From the December 2011 E-Block.
Unlike Billy Graham, Luis Palau has not been
called upon to write books telling people what he thinks of public
debt. He has, however, been a somewhat less prolific author; although
far too many of these books were inaccessible to me (many for example
were in non-English). In the end, I was able to secure but three books
of his, and one -- a devotional with David -- offered nothing
extraordinary beyond typical pastoral anachronisms used to make certain
Biblical stories and characters seem more relevant and "like us" than
they are or were.
A second book, Changed by Faith, also contained little
extraordinary; s may be expected, it is nearly cover to cover personal
testimonies, with Jesus cast in the role of personal therapist, and with
the assumption made that one of Jesus' roles is to help you figure out
"who you are." (In the Bible's agonistic society, such a question would
have have even been operable.) To be fair, Palau does engage in some
"hard" apologetics -- for about 2 pages, discussing manuscript evidence.
But clearly in his world, such apologetics is meant oi stay at the back
of the Christian bus and remain seated until called. On the negative
side, Palau also defines faith in terms of blind trust (120-1 -- for
example, we have faith in a chef when we go to a restaurant, which is
an analogy I found ironically galling having had food poisoning just
last week), and thinks Young's The Shack is an example of positive Christian influence (187).
if any book of Palau's was going to be of interest to an apologist, I thought it might be A Friendly Dialogue Between an Atheist and a Christian,
co-authored between himself and a personal friend of his who is an
official in China. Sadly, a subtitle is needed: "That's So Friendly It
Doesn't Really Get Anywhere." Palau and his friend seldom pose views
functionally at odds, and his friend doesn't seem to be a typical
atheist: He generally takes the historical value of Bible for granted,
beyond the mention of supernatural elements; and as an example of its
reliability, he notes that there is no mention of tea in it, which would
be an anachronism. In that respect Palau's friend seems to be an
atheist of the Kyle Gerkin type -- someone who would react well to solid
Unfortunately, that is a task Palau wasn't up to. In an all too
brief discussion on the problem of evil (47f), Palau makes the
outlandish argument that God uses disasters to wake up people from
indifference. Later (101-2) Palau indicates acceptance of the myth of
the Dark Ages, and somehow manages to put them in the 17th-18th century
(!). His atheist friend is under the impression that many scientists
were tortured by the Inquisition, including Galileo, Copernicus, and
Servetus. However, the Galileo matter is itself surrounded by modern
myths; Copernicus was not persecuted for his ideas while he was alive,
and Servetus wasn't persecuted for being a scientist, but for advocating
heretical views of the Trinity.
Both Palau and his friend also make the mistake of thinking Hitler was
an atheist (120).
Further on, the atheists asks who created God, and Palau says he
has no idea how to answer that, but we'll find out in heaven (110). This
one is such a simple question to answer that I couldn't help but wish
someone better versed than Palau were around to answer it -- or better,
that evangelists like Palau as a whole were better versed.
So, in sum: I found little or nothing special from Palau, which is not surprising -- but is also, as always, disappointing.