Book Review: Christian Apologetics: An Anthology Of Primary Sources

“Truth never sleeps” is my three words review of Zondervan’s 560 pages published book, Christian Apologetics: An Anthology Of Primary Sources edited by Chad V. Meister and Khaldoun A. Sweis. This book is a priceless collection of nearly 2000 thousands years robust and powerful apologias presented by Christian apologists who have faithfully contented for the truth of Christian message in the myriad of challenges from both within and without its boundaries(p. 15) in a single volume.

“The Christian message and doctrines”, wrote the editors, “articulated and defended in this volume are not ones that a person need affirm by blind faith. Indeed, evidences for them have been honed, refined, and forged on the anvils of logic, reason, and history.”(p.16)

Part 1 of Christian Apologetics focused on history, methodology and engagement of Christian’s apologia. St. Paul defense in Acts 17 opened Chapter 1. While John Warwick Montgomery provided a short history of apologetics, exploring apologetics in the Bible, patristic apologetics, medieval defense of the faith, renaissance and reformation, 17th century apologetics, the great divide and its apologetic aftermath, and apologetics today in Chapter 2.

James Beilby, in Chapter 3, expounds Varieties of Apologetics. Interreligious Apologetics by Herold Netland, in Chapter 4, contends that, “Christian apologetics in the days ahead must contend with not only the critiques of atheists and radical secularists but also the sophisticated challenges from intellectuals in other religions”(p. 40). Netland gave brilliant guidelines to help Christian’s apologist to engage other religious worldviews with respect and graciousness showing why one should “become or remain a follower of Jesus Christ”(p. 45).

Norman L. Geisler, in Chapter 5, contended for the knowability of history. He opened his essay maintaining that “[u]nlike some religions, historical Christianity is inseparably tied to historical events […]”(p.46). Geisler answered objections to the objectivity of history, the epistemological, methodological, and metaphysical objections. He also gave a response to historical relativism and provided some general remarks concerning the objectivity of history.

Alvin Plantinga dove in with advice to Christian philosophers in chapter 6. He advised Christian thinkers to display a more independence from the rest of the intellectuals, display more integrity and display more their trust in God.

Part 2 presented an array of arguments for the existence of God. Thomas Aquinas set forth the classical cosmological argument, in Chapter 7. Aquinas contended that the existence of God can be proved in five ways. The argument from motion, the nature of the efficient cause, possibility and necessity, the gradation to be found in things and the governance of the world (which is variety of teleological argument).

William Lane Craig, in chapter 8, robustly presented the Kalam cosmological argument, which if sound, provides an uncaused, eternal, changeless, timeless and immaterial cause of the existence of the universe. Craig goes further to contend that this cause must be personal since “If the cause were simply a mechanically operating set of necessary and sufficient conditions existing from eternity, then why would not the effect also exist from eternity?”(p. 93)

The Argument from Sufficient Reason, chapter 9, Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz contended that there must be a sufficient reason to why anything exists. He argued “no fact can be real or existent, no statement true, unless there be a sufficient reason why it is so and not otherwise”. Leibniz reasoned that, “God alone (or the necessary Being) has this prerogative that He must necessarily exist, if He is possible”(p.95)

Chapter 10, William Paley presented the classical design argument and Michael J. Behe, in chapter 11, mounted evidence for Intelligent Design from biochemistry. Robin Collins contributed one of the most powerful design arguments I ever came across in his essay; A Recent Fine-Tuning Design Argument in chapter 12.

Anslem of Canterbury, in chapter 13, contributed the classical ontological argument. In “A Recent Modal Ontological Argument”, Alvin Plantinga presented a breath taking responses to the objections offered by Gaunilo and Kant, in chapter 14, as he resurrected this powerful argument.

A Transcendental argument made its way in chapter 15, as the transcript of debate between Greg Bahnsen and Gordon Stein showed the power of presuppositional apologetics when correctly used. Bahnsen presupposed God’s existence and contended from that perspective to show the validity of Christian theism and the flaws of atheism.

The Wager, Blaise Pascal’s contribution found its place in chapter 16.

C. S. Lewis’ God and the Moral and Paul Copan’s the Moral argument, chapter 17 and 18 vigorously set forth the power of the moral argument.

Teresa of Avila’s Experiencing God, William Alston’s On Perceiving God, in chapter 19 and 20 presented arguments from Religious experience closed part 2 of these awesome and powerful collections of Christians defense.

Trinity is defended in part 3 by Origen, Nicene bishops, Aquinas, Richard of St. Victor, and Thomas V. Morris. Part 4, poured out the defense of the Incarnation by Athanasius of Alexandria, Anselm and Morris.

Augustine’s On the Canon, John Calvin’s The Authority and Credibility of Scripture, R. T. France’s The Gospels as Historical Sources for Jesus and Eugene Carpenter’s Archaeology and the Old Testament marked part 5: The Bible of Christian Apologetics.

John Locke, Geisler, and Richard Swinburne defended Miracles in part 6, while Aquinas, John Warwick Montgomery, Gary R. Habermas and William Lane Craig defended the resurrection of Jesus in part 7.

Part 8: Body, Soul and the argument from Mind collected Aquinas, Rene Descartes and J. P. Moreland robust essays.

Part 9 focused of the problem of evil with “Evil and Free Will” by Augustine, “A Free Will Defense” by Alvin Plantinga, a case that put to rest the logical problem of evil, “A Soul Making Theodicy” by John Hick, “Evil, Suffering, and Calvary” by Peter Kreeft and “Horrendous Evil” by Marilyn McCord Adams.

John Polkinghorne’s God and Physics, Del Ratzsch’s Design and Science and Kurt Wise’s The Origins of Life’s Major Groups, essays marked Christianity and Science in part 10.

Part 11: Christianity and the World offered the Epistle to Diognetus, “The City of God” by Augustine, “A Christian Manifesto” by Francis A. Schaeffer and “Christianity Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow” by Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, Benedict XVI superb works contending for Christians relation to the world.

In the introduction, Meister and Sweis openly admitted that “arguments and evidences do not of themselves bring someone into new life in Christ”(p. 16). The role of the Holy Spirit is central and “we must be willing to surrender to his leading and his truth and his goodness if we are to truly dwell with the Lord”(ibid).

I highly recommend this book to every Christian and non-Christians who are passionately exploring the reasons for believing in Christian God. This primary sources collection of Christian’s apologias in one volume will remove obstacles hindering faith in Christ and indeed bolster faith in those who already believe.

If you are an apologist, this is a must have apologetics book. I could not help myself but buy my own hardcover copy after reviewing a free 55 days electronic review version offered by Zondervan through netgalley.com.

Thank you Netgalley and Zondervan for providing me a 55 days electronic copy for review.

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