Apologetics


Whats Your worldview by James AndersonIdeas have consequences. Many beliefs, especially beliefs concerning the big questions of life, impact the way we live our lives. Whether you believe there is a god or not will impact how you live. Whether you believe there is absolute truth or not will impact how you live. Unfortunately, many people hold beliefs without considering their logical consequences. Often times, when people are confronted with the consequences of their beliefs they will have a worldview crisis which can lead them to reconsider the validity of their beliefs. Hopefully this crisis can be a venue for the truth to replace their false beliefs.

While there are many books available which thoroughly analyze various worldviews, sometimes it can be more helpful to consider the merits of a specific worldview in a simpler fashion. With the goal of simplicity in mind (and not to be simplistic), James Anderson, professor of theology and philosophy at Reformed Theological Seminary in North Carolina, has written What’s Your Worldview? An Interactive Approach to Life’s Big Questions. Following the “Choose Your Own Adventure” (CYOA) concept, Anderson walks readers of all the major worldviews through the implications of their beliefs.

Overview

The book is divided into three parts. Part One has twenty-one questions that worldviews have to answer. These questions include whether one believes there is a god, whether one believer matter is all there is, whether truth exists and whether Jesus resurrected from the death. The topics in these questions are short and are less than a page long. They are purposely written to end with a yes or no answer. Your answer can either lead you to another question to answer, part two where the major worldviews are summarized or part three where the implications to your answer is explained and examined from a Christian theistic worldview.

Part Two summarizes the five major worldview: atheism, theism, quasi-theist, finite theist and non-Christian theist. Because the book is written from a Christian theist viewpoint the other four worldviews are examined through that framework and critiqued for their inadequacies. Depending on how the reader answers the questions leads them to see what kind of worldview they have. The reader is challenged to go back to the question that led them there so they can pick the other answer and move on with the book.

Part Three provides the majority of the implications for how one answers their questions. For instance, if the reader answers no to the truth question (21), saying that there is no objective truth, then they are directed to page 91 which puts them in the relativism worldview. This is then examined from a Christian theist viewpoint and the reader is challenged to reconsider their decision. If the reader answers yes to the truth question, that there is objective truth, then they are invited to continue onto the next question. If the person reading the book is not a Christian theist, then, upon finishing the summary of and challenge to their belief, they are challenged to go back to the question and reconsider their choice based on its consequences. They are then invited to follow the pages to the opposite answer.

The back of the book answers some short questions that readers might have after completing the book. For instance, the reader is challenged, after having narrowed down their most likely worldview, to go and learn more about it. The challenge is to call the reader to live more consistently with the beliefs they hold. Anderson answers the questions as to why he left out some worldviews and why he was not able to address more of the pros and cons of the worldviews. Anderson does not shy away from the fact that he is writing from the vantage point of a Christian theist worldview and thus the book is intentionally designed to lead readers to see the faults of their worldviews in relation to his. “Since I believe that the worldview I hold makes better sense of the world than any of the alternatives, and that those other worldviews face more serious challenges and objections, it shouldn’t be surprising to find that belief reflected in my comments on each worldview” (102).

Conclusion

What’s Your Worldview? is a fast and fun read! Anderson wastes no time and gets right to the point with each question and the corresponding consequences for certain answers. Written from a distinctly Christian theistic framework, Anderson does a masterful job succinctly showing readers the consequences of their beliefs when they fall outside of the Christian theistic worldview. As far as apologetic methodology goes, Anderson is a presuppositionalist so the book shows how a Christian can enter into discussion with those of other worldviews in a way that is consistent with their beliefs.

This is a great book for Christians and non-Christians alike. This is a great teaching tool for teaching Christians how to think about their beliefs and that of others. It can be adapted for small groups and would work well with parents of and pastors to teens and college age students. This would also be a great resource for Christians to give their non-Christian friends to help generate discussion that can lead to the presentation of the gospel.

Since the first century, the church has been involved in one way or another in the ministry of apologetics. Within the last few decades, as atheists have seemed to ramp up their religious efforts to discredit and eradicate the belief in God and Christianity more specifically, Christians have ramped up their apologetical focus with matching intensity.

