Tom Gender introduces his latest work by explaining the important both both theology and apologetics to the Christian. In doing so, he establishes a necessary connection between the two: if a Christian is defending a false theology, then they are not defending a true worldview, and if a skeptic knows how to demonstrate that theology false, then they have logical reason for rejecting the worldview of the Christian. This can provide no end of doubts and stumbling blocks for unbelievers to come to Christ and Christians to consider rejecting their worldview. Gender emphasizes that apologetics should not be done in the absence of theology. To be effective, both must be practiced together.
Using that as a springboard, Gender's purpose behind this book is to focus on the proper understanding of several of Christianity's most challenged and challenging core doctrines and how to defend their truth biblically, historically, scientifically and philosophically. Each doctrine will contain four parts: an explanation of the doctrine, an expansion upon its details, an engagement with common challenges to the doctrine and its details, and the practical implications of embracing the doctrine.
Chapter 1—Trinity: God is Three Persons In One Being
Gender begins with the essence of the Christian God's nature that distinguishes Him from all other monotheistic gods: the fact that He is triune. The doctrine of the Trinity holds that God is three unique persons, each with their own unique centers of consciousness and roles, yet they are the same nature and essence. The Trinity is denied by the other monotheistic religions and popular cults of Christianity. All these worldviews generally accept the Bible as authoritative (part or whole to some extent) so in order to support this doctrine biblically Gender lists numerous passages that identify the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit as one and the same God, yet identifies them as unique from each other. A Trinity is the only way to accept all these passages as true without contradiction.
Also, love requires both a subject that is loving and an object that the subject is loving. If love is an eternal attribute of God's character and if He has been eternally loving, then the Trinity is the only concept of God that provides both a subject and an object in order for such an attribute to make sense. Without the Trinity, God is eternally self-centered, and love is a fleeting fancy for the moment- there is no justification for saying that God loves anyone or anything, much less desires to be in communion with His creatures.
Chapter 2—Creation: God Created Everything
The doctrine of creation states that God is the creator of everything that is not Him. This doctrine distinguishes theism from all forms of polytheism, pantheism, and naturalism in the fact that everything outside of The Trinity is contingent on His creative acts. Since God is the source from which all things are created, He is the objective reference point for reason, knowledge, morality, value, beauty and purpose, Many challenges have been raised against this doctrine, not only from unbelievers, but also from Christians. Gender addresses twenty of the most common challenges from both directions.
Having defended the doctrine of creation from many angles, Gender explains that this doctrine holds great implications. For one, since a mind is the ultimate source of the human mind, then the human mind can be trusted to accurately discern truth about reality from the creation- science. Second, if God is the Creator of the universe, including humanity, then He had a purpose for it, and we can only discover that purpose by surrendering to God. Third, since the doctrine of creation involves the creation of all energy, space, and time from literally no thing (which is affirmed by big bang cosmology), we have scientific evidence of the greatest miracle, thus all lesser miracle accounts recorded in scripture cannot be rejected simply on the fact that they are miracles.
Chapter 3—Imago Dei: God Created Human Beings In His Image
Genesis 1 states that God created man "in His image." The "image of God" is a trait that God reserved exclusively for humanity. This doctrine provides a foundation for individuals' intrinsic value and objective purpose among other things. It holds that man is like God in many ways, and Gender expands on seventeen characteristics that is uniquely afforded to humanity in virtue of being created in His image, including the abilities to reason and make free choices. Challenges to this doctrine come directly involving origins of humanity and others are more indirect, challenging necessary implications of the doctrine. In all Gender engages twelve common challenges to the doctrine of the Imago Dei.
Gender explains that the Imago Dei is the target of many challenges due to how far it reaches into individuals' everyday lives. Everything from ethics to finances, from environmental responsibility to marriage is affected by this doctrine. Since individuals are created in God's image, they belong to God and are morally accountable to Him for their moral choices and decisions to pursue the purposes for which they were created.
Chapter 4—Incarnation: God Became A Man
The incarnation is the belief that the second person of the Trinity became man and entered into the temporal world of humanity to redeem humanity. Jesus Christ is fully God and fully man. He did not lose any of his divine attributes, though he may have set their use aside for a time. He was born and experienced a human childhood. He ate, slept, worked, learned and felt joy, grief, and pain. Both his divine nature and his human nature have been incorrectly over-emphasized at various points in church history to the point of denying the other, but neither are correct. This doctrine is necessary for Christ to represent both God and man in bringing reconciliation between God and man.
