John Beversluis Has Died at the Age of 86, But He Will Speak from the Grave!

John Beversluis was 86 years old when he recently died. His life was lived between these two days, November 10, 1934 and May 22, 2021. From his obituary we read:
John received his Ph.D from Indiana University and his Bachelor of Arts from Calvin College. He taught Philosophy and Ethics at Butler University (Indianapolis, IN), Emory University (Atlanta, GA), California State University, Fresno, Clovis Community College, Monterey Peninsula College, the University of the South (Sewanee, TN), and Grand Valley State College (Allendale MI). He participated in three National Endowment for the Humanities seminars for College Teachers: at the University of Illinois (Urbana, IL), the University of California at Berkeley, and the University of Texas. He presented papers at the American Philosophical Association, various universities in the United States, and at Oxford and Cambridge in the United Kingdom. While at Oxford he also presented several papers to the Oxford C. S. Lewis Society. His publications include works in the areas of Ancient Greek Philosophy (focusing on Socrates and Plato), the Philosophy of Religion, Kantian Ethics, and Philosophy and Literature. SOURCE.

In 2008 I got to know John in an exchange of emails. I had contacted him about his masterful book, C.S. Lewis and the Search for Rational Religion: Revised and Updated, which had just been published by Prometheus Books (PB) on November 29, 2007. I had bought it and loved it. Let me tell you this interesting story.

Getting the first edition of this book published in 1985 was an extremely difficult thing for him to do, since C.S. Lewis had achieved "iconic status". John told me he snail-mailed copies of his book manuscript to 50 publishers before landing a contract with an unlikely publisher, a Christian one, Baker Books. Wouldn't most of us have become too discouraged to continue pursuing a publisher, after getting rejection letters from 30 or 40 of them? We can all be thankful he kept looking for one. After the publication of this book it was lauded by just a small number of reviewers. What he had not expected was the number of "mean-spirited" reviews it received. He was also very disappointed at the sales of the book. Aside from a few reviewers, no one else seemed to be reading it.

Twenty-two years later John was encouraged by Charles Echelbarger and Keith Parsons to revise and update his book for PB, the premier atheist publisher for fifty years, having been founded in 1969 by the late philosopher Paul Kurtz. [On July 1, 2019, Rowman & Littlefield acquired PB and now publishes under the Globe Pequot family of imprints. May 15th of this year shows the last few books published by PB.] In this new edition Beversluis replied to his critics, including Victor Reppert of the Dangerous Idea blog. [I've had several interactions with Reppert myself, especially on the Outsider Test for Faith, seen here.] Beversluis's book is still the only critical book-length criticism of Lewis's apologetics. However, just like the first edition, the revised and updated edition didn't sell well either. He questioned the publisher's rationale for the title of the book, prefering a completely new title instead. But John was really disappointed at its reception within the atheist community. Given the poor sales and no additional reviews of it, overall he thought it was a waste of his time, especially since the so-called New Atheist books were selling well. [He was delighted that I reviewed his book later in August of 2009, for Philosophy Now, Issue 74: July/August 2009.]

I too was about to be a Prometheus Books author for the first time, with the first edition of my magnum opus, Why I Became an Atheist, published on October 30, 2008, about a year after Beversluis's revised book on Lewis. It was during this period of time--between my contacting him and the publishing of my book--that John had decided to write a book on Jesus. During this time he sent me six chapters for my input. The title of his book was going to be, The Gospel According to Whom?: A Nonbeliever Looks at the New Testament and its Contemporary Defenders.

Then he read my magnum opus.

After doing so, he said my book was so good he wouldn't continue writing his book, because it would be another waste of his time. Here is what he wrote just after reading it:
No review can begin to do justice to an ambitious book of this scope or to the sustained theological, philosophical, scientific, textual, and historical critique of Christianity that it contains. Suffice it to say at the outset that I have never read a book that presents such a massive and systematic refutation of the claims of Christianity, and I have seldom read a book that marshals evidence (from such a wide variety of disciplines) and documents its claims in such painstaking detail.