Among the many contemporary apologists Paul Copan, current president of the Evangelical Philosophical Society, and William Lane Craig, perhaps the most well-known and active Christian apologists debater, have teamed up to edit a series of books that seek to address many of the contemporary issues within Christian apologetics. Passionate Conviction: Contemporary Discourses on Christian Apologetics and Contending With Christianity’s Critics: Answering New Atheists and Other Objectors were the precursors to the third book in the series Come Let Us Reason: New Essays in Christian Apologetics. All three books are edited by Copan and Craig and each with different contributors.

As the subtitle indicates the book is a collection of essays (sixteen in all) which focus on the areas of apologetics and culture, God, the historical Jesus and New Testament reliability, Ancient Israel and ANE religions and Christianity and other religions such as Islam. Since there is no one theme that is developed throughout the book this review will provide some general thoughts on the book overall with some comments on specific chapters.

First, while the ministry of apologetics throughout Christian history has been dominated by men, this book features two women contributors and one chapter by Toni Allen (a man) dedicated to understanding how to train women in apologetics. While many of the contributors many not believe in women pastors I venture to say that most if not all are welcoming to women teachers and theologians within theological institutions and religious studies programs at various Christian and secular schools. Personally I think this is fine and good. The chapter by Allen is unique and one that would serve pastors and women ministry leaders well in learning how to better train women theologically.

Second, in the third part on the historical Jesus and the reliability of the New Testament, the reader can see the far reaching and deeply entrenched effects the vast work of Bart Ehrman has had on these studies. Almost every contributor in this section interacts with him. The various contributors do a great job pointing out the smoke and mirrors in front of the hollow claims and arguments Ehrman makes. Also in the third section is a well written chapter by Mark W. Foreman in which he breaks apart the claims of the popular Zeitgeist documentary written and produced in 2007 by Peter Joseph. The essential claim of Joseph is that Christianity as a religion is nothing more than a copycat from other religions. Foreman breaks down the main claims of the film and demonstrates why most scholars have abandoned the copycat apologetic against Christianity.

Finally, as is clear, this book is an apologetics book, but a point of significance that can often be missed in books like this is the far reaching nature of apologetics that a book like this demonstrates. What I mean is, while many people have a more simple view of apologetics as the defense and proclamation of Christianity, this book, and others like it, show the reader that apologetics encompasses a defense of all of Scripture. Apologetics is more than just a defense for creation out of nothing or the historical reliability of the death and resurrection accounts in the NT. In its most broadest sense, apologetics is a defense of the entire canon of Scripture and all things contained therein. This is a sobering thought as we realize how much content we as Christians are responsible for defending. None of us can know it all but we must be willing to learn more and stretch ourselves for the sake of the lost.

Come Let Us Reason is a great collection of recent essays on various apologetic issues. There are no pat answers here. There is great respect for the Scriptures and for the God who inspired them. I don’t expect this book to have too broad a reading but for those who venture to dig in it will prove rewarding.

NOTE: This book was provided by B&H through SI.org where it was originally reviewed and has been re-posted with permission.

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.

If there are two things that are in ample supply they are skeptics towards the Christian faith and apologetic books that respond to their objections. There are many good apologetic books available  that respond to the many objections to the Christian faith and do so at many levels. Some are simple, some are more complex and all have their place.

Meet the Skeptic: A Field Guide to Faith Conversations by Bill Foster is another apologetics book but it is a different kind of apologetic book. In this book Foster has distilled a lot of information, argumentation and truth down into 4 categories of skeptics with easy to understand terminology and explanation.

The foundation of the book, and the first thing that makes this book stand out, rests on helpfully categorizing all skeptics into four groups: spiritual, moral, scientific and biblical. The rational for these four groups is that “a person’s total worldview consists of how he sees the world in three broad categories,” the fourth of which is biblical (p. 33). In the course of the conversation, if the believer can quickly identify the category in which the skeptics objections lies then they will have accomplished the first step in correctly responding to the objection.

Once the objection has been categorized there are a few more steps in the process of responding to the skeptics objection(s). One big step in the task of identifying the root idea of the skeptics objection. Using the analogy of a tree or plant, a skeptics objection often has a root idea that produces their objection. This is often a false premise or misunderstanding about the truth and the Christians actual beliefs. Interestingly enough, many times these root ideas are personal and have developed as the result of the loss of a loved one or the skeptic having gone through a trying time in their life. These experiences often shape how an unbeliever thinks about God, the world and reality. Christians should take care as the unearth these root ideas so as not to be insensitive.

