Apologetics 315 posted a review of the book “Contending with Christianity’s Critics“, which I discussed in posts earlier today. I wanted to excerpt a few chapter summaries for chapters that you may not find in any other apologetics book.
Here they are:
Part 3, The Coherence of Christian Doctrine, begins with chapter thirteen: “The Coherence of Theism” by Charles Taliaferro and Elsa J. Marty. Here the authors seek to defend the coherence of the concept of God. They address six attributes: “necessary existence, incorporeality, essential goodness, omnipotence, omniscience, and eternity.”(26) They point out: “The attributes of God are therefore not a patchwork of arbitrary characteristics. Each one is, rather, interconnected, and together they form a coherent whole. Appreciating this helps one avoid the more crude depiction of God one finds in Dawkins’s work.”(27)
Chapter fourteen: “Is the Trinity a Logical Blunder? God as Three and One” by Paul Copan covers the concept and difficulties of the Trinity. Copan discusses some common problems to avoid in our understanding of the trinity: overemphasizing threeness, overemphasizing oneness, rejecting equality.(28) He then lays out six considerations that will make the understanding the trinity clearer. Finally, Copan shows the philosophical and practical relevance of the Trinity.
Chapter fifteen: “Did God Become a Jew? A Defense of the Incarnation” by Paul Copan aims “to show that the incarnation, though a mystery, is a coherent one.” Copan’s task: “(1) briefly review the scriptural affirmations of Jesus’ humanity and divinity, (2) highlight three important distinctions to help us understand the incarnation, and (3) examine the question of Jesus’ temptation in light of His divinity.”(29)
Chapter sixteen is entitled: “Dostoyevsky, Woody Allen, and the Doctrine of Penal Substitution” by Steve L. Porter. The title refers to the two contrasting characters in the works of these men, as Porter explains:
The difference between these two stories [Crime and Punishment and Crimes and Misdemeanors] is extremely relevant when it comes to the doctrine of penal substitution, for it seems that most of the contemporary objections to the view that Christ suffered the punitive consequences of human sin on behalf of sinners are fueled by the fact that we in the West find ourselves more in the world of Dr. Rosenthal than Raskolnikov. The doctrine of penal substitution does not make sense to many of us because, unlike Raskolnikov, punishment in general no longer makes sense to us.(30)
Porter describes the goal of his essay “the first goal … is to clarify and defend the plausibility of the moral framework required to ground penal substitution.” … “the second goal … is to offer an argument that penal substitution is the best explanation of why Christ voluntarily went to His death.”(31) Porter sheds light on the misconceptions of our understanding of punishment, while pointing out the coherence of the doctrine as it relates to the Biblical narrative as a whole.
Chapter seventeen: “Hell: Getting What’s Good My Own Way” by Stewart Goetz was the most challenging for this reviewer. Not because of the difficulty of the concept so much as the angle the author takes in exploring it. Goetz discusses the doctrine of hell and the particular philosophical issues that it raises He asks questions about how hell relates to the good, free will, and choices. For Goetz, “heaven and hell must ultimately be understood in terms of how a person chooses to live his life in pursuit of what is good.”(32)The author raises and explores important questions – but his responses could have been presented with more clarity.
The book ends with chapter eighteen: “What Does God Know? The Problems of Open Theism” by David P. Hunt. While not addressed to atheists or non-Christians, this chapter does deal with the significant issue of the Open Theism view. This is the view that God does not have complete knowledge of the future. Hunt provides an overview of what Openists teach, followed by a critical response and survey of the scriptural data.
I think these chapters are a little off the beaten path of apologetics books, which is why you should get this book. Philosophical theology is an important part of your apologetics toolkit.
If you’re looking for an even more scholarly take on some of these doctrinal and theological issues, then look no further than the recently published Oxford University Press book “Debating Christian Theism“. The book features two scholarly points of view for about twenty or so issues related to Christianity. The topics range from science to philosophy to history to theology.
This is a great book to put on your desk at work for three reasons. First, it is published by Oxford University Press, and that right there has a prestige factor that will defuse the arrogant attitude that so many non-theists have from their vast experience of reading Dan Brown novels and watching the Discovery channel. Second, it features world-class scholars for each of the twenty or so topics under debate, so you can show that these issues are debated by people at the highest levels. Third, the book doesn’t mark you out as being a Christian, so you can just feign neutrality when the tolerance and diversity police come by to tell you that they have to fire you for having different views than they do. This is the book that you need to put on your desk to get the debate started (or not) depending on who happens to ask about it.
Now, if these books look to be a bit too complicated, then I recommend this easy-to-understand introduction to Christian apologetics entitled “Is God Just a Human Invention?“. That book is suitable for anyone who finished high school. It’s my favorite book to buy for beginners to apologetics. Even simpler than the Lee Strobel books, if you can believe that.