(Full disclosure: Baker Books provided me with a free copy of this book in exchange for a review. I am under no obligation to give a favorable review.)
Main Idea of the Book
In The Atheist’s Fatal Flaw, Norman L. Geisler and Daniel J. McCoy seek to point out inconsistencies in atheist’s arguments against the Christian God’s existence. Namely, they point to the contradiction between atheist’s claims that if the Christian God were real, he would have to do something to stop moral evil and the idea what God has done to prevent moral evil is in fact immoral because it violates human freedom. These ideas contradict one another because the atheist on one hand insists that a good god would prevent evil in a way that would logically limit human freedom while at the same time insisting that a good god should do nothing to limit human freedom. It is an inconsistency that cannot sustain itself, and Geisler and McCoy believe that an intellectually honest atheist would have to back away from one side or other of the argument. The authors, also, point out that what atheists deny a good god should do, they believe is acceptable when done by society.
Strengths of the Book
The authors believe that to argue against a position they must be able to state the opponent’s argument in a way their opponent would find acceptable. There are no straw man arguments in the book. The authors extensively quote atheists and take pains to state their views accurately. It is refreshingly to see a polemical issue approached in this way.
Another strength of the book is that the author’s state the scope and limits of their arguments clearly at the beginning of the book. Too many Christians pursue or think they have an argument that will shatter all atheist opposition. Geisler and McCoy do not claim to have that argument. Rather, they seek to equip their readers with the skills to recognize inconsistencies in the arguments of atheists. Christians can hope by pointing out such flaws that perhaps their atheist friend might be honest enough to doubt his or her own skepticism.
Weaknesses of the Book
Some readers may have the idea from ‘fatal flaw’ that this book will give the argument that shatters the atheist’s system. If such an argument existed, someone would have already wrote that book. Christian readers should know that no one comes to Christ apart from the Holy Spirit. The reader should not want more than what the authors offer. The arguments in the book are a place to stand one’s ground and coherently reply in a manner that hopefully will make the atheist more open to the Christian argument. The title perhaps should have been different but only because some readers may misunderstand the meaning. However, the title is correct in that the atheist’s argument against God’s existence fails due to the inconsistencies that Geisler and McCoy point out.
Another weakness is that certain sections of the book is not accessible to some readers. Readers who are unfamiliar with apologetics and philosophical arguments could feel frustrated in sections. However, most of the book is accessible to the average Christian, far more so that many apologetic books.
I recommend this book to Christians in settings where they interact with atheists or to people struggling with doubts about these issues. Geisler and McCoy give an excellent and brief counter to some of the arguments that atheists make.