Moving from the category to the root idea, Foster finally deals with certain words that are frequently used by the skeptic in an attempt to dismantle the Christian faith. Foster labels these as clarifying words. It is important to know and identify these words in a conversation because often times the skeptic and the Christian have different definitions of these words. One needs to clarify what they mean in order to make sure both parties are on the same page and to make sure that the skeptic is using the right words and definitions.  Likewise, it is very important for the Christian to make sure they are using the right words and definitions as well. In analyzing these red-flag words, Foster explains how the skeptic typically defines them so the believer can hear the skeptic right. If necessary, the Christian can correct wrong uses of these words and through this help the skeptic see the fault in their own objection. One classic example of a word that is often misused is the word tolerant or tolerance (see pg. 75).

Another aspect in using the right words is making sure the Christian does not use words the skeptic does not know. Words like “born again” and “inspired” need to be carefully used and should not be used without explanation or definition. We live in a post-Christian era where many unbelievers have never seen a Bible let alone have any basic knowledge of it content. Carefully defining terms and using more appropriate terms is wise.

For some one who has read a lot of apologetics books, I find this book to be very helpful. The apologetic arguments and lines of defense in this book are not necessarily new. What Meet the Skeptic does that very few apologetics books do is take those tried and true responses and put them into real life scenarios so believers can see how to use them when the rubber meets the road. This book walks you through the though process of the skeptic and their objections and helps you to see them for what they are at a level that is helpful to Christians who are just getting into apologetics and more seasoned veterans. This process of identifying the objections category, root idea and then working through the red-flag words is simply brilliant and a method that other apologetics books need to follow.

Accompanying this book is the Meet the Skeptic Workbook. This provides a great opportunity to work through this book with other believers in a safe environment in order to develop comprehension of the material and test the method in order to hone your communication skills. This is great for small groups of all ages and levels of apologetics skills.

I recommend Meet the Skeptic: A Field Guide to Faith Conversations to anyone who wants to grow in their ability to accurately defend the Christian faith.

NOTE: I received this book free from the publisher through New Leaf Publishing Group Book review program on CreationConversations.com. I am under no obligation to provide a favorable review and the opinions expressed in this review are my own.

It is probably not a stretch to say that the task of Christian apologetics has been necessary since the Fall. Fallen man rejects God and in his rejection casts doubt on the validity of Christianity. If you need evidence for this then just pick up a recently published book by the dubbed New Atheists Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens, Daniel Dennett or Sam Harris. If reading any one of these authors does not impress upon you the necessity of apologetics then not much will.

Throughout the history of apologeitcs, and more so within the last 50 years, there have been many formidable Christian apologists. These defenders of the Christian faith have serviced the church and any inquiring unsaved minds with many written apologetic works. Many of these works deal with single issues within the field of apologetics such as methodology, defending its importance or necessity, dealing with specific issues like the resurrection of Christ or the five theistic arguments from natural theology, addressing and answering Old and New testament issues and a host of other related subjects.

Douglas Groothuis is a long time Christian apologist, author and professor of philosophy at Denver Seminary and Metropolitan State College of Denver. He has recently written a new book on Christian apologetics titled Christian Apologetics: A Comprehensive Case for Biblical Faith. Groothuis does something that few if any other apologetic works have ever done. As the sub title indicates, Groothuis has written a comprehensive book on apologetics within the scope of 730 plus pages. Granted, given the vast field of apologetics, what is covered in this book is not exhaustive nor is it intended to be. However, Groothuis has provided us with a magnificent introductory work on Christian apologetics that will serve the laymen, pastor and student alike. Christian Apologetics is a go to guide for not only the beginning student of apologetics but the more seasoned apologists among us.

Part One: Apologetics Preliminaries

Part one deals with a number of preliminary issues. Apologetics is defined as “the rational defense of the Christian worldview as objectively true, rationally compelling and existentially or subjectively engaging (p. 24).” The basis for the task of Christian apologetics is found in I Peter 3:15-16 where Peter tells us to be “prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you (ESV).” Therefore, the task of apologetics is for every believer.

Groothuis utilizes the cumulative case method of apologetics. Distancing himself from fideism, presuppositionalism and evidentialism Groothuis states his methodology “is to verify the Christian worldview by arguing for its essential elements one by one (p. 60).” He further defends his method by stating, “I will offer a variety of arguments that verify or confirm the Christian worldview as superior to its rivals, this showing that Christianity alone makes the most sense of the things that matter most (p. 72).”

