When one reads any of the many articles or blog posts written by Tyler Vela, or listens to his podcast, “The Freed Thinker,” it becomes quickly apparent that he is man both well-educated and devoted to researching his subject matter before opening his mouth. And yet, Mr. Vela has a tendency to devote a disproportionate amount of his time arguing with people whose idea of “research” is a quick Google search with heavy bias toward infidel websites.
In fairness to Vela, his show has featured some of the most civil Christian/Atheist dialogue available for listening. His interaction with atheist Cory Markum and his interview with famed atheist philosopher Graham Oppy are both pleasant and high-minded enough to restore one’s faith in humanity. But then one need only thumb one’s way over to the episode of “The Freed Thinker” podcast titled “Books are Dogs Now,” and it quickly becomes apparent that Vela has the tragic habit of trying to hold internet “trolls” to the same high scholarship and critical thought levels as himself; and ends up working himself into a lather of frustration at their trenchant inanity.
Vela’s book, Measuring McAfee, is like a study in this kind of aggravated monologue against jeering atheists who don’t even take their own arguments seriously, much less those of their opponents. The entire book is written as an extended response to atheist David McAfee’s own book, with the creative title: Disproving Christianity.
Ideally, perhaps, the reader ought to read McAfee’s book first, then Vela’s. Or better, read them side-by-side, first reading McAfee’s arguments, then Vela’s responses. For those who don’t care to take the time, however, Vela’s characteristic devotion to accuracy and detail shines through as he takes the time to lay out each of McAfee’s arguments prior to deconstructing them.
Early in the book, McAfee’s writings show him to be a poster-boy for the so-called “internet infidel,” parroting arguments against Christianity which could be pulled from the comments section of the average message board and could be summed up in the space of a meme. Vela is not Measuring Ehrman, he isn’t even Measuring Dawkins – and with each new point he tackles, Vela’s frustration at McAfee’s utter disregard for scholarship, research or making an attempt at constructing a sound argument becomes more apparent. Vela, on the other hand, sprinkles his book with copious footnotes and references which are quite informative – almost to the point of self-indulgence.
Having said all of that, this may actually be one of the more important books that the average Christian should pick up before they go online to be pushed around and bullied by people cut from the same mold as McAfee. Why? Well, just because atheist arguments like “How did penguins get from the ark to Antarctica?” and “Why is the Old Testament God so different from the New Testament God?” are about as common as atheists themselves, doesn’t mean that average Christians will have good answers for them. In this book, Vela addresses what may very well be among the most frequent objections to Christianity (though certainly not the best) anyone is likely to find anywhere on the internet. In his book, Disproving Christianity, McAfee has done Christians the favor of distilling down the sound-bite level objections to Christianity that float so freely around the web, and in his response book, Vela has disarmed each of them in turn.
Vela’s book works as an excellent popular reference for web-bound Christians everywhere, but one gets the sense that he didn’t have any idea the gold-mine he was sitting on when he wrote it. Vela writes the book in the format of a vigorous peer review – not a convenient reference guide. The book is written entirely about another book, and it’s clear that scholarly integrity was first and foremost in Vela’s mind when he wrote it, not necessarily popular-level readability. Fortunately, Vela is a seasoned speaker and writer with a quick wit, and the text still remains relatively accessible to a popular audience.