Book Reviews -- By: Anonymous
JBTM 12:1 (Spring 2015) p. 48
A Visual Defense: The Case For and Against Christianity. By Robert Velarde. Grand Rapids: Kregel, 2013. 207 pages. Softcover, $16.99.
Robert Velarde is an adjunct faculty member at Denver Seminary and the author of a number of books. His A Visual Defense is an innovative approach to understanding apologetic arguments. Velarde’s stated goals are to develop critical thinking, make the case for Christian theism, and help readers understand opposing views. To meet those goals, he uses a distinctive tool: the argument diagram. In the last several decades, there has been increasing interest in the use of argument mapping, especially in the study of philosophy, informal logic, and critical thinking. The creation of software to enable such mapping has accelerated this trend. Velarde’s application of this methodology to apologetics is a fresh and welcome contribution.
Before explaining argument diagrams, Velarde shares some of the background assumptions and limitations of his approach. These include a recognition that argument mapping looks only at the intellectual aspects of apologetic arguments, the book’s focus on only three major worldviews (Christian theism, atheism, and pantheism), and the author’s orientation toward classical apologetics. None of these limitations seriously impede the value or effectiveness of the book.
The first section of the book covers introductory matters in four chapters. In chapter one, Velarde explains the argument diagram, which is a flowchart tracing a particular set of arguments. This visual presentation begins with a claim or assertion, followed by key arguments supporting the claim. It then presents responses and rebuttals to those arguments in a visual display. In most cases, a specific argument extends three or four levels, which is sufficient to see how a fuller debate might proceed. While the diagrams are relatively accessible without this introduction, Velvarde’s explanation of the limits and purpose of the diagrams is helpful. The next three chapters deal with standard apologetics prolegomena: the necessity of apologetics, the role of the intellect, and the relationship between faith and reason. Even in this introductory section, each chapter’s discussion is plotted using argument diagrams. This format allows readers to familiarize themselves with how argument diagrams are used before getting to the heart of the book. Even if readers is familiar with these introductory topics, these chapters are an effective orientation to the methodology. The remaining chapters focus on the application of argument design analysis to specific apologetic topics.
In the second section of the book, eleven chapters present arguments defending the truth of the Christian faith. In each case, t...
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