I can pay John Loftus no higher compliment than to say that his new book is reminiscent of The Age of Reason by Thomas Paine and The Life of Jesus Critically Examined by David Friedrich Strauss. He has done for the 21st Century what they did for the 18th and the 19th. It should be required reading for every Christian.
Now I'm not saying this high praise is warranted. Certainly it's not! I think people might have an initial reaction from reading a book that becomes tempered with time. This happend in John's case as well. For when when asked to write a blurb for the revised edition of my magnum opus in 2012, he wrote this one:
Christians routinely dismiss objections advanced by skeptics on the ground that they are outsiders who are not in a position to understand the doctrines they presume to criticize. Nobody can say that about John W. Loftus. As an ex-pastor and Christian apologist, he understands these doctrines from the inside and is able to expose the logical flaws of the arguments offered in support of them—textual, scientific, theological, and philosophical—with luminous clarity and devastating force. His scholarship is impressive, but he also knows how to write in a way that engages the nonscholarly reader. The result is a startlingly honest book that ought to be required reading for every Christian.
Anyway, I did everything to persuade John to continue writing his book on Jesus. Unfortunately he wouldn't change his mind. I contacted him over the years to see if he would reconsider, but he wouldn't do it. I also asked if I could publish his chapters on my blog, and he wouldn't agree to it.

So anyway, just a few days ago I emailed John, asking once again if I could publish his six chapters. Surprisingly I received a nice email response from his recently widowed wife Tricia. That's how I first learned he had died, from her. [My sincere condolences Tricia]. In it she gave me permission to publish his six chapters on my blog. So I will. He will speak from the grave over the next few weeks! You will love what you're about to read, as I did.

Beversluis's two blurbs and his dubious decision not to continue writing a book on Jesus, may be the highest praise I ever received from any scholar. While I don't claim my book deserves his high praise (it doesn't), if you value his opinion just a little bit, perhaps you should get it and see for yourself.


P.S. I hope my readers will forgive me for what follows. As I thought about John's reaction to my book I remembered another similar occurence of the same thing with Dr. James A. Lindsay. He wrote the excellent book, God Doesn't; We Do: Only Humans Can Solve Human Challenges in 2012. I read it soon after he published it. As I was reading I crashed into these words:
Originally, when I had outlined this section, I had intended to indicate many of John Loftus's arguments against theism from Why I Became an Atheist, but I realized that to say what I would really want to say, I would essentially have to quote the majority of chapters 6 through 13 (along with much of the rest of the book!), particularly a powerful few pages near the end of chapter 8 in which he discusses literally scores of simple and obvious ways that God could reveal himself to us in unambiguous ways absolutely none of which is silly or asking very much. Thus, I cannot recommend this book too highly for anyone who wants to understand why someone might not believe in Christianity, or God in general. (p. 161).
Lindsay ends his chapter, and Part 2, with one last paragraph commenting on one of my arguments, that if Christianity were true then Christians would be "overwhelmingly better by far." As you might guess I was shocked by the honor of such high praise. While I don't claim my book deserves this praise (it doesn't), perhaps you should get it and see for yourself.

P.S.S. At this point I shouldn't neglect to mention how grateful I am for the many others who have thought highly of my work over the years. They have done so by blogging and commenting here at DC, by writing chapters for my anthologies, by writing blurbs and reviews, and by donating money. I am especially thankful for Dr. David Madison, who has written more blog posts here than anyone else besides me, produced many Meme's of my sayings, written a few chapters for my books, and who asked me to write the Foreword to the second edition of his book, Ten Tough Problems in Christian Thought and Belief: A Minister-Turned-Atheist Shows Why You Should Ditch the Faith in 2018. In his book he tells us "the schematic" for his book, and "even its title" were "partly inspired" by something I had said (p. 41). Thank you one! Thank you all!


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