Groothuis’ “Christian Apologetics” (A Review)

A few days ago I mentioned Douglas Groothuis’ Christian Apologetics: A Comprehensive Case for Biblical Faith (Downers Grove: IVP, 2011).  This book is certainly one that we here on the Reformed Reader recommend to those of you who follow our blog.  Before I (Shane) review this book, let me get a few caveats out of the way.

First, Groothuis’s methodological approach to apologetics is eclectic for the most part, though it might be closest to classical apologetics (if you need a label).  For those of you who are hard-core presuppositionalists, you might disagree with his methodology and with many of his arguments.  I have to admit that for me, any good, logical, and biblical apologetic argument is worth considering.  Though I favor presuppositionalism, I’m not closed to other solid arguments for Christianity.  By the way, many of Groothuis’ points reminded me of Kenneth Samples’ work (which I very much appreciate).

Second, Groothuis does not defend young earth creationism.  If you’re a die-hard-young-earth-creation-or-bust kind of person, you will not agree with his view on creation.  However, he does firmly argue for an ex-nihilo, non-evolutionary, historical Adam, Eve, and fall view of creation. Therefore, I thought his defense of a biblical, creational worldview was very helpful.  In fact, he argued for a biblical view of creation in ways that I had never heard of – ways which were even faith-affirming for me.

There are three main parts to this book.  First, Groothuis deals with the basics of Christian apologetics.  He talks about a biblical foundation for apologetics, the Christian worldview, distortions of Christianity, the case for truth, and what faith and reason mean to the Christian.  I very much enjoyed this section of the book.  There are so many strong points I don’t have room to list them all (I’ll save some for later blog posts).  Suffice it to say I liked his chapter on evaluating worldviews and his chapter on why truth matters; they still have me thinking almost a week after I read them.

The second part of the book is a case for Christian theism.  Here’s the meat of the book, really.  Groothuis talks about the ontological argument, the cosmological argument, the design argument, the moral argument, the argument from religious experience, and an explanation of the person and work of Jesus Christ.  Again, this section is full of oustanding insights, logical arguments, and evidence that shows the futility of materialism, pantheism, Darwinianism, and nihilism.  This section also contains an essay by Craig Blombgerg on the historical accounts of Jesus.

The final (third) part of this book is where Groothuis wrestles with objections to Christian theism.  Here he talks about religious pluralism, Islam, and the problem of evil.  I especially enjoyed the chapter on pluralism, which compared the truth claims of various religions and religious philosophies (Buddhism, Hinduism, John Hick’s pluralism, Perennialism, and a few others) to Christianity.

There are also two appendices: one is a discussion of hell and the other is by Richard Hess and deals with apologetic issues in the Old Testament.

This book is an outstanding contribution to the field of Christian apologetics.  Again, even though you might not agree with every method and view Groothuis uses and advocates in this book, it is still a very worthwhile resource for those of you interested in apologetics.  Here are a few specific areas that are covered in this book (to pique your interest): fideism, openness theology, apatheism, “god of the gaps,” logic, Blaise Pascal’s apologetics, Anselm’s contribution, the kalam cosmological argument, the big bang theory, materialism,  monism, karma, fossils, tolerance, and so many more.  The book covered so many fascinating and up-to-date discussions that I could not set it down!

Here’s my advice.  Get the book (FYI the binding, format, and layout is superb) and read the first section on the basics of apologetics and worldview (167 total pages).  After you study that section in detail, pick and choose the other chapters that interest you (i.e. origins, morality, good/evil, etc.).  You don’t necessarily have to read the book straight through.  It might be more helpful to use it as a text-book that you refer to again and again for certain areas of apologetics.  That’s how I plan on using it.

There is so much solid information and there are so many helpful arguments in this book that it is one that will certainly not gather dust on my shelf!  As I hinted at above, this book, Christian Apologetics, was even beneficial for me as a Christian.  It reminded me once again that the Christian faith is neither an illogical leap in the dark nor a drug to get me through life, but a reasonable faith that makes sense of the world, gives me much hope and joy, grounds me in truth-filled ethics, and brings glory to the living God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.

shane lems

sunnyside, wa

6 thoughts on “Groothuis’ “Christian Apologetics” (A Review)”

  1. Given that he uses, as you said, a rather eclectic apologetic methodology, does he spend much time defining and defending his methodology against the inevitable Van Tillian critiques?

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  2. Chris: Groothuis does discuss other apologetic methodologies, but he doesn’t go into detail at all. He spends around 10 pages discussing several different methods of apologetics. Most of the time though, he is actually “doing” apologetics in the book.
    Thanks,
    shane

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  3. shane–

    how does he articulate the ‘futility’ of materialism, pantheism, and nihilism? and do you agree with his conclusion, especially regarding materialism?

    Lamont

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  4. Well, he discusses those things throughout the book, so it would take a long time and a lot of space to summarize them all here.

    A few that come to mind are these: first, materialism and pantheism cannot account for morality, truth, love, justice, good, evil, or purpose (etc.). Materialism is self-defeating because it will not allow for anything supernatural from the outset – it is a closed argument (i.e. the cosmos is all there is; therefore there cannot be a Creator and anything that points to a Creator can be explained in naturalistic terms).

    Again, the arguments are woven throughout the book, but for me, I cannot accept materialism beacuse it does not, will not, and cannot account for many things that exist (i.e. truth, justice, a finely tuned cosmos, good, evil, etc.).

    Anyway, Groothuis tackles those issues in a very thorough manner in nearly every chapter of the book. My brief answer here is far too brief.

    Thanks,
    shane

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  5. shane–

    I disagree that truth cannot exist in materialism. My understanding of truth is that which matches objective reality. The existence of chemical processes is true, for example, but the existence of souls, or spirits (the supernatural) is not. truth is observable and testable. If souls or spirits exist in objective reality, then they aren’t supernatural, they are natural.

    do you have another understanding of truth?

    also, there’s a difference between things that are true, and things that have value. Justice has value, but it isn’t true. if it were true, it would be observable in all cases, and exceptions would be explainable. it would be testable and consistent with objective reality. but you and I both know that justice doesn’t have this consistency in social behavior.

    so justice is valuable, (I think extremely valuable), but it is not consistently or testably true. same for love, good, evil, morality, purposefulness, and similar constructs.

    How do you define a difference between truth and value?

    Lamont

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  6. Lamont: I appreciate your comments, and a discussion like that is a good one to have. I have to apologize, however, since I do not want to “get into it” here for two reasons. First, I honestly don’t have extra time for it, and second, because the comment thread of a blog usually isn’t a fruitful place to dialogue this like this.

    Feel free, however, to continue to make comments on the blog (keeping the comments civil, of course). Other readers may wish to interact with you (with civility, of course!).

    Thanks,
    shane

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