With a simple and very readable style, veteran apologist James Sire lays out a bird’s eye view of what apologetics is: its purpose, scope, limits, context, arguments, and calling. Each chapter encapsulates one of these themes and the reader gets the sense of listening at the feet of a significant authority in the subject. With personal stories, extracts, and practical insights, Sire shares and instructs.
As in all basic apologetics texts, the word apologetics is defined. Sire provides a proper introduction from scripture, but then goes on to define apologetics in a holistic way: “Christian apologetics lays before the watching world such a winsome embodiment of the Christian faith that for any and all who are willing to observe there will be an intellectually and emotionally credible witness to its fundamental truth.”1 Sire’s emphasis is on the whole package, so to speak. Not just arguments or intellect, but character, lifestyle, and the whole person.
Also of note is Sire’s strong balance between the role of the apologist and the role of the Holy Spirit: “What, then, is demanded is a humble apologetic – the apologist’s reliance not on the cleverness or even the brilliance of argument but on the power of God to will and to do his good pleasure.”2 The author reminds the apologist that his work is evangelistic and his dependence is upon the Spirit. One senses depth when reading Sire, even while realizing simplicity in style. His heart is sincere, humble, and, in a word, refreshing.
Sire introduces the contexts of apologetic encounters so that the newcomer to the subject has a good overview of the wide landscape that is apologetics. These run the gamut from personal encounters to speaking in universities. The author also presents an overview of the arguments entailed in apologetics. For each category he provides helpful introductory reading lists and recommendations for study.
Perhaps the most personal element of the book addresses the life of the apologist. Sire takes a chapter to discuss the character and habits of the apologist, outlined here:
What then are the requirements for success as an apologist? There are, I believe, five basic requirements of equal importance: (1) a fascination with and delight in the intellectual life, (2) a passion for what can be learned from the Bible, (3) a life characterized by consistent holiness, (4) a love for people and (5) a growing ability to communicate with them on a profoundly personal level.3The author elaborates on each one of these five requirements and shows how they play out in practice. Here the beginner will gain a great foundational attitude and perspective, while the veteran is reminded of the humble requirements of the apologetic task. To conclude, Sire presents closing thoughts on how one may discern a calling to apologetics as a vocation.
Sire’s A Little Primer on Humble Apologetics is a gem of a book. It is a quick read, but completely relevant and useful. May the humble spirit expressed through Sire’s writing find its flame within apologists of this generation and the next.
1 James Sire, A Little Primer on Humble Apologetics (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2006), p. 26.
2 Ibid., p. 52.
3 Ibid., p. 94.