As Douglas Groothuis‘ newly released 752 page casebound Christian Apologetics: A Comprehensive Case for the Biblical Faith (IVP. 2011) spilled out of the box onto the counter in front of my four girls, I felt the press of two book reviews, a stack of material to read for three seminary classes, and various responsibilities at home, church and work. How did I respond?
Thankfully, earlier in the day I had read Hannah’s ESN blog post What I Wish I’d Known About Graduate School: Surviving the Workload (8/23/2011), in which she writes:
I found it depressing to realize this, but graduate school in the humanities is probably going to entail some skimming. It’s crucial to decide on a few central priorities for a semester and focus on them. It’s still important to work hard in courses that aren’t central to your interests, but you probably will have to skim some readings.
AND Kevin’s ESN FB Wall comment/recommendation, “There is a great book by Mortimer Adler called ‘How to Read a Book‘– it provides guidance for both effective skimming and deep reading. All grad students should read it BEFORE starting grad school.” Note: Google Books preview available here.
Yes, deep down, I feel an uneasiness about not picking up a good book when it sits in front of me AND furthermore, the pangs of guilt when intentionally skimming a good book. As time, energy, finances, blog attention spans are limited, “Why should I (and you) bother with Groothuis‘ Christian Apologetics (IVP. 2011)?”
With regard to my own use of resources, I came to the conclusion that it is the same reason I gave time, energy, and finances to
- C. Neal Johnson‘s 528 page Business as Mission (IVP. 2009)
- Steve Rundle and Tom Steffen‘s 240 page Great Commission Companies (IVP. Revised. 2011)
AND placed them in my library.
Familiarizing myself with the overall purpose/structure of these book and their most important content, prepares me to encourage and equip others as they seek to be/follow Christ in the marketplace (including the marketplace of ideas, i.e., the campus). To have these resources “on hand,” enables me to pass them along to others who will benefit from exploring (and possibly discussing) the resources more deeply.
Maybe Adler would say, it’s a significant opportunity to gradually lift yourself [and others] from a state of less understanding to understanding more (8). I find his term inspectional reading combined the quote by Sir. Francis Bacon, an encouragement not to slip into an analytical reader only perspective 😉
Some books are to be tasted, others to be swallowed, and some few to be chewed and digested: that is, some books are to be read only in parts, others to be read, but not curiously, and some few to be read wholly, and with diligence and attention. — Sir. Francis Bacon
Last week, after several months on my shelf, I passed along Business as Mission and Great Commission Companies to a graduate student considering opportunities in “closed countries.” My inspectional reading of these books, enabled me to affirm their specific helpfulness to address longings placed in the heart of this child of God. If the resources prove of value for the long term, the graduate student may keep them. If Business as Mission and Great Commission Companies serve only in the short term, they come back into my library to share with others.
With a similar perspective, I began an inspectional reading of Christian Apologetics, put it down, and wrote this blog post. To whet your appetite, below’s some material from Chapter 2: The Biblical Basis for Apologetics:
. . . it seems many Christians deem apologetics unnecessary at best and harmful at worst. Some claim that the ways of God are incorrigibly mysterious and beyond figuring out, thus leaving no place for rational argumentation for Christian truth. “You cannot argue anyone into the kingdom,” it is often said. Yes, an infinitely wise God has a myriad of ways of getting our attention and revealing his saving truth. But the biblical evidence, as we will see, indicates that arguments in favor of Christianity are one way by which God reaches those in need of God’s provision. The claim that no one is argued into Christianity is simply false. Although reasoning with unbelievers can prove frustrating, this may be more the fault of poor arguments, poor presentations or poor character than of the fruitlessness of apologetics per se. . . . (29)
Here is the sum of the matter. We must earnestly endeavor to know the truth of the biblical worldview to make it known with integrity to as many people as possible with the best arguments available to others in the most compelling form available. To know God in Christ means that we desire to make Christian truth available to others in the most compelling form possible. To be created in God’s rational, moral and relational image means that our entire being should be aimed at the glorification of God in Christian witness. A significant part of that witness is Christian apologetics (44).
Hmm . . . I think the same graduate student mentioned above and the whole campus fellowship would be blessed by this resource as they interact with students from across the world in their labs, classes, halls, living quarters, and campus activities. But how would it be best to share the material from the 752 page volume in a manner which equips for the short and the long term?
Hannah’s post also draws attention to weaving insights into a variety of opportunities, which is what I’ve done with Business as Mission, Great Commission Companies, and number of other books. Immediately several ideas came to mind:
- introductions for speakers (marketplace and international missionaries)
- a spring break missions trainer
- conversations about (and in) campus witness: what I find many times is a mix of analysis, discovery, imaginative storytelling, reflection, and training
- loaning to those with greater interest for reading over breaks
- blog posts 🙂
Beyond the campus, Christian Apologetics serves as a reference for seminary classes, teaching Sunday School, and my own personal equipping.
Unless you are a graduate student in philosophy or theology OR one with a great passion for apologetics at this time, I don’t recommend picking up and reading straight through Groothuis‘ magnum opus. None-the-less, Christian Apologetics is a valuable asset which I think should be accessible to students in every GFM chapter across the country AND that’s why one finds the title on the Campus Resources from IVP: Compiled for Graduate & Faculty Ministry.
Thank-you to Nick Liao (Academic Sales and Marketing Manager for InterVarsity Press) for the recommendation, Douglas Groothuis for the writing, and InterVarsity Press for the publishing. What a joy to partner together in the work of the Gospel!
I encourage you to
- take a peek at Christian Apologetics via Google preview — begin by trolling through the Table of Contents.
- post what you think are the most significant pros/cons regarding the practice of Christian apologetics.
- post what questions regarding the faith most require attention on campus as we seek to humbly invite/call others to consider the Way, the Truth, and Life found in Christ alone.
- Swing by Why “Christian Apologetics”? — Hell, where I focus on a particular topic from Christian Apologetics.
Updated 11/2/2011. 10:46 AM.
About the author:
Tom enjoys daily conversations regarding living out the Biblical Story with his wife Theresa and their four girls, around the block, at Elizabethtown Brethren in Christ Church (where he teaches adult electives and co-leads a small group), among healthcare professionals as the Northeast Regional Director for the Christian Medical & Dental Associations (CMDA), and in higher ed as a volunteer with the Emerging Scholars Network (ESN). For a number of years, the Christian Medical Society / CMDA at Penn State College of Medicine was the hub of his ministry with CMDA. Note: Tom served with InterVarsity Christian Fellowship / USA for 20+ years, including 6+ years as the Associate Director of ESN. He has written for the ESN blog from its launch in August 2008. He has studied Biology (B.S.), Higher Education (M.A.), Spiritual Direction (Certificate), Spiritual Formation (M.A.R.), Ministry to Emerging Generations (D.Min.). To God be the glory!