Groothuis explains the eight criteria that every worldview should be evaluated on (p. 52-59). In chapter four he defines and explains the Christian worldview and addresses issues such as Christian epistemology, reality, mankind, salvation, a Christian approach to history and the afterlife. On the heels of defining the Christian worldview Groothuis addresses a number of distortions of the Christian worldview. In chapter six and seven the nature of truth is discussed. Groothuis evaluates various forms of relativism showing them to be theologically, philosophically and practically wanting.

Part Two: The Case for Christian Theism

Part two gets to the heart of the book as thirteen separate arguments are made in favor of the Christian worldview. These arguments center around the five theistic arguments for God’s existence, the Christian view of origins, the Christian view or morality, the place of religious experience and the Christian view of man and Jesus Christ as seen through his person, work, incarnation and resurrection.

In defining the theistic proofs for the existence of God Groothius lends himself heavily towards their explanatory power. This is consistent with the cumulative case method. The cumulative case method relies heavily on natural revelation (deducing truths from what can be observed) as opposed to revealed revelation (revelation from God about what is true as found in Scripture) (p. 172). Groothuis is careful to distinguish between general revelation and natural theology:

General revelation means that God has revealed himself in nature and conscience. Natural theology engages in logic in order to derive rational argument’s for God’s existence (p. 174).

Though the theistic proofs for the existence of God can be overly technical, Groothuis manages to clearly state, defend and explain them such that the average reader can comprehend and in turn defend them for themselves.

Once the theistic proofs for the existence of God have been established the move is then made to how does the God of Christian theism best explain the origins of everything. Groothuis engages the atheist arguments against God and marshals the counter support of scientists like Michael Behe, Phillip Johnson, Jonathan Wells and Stephen Meyer. Throughout Groothuis critiques many of the classic and contemporary arguments made by atheists against a creator.

In regards to the moral argument for God’s existence Groothius provides a thorough and convincing case against ethical relativism as expressed in its cultural and individualistic forms (chapter 15). He concludes that the heart of the source of all that is good is God himself in his character and will. “God’s moral will is based on God’s changeless character. Objective moral values have their source in the eternal character, nature and substance of a loving, just and self-sufficient God (p. 356).”

The final sections of chapters deal with the uniqueness of mankind in distinction from the rest of creation and many apologetical issues surrounding Jesus Christ. In chapter nineteen Groothuis has scholar Craig Blomberg discuss how a person can know Jesus and why it matters (subtitle, p. 438). Blomberg provides a general overview of the historical information concerning the historical presence of Christ in both biblical and extra-biblical sources.

Following Blomberg, Groothuis discusses many of the events in the life of Jesus, his worldview, miracles, uniqueness and death. Separate chapters are dedicated to the incarnation and resurrection of Christ. Perhaps one of the best parts of the entire book is the discussion of the metaphysics of the incarnation in which Groothuis tackles the reality of both the divine and human nature of Jesus co-existing fully and harmoniously within the same person (p. 523-26). Miracles are defined as “an act of divine agency whereby a supernatural effect is produced for the purpose of manifesting God’s kingdom on earth (p. 532).” Interaction is made with Hume’s denial of the possible existence of miracles. A careful walk through the Gospel account(s) of the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus are made in addition to his numerous postmortem appearances. Groothuis concludes his discussion of Jesus’ resurrection by stating that “the alternative naturalistic theories of the resurrection fail to account for commonly agreed-on facts relating to Jesus and the early church (p. 563).”

Part Three: Objections to Christian Theism

The final section of the book deals with three main objections to Christian theism. First, is the objection of religious pluralism. Here Groothuis compares the teaching of Christianity, Hinduism and Buddhism to show how they contradict each other in order to demonstrate the absurdity of believing that all religions speak truth of the same God. Groothuis spends several pages interacting with John Hick’s religious pluralism and concludes that “Hick creates a new religious (and ultimately irreligious) category in order to harmonize religions (p. 585).”  In dealing with the issue of the unevangelized Groothuis lands on the side of particularism and believes that one must hear the gospel and respond to it in faith in order to be saved (p. 589-92). The second major objection to Christian theism is that of Islam. Here a basic overview is provided on Islamic doctrine and the major areas in which it conflicts with Christianity.

