Book Review -- By: Dallas Miller
Medicine Hat Alberta
Humble Apologetics by John G. Stackhouse Jr. (Oxford University Press, 2002) 262 pp.
The dust jacket for this book broaches the question, “Is it still possible, in an age of religious and cultural pluralism, to engage in Christian apologetics?” The question is a rather odd introduction to a book on apologetics, since the exact role of apologetics is to defend the faith in a time of religious and cultural pluralism. Indeed, in a monolithically Christian society we would have no need to defend the faith. The ambiguity indicated by this question reflects a weakness in Stackhouse’s book. On the positive side, Stackhouse does a superb job of describing the challenges to the Christian faith. Part one discusses pluralism, postmodernism, and consumerism in depth, and Stackhouse is clear and persuasive in describing the current sociological and ideological climate of the Western world. In part two, Stackhouse spends three chapters defining and describing conversion. Conversion is more than mental assent, he says; it is
a new outlook on everything; a new attitude toward and motivation in everything; and a new relationship toward everyone. Conversion doesn’t mean an entirely new way of life, of course, as if non-Christians know nothing of truth, goodness, and beauty, and nothing of God. Christians share with their neighbors many overlapping values and concerns because God has been generous with his gifts to everyone. And the Christian carries over into her new life all of what was truly good in her life before. But the core of one’s life is now oriented directly toward the worship and service of God in the person of Jesus Christ. Thus the Christian is, in that fundamental sense, a new person (p.80).
In the first two-thirds of the book, Stackhouse lays a solid basis by describing the type of society and culture in which we live and by giving an excellent description of what it means to convert to Christianity.
However, the third part of the book fails the reader despite Stackhouse’s attempt to assist in communicating and defending the faith. In this part he seems to confuse “humility” with weakness in standing for the truth. Humility in defending the faith should not mean refusing to put our best arguments forward. Christians do truly need to be humble in our apologetic approach, as Peter so clearly warned: “In your hearts set apart Christ as Lord” (I Peter 3:16a). But Stackhouse’s humility promotes the abandonment of the evidential or legal historic method of defending the faith. He openly criticizes the work of authors such as Josh McDowell (Evidence that Demands a Verdict) and, by implication, authors such as John Warwick Montgom...
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