Sunday, April 12, 2015

Book Write-Up: Mapping Apologetics, by Brian K. Morley

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 community.”

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.

3 comments:

  1. Honestly, the women in the X Today article are lightweights.

    If you want an example of really smart, sophisticated female apologist, Lydia McGrew is a much better example.

    ReplyDelete
  2. I just did a search of her. I think I remember you posting a link to her review of Walton's The Lost World of Adam and Eve.

    ReplyDelete

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