Book Review: Christian Apologetics by Douglas Groothuis

IVP was kind enough to send me a copy of Doug Groothuis’ Christian Apologetics (I have never been able to say his name, by the way. If anyone knows how to, please let me in on the secret). It is a massive tome for which the subtitle “A Comprehensive Case for Biblical Faith” is quite appropriate. It is 676 pages with 50 more of footnotes.

Further Reading: Christian Apologetics 101 by Douglas Groothuis

Douglas Groothuis is a professor of philosophy at Denver Seminary who blogs at The Constructive Curmudgeon. If my memory serves me correctly, I was on a radio program with him in 2008, discussing the theology of abortion (we came on just after Barack Obama went off!).

In sum, the book starts by giving the typical defense for apologetics, then moves into the important (and often skipped) issue of apologetic methodology. He defines exactly what the Christian worldview is, so as to give a basis for the coming defense. Next, he responds to many of the misconceptions people have about Christianity, such as “Christianity is anti-intellectual,” the “supposed warfare between Christianity and science,” and the age old issues of slavery, racism, homosexuality, and sexism. He even addresses the “I don’t want to go to heaven because it will be boring” thing!

A defense of truth precedes an extensive amount of work on arguments for the existence of God. What stands out in this section is the time he devotes to the dreaded ontological argument. He says, “Dawkins’ treatment of the ontological argument was more of a joke than a serious work of philosophy.” He then goes on to explain and finally endorse the ontological argument. He says,  “Anselm’s ontological argument may be enhanced by arguing that if the greatest possible being necessarily exists, then a personal God is greater than an impersonal one and a trinitarian God is greater than a unipersonal God.”

Next he takes on Darwinism. He clearly does not support macro-evolution or theistic evolution. He states, “Belief in Darwinism as a comprehensive explanation for the biosphere has become a deterrent to Christian faith,” and, “Darwinism suffers from fatal flaws both logically and evidentially. It is far less well-supported than commonly thought” (267). He then goes on to give evidence for Intelligent Design. These arguments for God’s existence take us through page 437! Quite a bit there.

He then turns to the reliability of the Gospel. To this I paid particular attention. He accounts how Bart Ehrman left the faith as the “floodgates of his mind” were opened to the possibility that the Bible was just a book of man. This came in Ehrman’s life when he could not reconcile Mark 2:26 with 1 Samuel 21:1-6. Mark says that Abiathar was the high priest at the time David ate the show bread. First Samuel says it was Ahimelech. Which one is right? If either is wrong our faith falls apart, doesn’t it? I was pleased to see Groothuis’ approach.  He said, “Ironically, this ‘all-or-nothing’ approach is exactly what some ultraconservatives have (illogically) insisted on as well. But no historian of any other ancient document operates this way. A document that has proved generally reliable is not suddenly discounted because of just one demonstrable mistake”(444-445). I am glad he put this in, as it is a major pitfall to which many people, not just Ehrman, fall victim. Even if there was an error in a certain detail in the Gospels, this does not in any way discount the major events (death, burial, and resurrection of Christ). He goes on to show how this “mistake” can be reconciled.

He then turns to the ministry of Christ and his resurrection. Quite a bit of time is spent tackling Hume’s opposition to miracles. I thought this would be better as a separate chapter. He then takes the “minimal facts” approach to defending the resurrection. The “minimal facts” are those events that both conservative and liberal alike agree on. They are: 1) Death by crucifixion, 2) burial in a known tomb, 3) empty tomb, and 4) the postmortem appearances of Jesus. When these arguments are conceded, it is very difficult (unless one is predetermined to reject a supernatural explanation) to make any argument against the reality of the resurrection of Christ. He ends this section by engaging the alternative theories for the resurrection (hallucination of the disciples, conspiracy, stolen body, etc). He handles these well.

The last section of the book is a hodge-podge of issues from religious pluralism to the destiny of the unevangelized. In his brief discussion about the status of the unevangelized, he comes down on the side of the particularist (though he gives a hat tip toErickson’s agnostic/inclusivism).

Islam and the problem of evil take up the final two chapters, with a appendix on the reality of Hell and God in the Old Testament.

