Book Reviews

Book Review: Apologetics at the Cross (Chatraw, Allen)

As many know, “apologetics” come from the Greek word apologia, which is translated as “answer” or “defense” in 1 Peter 3:15 in our Bibles. Yet apologetics as I knew it in college was in the form of philosophy and logic, revolving around concepts and arguments I had never heard of. Mark Allen writes, “The apologists who helped me most had an incredible ability to think quickly on their feet, to draw instantly from an impeccable memory and a vast storehouse of knowledge, and to spot a logical fallacy in a split second” (20).

Yet Peter wasn’t writing to doctoral students when he wrote about how we should be ready to give an apologia to those who ask. He was writing to saints exhausted from harassment and suffering. And what Peter gave them wasn’t a 1,000 page book on philosophic apologetics; he gave them the cross. He encouraged them to trust Christ and the reward his resurrection secured. They were to praise God as a community in the midst of their trials (16). This is not your usual book on apologetics. We don’t fear those who can kill us; we revere Christ as Lord and King. So when reviled, we respond with our “defense”: gentleness, respect, a clear conscience, and good behavior (17).

The authors define apologetics as “the practice of offering an appeal and a defense for the Christian faith.” That is, apologetics “answers both why a person can believe (defense) and why a person should believe (appeal)” (17). Relying on various disciplines, Apologetics at the Cross builds an apologetic “house.”

  • Chapters 1-2 present the biblical case for apologetics.
  • Chapters 3-4 offer a brief overview of apologetics’ historical development since the early church.
  • Chapters 5-9 discuss contemporary methods and outlines a theological vision for apologetics (more on that below).
  • Chapters 10-13 look at challenges in today’s culture, critiques made against Christianity, ending with guidance on how we cam make a good case for Christianity.

Apologetics is not the gospel, and it doesn’t “replace a full, special revelation of God,” but it can “[make] us open to the possibility of such revelation” (137). The life of the church, conformed by Christ, even in the midst of adversity, is one apologetic argument for the gospel. God is at work in us now, preserving us through difficulties. God gives us his godly wisdom so that we will know goodness, beauty, and truth. God’s wisdom helps us to live the good life, which we are able to do because we can use our imagination to see how our lives fit into God’s ultimate redemptive plan. God’s wisdom helps us live out and defend the truth he has placed inside of us. Christians should also serve! Jesus was brilliant, still stumping many even today with his enigmatic sayings in the Gospels, but he served. He cared for the poor and the sick. “This care for the whole person should also extend to societies, communities, and institutions. Seeking peace and the good of our communities and the world is a worthy pursuit that is mandated by God” (144).

When we talk to people, we should remember they are more than a mere mind. Yes, they are intelligent and reflective, but they are also moral beings with feelings. We lose our temper and then, after realizing and reflecting over it, we feel bad and wish we hadn’t reacted that way. We are moral beings and there is a moral standard. We are also worshiping beings. We all worship something, though it’s not always so obvious. Truth is essential in telling others about the gospel, but we are emotional beings. We need to explain why our covenantal God can be trusted (175). We need to show why Jesus is the one whom people should love most, we need to use our imaginations and show how Christianity brings the good and beautiful life, even in the midst of suffering.

The authors provide methods in which we can think and respond to to those who critique our beliefs. We need to understand our culture, what they believe will give them the good life, and how we can counter that (graciously) and point them to Christ. This does involve responding with good arguments, clear thinking, but grace and a merciful tone nonetheless. Chatraw and Allen give plenty of examples of critiques against Christianity and ways in which you can answer them (or at least begin to do so).

Recommended?

There are numerous apologetics books out there, but this is one that I think should be the first you buy if you are new to apologetics. Chatraw and Allen have written a thorough and gracious book that does what they set out to do: it keeps your eyes on the cross while building you up in the knowledge of Christ and him crucified. You represent Christ through all that you say and do (and don’t say and don’t do!). Chatraw and Allen remind us that character is not less important than the arguments we make for Christianity. In fact, it is part of our defense.

Lagniappe

  • Authors: Josh Chatraw & Mark Allen
    • Joshua Chatraw serves as the director for New City Fellows and the Resident Theologian at Holy Trinity Anglican Church. He is a fellow with the Center for Pastor Theologians and has served in both pastoral and academic posts during his ministry.
    • Mark D. Allen serves as the Chair of Liberty University’s Biblical and Theological Studies Department and the Director of the Greek Program.
  • Hardcover : 336 pages
  • Publisher : Zondervan Academic (May 15, 2018)
  • Read the Introduction and first two chapters
  • Zondervan Academic Online Course

Buy it from Amazon or Zondervan Academic!

Disclosure: I received this book free from Zondervan Academic. The opinions I have expressed are my own, and I was not required to write a positive review. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 http://www.access.gpo.gov/nara/cfr/waisidx_03/16cfr255_03.html.

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