Vol. 2 - No. 1

January, 1983

Book Review

by Byron Gage


CHALLENGE AND RESPONSE: A HANDBOOK OF CHRISTIAN APOLOGETICS is written by Frederic R. Howe, The Zondervan Corporation, Grand Rapids, Michigan, 1982. As the title of the book indicates, this is a handbook and as such is excellent material for the individual interested in a look at the basics of "Christian apologetics."

Apologetics, for the Christian, is the field of defense of the faith from the onslaughts of atheists and/or detractors of the faith. 1 Peter 3:15 states, "But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer (Greek, apologian) to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear." Jude states the attitude of the Christian when he urges that they (we) "earnestly content" for the once-for-all delivered faith. (v. 3). The need, then, for every Christian to be able to give such a defense is obvious. We are all confronted from time to time with individuals who think that they have devised or learned of an argument which cannot be answered with regard to some facet of the faith. Even those arguments which have been around for years will give us trouble if we are unprepared for them. For example, one might ask, "How do you explain the apparent incongruity between the love, justice, and mercy of God with the current world situation of immorality, poverty, suffering, war, disease, and the like? Does this not deny the sovereignty of God and therefore deny the deity of God?" Or, "I have not seen, heard, smelled, tasted, or felt God. I see no effect today that cannot be explained scientifically. Can you give me any reasonable explanations why you believe that he exists?" The list could go on and on and each individual should be able to (in some degree) give the inquirers an answer. If we cannot, then the faith which we hold will appear to the unbeliever to be a blind and unreasoned faith. Apologetics attempts to persuade the questioner of the reasonableness of the faith of the believer and the unreasonableness of the unbeliever's position.

This book attempts the following: First, to establish a Biblical basis for apologetics, i.e., that apologetics is a Biblical principle. Second, it distinguishes between apologetics and evangelism (a distinction which must be made but seldom is by many of my brethren). Third, "selected patterns and principles" from the New Testament are related (Stephen before the Council, and Paul on Mars Hill). Fourth, "a method of defense" is established, then, in order, "Faith and Reason in Apologetics, Apologetics, Common Ground, and Related Scripture Passages, The Challenge Concerning the Existence of God, Some Arguments for Theism, An Apologetic Method and a Pattern of Vindication, The Problem of History and Christianity, Some Challenges Concerning Christ, and the Conclusion." Except for some problems I have with the Calvinistic doctrine of the direct operation of the Holy Spirit in conversion, I found the material to be excellent.

There are many good points to the book not the least of which is the way in which the author simplifies some rather complex argumentation. Placed in terms which one can understand, the various arguments of atheists and the subsequent response by the "Christian apologist" are clear and forceful. Because of the nature of the work (being an introduction and handbook) the advanced student may find some duplication of material and arguments.

One feature of the book which makes it even more valuable in one's library is the thorough annotated bibliography at the end of the book wherein seventy other works are cited with a description of each work.

If you don't have a book dealing with the nature and mechanics of apologetics, this one will be a good start. Afterward, some thorough works on evidences will be more easily used and understood.

One final word. Dear Christian, you don't have to feel intimidated by the atheists of the world, nor by the antagonists of the faith. And do not become discouraged and think your defense poor if the person is not converted. Mouths may be stopped without hearts being pricked, so don't confuse apologetics with evangelism. Each will have its effect according to the heart of the auditor.