by C Michael PattonAugust 17th, 2011 21 Comments
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.
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.
- Top Fifteen Must Have Books on Apologetics
- A Warning About Pseudo or “Pancake” Apologetics
- The Problem with Apologetics
- Top Ten Lesser Known Arguments for the Existence of God
- Why Christianity Cannot be the Religion that Jesus Preached: An illustration of question begging