Book Review -- By: John Warwick Montgomery

Journal: Global Journal of Classical Theology
Volume: GJCT 01:3 (Jul 1999)
Article: Book Review
Author: John Warwick Montgomery


Book Review

John Warwick Montgomery, Ph.D., D.Theo.

Baker Encyclopedia of Christian Apologetics, by Norman L. Geisler. Baker Books, 1999.

This hefty tome is vastly superior in its coverage and detail to predecessors such as Kreeft and Tacelli’s Handbook of Christian Apologetics. The problem is that its title would suggest a neutral reference work, the collaborative product of a number of scholars in the field. However, the work is the lengthened shadow of its single compiler, and reflects at every point his particular philosophy of apologetics, that which he terms “classical apologetics” (i.e.,the traditional Thomist approach of first arguing by “natural reason” to God’s existence and then adding arguments in behalf of a “special revelation” from the God whose existence has been so proven). The result is less than a balanced reference work, though it contains much helpful material. Here are just a few evidences of prevailing imbalance:

  1. There is overwhelming use of citations to the author’s previous books and even minor periodical articles (his material is by far the most extensive in the general Bibliography—well exceeding the citations to Pascal, Butler, Paley, Newman, Carnell, C. S. Lewis). I am, I suppose, fortunate, with 8 citations (Butler has only 3), but this doesn’t cover a fraction of my publications in the area. The author, on the other hand, is represented by no less than 44 entries.
  2. “Classical apologetics” gets its own lengthy article. There is no article on “Evidentialism” or see-references to such an article.
  3. In line with the author’s evangelical neo-Thomism, there are long articles on “Thomas Aquinas,” “God, Nature of,” “Analogy, Principle of,” etc. However, Luther receives only sketchy treatment, and the standard works on his understanding of reason (e.g., that by B. A. Gerrish) are not mentioned.
  4. When the author has maintained a controversial position on a disputed issue, e.g., hierarchial ethics vs the lesser-of-evils, lo! an article appears on the subject, arguing for the author’s viewpoint (here: “Lying in Scripture”). Where the author’s interests are not involved, no article appears, even when the apologetics area is very important. Thus literary apologetics (the work of Dorothy Sayers, Charles Williams, J. R. R. Tolkien, et al.) is neglected; and the vast amount of legal/juridical apologetics (the defence of the faith using legal reasoning and legal categories) finds no place, save for an article on Simon Greenleaf, who is well known to evangelicals anyway.
  5. There is a strange reticence to cite other contemporary apologists who do not agree fully with the author’s approach, even when objectivity would seem to require it. Thus (if I may be permitted personal examples): my historic debate with Thomas J. J. Altizer at the Universi...
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