Published by Tyndale on June 7, 2022
Genres: Non-Fiction, Apologetics, Memoir
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“A compelling spiritual memoir that traces Bignon’s fascinating quest for answers to life’s most profound questions.” —Lee Strobel
God Wasn’t In His Plans Until . . .
Guillaume Bignon was a French atheist . . . and he was perfectly happy. He was very successful as a software engineer in finance, a musician, and a volleyball player. Yet a chance encounter with a beautiful woman would change the way he thought about his life and beliefs forever.
Confessions of a French Atheist is the unusual story of Guillaume Bignon, a man who didn’t need God but who grew to believe in God after he thought through the nature of morality, the relationship between science and faith, the supernatural, and the reliability of the Bible. With rigorous reasoning, remarkable authenticity, and a sense of humor, Guillaume takes the reader on a journey of his innermost questions and surprising discoveries.
Ever since Lee Strobel’s now-classic The Case for Christ, the atheist-turned-Christian apologetics-themed memoir has popped up from time to time to varying levels of success. Confessions of a French Atheist by Guillaume Bignon is the latest, with the primary hook being Bignon’s French background and Christian by philosophers and theologians outside the American milieu. As such, Bignon offers a sometimes compelling, sometimes dry spiritual memoir that does sufficiently the job it sets out to do.
It’s difficult to critique memoir because you are talking about the content of someone’s life, usually a subsection of their life which holds great meaning or value to them. Far be it from me to criticize anyone’s story; however, it is also true that not all stories need be told via a published memoir. The question that must be answer is “Is this story valuable to enough strangers to be published.” It’s not whether the story has value. It does. It’s whether that story’s value can be transposed into a larger context.
This is where Confessions of a French Atheist fell rather flat for me. Bignon’s narrative comes across as stilted and detached from the story he is telling. Maybe it is because Bignon’s first language is not English, maybe it is because his style and tone are more suited to academia, but he often comes across as a third-person narrator to his own story. I always felt like there was an intellectual distance between me and the story.
This feeling was exacerbated by the way in which Bignon interwove the thread of apologetics. The book’s strength was its use of thinkers and writers less-quoted in American evangelical apologetics; however, the way in which Bignon inserted his didactic material further drew me away from the personalness of the story. I was reading half a stilted memoir and half a decent book on apologetics.
It’s not that Confessions of French Atheist is bad, but simply that it doesn’t break any new ground or offer a compelling reason to retread the old ground. As a story of conversion, it deserves to be celebrated. As a memoir, it’s only mildly interesting. As apologetics, it doesn’t say much new or appeal to a wide enough audience. I think Bignon would have done better (though perhaps sold fewer books) had he gone all out with the intellectual memoir and not attempted to write it for the popular level. As is, the bar set by guys like Lee Strobel (who wrote the foreword to the book) and J. Warner Wallace just isn’t matched here by Guillaume Bignon and Confessions of a French Atheist.