Many Christian (and even non-Christian) authors have addressed the challenges from the New Atheists. How do you feel your book contributes to the conversation?
One of the things we have noticed in our experience with students and people within the church today (Sean as a Teacher and myself as a Pastor) is that the New Atheists’ books, articles and debates, have been wreaking havoc on their faith. And so we wanted to write a book for this generation that would be understandable and engaging but that would also contain substantive responses to the eighteen biggest objections raised by the New Atheists. Another unique feature is that we cover a wide spectrum of topics from scientific and philosophical issues to moral and biblical ones—all in one place. Finally, we wanted to have a productive conversation so we tried to maintain a civil tone while at the same time making a rigorous case for God and responding to their specific objections.
What one argument from the New Atheists was the most challenging to answer or took the most work/research hours to address?
What’s new about the New Atheists is not so much the content of their arguments as much as it is the rhetorical, emotional, and evangelistic nature of their writings. So in that regard, there wasn’t one argument or issue that particularly stands out as the most challenging because, as we show in the book, the evidence for God is really good. Also, we did continually try to walk the tightrope of explaining the powerful evidence for God that is available in an understanding and readable way to someone who has never encountered these questions before. So, for example, our chapter Has Science Shown There Is No Soul? was more challenging to write because of how technical that discussion can become.
You mention Stephen Hawking in Chapter 5, "How Did the Universe Begin?". He has even more recently released the book The Grand Design and the New Atheists seem to have been bolstered by the ideas therein. Have either of you had a chance to address the arguments he has offered?
Hawking’s book has certainly made quite the splash. While neither of us have responded to that specifically yet, it has been soundly critiqued already (for links to leading scientists as well as philosophers see my (Jonathan) blog post here - http://thinkchristianly.blogspot.com/2010/09/responses-to-stephen-hawking-and-grand.html ). It should also be noted that The Grand Design still affirms an absolute beginning of the universe and so the argument for God’s Existence from the beginning of the universe that we present in Chapter 5 remains unaffected.
What was it like to co-write this book and how did that process work?
This book was a lot of fun for us to write together because of our shared passion for helping people explore what they believe, why they believe it and why it matters. After all, these are the biggest and most important questions in all of life. Also, we have a common educational background and training that really allowed us to speak with a unified voice in this book to the issues and questions the New Atheists raise. Moreover, being able to interact together about the content and arguments along the way helped strengthen the book as a whole and sharpen our own thinking.
We also view the challenges of the New Atheism as an opportunity because when Christian students come out on the other side of wrestling with these fundamental questions and the challenges of the New Atheists, they will have formed more solid convictions. And passion flows from conviction. So in writing Is God Just a Human Invention?, we wanted to make sure there would be a resource to help guide young adults in their faith journey and ensure that they have the opportunity to seriously consider an uncaricatured, thoughtful understanding of the evidence for God and Christianity.
There are many well-known authors who have contributed to this book in the "Why It Matters" portions of the book. How did you get so many renowned contributors for this book?
We wanted this book to have a unique angle that speaks to this generation. And so we invited eighteen leading scholars to share a little bit of their own stories and how these truths were meaningful to their lives in a “why it matters” section that follows each of the chapters that we wrote. We were blown away and humbled by the generous response of these scholars to give of their time to help encourage the next generation in their search for truth. Their willingness to participate really speaks to how important these questions really are for all of us.