Mere Apologetics

Mere Apologetics

How to Help Seekers and Skeptics Find Faith

Alister McGrath, Baker, US$16.99

Alister McGrath and Tom Wright are the two most prolific “conservative evangelical” theological writers in the UK these days. But there’s something unusual about their approach (and this is especially true of the “later” McGrath): they’re becoming less prescriptive in terms of classical “evangelical rationalistic” paradigms.

Take this for example: “Rather than giving you formulaic answers to all the big questions of faith … develop your own approach.” Refreshing!

This is the best post-C. S. Lewis book on apologetics written on the British side of the Atlantic. And, remarkably for a Brit, in addition to the oft-cited CSL, John Polkinghorne, N. T. Wright and a few others, McGrath mostly recommends apologists from the other side — the US — like Ravi Zacharias, William Lane Craig, Alvin Plantinga and even Lee Strobel. The two atheists most cited are the two most strident/prolific critics of Christianity (and other faiths): Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens.

Another habit McGrath has recently developed is alternating “his” and “her” in his illustrations/examples … I like that.

And another: the book gives us sensible guidance about rational/theological approaches but McGrath emphasises that the “really big questions go beyond what reason is able to demonstrate. These are questions such as: Who am I? Do I really matter? Why am I here? Can I make a difference? Neither science nor human reason can answer these questions. Yet unless they are answered life is potentially meaningless … There are times when it is just as important to show Christianity is real as it is to show it is true.

So, you want to know, which of his arguments are “clinchers”? I’m not going to spoil it for you by answering that (buy the book and read it in a study group with others). But here are some good quotes to whet your appetite:
* C. S. Lewis in The Problem of Pain speaks of “suffering as Gods megaphone to rouse a deaf world”. Many feel that this approach is a little simplistic and inadequate when confronted with the brutal, harsh reality of suffering … His famous work A Grief Observed is a powerful critique of his own earlier approach.

* Until quite recently the dominant trend in apologetics was to use arguments in the reasoned defence of the Christian faith. Yet this was largely a response to a strongly rationalist culture which saw conformity to reason as a criterion of truth.

* Many Christians … prefer to use words … to commend our faith. Yet we need to be aware that, in a postmodern context, images [have] special authority and power, transcending the limitations placed on words.”

* And in the context of suffering, he quotes Woody Allen (I hadn’t heard this before): “More than at any other time in history, mankind faces a crossroads. One path leads to despair and utter hopelessness. The other, to total extinction. Let us pray to have the wisdom to choose correctly.”

It’s all brilliant, readable, sensible, and postmodern — and is now in my “top ten” books I recommend for thoughtful Christians.
Rowland Croucher

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