- Paperback: 400 pages
- Publisher: Baker Academic; Second Printing edition (March 1, 1988)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0801038227
- ISBN-13: 978-0801038228
- Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.9 x 9 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.5 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars See all reviews (44 customer reviews)
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #747,590 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Christian Apologetics Paperback – March 1, 1988
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About the Author
Norman L. Geisler (Ph.D., Loyola University of Chicago) has taught at top evangelical schools for over fifty years and is distinguished professor of apologetics and theology at Veritas Evangelical Seminary in Murrieta, California. He is the author of more than seventy books, including the Baker Encyclopedia of Christian Apologetics.
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Top Customer Reviews
Apologetics is the branch of theology/philosophy that seeks to provide a logical and rational defense of Christianity against all other rivals.
To preface my review, I would like to distinguish between two types of apologetics. Negative apologetics is concerned with showing that opposing (i.e. non-Christian) worldviews or ways of understanding reality are false. Positive apologetics seeks to provide evidence and arguments that directly argue for the truth of Christianity.
In this volume, it seems that something like 70% of the book is spent on showing opposing views are false. In this regard, I think Geisler's evaluation of atheism is very well done (Geisler summarizes his section by saying that most atheistic critiques of Christianity or arguments for atheism are either self-defeating or can be turned into arguments for Christianity). However, in our world, people are much more "cautious" and prefer to stay away from the so-called extremes (i.e. theism: the belief that a personal God exists. atheism: the belief that God(s) do not exist) and choose agnosticism. Geisler provides a very through critique of agnosticism and shows that it is intellectually bankrupt.
There are three Parts to the book:
Methodology (approx. 35% of content)
Theistic Apologetics (approx. 29% of content)
Christian Apologetics (approx. 30% of content)
The Methodology section is about forming an adequate test for truth. This was an unusual section and it seemed to be unnecessary to spend so much time on it. A brief discussion (i.e. 20 pages) ought to be sufficient. Geisler's two tests for truth are very uncommon; unaffirmability as a test for falsity and undeniability as a test for truth. He rejects most of the better truth tests (e.g. combinationalism) for numerous reasons, one of the most common being that the test fails to establish one view over all others. However, this section did have good critiques of skepticism, agnosticism, and fideism; this is the most useful part of this section.
The Theistic Apologetics section was probably the best in the book, in my opinion. Geisler surveys and evaluates the following worldviews:
Geisler offers several reasons to reject the first four options, however I think it is unfair to exclude the first three simply because they are not theism. To me, this is blatant question begging. I thought Geisler was trying to establish the rational view rather than the Biblical view; there is a place for evaluating other "types" of God(s) but this is not that place. If one's objection to an argument amounts to, "He disagrees with Christianity therefore false," then it is question begging. To be fair, Geisler does offer several other reasons to reject these philosophies.
The Christian Apologetics section was very typical. There was a defense offered for the general historical reliability of the New Testament, the authority of Jesus Christ (e.g. by His sinless life, miracles, resurrection), and the authority of the Bible.
Geisler could have written an actual conclusion to the book rather than just suddenly ending it; something that brought it all together, perhaps with some examples when apologetics has strengthened the faith of Christians or convinced skeptics or something along those lines; I have noticed this problem in other books as well. Several other reviewers have said that this is a common text book in the United States on this topic, so perhaps that explains the lack of the features common to a broader audience (e.g. introduction and conclusion). An annotated bibliography would have been useful as well; he included a mini "Further Reading" section at the end of every chapter but there were very few recent (i.e. 1970's to present) books listed.
I think that Moreland's, "Scaling the Secular City," (see my review) is a better defense of Christianity; he spends more of his time arguing FOR Christianity and refutes the objections offered against those arguments.
Even though the book is nearly 400 pages long, some of the discussion in superficial. I was especially disappointed in the section examining the arguments for the existence of God. Geisler spends much of the time discussing his version of the cosmological argument (his favorite argument), while giving short shrift to the other arguments, such as the ontological, the design, and the moral arguments. A complete work on apologetics needs to examine the various formulations of each of these in the detail they warrant.
Similarly, his discussion of miracles is incomplete. While he does present several philosophical objections to the miraculous, his analyses of these is superficial and in some cases does not really accurately present the objection itself. His entire section on miracles comprises fewer than 20 pages altogether, hardly enough to present a really adequate discussion of the topic.
I was also surprised to see Van Til's presuppositional apologetics classified as a type of fideism. Although this is a common assumption, it is erroneous. There is a great deal of difference between presuppositionalism and classical fideism, one that Geisler apparently ignores.
Nevertheless, it is valuable to have such a book around, to demonstrate concretely just how far one can get with such an approach, and to see what its limitations are. Given what he is trying to accomplish, Geisler does a creditable job (though I think Richard Swinburne's books are much better). After reading this book I gained a much clearer sense of what the hardest-to-defend points in the Christian worldview are.