Thursday, November 22, 2007

Book Review: Know Why You Believe

The goal of Know What You Believe by Paul Little is to present clear, concise answers to the twelve most common questions that are raised about the claims of Christianity. It does this in a very simple and readable way, obviously targeted primarily to the basic inquirer. The book succeeds in tackling the common questions dealt with in apologetics, even covering difficult concepts in a simple way. This may be considered glib to the more skeptical intellectual. However, the book remains accessible to all as a short and sweet reference.

The book is arranged in a logical order, answering the twelve common questions while building a cumulative case for Christianity. It covers from the rationality of belief, the existence of God, the divinity of Christ, the Resurrection, and the Bible’s reliability and veracity. After building a case for Christianity, it covers scientific questions, the problem of evil and suffering, and then other world religions. This simple treatment is a good guide for further study in each of these weighty areas.

The brevity and simplicity of the book (which could be considered one of its faults) actually serves to strengthen the apologetic in one sense. Its shortness forces the book to focus on the essential and prevailing arguments, avoiding a comprehensive treatment, which is not the goal. It should be noted, however, that this book should not be the end-point for study. This is a primer text. As such, the reader should be warned not to think the book contains “all the answers,” or even the best answers. The novice would be wise to start here, but foolish to end here.

Another great encouragement to the apologist is the attitude of the author. Paul Little reminds the reader that the same questions always arise. The questions are predictable and almost universal. If one can anticipate the objections, one can be prepared with the answers. The author keeps his apologetic geared for the inquirer and focused on the core issues; he keeps it simple and clear. This is a great rule of thumb.

This book seems most suitable as “standard equipment” for someone involved in evangelism or other areas of ministry where these common questions abound. A street evangelist lacking this framework will come across shallow and severely lacking when confronted with these inevitable questions. In conclusion, all Christians would do well to make Know Why You Believe a required starting text in a further study of apologetics.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Book Review: Reasonable Faith

Reasonable Faith: Christian Truth and Apologetics by William Lane Craig is a tour de force of thorough, scholarly apologetic work. Craig’s overall goal is to present a comprehensive background of the primary apologetic arguments for God, Scripture and Christ. He does this by hitting the main issues, exploring the history of each issue, showing the strengths and weaknesses offered by the arguments, and then delving into the practical application of the issues covered.

Most notable about Reasonable Faith could be its depth. Craig doesn’t hit every conceivable topic in apologetics. He starts at the beginning and then leads it straight to the core and central issue of Christ and the Resurrection. Throughout the entire process, Craig carefully deals with all of the pertinent and weighty objections and opposing views. The reader will surely not get a one-sided argument.

One particular quote stood out. It was a quote from one of Craig’s apologetic teachers: “We should know our subject profoundly and share it simply.” Craig truly fulfills the spirit of this philosophy. He teaches the history, philosophy, and the practical application.

Craig is at his best in his presentation of the Kalam Cosmological Argument, which argues the existence of God from the beginning of the Universe. Craig explores how space, time, and the cosmos point to the existence of God. Craig leaves the atheist only one way out, and that is to posit that the Universe “popped into existence” from nothing for no reason.

Craig is equally powerful in his presentation of the historical evidence for the Resurrection. After presenting a thorough and compelling case for the Resurrection, Craig leaves the skeptic to only a few alternative options – and these, of course, are admittedly absurd options.

There are many things that can be admired and learned from Craig’s apologetic approach. First, he does the scholarly work. Craig lacks nothing in credibility, as he has obviously done the “heavy lifting” required to master his subject. Second, he majors on the major issues. He argues and elaborates on the centralities, never getting sidetracked on nonessential issues. And finally, he comes across humbly, and he keeps the focus on Christ.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Book Review: Scaling the Secular City

With no warning whatsoever, Scaling the Secular City by J. P. Moreland dives into the deep end of the most powerful arguments for the existence of God. While other books seem to cover these arguments fairly well, Scaling the Secular City is different. It gives no introductory overview – it just attacks it head on, wielding the most esoteric of terms without reserve. In short, it can be intimidating.

The main arguments for the existence of God are cosmology, design, mind, and meaning. Each is explained fully and provides the reader with a full understanding. In addition, possible objections and opposing worldview are addressed and refuted. Moreland then moves on to New Testament historicity and the Resurrection of Jesus.

Near the end of the book Moreland deals with some issues with science and Christianity. He provides a good standard definition of creation-science and then goes on to compare the various forms of creationism and the cases for each (i.e., old-earth vs. young-earth). Moreland then shows the shortcomings in the key premises of Darwinian evolution.

Like William Lane Craig’s Reasonable Faith, Scaling the Secular City is thorough and deep. However, it seems that Moreland offers a more of a philosophical angle to the presentation. Where Craig provided the history, Moreland offers more philosophy. In presenting so much philosophy, it can become difficult to tell when Moreland is expressing his views or describing someone else’s. However, Moreland has indeed written a rich resource for the reader.

Friday, November 09, 2007

Book Review: No Other Gods

No Other Gods by Dr. Phil Fernandes could be described as a solid and foundational text covering an overall history of apologetics and presenting a strong cumulative apologetic for Christianity. It will serve as a strong future reference for the apologist, as it is concise yet thorough.

Fernandes’ historical overview of apologetics is useful and insightful. It is presented chronologically and outlines each key historical figure and what philosophies they pioneered. Without delving into a deep analysis of the belief systems, the reader gets a good feel for the progression of philosophies and theories.

Fernandes presents a nine-point cumulative case for the existence of God. He uses arguments from cosmology (the Kalam argument and Thomistic arguments), teleology (order and design of the Universe), human knowledge, universal truths, moral values, the absurdity of life without God, human dignity, and the existence of evil. Regarding the argument from the existence of evil, it is ironic that the argument many atheists would use to oppose God actually serves to prove His existence; how can evil exist if there is no God?

Old Testament and New Testament reliability are defended based on manuscript evidence, the apostolic fathers, external secular writings, ancient creeds, and the authority of professional scholars. Noteworthy is the appeal to the ancient creeds, as it serves to push the date of the original traditions and writings back even closer to the events they point to. Finally, the strong list of seven expert opinions helps to reinforce the case for Old and New Testament reliability.

The book reaches its target in the area of the Resurrection and the case of Christology. The short, but powerful case for the Resurrection goes right into proving the fact of Jesus’ divinity and therefore the validity of the scriptures as authoritative as God’s Word. Fernandes sites 25 prophecies as powerful evidence of Jesus as the Messiah.

Appendix Three, The Apologetic Methodology of Blaise Pascal was very interesting. Pascal’s way of thinking, methods and approach seem altogether unique. This chapter also brings proper clarity to the much-distorted and misused “Wager” argument for God. Most appreciated was Pascal’s focus on shaking men out of their indifference and removing the obstacles to their belief.

In conclusion, No Other Gods does an excellent job of presenting apologetics, and seems accessible to practically anyone.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Antony Flew's Deism

Gary Habermas reviews Anthony Flew's book: There is a God.

Friday, November 02, 2007

An Apologetics Manifesto

Christian Apologist Doug Groothuis has composed a great Apologetics Manifesto that I recommend reading. Check out point number seven:
The artificial separation of evangelism from apologetics must end. Many evangelistic methods die when those evangelized ask questions related to apologetics. Therefore, all evangelistic training should include basic apologetic training as well.

There is also a printable pdf version.
Hope you enjoy.

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