a God who made the rules. But
that evidence is not going to tell us whether God has a "right" to
make the rules. All of Barker's "arguments" conerning the existence of
God are in this vein and useless as an "argument". They are just
Barker's opinions, lacking objective evidence, no more.
By the time the reader approaches any objective hypothesis
Barker's book has been reduced to a pamphlet. Chapter 27, Cross
Examination is an emotional appeal to view the cross as an object of scorn
and not intended or suitable as a symbol of Christianity. Here,
Barker has something in common with comedian George Carlin who also has also
made statements ridiculing Christianity's use of the cross in
it's identity. It can only be inate distain for Christ's adherents
that makes these guys think that nobody has ever noticed that the cross is a bad
thing. It is the victory over the cross and the benefits bought for
us thereby that is symbolized here . In any case, I can't see what is
being "proven" here and it is precisely this type of "argument" that makes
me wonder what Barker could possibly have been doing in seminary class while the
foundations of Christian faith were being discussed.
A later chapter on Bible Contradictions
than it is. Barker proudly asserts that some have attempted to
answer the "evidence" he purports to show contradictory or
scientifically indefensible assertions, but that nobody has come
close. But further reading makes one wonder if the material was
provided by answering one of those ads at the back of Humanist
which promises to send a list of 50 bible contradictions, "absolutely
irrefutable", for five dollars. If your bothered by any of these
citations, they are not only adequately answered here
demolished by J. Patrick Holding at http://www.tektonics.org./
Incidentally, Barker still maintains that nobody has "come close", which is
understandable. How many people would buy a book who's promotional
material states "didn't stump the inerrantists, but I got really
Barker, Dan. Losing Faith In Faith: From Preacher To
Atheist. Madison WI: Freedom From Religion Foundation, Inc., 1992.