Recent Trends in Christian Apologetics, Part 2

To read Part 1 in this three part series click here. Now on with the show.

I'm going to begin at the beginning, what's considered to be the resurgence of Christianity touted by Christian apologists. Over at Patheos, there is a page for Evangelicalism that offers little more than self-congratulatory bluster for its philosophical and apologetical achievements in the recent past, given the religious diversity in the world. Atheist philosopher Quentin Smith was quoted as saying that God "is now alive and well in his last academic stronghold, philosophy departments." That's the LAST stronghold. "God" has already been ousted from most every other department in the university. So why on earth would evangelicals be quoting Quentin Smith on this, or feeling good about what he said? The bottom line is that you cannot have a religious trajectory that will last very long without a good solid foundation. What evangelicals will have to come to grips with is the lack of a Biblical foundation for what they believe. It simply is not there. They have completely and utterly ignored this fact.

I'm here to remind them that Natural Theology is dead, so their philosophical renaissance is nothing more than fundamentalism on stilts, as Dr. Jaco Gerike argues. I especially love Gerike's chapter 5 in my anthology The End of Christianity titled, Can God Exist if Yahweh Doesn't?

One problem with answering the philosophical arguments of WLCraig, Alvin Plantinga, Richard Swinburne, and company, can be seen in Craig's response to the atheist literature over the last few decades that trounced their fundamentalist arguments. A fine summary of that atheist literature can be read here. Craig seems jubilant about it all, saying:
You have masterfully surveyed for us the current philosophical landscape with respect to atheism. You give our readers a good idea of who the principal players are today. Moreover, I hope that theists, especially Christian theists, who read your account will come away encouraged by the way Christian philosophers are being taken seriously by their secular colleagues today. The average man in the street may get the impression from social media that Christians are intellectual losers who are not taken seriously by secular thinkers. Your letter explodes that stereotype. It shows that Christians are ready and able to compete with their secular colleagues on the academic playing field.
In other words, responding to fundamentalist philosophy only encourages fundamentalist philosophers!

I'll mention some recent tends in apologetics in a minute. Let me first mention a few apologetics books that have received a high degree of praise.

--Josh Chatraw and Mark D. Allen, Apologetics at the Cross: An Introduction for Christian Witness, 2018. Here's an interview with the authors, where it's described as a "holistic view of apologetics with students in mind, with people in the church in mind, so that they could interact with their neighbors. So, there’s a practical end to it all, there is a pastoral end to it all, but then there’s thinking through the context of training students how to do this the best."

--Paul Gould, Travis Dickinson, Keith Loftin, Stand Firm: Apologetics and the Brilliance of the Gospel, 2018. It's billed as a book with "up to date responses to questions about the existence of God, the reliability of the Bible, Jesus and the resurrection, and the problem of evil." The "heart of the book is to defend the idea that the gospel is brilliant!! It has, for us, a double meaning. First, the gospel, as idea, is brilliant since it is smart. It is, in fact, the biggest idea I know. This is to say the gospel is profound, rational to believe, and eminently defensible. Much of the heavy lifting in the book is to defend this. But the second sense of the term ‘brilliant’ is that the gospel is beautiful and desirable. We try, in each chapter, to connect the rational defense with the desirability and attractiveness of Christianity." --Travis Dickenson.

--Paul Gould, Cultural Apologetics: Renewing the Christian Voice, Conscience, and Imagination in a Disenchanted World. "Many--including many Christians--no longer perceive the world in its proper light. As a result, the Christian imagination is muted. Moreover, the church has grown anti-intellectual and sensate, out of touch with the relevancy of Jesus and how to relate the gospel to all aspects of contemporary life. As a result, the Christian voice is muted. In this age Christian wholeness remains elusive, blunting the church's ability to present a winsome and compelling witness for faith. As a result, the Christian conscience is muted." "Cultural Apologetics addresses this malaise by setting forth a fresh model for cultural engagement, rooted in the biblical account of Paul's speech on Mars Hill, which details practical steps for reestablishing the Christian voice, conscience, and imagination. Readers will be equipped to see, and help others see, the world as it is--deeply beautiful, mysterious, and sacred."

--Tom Gilson, Too Good to Be False: How Jesus' Incomparable Character Reveals His Reality. 2020. "Too Good to be False will give you a truly fresh view of Jesus, filled with insights into his character like you've never seen or heard before-because nothing like this has been published in close to a century. This book will awaken your worship and strengthen your faith in him. You'll see more clearly than ever just how much Jesus' character is unlike any other, including the so-called greats of history, or even of myth, imagination, or legend. No one else has loved as he loved, led as he led, cared as he cared, or understood himself as Jesus understood himself. He stands magnificently alone-a truth that will not only encourage believers but also challenge skeptics who tell us it's "only a story." Using an approach today's skeptics have never faced, the author takes the story of Jesus seriously as a story, and finds his character too consistent, too unique, and too extraordinarily good to be mere legend, as skeptics suppose him to be. He's truly too good to be false."

I'll admit, Tom puts out some interesting books. But this one neglects Hector Avalos's book The Bad Jesus: The Ethics of New Testament Ethics, as well as David Madison's book, Ten Things Christians Wish Jesus Hadn't Taught: And Other Reasons to Question His Words.

--James Emery White, Christianity for People Who Aren’t Christians. "Are you tired of getting the standard cookie-cutter answers to questions you aren't even asking? This candid book offers uncommon answers to both classic and bleeding-edge questions. Written by the former president of Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, White is the author of several books, including The Rise of the Nones, Meet Generation Z, Rethinking the Church, What They Didn't Teach You in Seminary, and The Church in an Age of Crisis."

Now for some recent trends in apologetics.

1. Overwhelming the opposition by putting out huge volumes.

--Craig S. Keener, Miracles: The Credibility of the New Testament Accounts (2011 Two Volumes).

--Gary Habermas is promising a work of 5300 pages with 90% "new material" on the resurrection using such terms as "evidence" and "data" he says in his online interviews.

It would take a whole book to review each of these books, so no review will be thorough enough to dispel them as poor reasoning.

2. Greg Kouk's book, Tactics: A Game Plan for Discussing Your Christian Convictions. For my brief review click here

3. The rise and fall of Bayes' Theorem. In 2002 Richard Swinburne reintroduced Bayes Theorem to a wider audience. He had previously used it to defend the existence of god in his books defending the rationality of Christian faith, especially with his book, The Existence of God (1979 & 2004 editions). I think my Internet Infidels essay, What's Wrong with Using Bayes' Theorem on Miracles? should significantly help end its use in apologetics and counter-apologetics on both sides of our debates.

4 The minimal facts approach of Gary Habermas and Michael Licona, The Case for the Resurrection of Jesus. For my critique click here.

5. Preterism. NT Wright argues on behalf of this eschatology that Jesus somehow mysteriously returned in 70 AD, in his book, Jesus and the Victory of God. Preterism is exegetically bad but may be the last ditch hope left for Christians to maintain their faith in Jesus, even though he was irredeemably wrong in predicting the coming of the "son of man" in his own generation. On this see the chapter in The Case against Miracles, by Robert Conner, and the chapter I wrote in The Christian Delusion.

But the biggest recent trend in apologetics has to do with rethinking the Bible. I'll get to that in Part 3.

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John W. Loftus is a philosopher and counter-apologist credited with 12 critically acclaimed books, including The Case against Miracles, God and Horrendous Suffering, and Varieties of Jesus Mythicism. Please support DC by sharing our posts, or by subscribing, donating, or buying our books at Amazon. Thank you so much!

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