Limiting myself to only 10 atheists who are charitable to religion in "Neither Nye, Nor Gopnik" was a difficult exercise. I was forced to leave off some thinkers whose religious status remains ambiguous.

For example: Terry Eagleton sounds like he's close to returning to Catholicism in Reason, Faith, and Revolution: Reflections on the God Debate; I've never been able to figure out where George Steiner sits after reading his thoroughly incarnational Real Presences; Camille Paglia frequently speaks about Catholicism positively, and even though there's a fair amount about religion in her Glittering Images it doesn't contain a sustained argument about it; finally, Luce Irigaray seems to embrace Catholicism in her most recent writings, although one wonders to what extent. I could keep expanding this list of ambiguities almost indefinitely.

But let's turn to another ambiguity, the ambiguity of reason. In a recent post Damian Thompson gives a couple of examples of how the polemics of Richard Dawkins are leading people to Christ. Yes, you read that right. Here is how one of the testimonies he catalogs breaks it down:

If I were a conspiracy theorist, I might conclude that Prof Dawkins secretly converted to Christianity decades ago, and then asked himself: 'How can I best win souls? By straightforward argument, or by turning myself from a respected academic into a comic figure fulminating against religion like a fruitcake at Speakers' Corner, thereby discrediting atheism?'

The ambiguity lies in overplaying your hand and going in for the kill by selecting the weakest opponents in your polemics. I didn't understand this when some of my friends reacted very negatively to David Bentley Hart's Atheist Delusions: The Christian Revolution and Its Fashionable Enemies.

By the time I read the essay "Gods and Gopniks" I realized that "low-lier" polemics could potentially be winning people for atheism.

This brings us back to one of the great lessons of von Balthasar's Glory of the Lord: The form of our theology matters as much as its content. In his most recent book From Theology to Theological Thinking Jean-Yves Lacoste, picking up on von Balthasar's concern with apologetics, suggests the modest form most appropriate to our situation: "Balthasar did not hesitate to say that the only adequate Christian response posed to Nietzsche was by Thérèse of Lisieux."