Brian K. Morley. Mapping Apologetics: Comparing Contemporary Approaches. Downers Grove: IVP Academic, 2015. See here to buy the book.
Christian apologetics is defending the Christian faith. In Mapping Apologetics,
Brian Morley, who teaches philosophy and Christian apologetics at The
Master’s College (John MacArthur’s college), surveys a variety of
Christian apologetic approaches. He looks at attempts to defend the
truth of God and Christianity in the Bible and Christian history, as
well as presuppositionalist, evidentialist, and other approaches. The
book has chapters on Cornelius Van Til, John Frame, Alvin Plantinga,
Richard Swinburne, William Lane Craig, Norman Geisler, John Warwick
Montgomery, and Gary Habermas. It also has a chapter about E.J.
Carnell, Gordon Lewis, and Francis Schaeffer. Not only does Morley
provide a detailed discussion of these apologists’ thought and critiques
of it, but he also tells the stories of these thinkers as people.
This is a rich book, and I have already written four posts about it. They are:
Ramblings on Countering Evil That God Permits
The Trinity and Perfect Love
Ramblings on Ethics, the Golden Rule, and Moral Absolutes
Extremely Scattered Ramblings on Accountability to God
In another online forum, I posted my favorite passage in Morley’s
book. This passage addresses differences between Celtic Christianity
and Roman Christianity, and it is on pages 54-55:
“Rick Richardson, summarizing the work of George Hunter, points
favorably to Celtic Christianity, contrasting it with Roman
Christianity. The Celts emphasize humanity’s connection to nature; the
achievements of humanity and not just its sinfulness; God’s immanent
presence rather than transcendence; divine dynamic activity rather than
maintenance of stability and order; the advancement of a Christian
movement through community rather than maintenance of institutions and
traditions; indigenous and contextual work within culture rather than
the regarding of one’s own culture as superior; areas of spiritual
interest in other religions that can be used in communication rather
than written off as irrelevant or as manifestations of the demonic;
creative use of art, drama, music, story, analogy and poetry to
encourage experience of the truth rather than only explanations of the
truth; the welcoming of nonbelievers to be involved in the Christian
I do not know if Professor Morley intended to inspire this reaction
in his readers, but I would like to read more about Celtic Christianity!
Morley’s book also is lucid and succinct in discussing the thoughts
of prominent philosophical thinkers, such as Immanuel Kant, David Hume,
and Hegel. People interested in a summary of what these people thought
and the significance of their contributions may appreciate this book.
The chapter that I liked the most was about William Lane Craig. In
this chapter, Morley detailed Craig’s responses to objections to the
cosmological and teleological arguments for the existence of God. Craig
addresses such topics as quantum physics, and he responds to objections
with clarity and precision. While Craig, in my opinion, does come
across to me as a bit snarky in some of his debates and writings, I do
have to admire his philosophical approach. I also am somewhat
sympathetic to his overall agenda: to present Christianity as an
intellectually acceptable option.
The approach that I liked the least was that of John Warwick
Montgomery. Montgomery’s approach influenced Josh McDowell, and it
focused on offering historical support for Jesus’ resurrection from the
dead. Montgomery seemed to think that the facts spoke clearly in its
favor, whereas I tend to agree with presuppositionalists that there are a
variety of ways to interpret evidence; I would also opine that
Christian history was a bit messier than Montgomery may think. At the
same time, I have to respect and admire Montgomery after reading
Morley’s chapter about him. Montgomery has a brilliant mind, and he
passed what is arguably the toughest bar exam in the country without
having attended law school! In addition, I appreciated Montgomery’s
point that motifs in world cultures indicate a hunger for what Jesus
Christ has to offer.
Morley almost predominantly features male apologists, and the last
line of his book says that “It is my hope and prayer that this book will
motivate some to grasp the baton from those who are finishing their leg
of the race, and run on” (page 365). Interestingly, according to a
recent Christianity Today article, some of those who are
carrying that baton are women, who add their own perspective and
approach to Christian apologetics. See here to read that excellent article.
Mapping Apologetics overall is lucid, fair, thoughtful, and
detailed. It is rather elliptical in a few places, and there are places
that are in dire need of editing—-there are some grammatical errors,
and times when Morley seems to say the opposite of what he may have
intended to say. It is still an excellent book.
I received a complimentary review copy of this book from Intervarsity Press, in exchange for an honest review.
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