The final chapter deals with the problem or challenge of evil. Groothuis discusses the nature of evil as something that exists not of itself but rather in the absence of good. The deductive and evidential problem of evil are defined and explained. A defense as opposed to a theodicy of evil is presented and argued for (p. 631). Groothuis takes a compatibilist view of freedom and sovereignty in regards to the problem of evil and he makes a compelling case for “the greater-good defense” in regards to the reason evil exists (p. 637-44). He concludes on the subject by saying:

Evil in the world is a possible defeater to theism and Christian theism; it is a prima facie problem. But given the wide array of reasons to believe in Christian theism – the varied arguments for God, the reliability of the Bible, the person and achievements of Christ, and so on – the claim that God does not exist loses much of its sting philosophically (p. 641).

Whether or not this is the best way to conclude the discussion of the problem of evil is up to the reader but it does fit with the cumulative case method. Regardless of how strong the problem of evil is against Christian theism, there is so much evidence in its favor that it outweighs anything to the contrary. Though God has defeated Satan and evil in Christ on the cross, he will one day come again and destroy it and remove it from his creation and his image bearing creatures.

Some Concerns

With a book that has so much that is commendable it is hard to criticize anything but there are a few concerns I have. First, as a presuppositionalist, the biggest issue I have with the book is the method of apologetics used – that of the cumulative case method. The cumulative case method relies heavily on the convincing power of arguments for or in favor of the existence of God. While I believe they do in fact support a basis that God exists I feel the cumulative case method has limits exactly because it relies on natural revelation almost solely. The result is that not enough consideration is given to the necessary and saving power of special revelation through Christ and Scripture. Natural revelation is limited because through the knowledge it gives us about God it still cannot bring salvation. “Faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ (Rom. 10:17, ESV).” Second, in addition to other apologetic methods, Groothuis too easily dismisses presuppositionalism in the span of two pages. For a book as thorough and introductory as Christian Apologetics, it would have been more helpful (and I feel it is necessary) to have a separate chapter explaining these other methods along with pros and cons. This is a glaring omission. As a result, much good presuppositional material is absent and its defenders are rarely cited (consider John Frame who I believe makes a solid case for a reasonable blend between presuppositionalism and evidentialist arguments). Third, in the introduction, Groothuis states that “the book does not presuppose the truth of Christianity, nor does it want to beg any theological questions (p. 21).” As a presuppositionalist this statement is very interesting. When one makes an argument for something they presuppose that the argument is convincing and that the thing in which they are arguing for is indeed true. If Groothuis did not believe Christian theism to be true then he would not have written an over 700 page defense for it. The fact that he wrote this great book is evidence that he presupposes its contents to be true. Following this quoted statement is an uncanny presence of irony: “My approach is that of Francis Schaeffer, who said, ‘I try to approach every problem as though I were not a Christian and see what the answer would be’ (p. 21).” Schaeffer came to Christianity through a dark period in his life and he later sought to write his book with the unbeliever in mind. But Schaeffer was undoubtedly a presuppositionalist and one of the best that Christianity has ever been blessed to see. Finally, in his discussion of origins in chapter thirteen, Groothuis argues for progressive creationism as the best explanation for Gen. 1. While my contention here is not over his view it is for how he supports it. He does give a list of six nonnegotiable biblical and theological statements in favor of this view he does not define what he believes progressive creation to be (p. 274-75). Groothuis does not believe in macroevolution yet he does not explain his view of how the creation of the earth and animals happened. He does believe a lot of time elapsed between the creation of animals and man (who is not the process of naturalistic evolution). But does he believe that God got all of the “kinds” of animals started with on “species” and then they all evolved from there through microevolution? He does not explain and thus leaves the reader confused.

Some Commendations

Despite some concerns, Christian Apologetics is a solid book that will give defenders of any apologetic method. Its arguments and logic are true and its case is sure. There is nothing like it under one roof. The book shows an awareness for the contemporary scene which makes it very relevant for today. This book will be well suited for the classroom of an introductory course on Christian apologetics in a college setting. It would also be useful as a course book for churches to use to equip their members to be better apologists and as a book to refer to and even go through with unbelievers in helping answer their objections and struggles with Christianity. Groothuis’ conclusion is a fitting close to this review:  “God is an apologetical God, the Bible in an apologetical book, and Christ is an apologetical Christ. Therefore, it is imperative for the Christian to defend and commend Christianity ardently, knowledgeably and wisely.” Thus, “Christians must offer a genuinely Christian worldview so that unbelievers can discern just what is being defended and how it differs from their own worldviews (p.647).” That being the case, Christian Apologetics is a solid tool in aiding the believer to accomplish this goal.

