Categories
Religion

Apologetics for the 21st Century

Introduction

Known as one of the ‘primers on Christian apologetics’, this book by Louis Markos provides a thorough review of the leading views held by prominent Christian apologists, as well as the progress of apologetic arguments over time, leading up to the 21st century. Divided into two sections, it systematically addresses the historical and modern implications of the Gospel of Christ in context of our Christian standpoint in a modern world. A concise book summary of Apologetics for the 21st Century will be outlined herein.

Part One: The Legacy of Lewis and Chesterton

According to the author, ‘the modern Christian apologist neither apologizes for his beliefs nor relies solely on emotion when confronting those who consider his divine calling to be either false or fanatical, delusional or dangerous…instead, he presents – boldly not harshly – a defense of Christianity that squares with reason, logic and human experience’.

At the outset, this immediately dissolves all logic that counters against apologetics, either by Christians or non-Christians, and points the focus back at the Holy Bible. Based on the New Testament portion of Scripture stated by St. Peter, which says ‘but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect’ (1 Peter 3:15).

This particular word defense, is taken from the root word apologia, and is also where apologetics finds its origins. The first chapter explains in detail the origins of apologetics and its popularity amongst prominent writers of the Christian faith.

Chapters two to seven then hone in on C.S. Lewis’ overriding core arguments in the field of apologetics, and follow six main topics. Firstly, evolution and its impact on C.S. Lewis early life is explored, especially his ultimate reaction to it culminating in many of his famous books, highlighted by his book, Mere Christianity. Many natural and historical phenomenons are shown to illustrate the author’s point, as well as many examples of how evolution can never totally answer the major, poignant questions of life.

Secondly, the difference between theism and Christianity, as well as its progression over time, is examined. The concept of God as being a singular Being independent of all created things is shown as the central point that divides the gulf between other religions and that of Christianity, culminating in Jesus Christ. No other God is said to have dwelt upon the earth, or cared as much for human existence, as to give His life for His own creation. This argument, and many others, are also discussed in detail.

Thirdly, the influence of pain and its use as an argument against the God of the Bible is shown as quite ironic, since man himself is the perpetrator of it. Therefore, our abuse of free will given to as a gift from God on high has led to a pain-filled world, in which we can only be relieved of it and its negative forms if we turn back to Him.

Fourthly, the example of miracles to show that God exists and indeed is working through his creation to make Himself known serves as a reminder of His existence. Although many critics of C.S. Lewis and Christians in general pass off miracles as contradictory to the laws of physics and nature, they are recorded to have occurred in both the ancient and modern world. Furthermore, the stance of atheists has always been ‘seeing is believing’, whereas Christians has always been ‘believing is seeing’; therefore, the difference between reason and faith is also exposed here.

Fifthly, the existence of hell has always been a topic of debate since preachers started preaching, as both C.S. Lewis and the author himself point out. However, despite many comical illustrations of hell and contrary to popular belief, hell is a real place where some people really end up. The only way to escape the fires of hell is to believe in Jesus Christ as Lord, as the only Way to get to heaven, and the only place to spend eternity with Him is in trusting God.

Lastly, myths are detailed in terms of its relation to many opinions of Christianity, as well as those who believe that certain myths are intertwined with the basic tenets of the Christian faith. The very idea of Christianity as a myth cannot stand, since the dominant religion of the world does not exist without being based on reliable, verifiable and justifiable facts. Furthermore, the true foundation of Christianity is based on Christ Jesus, who existed on this earth and showed others the way to believe in Him and live by His example.

The exposition on C.S. Lewis then turns to G.K. Chesterton for just two chapters, mainly focussing on G.K. Chesterton’s discovery of the concept of orthodox Christianity, as well as his delving into the history of Christianity. Ultimately turning to Catholicism, G.K. Chesterton is shown to still have a major impact on the Christian world through his focus on the roots of the Christian faith, the purpose of the Christian legacy, and its implications for future generations.

As one of the few voices on the subject of apologetics as a female representative, nevertheless, the view of Dorothy Sayers on the subject of the Trinity is shown as a defining basis for the simple but profound illustration of the Idea, the Energy and the Power as alluding to Father, Son and the Holy Spirit. This powerfully makes the concept of the Trinity easier to understand, especially by the way Sayers explains it in human terms.

Francis Schaeffer, the voice behind presuppositional apologetics, is shown to come from a school of thought that states Christianity is the only basis of rational thought; and as such, exposes the flaws in all arguments counter to it, which are known as opposing worldviews. Schaeffer expounds on this view using the overriding though of apologetics through a different but overlapping lens.

