Any book with the word ‘apologetics’ in the title is not one I’m usually drawn to. If you were to ask me why, I’m not sure I could give you a completely satisfactory answer. I guess I associate it with an excessively defensive approach to the Christian faith coupled with an over-emphasis on faith as being something that is primarily or solely built on an intellectual foundation.
Of course, I recognise the need to defend the Christian faith from false interpretations and I also recognise that there is - and should always be - a healthy intellectual foundation to our faith. But there is so much more to faith than these two aspects and because of my view of apologetics being too deeply attached to just these aspects, I’ve never found apologetics to be a particularly inspiring subject.
It took a blog post by Scot McKnight to draw my attention to a new book by Alistair McGrath and lead me to want to read it.
I downloaded a copy to my iPad last week and have been making my way through it. I still have some way to go, but I’ve found it a really enjoyable and insightful read so far. And it has undoubtedly given me a greater appreciation for the role of apologetics and has deepened my understanding of what - at its best - it is truly about.
If I was to summarise my understanding of apologetics now, I would probably say that it is about clearing out the clutter and barriers that can be hinderances to people finding faith and encountering God. These may be intellectual barriers, but they are not necessarily so. I find this broader take on apologetics much more appealing and I can appreciate the need to be equipped to be able to do this well.
It was helpful too to see how McGrath doesn’t try and suggest that there is a simple array of truths that we should impress upon everyone. Everyone is unique and has there own questions and obstacles that can hold them back from discovering God. As followers of Christ we need to listen and learn and respond accordingly. And, of course, this is abundantly clear from the Book of Acts in the New Testament. The way Peter addressed the Jews was very different from how Paul addressed the Greeks.
All in all, I think there is much that would benefit many in this book. It’s not rocket science, but I’m finding it a helpful and thought-provoking read. And for those in particular who are wondering how best to respond to some of the challenges of the so called ‘new atheism’, there are some helpful thoughts on that front too.