Interest in Christian apologetics seems to be on an upswing, and that’s a very good thing. Popular American culture becomes less tolerant of Christianity, painting it as a mythical wish-fulfillment or the intellectual equivalent of believing in the Flying Spaghetti Monster. Dedicated Christians ought to be engaged in learning more about their faith and how to answer the allegations and assertions against it. Christianity has a strong intellectual tradition, capable of withstanding the harshest of scrutiny. Yet many Christians have nothing more to fall back on when challenged about the basis of their faith than I have faith that it’s true. Yes, by the grace of God the Holy Spirit we do have faith that it is true – but that faith isn’t grounded in nothingness.
There are a ton of resources out there for those interested in learning how to better articulate a defense of the Christian faith. The Holman QuickSource Guide to Christian Apologetics is one of them, and it’s a very serviceable one at that. I appreciate the breadth of topics it covers, while acknowledging that it provides only what it claims to be – a quick source. Decent bibliographies at the end of each chapter prompt further reading and deeper exploration, but this book will best be used as a refresher and reference text for those already familiar with the basics of apologetics.
The book begins in arenas that will be immediately familiar to those already acquainted with Christian apologetics – philosophical arguments for the existence of God. Variations of the cosmological argument are presented. The next chapter makes the argument for the Christian God on the basis of the apparent design that permeates the universe at the macro and micro levels. Next the moral arguments for the existence of God are examined, followed by a chapter that seeks to demonstrate that what these various philosophical inquiries reveal is that there is not just any god out there but in fact the God of the Bible.
Recognizing that an attack on the reliability of Scripture is often part of a criticism of Christianity, this book next addresses the historical reliability of the Bible. Two chapters focus on the New Testament and one chapter on the Old Testament. Having established a case for the reliability of Scripture, the book proceeds to tackle the hard questions about what Scripture actually says. One chapter deals with the issue of miracles and whether or not science and rationalism has effectively disproved them, which would render the authority of Scripture suspect. The next chapter deals with the issue of prophecy in Scripture, providing some good summaries of key prophetic passages and intents, particularly in reference to Jesus Christ. Next up is the issue of the resurrection, followed by a chapter on the divinity of Christ in terms of how He describes himself in Scripture. The final chapter in the book wraps up well by talking about the importance of evaluating which particular apologetic tool to employ based on the nature of the particular argument encountered.
I like that the book doesn’t simply present the affirmative Biblical position in each argument, but rather each chapter often begins with the common arguments against made against the faith and outlines a way of refuting the argument based on reason, Scripture, historical attestation, etc. The book stays fairly focused on apologetics rather than getting sidetracked into theological differences and nuances amongst Christians. Particularly, I appreciated that the chapter on prophecy didn’t attempt to argue for (or even about!) end-times related issues such as the rapture or variations on millennialism.
For me the weakest point of the book was that in the chapter on miracles, the author attempts to refute the claims of miracles in other faith traditions. In other words, it attempts to discredit the attributing of miracles to Buddha or Muhammed. It does this by first defining the nature and aspect of miracles from a Biblical, Christian perspective, and then showing how in other religions, their accounts of miracles don’t match the Biblical, Christian criteria for an authentic miracle, and therefore must be bogus.
While I’m happy to grant that I believe this line of reasoning is accurate, it is not one that will be particularly helpful in the apologetic endeavor. If you happen to be talking with someone of another faith and the issue of comparative miracles comes up, you aren’t likely to convince them of the inaccuracy of their miracle traditions based on a Biblical Christian understanding of how to determine whether a real miracle has taken place. The book’s approach is good in making readers aware that miracles are not the exclusive claim of Biblical Christianity, and that we have a way of thinking about outside claims to miraculous deeds.
But it is also just as helpful to remember that we have an adversary at work in the world, clouding and confusing and sowing lies like weeds among wheat. This means that we can be fooled if we aren’t careful, and that many people live enmeshed in the lies of false religions or even of no religion. Sometimes the proofs for their faith are very compelling. Apologetics is an intellectual exercise but it is one that also overlaps the spiritual battle that wages around and within us, and we need to be quick to acknowledge that Satan has his own tricks up his sleeve that he is capable of producing in order to further his deceptions. While we arm our minds, we also gird our hearts in prayer and love for those we seek to reach with the redeeming Gospel of Jesus Christ.
I recommend this resource, and pray that it will strengthen and embolden Christians to bear testimony to the truth of our Lord Jesus Christ.