To end part one, Markos uses Josh McDowell’s modern approach to apologetics, particularly using his bestseller, More than a Carpenter, as a springboard for discussion. Using facts as the main drive behind this subtly apologetic slant, McDowell embraces the concept well and expounds it just as soundly; reflecting the typical approach used by modern-day Americans. This book looks at Christianity from a standpoint that both the Christian and sceptic can both understand and relate to.

Part Two: Making the Case for Faith in a (Post) Modern World

As Markos closes up his exposition on Christian apologetic viewpoints, he changes tack slightly by proposing his own arguments for God; he does this by attempting to answer three of the most common arguments from the stances of logic, science, and consequence.

Logic suggests that belief in God results in a three-step process; that is, A leads to B, therefore C is the logical answer. Such an explanation is quite simple and relatively easy to understand, especially for beginners in apologetics or even those well grounded in it. The author does a brilliant job of drawing together thought, argument and insight into his reasoning, which can clearly be seen by his references to part one’s exposition.

Science suggests that evolution is the only way to make sense of the world. However, it is quite inconsistent to cross over the argument of science and use it against the purposes of religion, especially in the context of Christianity. However, this is exactly what many atheists and certain scientists who oppose the Christian faith tend to do.

Nevertheless, the founders of leading scientific thought and scientific laws both attribute and convey their knowledge to Deity; and in so doing, science points back to an intelligent design, as illustrated by Markos second argument.

The question that is explored, finally, as a conclusion to Markos’ arguments is one that has remained on the lips of Christians and non-Christians alike. Although it has been answered in many ways, Markos focuses on the central problem and solution to it. Though not a be all, end all conclusion, it certainly provokes some strong points and cases for why seemingly bad things happen to seemingly good people.

For the last three chapters of part two, Markos sheds some light on Scripture’s authority, the historical concept of Jesus, and the proof behind Christ’s resurrection; respectively. Although all three topics have been turned into full-fledged books in their own right, especially in the 21st century, this is not the focus of the remaining chapters. Instead, a systematic breakdown of the arguments for the existence of the God of the Bible is shown using new century methods.

In particular, the authority of the Scripture is put forward in terms of the Bible’s inerrancy and infallibility. Although many versions, editions and rendering of the original text may come across as contradictory viewpoints, the original words of Scripture came forth by the breath of God, not man’s mere interpretation of it.

Therefore, the rich history and prophecy ultimately culminate in what can be called the autobiography of Christ Jesus, which is the case-in-point for the last two chapters in Markos’ arguments.

The Jesus that the modern world has portrayed to society is not the same as the historical Jesus that existed in Biblical times; mainly due to the fact that people try to fit Jesus into their own mould or worldview, rather than Jesus shining through their worldview and moulding them. This ‘back to the basics’ approach that the author suggests is one that is Biblically supported and historically proved to be the lens of true Christianity.

Lastly, the resurrection of Christ is said to be the point of which the whole religion of Christianity rises or falls on. Although many say it is impossible to prove Jesus Christ resurrection from the dead, there are many signs that prove that he did, says Markos. The eyewitness accounts, the empty tomb, and the eye-opening reality that Jesus disciples lived and died for all point to the fact that He was who he said He was and He did what He said he did. This point is particularly emphasised by the author, and also points to the coming and imminent return of Christ.

Markos efficiently and effectively segways from the twentieth-century writings into the twenty-first century reasoning, by absorbing the key arguments of the former and reiterating them in his persuasive style using the latter. In addition, he tackles the challenges and defences of the core apologetic creed, doing so in an approach that is accessible and understandable to the reader.

By covering a range of issues and points from both sides of the Christian and sceptic fronts, the author answers the ancient and modern objections to Christianity through the viewpoints of the apologists who best represent the holistic view to apologetics in its truest form. In addition, the biographical and topical structure of such a book also addresses the issues outlined in a coherent format.

Using a complete picture of apologetics, the author succeeds in orchestrating a number of leading individuals on the topics and adding his own insight into the thoughts and reasoning on each page.

By surveying the apologists and their answers in line with the defense of historical and orthodox Christianity, using his own approach that expounds and expands on the main arguments, Markos does an excellent job to point the discussion in the right direction.

Conclusion

As a standout book on apologetics, Louis Markos covers a range of subjects from theology to philosophy and skilfully interweaves them in Apologetics for the 21st Century. By seamlessly examining the leading viewpoints from the perspectives of major Christian thinkers, and coupling their arguments with his own exposition on the subject, this book is shows apologetics in its  truest forms, as well as its importance for the Christian world, and how Christians themselves can use apologetics to reach those who do not believe.