God wants you to argue for the truth of the Christian faith. To some, the mere idea of God wanting Christians to argue, let alone for His truth, is an oxymoron. This is because many people wrongly associate the idea of arguing with two people yelling at each other while they debate an idea. But this is not the idea of arguing, let alone the picture Peter had in mind when he challenged believers to “Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give a reason for the hope that you have. (1 Peter 3:15)”

No, arguing for the truth of the Christian faith has its roots in Scripture and it is in the life and ministry of Paul in which we see pervasive argumentation for Christianity. A quick read through the book of Acts will bring to light the apologetic nature of Paul’s ministry as time and time again Luke tell us he “reasoned”, “defended”, “contended” and “argued” for the truth of the Christian faith to unbelievers.

With the belief in mind that Christians are commanded to give a defense of the Christian faith, Khaldoun A. Sweis and Chad V. Meister have brought together a selection of some of the best arguments for the truth of Christianity within various fields in the book Christian Apologetics: An Anthology of Primary Sources. It is the editors desire that the book “will be effective in removing obstacles hindering faith in Christ and in bolstering faith in those who already believe. (p. 16)”

As an anthology the book is a compilation of the previously published works of various apologists and theologians who have been recognized over the years as providing some of the best arguments in regards to the subjects they have written on. The book is broken into eleven parts dealing with introductory matters such as the history of various methodologies of apologetics as well as specific disciplines within apologetics like the existence of God, Scripture, miracles, the problem of evil and Christianity within the world.

The contributors are varied which adds to the strength of the book. By varied I mean several things. First, the contributors represent various apologetical methodologies. For the broad evidentialist camp there is C.S Lewis (poster boy for Evidentialists), William Lane Craig (Classic Evidentialist), Josh McDowell (Historical Evidentialist) and Richard Swinburne (Cumulative Case Evidentialist). For the Presuppositionalist there is the formidable Greg Bahnsen and the variant of Presuppositionalism, Reformed Epistemology as represented by Alvin Plantinga. Finally, for the Experientialist there is Blaise Pascal. Second, though fundamentally I am a committed presuppositionalist, I realize the apologetic value that other methods have to offer. Thus, having a variety of methods represented allows the best defenders of a certain topic to be added to the book despite their apologetic method. This leads to the third observation in regards to the strength of a varied representation, that is, since each apologetic method tends to focus on a certain area, having them all together speaks to the all-encompassing nature of Christian apologetics: it speaks to all of life and there is no place in reality where God’s truth cannot speak too. Fourth, though there is only one women contributor, Teresa of Avila, this speaks to the fact that though men have been the dominate force in apologetics, there are women who given their minds to the task as well. Finally, there is a variety in regards to the era of contributors represented. Contributors are selected from the beginning of Christianity to the present. The first entry is from the Apostle Paul himself in Acts 17, there are the greats that followed like Augustine, Aquinas and Anslem as well as apologists in the present era like William Lane Craig and Alvin Plantinga.

One of the most intriguing chapters of the book was by James K. Beilby, Varieties of Apologetics, who is the author of Thinking About Christian Apologetics. In this chapter (taken from his book), Beilby surveys the variety of apologetical methods and attempts to break them down by comparing and contrasting them. Beilby believes that all apologetics methods are trying to answer five basic questions: (1) What is the relationship between faith and reason, (2) To what extent can humans understand God’s nature, (3) What is the role of the Holy Spirit in apologetics, (4) What is the nature of truth and (5) What is the task of apologetics? Beilby then breaks down each apologetical method into its essential core beliefs in order to demonstrate why each one takes the road they do in defending the Christian faith. Beilby concludes the chapter with a look at whether an eclectic apologetic is possible or not. In doing so he notes that there are those within each apologetical school of thought who are either strict adherents or eclectic adherents.  Strict adherent believe their method is how it must be (Van Til is a Strict Presuppositionalist) whereas eclectic adherents believe their method is how it might be practiced (Francis Schaeffer is an Eclectic Presuppositionalist) (p. 37) Men like Augustine, Anslem, Pascal, Edward Carnell, C. Stephen Evans and Alvin Plantinga are examples of apologists who have anchored themselves within one method or another but made wide use of the strengths of other apologetical schools of thought.

Some of the other notable chapters are Norman L. Geisler’s chapters on The Knowability of History, Alvin Plantinga’s Advice to Christian Philosophers, Greg Bahnsen’s presentation of the transcendental argument for the existence of God in his debate with Gordon Stein, Athanasius’ On the Incarnation, William Lane Craig on The Bodily Resurrection of Jesus, Kurt Wise’s chapter on The Origin of Life’s Major Groups and last but not least, Francis Schaeffer’s classic work A Christian Manifesto. No doubt, many readers will be reading through the list of contributors and their respective topics and think of others who could have been in there as well, but the books is an selection of representatives and not an exhaustive reference book with the best of everyone on each subject. To do so would require a multi-volumous work which I am sure would be heartily received.

Another helpful feature of this book is the list of questions at the end of each section designed to encourage the reader to engage more deeply and intentionally with the contribution of each chapter. Also located at the end of each section is a rich list of resources for further reading on the subject covered. No doubt, the selections in this book are just a sampling of the must-read contributions to each subject.

Christian Apologetics: An Anthology of Primary Sources is a feast for the mind of a Christian apologist who desires to be acquainted with some of the best apologists in their field. This is a must read for serious students of apologetics and should be on the required reading list for any apologetics class. This book will stimulate your mind with a desire to know more about our great God and speaks to the fact that God’s truth speaks to all of life. This is an apologetics book in its own right, not from the mind of one man, but from a multitude of capable defenders of the Christian faith.

NOTE: I received this book for free from Zondervan and was under no obligation to provide a favorable review. The views and opinions expressed in this view are my own.

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