NOTE: I received this book from IVP and was under no obligation to provide a favorable review.

Since the publications of Charles Darwin’s Origin of Species the reliability of the  Bible has been under vicious attack namely in the area of origins. Questions began to develop under the assumption that Darwin’s theory of evolution was correct. Is there really a God? How can we trust the Bible if it’s account of the origin of everything is false? Since we know, according to Darwinian evolutionary theory, everything evolved from nothing and man was not the first thing that evolved, then how can we trust the Bibles account of mankind’s origins?

This last question strikes at the heart of C. John Collins new book Did Adam and Eve Really Exist? Who They Were and Why You Should Care. The historicity of Adam and Eve as the first humans that God created and thus the first parents of every person who ever lived to date and beyond is the issue Collins addresses.

The fundamental issue Collins seeks to address in this regards is how literal did Moses (and God for that matter) intend for future readers to interpret his words concerning the origin of mankind? As simple as it may seem at first, the use of the word ‘literal’ is often misunderstood. When used in context of interpreting the early chapters of Genesis, it can become down right confusing. Confusing, because with every interpretation one reads of the early chapters of Genesis, you will find that everyone believes their interpretation is the literal one. Everyone believes they interpret it as literally as it was intended to be.

What Has the Church Always Believed?

Traditionally, the literal interpretation of Genesis 1-3 that dominated the church for the first 1800 years was that the words were to be taken at face value. That is, God literally exists, He spoke everything into existence in the period of seven days not years (or millions for that matter), God formed Adam from the dust of the earth and Eve from rib of Adam, they were the first people created and are the original parents of everyone who ever lived and will live, Eden was a real garden like the one in your backyard, a talking snake (Satan) tempted Eve into sinning and when Adam ate the real fruit (an apple of course) mankind died spiritually, and as part of the curse God made snakes to craw on the ground. Of course there are more details but you get the idea. Until Darwin came along, this was the traditional, orthodox and conservative view of Genesis 1-3 and origins.

But all that has changed now. Collins, who has a doctorate in Hebrew linguistics, believes the church should still interpret Genesis 1-3 literally (there’s that word again) – or at least some form of literal interpretation. Collins writes,

My goal in this study is to show why we should retain a version of the traditional view…..I intend to argue that the traditional position on Adam and Eve, or some variation of it, does the best job of accounting not only for the Biblical materials but also for our everyday experience as human beings (p. 13).

You will notice that Collins proposes a ‘version’ of the traditional view but not necessarily the traditional view as I described above. In the spirit of C.S. Lewis’s book Mere Christianity, Collins affectionately names his version “mere historical Adam-and-Eve-ism (p. 13).” Collins believes that the traditional view has been misused causing some to dismiss it out of hand (p. 15). Readers should know that Collins is only addressing the historicity of Adam & Eve in Genesis and nothing else.

So what is Collin’s version of the traditional view?

So What is History Anyways?

In chapter two, The Shape of the Biblical Story, Collins delves into the discussion of Hebrew literary techniques and how understanding them can help us better interpret Scripture, namely Genesis 1-3. Of particular interest is Collins discussion on what the term ‘history” means. While at the front the use of the word history seems pretty straight forward. To many history is the accounting of how things happened in the past whether it be a history book giving a detailed account of a battle fought in WWI or a husband telling his wife about his day at work or a weekend long work trip. Both are history because they happened in the past but both may not be told in the same fashion. Collins sees history,

Less as a literary genre, and more as a way of referring to events. That is, if we say that something is (or is not) historical, we are not so much describing the kind of literature it is, as we are the way it talks about (or does not talk about) real events (p. 35).

