By Norman Geisler & Ron Brooks
Abstract: the most complete introduction to apologetics: a popular defense of theism, Christianity, etc. and a refutation of other views and religions
Difficulty: 2 (popular)
Norman L. Geisler & Ronald M. Brooks. When Skeptics ask. Wheaton, Ill:
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Copyright © 1999 Luigi Farricella, Voorburg, The Netherlands
Norman Geisler is well known in the (small) world of Christian Apologists. His work in the area is very extensive and he produced an impressive list of books and publications. Among others, his treatise on Apologetics Christian Apologetics and his book on New Age Apologetics in the New Age are still very much appreciated. Dr. Geisler has taught in many Christian universities, including Dallas Theological Seminary. Ronald Brooks is an apologist who has also authored several books.
The book is a basic apologetic treatise, organized in the form of "questions and answers". All the main points of the matter are treated, each by posing a certain number of "skeptical" questions and by giving a well-reasoned answer. The level of the book is popular but the structure of the reasoning, albeit simplified, is always correct.
The book includes the following chapters:
1. The necessity to give an answer
2. The existence of God
3. The other Gods
6. Jesus Christ
7. The Bible
8. Error and contradictions?
9. Bible and archaeology
10. Science and evolution
11. Life after death
13. Ethical/moral values
The appendixes contain a good list of references, a glossary and a well-organized index to the arguments contained in the book.
In the midst of the many books that were published on the subject of the defense of the
Christian faith, this books stands out for several reasons:
1. The author is also a philosopher and not only a theologian or clergyman;
2. The level of the discussion is accessible to people with a cultural level comparable to high school;
3. Notwithstanding point 2, the basis on which the book is built is very coherent and convincing, revealing the much higher level of scholarship of the authors.
The main purpose of the book is to provide the Christian apologist with simple,
understandable answers to the questions that non-believers might ask. The first chapter of
the book is devoted to the necessity of giving such answers. Indeed it is very important
to convince Christians today that the simple fideist answer (i.e. "you have to
believe it without asking yourself questions") is not enough and it is not satisfying
not only for the non-Christian but also for the inquisitive Christian. How can you believe
in something unless you think that "that something" makes sense? The authors do
not say that every Christian should ask himself these questions, but they do say that, if
the do ask themselves questions, they should receive an answer.
And the rest of the book is full on answers! I do not want to affirm here that all of the answers that the authors give in these pages are correct, true answers. This would not be possible to affirm (or to deny) without a deep study of all the arguments in favor or against the theses of the authors. What I found important in this book was that a reasonable answer was given, an answer that could be taken as a basis for a further inquiry, for further study without having to rely on faith only.
A couple of negative remarks. The philosophical questions are not treated with the necessary depth. To the question of the existence of God, a quick positive answer is given by using the classical arguments. The subject should have been treated a little more in depth, at least to give the reader a bit more self assuredness in such an important question. The question of the existence of God is, of course, of the utmost importance.
In these days there seems to be a need for spirituality and transcendence. But these needs seem to push people towards a pantheistic form of worship of nature or of the world (or universe) rather than towards God. The question of the existence of a theistic God is thus of the utmost importance for the dialogue and eventual evangelization of these people.
Also the theodicy that is outlined in this book is weak. Geisler developed a fairly strong theodicy in his book Philosophy of Religion. In this book, though, only a pale shadow of that reasoning appears.
The positive remarks, instead, are many. The whole book is full of useful information and of interesting and convincing discussions. The position of the authors (that I would define as orthodox Christianity) is explained clearly and defended with wit and, in my opinion, with success.
Another positive characteristic of this book is that it is not "fundamentalist". The authors are, as I said, orthodox Christians, but they do not rely on the Bible to prove their assertions (it would have been circular reasoning, a clearly identifiable mistake for a professional philosopher like Geisler). Rather they use always "reasonable" arguments. For example, in the discussion about "evolution" they do not just affirm the unplausibility of evolution but they discuss the differences between unintelligent and intelligent causation and derive their point from the observation of nature. A non-Christian critic might say that he does not agree with the reasoning of Geisler and Brooks, but he would not be able to refuse is with a shrug, labeling is as "creationism"!
This book is recommended principally to "rational evangelists" and to believers that have some difficulties to defend their position when non-believers challenge them. "Rational evangelists" are, in my definition, those people that try to bring the Gospel to their fellow men in a rational way. If your style of evangelization is to stir up emotion by telling the story of you own conversion or of your own mystical experiences, than this book is not for you. But if you talk with people that ask you nasty, but intelligent, questions, than this book should be present on the shelves of your libraries.
Copyright © 1999 Luigi Farricella, Voorburg, The Netherlands
Copyright © 1997, Bruno D. Gedressac, The Hague, The Netherlands
Geisler is a philosopher and theologian who has written about fifty books, most of them being related to apologetics. Geisler is currently dean of Southern Evangelical Seminary at Charlotte, NC. Brooks is the president of X-press ministries and has also written books on apologetics.
