This book is subtitled "A guide to everyday apologetics". Copan takes a number of common objections to Christian belief and deals with them systematically. Many of Copan's arguments are sound and convincing; others less so. God's command to Joshua to wipe out the Canaanites may have been justifiable as God's judgement on their moral corruption, but it was also "ethnic cleansing" and "genocide" (p 151).
The final chapter on divisions and denominations in Christianity seems to be aimed more at reassuring Christians than at enquiring non-believers.
My disappointment about this book comes from the title, the Introduction and the endorsements on the back cover. In the Introduction Copan writes, "Cafes are a natural place to engage in many conversations about God...I've enjoyed many hearty discussions at coffee shops...A coffee shop is a superb place to talk about what's important." I agree - and I was expecting a book that would help me engage in a conversation with someone in a cafe; some anecdotes of real conversations in coffee shops; some suggestions as to ways of responding to challenging statements from non-believers.
Instead, Copan gives a set of formal arguments in response to each topic. Each argument is numbered and there is a summary list at the end of each chapter. But this is useless to me. Apart from the fact that I'm not likely to remember the fourteen answers to the question, "How can the Psalmists say such vindictive, hateful things?" no-one is ever likely to sit quietly while I reel off those fourteen answers. There is no hint in this book that conversation is a two-way process.
This book does not tackle the thorny question of how to persuade people to change their minds. Some hints that have helped me over the years are:
1. Ask open questions that will clarify where your friend is coming from, "What makes you think ...?" "Where did you read about that?" "Could you explain why you believe...?" "Can you tell me the evidence for ...?"
2. Then tell your friend where you agree with them and which of their points you think are valid.
3. Then challenge them with suggestions, "Have you read what so-and-so has to say about this?" "Did you know that there was evidence against that?" "Has anyone ever explained to you why the Bible says...?"
On the back cover Lee Strobel writes, "Classic Copan: thoughtful, respectful, well-reasoned, and ultimately persuasive. Open it up, grab a cup of coffee, and join the conversation."
Yes, it is classic Copan. Yes, it is ultimately persuasive - to a Christian. Grab a cup of coffee if you wish. But conversation - there is none in this book.