A Skeptical Look at

Dan Barker's "Losing Faith in Faith"

 David G. Powell 

INTRODUCTION.

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 another.

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 believed.
 
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 looks scarier 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 magazine 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 but completely 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 close".

Sources

  • Barker, Dan. Losing Faith In Faith: From Preacher To Atheist. Madison WI: Freedom From Religion Foundation, Inc., 1992.