This is the most exhaustive introduction to apologetics I know. It is up-to-date, rich in sound arguments and yet accessible to those who are not so philosophically minded or who have not had the benefit of higher education. It reads very easily, it covers all issues, and even contains some discussions that are not easily found in apologetics books (see the excellent discussion on archeology). Any Christian who is not so intellectually minded should have this book!
In my opinion, the introduction to apologetics (chapter one) has two problems.
First the authors introduce apologetics as being "preevangelism". They seem to take over Luthers definition of the gospel. I wonder if they realized that Luther had a strong reaction against the Roman church which moved him to reject a lot of good things (Thomistic philosophy, apologetics), and his rediscovery of "sola gratia" lead him to overemphasize salvation by faith in Christ alone, reducing his definition of the gospel to this sole message. I think, contrarily to Luthers definition of the gospel, that the Christian gospel is essentially about who Jesus is and the evidence therefore. I think that this can be well established by the gospels (which are Jesus' biographies) the NT letters (e. g. 1Co 15:1-5, Rom 1:1-4, etc.), the book of Acts and the writings of the church fathers. And this Christian gospel may include, when necessary, some arguments for the existence of God, or against any intellectual obstacle (for example: Act 14:17). Salvation by grace is a Christian teaching that should come afterwards, when one has already accepted the Christian gospel. It is possible that the authors simply used the word "gospel" in its commonly accepted meaning among protestants, so as not to confuse their readers. I would prefer that they stick to the original, Biblical meaning.
Another problem with the introduction is that it presents apologetics only in the context of evangelization, and does not mention another very important aspect: strengthening ones faith so as to be able to resist periods of doubts, building a shield of faith capable of stopping the darts of the enemy (Eph 6:16). And a third aspect is deepening's one faith, coming to a greater, enriching understanding of it.
Anyway the introduction makes of good job of showing the necessity of apologetics for evangelization in a very few pages, but it may have deserved a lengthier treatement and handle the two points.
Concerning the existence of God, I was interested to see that Geisler has taken over the Kalam argument from Craig (as can also be seen in his last book, "Creating God in the Image of Man"). This ia also the case of other prominent philosophers such as J. P. Moreland and S. T. Davies, and this reveals again the impact of Craigs ground-breaking work. The authors succeed in explaining the Kalam, design, moral and ontological arguments with simplicity and in dealing with many God-related issues. These arguments are not so easy, so that to make them accessible they had to simplify them so much that they may not appear convincing to critical readers, who will do well do read more advanced books on the issue (e. g. Geisler's Christian Apologetics or Moreland's Scaling the Secular City.)
The authors do also a good work of simply introducing and refuting the other worldviews. Concerning the problem of evil they present a combination of free will, "best-way" and soul-deciding theodicies. They treat well the question of miracles.
Instead of dealing with the historicity of the Bible, they very shortly explain why it should be considered a historical book. Then they argue on this basis for the resurrection and deity of Christ, develop a christology and show Christ to be a better way than the other "great teachers". I wonder why the authors did not first argue for the historicity of the NT documents and the historicity of the resurrection (arguments such as the fact that women were the first witnesses are therefore not used here).
They then classically argue for the inspiration and inerrancy of the Bible, deal with diverse problems and end with the reliability of the manuscripts. But the latter should have been placed before the arguments about Jesus.
The other chapters (Bible difficulties, archeology, natural history, afterlife, truth, morals) seem perfectly treated to me. These topics are absent in most general books about apologetics, so they alone make it worth buying this present book. I wonder why the chapter concerning truth was not placed right at the beginning. I guess the authors estimated it to be difficult (too abstract) for the average reader, and therefore relegated it at the end.
I have one remark about the question of hell. I do agree with most of what the authors say, except their idea about the last judgement (Rev 20:11-15). This judgement (if I understand them correctly) is for those who do not believe in Christ and they all will go to hell, being more or less judged according to theirs deeds. This confirms what I read in a book by the inclusivist John Sanders about Geisler: Geisler believes, like Aquinas, that everyone has a opportunity to choose for or against Christ on earth or at the moment of his death. I do not agree with this, I think rather that the unevangelized will be judged according to their reaction to the law of God in their hearts (Rom 2:3,6-16 Rev 21:12-15, etc.), instead of their reaction to the gospel, and that some may be saved through the blood of Christ.
My overall impression is that Geisler and Brooks greatly succeeded in packing a lot of information in a modest volume (about 350 p.), in dealing with many delicate topics and aspects, and in making many difficult subjects understandable, enjoyable indeed. I highly recommend their book.
Copyright © 1997, Bruno D. Gedressac, The Hague, The Netherlands
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