Gender engages twenty-four common challenges to the doctrine of the incarnation. Two particular challenges seem to be raised more often than the rest: Jesus never claimed to be God and Jesus is not the prophesied Jewish Messiah. To address the first, Gender provides a list and explanation of sixty (60) passages in which Jesus identifies himself, either directly or indirectly, as God. In response to the second, a table is provided that lists messianic prophecies from the Old Testament and their New Testament fulfillments.
The incarnation is one of the most important events in history and has profound impacts on what humanity can know about God. Since the Son took the nature of humanity, He has first-hand experience with human suffering, which allows a personal and emotional connection with God like no relationship with some old man in the sky who did not have a clue what it was like to be human. The fact that God chose to do this freely demonstrates His incredible love for us and desire for us to know Him. The incarnation allows for God not once again freely choose (and thus demonstrate His love) by a another historic event- the death and resurrection.
Chapter 5—Resurrection: Jesus Was Raised From The Dead
The resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth from the dead is the historical event that the entire Christian worldview depends upon; if it did not happen, then Christianity is not true, period. It is vitally important that people understand this event. Considering that it is claimed as an historical event, it can be tested by the same criteria that other historical events can be. Gender examines the historical evidence that supports five important aspects of the claim:
- Jesus' crucifixion
- His burial
- The empty tomp
- His postmortem appearances
- His disciples' transformation
Numerous challenges have been raised throughout the centuries to the resurrection, and many of them are still offered today. Gender addresses fourteen of the most popular, including several naturalistic explanations for the historical evidence and several philosophical objections that attempt to side-step the historical evidence.
Gender then explains the implications. Jesus' supernatural resurrection places a "stamp" of approval by God on the teachings and the life of Jesus of Nazareth. By implication this gives Jesus ultimate authority over peoples' lives, so they really should listen carefully to and embrace all that He said and did. However, Jesus did not preach an oppressive message; rather one that gives us much hope for the life beyond this life that His resurrected body stands to evidence.
Chapter 6—Gospel: Jesus Brings Us Good News
The previous five doctrines of Christianity come together in the Gospel. The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit existed from eternity past in as the one true God yet in loving relationship with each other. God created so that others could join in that loving relationship. But man's rejection of God separated him from God forever. Fortunately, the Son became incarnate, lived, and paid the penalty through His death on the cross so that the relationship with humans may be restored. Jesus Christ resurrected from the dead to demonstrate that what He taught about humanity and his relationship with God are true. The good news of the Gospel is that individuals can be reconciled to God if the individual chooses to accept Jesus' redemptive sacrifice.
Many challenges throughout the centuries have come against the truth of the Gospel. Gender addresses fourteen that range from challenges to the Gospel's claim to exclusivity to the destiny of those who do not choose to accept it. He ends the chapter and the book with a clear call to the reader to not only accept the truth of the doctrines defended in this work, but to recognize their sinfulness, dedicate their lives to the work and teachings of Jesus Christ and enter into the loving relationship with the triune God.
Rock Solid is a work that was well-thought out for multiple audiences. Not only does Gender address the intellectual challenges to each of the six doctrines, but he also provides application to the readers' lives. This allows this book to be an easy fit for small Church groups- not only will the readers receive theological training, but they will learn to defend their beliefs to others as they live out the implications in their own lives- a great combination of actions and words communicating the Gospel. Gender wrote in a way that is quite accessible to the everyday-Christian, and he covered so much material concisely that it is a wonderful place to begin for anyone who wishes to get introduced to defending the faith. If a small-group leader wishes to introduce their class to providing a case for the truth of their convictions, Rock Solid will provide an accessible, engaging, but not overwhelming source to do so.
Apologetics 315 Book Reviewer Luke Nix is a Computer Systems Administrator in Oklahoma, USA. He has a beautiful and supportive wife, but no kids yet. In his spare time he enjoys studying theology, philosophy, biology, astronomy, psychology and apologetics. If you liked this review, more of his writing can be enjoyed at lukenixblog.blogspot.com.