I would be comfortable saying this is the most comprehensive Evangelical apologetic work I have ever seen. It touches on every major issue in a balanced way. I think it would be a good college or seminary textbook on apologetics.

21 Responses to “Book Review: Christian Apologetics by Douglas Groothuis”

  1. Thanks for the review. I have been an admirer of Doug’s work for awhile. By the way, the pronunciation of his name is grote-hice, lol. It took me a good five years to figure it out. Peace.

  2. I’m from the Netherlands. Let’s try. I think it sounds like ‘duck’. :) Our problem over here is pronouncing his first name. But now let me help you out as well: try something like ‘Kh-r-ow-t-huys’. Takes a lot of practice though (or being born Dutch). By the way: your ministry is very helpful to me.

  3. Thanks Michael, I am interested in purchasing this book , what is the approx. cost ?

  4. The book is only $26.40 on Amazon (<4 cents per page!)
    And his name is pronounced Grow'-tice (accent on first syllable, last syllable rhymes with ice).

  5. You mention that “this is the most comprehensive Evangelical apologetic work I have ever seen,” and that it addresses the topic of ‘apologetic methodology,’ but does it interact at all with ‘presuppositionalism and TAG’ à la Van til and company?

  6. Not much…it is very evidential. He gives some good words to presuppositionalism. But he really takes apart Plantinga’s version of reformed epistemology and properly basic warrant.

  7. I guess the good guys got short shrift once again.

  8. My understanding is that his name sounds like:

    Grote Hice

    If this is not accurate, please correct.

  9. It’s pronounced Grooth-hize.

    Btw, what’s the answer to Mark 2:26?

  10. For those who are unsure, Philip Murray is correct about the last name pronunciation.

  11. I know him and have sat under him in several classes. It’s properly “GROTE-hice,” but usually just comes out as “GROW-tice” (sort of like Beethoven, “BATE-hoven” gets lazily pronounced as “BAY-toven”).
    By the way, the section on the reliability of the Gospels was written by Craig Blomberg. I don’t know if the part about Ehrman comes from that chapter or not, as I’ve yet to get my hands on the book.
    Thanks for the review!

  12. My understanding is that Groothuis believes that Presuppositionalism has a lot of merit when it comes to defensive apologetics (e.g., attacking the foundation of the naturalist), but that one should also employ inductive, and adductive arguments from natural theology and historical apologetics to offer a more of a cumulative-case approach to defending the Faith.

  13. Woops. I meant to write abductive instead of adductive.

  14. ”Anselm’s ontological argument may be enhanced by arguing that if the greatest possible being necessarily exists, then a personal God is greater than an impersonal one and a trinitarian God is greater than a unipersonal God”

    And a quartinarian god is greater than a trinitarian god?

    And a quintinarian god is greater than a quartinarian god?

    (I like where this is going!) :p


    Also, dismissing evolution is a losing strategy for any organisation, over the long term.

  15. Doug Groothuis is up for a philosophy blogging award!

    Please make note of this and let others know that they can vote for Doug.

    Details here:

  16. Hi Michael,
    Thanks for the review – I plan to buy this book as reference for study as well as to check how it jives with a personal faith in Jesus – which is the deciding factor for me. The title in itself is encouraging in that respect.
    If you like to hear the pronunciation of Groothuis’ name (I think it originates from the “Twente” area of The Netherlands) then give me a reply w your phone nr and I’ll call you, I’m originally from NL but now traveling between US and India. BTW: I have met several Americans with Dutch names who could not even pronounce their own name properly (I mean, in Dutch ;-)

  17. @ Cory C:
    I think that Jesus Himself answers the question of Mark 2:26 in the next verse.

  18. Just purchased the book in preparation for a course of apologetics at a local church which the pastor has so kindly offered me to lead. By the way, I’m in Cape Town where the language of Afrikaans is spoken by most people and must just say that folk over here think that Douglas Groothuis is one of us since his surname means “Big house” in Afrikaans (a language derived from Dutch, French and English). However I digress; the book is one of the best works on the subject that I have ever read. Just one small issue I have had. It appears that Groothuis holds a gap position and since I am so completely convinced of a YEC, I will agree to disagree on this point. All the rest…nothing short of brilliant!


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