Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Book Review: James E. Taylor - Introducing Apologetics


Why is apologetics so hot today?

There is a need for intellectual discussions of the Christian faith. There is much more to Christianity than a “blind faith”. The “New Atheists” believe they have a corner on intelligence. They see Christians as ignorant buffoons with the intelligence of a primate. For them, interacting with Christians is like shooting fish in a barrel. This is should not be and is no longer the case today.

Here Taylor has given us a detailed tour though every aspect of apologetics. We can see by the list of chapters below that he has given the subject a comprehensive treatment.

Introduction: I Believe, but Help My Unbelief! 5
Part 1 Apologetics and Commitment
1 A Reason for the Hope Within: The Nature of Apologetics 17
2 Faith and Human Wisdom: Evidentialist Apologetics 29
3 Jerusalem and Athens: More Objections to Apologetics 39
4 A God-Shaped Vacuum: The Relevance of Apologetics 51
5 Ears to Hear and Eyes to See: Apologetics and the Heart 63
6 Critics, Seekers, and Doubters: Audiences for Apologetics 75
Part 2 Commitment to God 7 The Global Village: Worldview Options 87
8 The Lord Our God Is One: Monotheism 99
9 In the Beginning: Cosmological Explanations 113
10 What the Heavens Declare: Teleological Explanations 127
11 Why Do the Righteous Suffer? The Problem of Evil 141
12 A God Who Hides Himself: The Problem of Evidence 155
Part 3 Commitment to God in Christ
13 Who Do You Say I Am? The Person of Jesus 171
14 Lazarus, Come Forth: The Miracles of Jesus 185
15 He Is Risen Indeed! The Resurrection of Jesus 199
16 The Word Became Flesh: The Trinity and the Incarnation 213
17 The Sheep and the Goats: Salvation and Damnation 227
18 No Other Name: The Problem of Religious Pluralism I 241
19 East Meets West: The Problem of Religious Pluralism II 255
Part 4 Contemporary Challenges to Christian Commitment
20 The Spirit of Truth: Commitment, Canon, and Community 269
21 The Spirit of the Age: Critiques from the Social Sciences 283
22 The Origin of Species: Christianity and Natural Selection 299
23 The Dust of the Earth: Resurrection, Minds, and Bodies 317
24 The Death of God: Postmodern Challenges to Christianity 331
25 It’s All Relative: Cultural Differences and Moral Universalism 347
Conclusion: Cultivating Christian
Commitment 361
Other Books on Christian Apologetics 363
Index 364

When looking for a book, the reader seeks for that one that fills the gap in his or her knowledge and understanding. The book can not be so simple that nothing is learned, but it also should not be so complicated that it is impossible to learn from. They look for a book with balance. Taylor's book fits in this category.

This is a one of a kind book. I have read many books defending the faith, but this one has to be at the top. What makes it unique is the balance he takes between the different views on apologetics. He sees the good in each approach and tries to use that.

Many times we put so much focus on one truth that we have lost our balance. Because we have such an intense focus, we do a disservice to other truths. Here, Taylor tries to harvest the wheat and discard the chaff from the differing views.

In the end, we see a balance between reason and faith. Both have their place.

Pardon me for the following rabbit trail, but as a reformed believer, the only disagreement I have with Taylor is his stance on the unbeliever and free will. He believes that the sinner has the innate ability to take the first step toward salvation without any outside help. In truth, there has to be a change of heart, wrought by the Holy Spirit, before the sinner even desires the Kingdom. Jesus said in John 6:65 “This is why I told you that no one CAN come to me unless it is granted him by the Father.” Can means ability, not permission. No one has the ability to come to Jesus unless the Father grants that ability. Man has the “mental” capability to choose God, but that is not enough. Because of his sinful heart, he does not have the moral ability, or desire for that matter, to choose God.

Taylor’s contradiction is as follows: He believes apologetics can not bring a person to salvation because facts alone can not change a sinful heart; only the Holy Spirit can do that – I totally agree! BUT, He then proceeds to try and prove that the unbeliever, through his own freewill, can change his own sinful heart and accept Christ. If facts can not change an evil heart, how can an evil heart change itself?

Here are two quotes, both only one page apart:

"God’s work in Christ does not in itself guarantee this psychological transformation because sinful people must freely choose to accept God’s offer of salvation in Christ before they can be free of the sin that prevents them from seeing the truth."


"We have seen that one of the consequences of sin is the suppression of truth about God. So a slave to sin is incapable of seeing the truth about God. Anyone who is not free to stop sinning is also not free to see the truth about God. In the end, it is a mystery how God in his grace reverses this situation without overriding human freedom, but it seems clear that he makes use of the efforts of evangelists, apologists, and the Holy Spirit in the process."

In these quotes Taylor says that, God himself can not change the heart to see the truth without the person’s freewill choosing first. Then in the second quote he says that a sinner is a slave who is, in his words, "not free" and “incapable” of seeing the truth of God. How can a sinner not “be free” to see the truth, but can freely choose to accept that truth that he can not see. How can he freely choose a God without understanding the truth concerning that God he freely chose? He would be pulling himself up by his own bootstraps.

In reality, no amount of evidence will convince an unbeliever to accept Christ. They love their sin too much. God has to turn their “heart of stone” into a “heart of flesh”. That is where apologetics comes in.

God uses means to change the heart. When I was saved, I was not changed by new facts that I had never heard before. It was the same truth I had heard many times but this time “I” was different. My eyes were opened. I saw what was there all along. A veil was lifted. All at once things made sense. I was made alive. I was BORN again. I used to be dead in sin, but now was raised from the dead. Like he did with Lazarus, God said come forth.

Sorry for the long divergence. Aside from the freewill debate, I believe this was a great book and should be widely read.

Simple, easy to read, and to the point, Taylor has written it in a way that can be used in the classroom or Sunday school alike.

If you want a detailed but readable introduction to defending your faith, look no farther than here.

I highly recommend it and give it 5 out of 5 stars.

I received this book, free of charge, from Baker Academic and Netgalley, in exchange for an honest review.

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