What Collins is trying to point out is that in the telling of history, not everyone is going to tell it the same way. You can be literalistic, metaphorical or both. The issue is determining which of the three methods did the author use and if they used both which parts are literalistic and which are metaphorical. Collins proposes that because the author of Genesis 1-3 could be (and he believes he does) using both literal and metaphorical language that we must extract from it the “historical core (p. 35).” Part of what drives this is how Collins interprets and makes use of Ancient Near Eastern (ANE) comparative material. He concludes,

If, as seems likely to me, the Mesopotamian origin and flood stories provide the context against which Genesis 1-11 are to be set, they also provide us with clues on how to read this kind of literature (p. 35).

Without going into a long discussion, ANE texts of comparative Biblical accounts are strikingly different than the Biblical accounts though they have similar features. Here is where Collins would say they have a common “historical core.” That is, though they have differences, they are still trying to write an historical account of some sort of the same event(s). Collins is not saying that Genesis is not trying to give us an account of origins. However, he is trying to be honest and fair with how the author (Moses) is recording those events and what literary devices he might be using. He wants us to interpret it as literally as it was intended to be.

What Says the Rest of Scripture?

So if Genesis 1-3 is not to be interpreted literalistically (not taking into account any literary devices when interpreting it) then how do the other authors of Scripture interpret it? When they refer to Adam and Eve and creation how literally do they interpret the recording of these events? In this section of the book I expected to see more continuity from the other authors of Scripture but Collins does not really summarize how the other OT authors viewed Genesis 1-3. On the other hand, he gives much more certainty on how the NT writers thought of Adam and Eve. Essentially, Collins believes the NT writers and Jesus thought of Adam and Even as real historical people who really sinned and whose sin affected the rest of mankind. Of Paul’s argument in Romans Collins observes, “The more clearly we perceive Paul’s narratival argument of Romans the more we will see the reality of Adam as the ancestor of all people being tied up with his argument (p. 88).”

Though the NT writers and Jesus believed in the historicity of Adam and Eve, Collins doesn’t believe they interpreted the recording of their existence in Genesis 1-3 literalistically as some do. For Collins it is enough that they existed as the fountainhead of mankind, really sinned and that their sin had lasting consequences on all of mankind.

Where Does Science Fit In?

As mentioned earlier, since the dawn of Darwin, parts of the church have read Genesis’ account of origins differently due to scientific discoveries and claims. Collins addresses this area through the use concordism. Concordism is the attempt to harmonize what the Bible says about origins with the claims of scientific theories (p. 105). Essentially, Collins argues that Genesis is not trying to answer the same kinds of detailed and scientific questions modern man is. Again, Collins presses for an historical core that needs to be held onto.

Since there are many theories (and certainly more to come) concerning the origins of mankind how are we to evaluate them in light of the nonnegotiable’s we hold from Scripture when it comes to mankind’s origins? Collins suggests four criteria in order to help us stay within the bounds of sound thinking:

  1. We should see that the origin of the origin of the human race goes beyond a merely natural process. This follows from how hard is it to get a human being, or, more theologically, hoe distinctive is the image of God.
  2. We should see Adam & Eve as the headwaters of the human race.
  3. The “fall”, in whatever form it took, was both historical (it happened) and moral (it involved disobeying God), and occurred at the beginning of the human race.
  4. If someone should decide that there were, in fact, more human beings that just Adam & Eve at the beginning of mankind, then, in order to maintain good sense, he should envisions these humans as a single tribe (p. 121).

Where Do We Go From Here?

To be honest I had a hard time separating Collins views from those of others he discusses and critiques. I had to read and re-read several portions of the book and I am still not totally sure I understand where Collins is exactly on some issues. I think there was too much was covered that was not adequately explained which might be the reason for some of my confusion. Collins did make it clear in the beginning of the book that he would not explain everything and wrote with the assumption of some prior knowledge. As such this book is not the place to start for a beginner. For sure Collins does end by saying, “Adam & Eve at the headwaters of the human family, and their fall, are not only what Jesus believed but also an irremovable part of that whole story (p. 135).”

I would also encourage readers who want to grasp a better idea of what Collins thinks to read his other book Genesis 1-4: A Linguistic, Literary, and Theological Commentary.

Overall, Did Adam & Eve Really Exist? is not for the beginner to the origins debate concerning Adam & Eve. There are many good insights Collins has but not as many conclusions as I anticipated. This is a short (almost too short) introduction to the current issues surrounding the historicity of Adam & Eve.

If you would like to read an interview by John Starke with Collins about his book you can go to The Gospel Coalition web site here.

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