Friday, April 01, 2016

Book Review: A New Kind of Apologist edited by Sean McDowell

Introduction

I greatly enjoy watching superhero movies.  Whether it is Spider-man battling Doc Ock or Batman struggling to stop the Joker from waging war on Gotham, these films are greatly entertaining and tell us much about our culture.

However, there are times in these films when a series of threats arise that are too powerful for just one hero to fight.  In these situations, various heroes with unique talents and abilities must be assembled to face the assorted dangers.

Most would agree that we are in a culture war.  The battles being waged are both within the church and without.  How do we communicate the truth of the gospel to a post-modern world?  How do we motivate fellow believers to engage in apologetics? How can one thoughtfully respond to the increasingly hostile attacks aimed at the Bible?  How do we discuss our Christian convictions with those who hold different religious views?

In A New Kind of Apologist, Sean McDowell takes on the role of Nic Fury and assembles some of the finest thinkers and apologists writing and speaking today to address some of the most critical issues facing the church. The result is a very readable and comprehensive work that is sure to challenge and equip both beginner and seasoned apologists alike.

Book Outline

The book is divided into three parts.

Part 1: A New Approach to Apologetics addresses how the believer can communicate the truth and live it out.

Part 2: New Methods in Apologetics deals with creative and practical ways to equip fellow believers and our youth to make a case for their Christian convictions.  This reviewer was especially glad to see a chapter written by Mary Jo Sharp entitled "Why Women Should Study Apologetics."  This is a growing, but often overlooked, topic within apologetics circles.

Part 3: New Issues in Apologetics concentrates on some of the most pressing issues in apologetics today including politics, LGBT and race issues.

Strengths of the Book

This reader greatly appreciated how the authors took the time to not only explain why and how we should do apologetics, but they also argue that "apologetics has been a staple of the church since the time of Jesus and Paul." [p. 15]  As McDowell explains:

"Jesus was the first Christian apologist.  In John 5-8, Jesus reasoned with the religious leaders of his day, providing multiple lines of evidence that he is the Son of God.  And yet, even though he was divine, Jesus willingly humbled himself for the sake of loving others (Philippians 2:5-7)  We can do no less." [Ibid.]

I also welcomed the large emphasis on being a thoughtful listener when engaging with others in conversations about potentially combative topics.  Tim Muehlhoff explains:

"If we want our friends and neighbors to listen to our story, then we must listen to theirs.  If we want others to attend to our convictions, then we must first attend to theirs.  If we desire for others to cultivate common ground with us, we must do so first.  In doing so, we will create a communication climate in which we can fulfill our deepest longing-engaging others in a respectful, civil way that allows us to share a perspective that has changed our lives." [p. 28]

A New Kind of Apologist repeatedly emphasizes the importance of representing your opponents view fairly and how vital it is to focus on winning the person and not the argument.

Further, many apologists repeatedly point out that we are losing our youth, largely due to intellectual reasons, but few offer a remedy to the problem.  In this work, Brett Kunkle offers a method based upon the principles of Classical education to disciple our children and equip them to be able to understand and defend what they believe.  Kunkle writes we "...must be convinced of the necessity of apologetics, and...we must have a larger discipleship framework in place into which we fit apologetics." [p. 91]   Kunkle continues by laying out a suggested framework that is easy-to-understand, practical and powerful.

I was also pleased to see topics represented that go beyond what your standard apologetics text typically deals with.  Whether it is apologetics and new technologies, mentoring, or economics, this book addresses unique subjects in a very helpful manner.  Moreover, the issues are current ones that thoughtful believers are surely having to address at the water cooler.

This work also includes brief interviews with both believers and skeptics on various issues.  These serve to help demonstrate why the issues addressed are so important and why those with differing views believe as they do.

Some may feel that a few of the essays don't go in-depth enough, but it is important to remember that the purpose of this work seems to be to deal with the important elements surrounding each issue and to equip readers with some thoughtful responses.  Some of the essays will leave the reader wanting more and this reviewer believes that is a positive result.

Conclusion

Many books are big on promises, but short on delivery.  In the beginning of this work, Sean McDowell states that:

"...you will see the intersection between apologetics and important topics such as economics, politics, and race.  You will learn how to tackle thorny matters of our day such as the transgender issue and religious liberty.  You will gain a model for answering tough questions such as the exclusivity of Christ and new challenges to the Bible.  And you will learn practical skills such as having apologetics conversations, asking good questions, using social media, and mentoring the next generation." [p. 16 ]

I am pleased to report that A New Kind of Apologist delivers!  I encourage believers to read it, master it and enter the battle.  Surely the stakes are high, but the rewards are eternal.

A New Kind of Apologist is an important book and I highly recommend it!  You can get your copy here.

Courage and Godspeed,
Chad

Many thanks to Sean McDowell for the review copy!

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