Strangely, I was not particularly looking forward to reading Alister McGrath’s Mere Apologetics. I was not dreading it, but I was not excited either. That is strange because I really like the work of Alister McGrath and I really am interested in apologetics. My ambivalence was more about multitude of general apologetics books that have come on the market lately. How many times do we have to be told how to give evidence for the existence of God?
However, once I picked up Mere Apologetics, I was hooked. McGrath does not just rehash old arguments under a new title and author. Mere Apologetics is more than a collection of arguments, it is a guide on how to do apologetics in a practical way. Apologetics is so much more than throwing a standard argument at a generic skeptic and expecting them to convert. Apologetics is both a science and an art. McGrath draws on his experience with the Oxford Centre for Christian Apologetics to reflect on what apologetics looks like in the real world as opposed to a simply theoretical model.
McGrath really wrestles with the definition of apologetics. As apologetics has taken a more prominent role in the church, it has taken on such a wide meaning that it now means almost nothing. McGrath differentiates apologetics from evangelism, although they have an important relationship. Neither is apologetics a set of arguments, but rather is reflection on Christian truth and respectful conversation with others to clarify what the Gospel is and responding to misrepresentations. McGrath explains the science and art of apologetics in this way: “Just as the science of apologetics is partly concerned with theological analysis of the Christian proclamation, so the art of apologetics is concerned with the imaginative and creative application of its respective components to its audiences.” (p. 57.)
While McGrath does present the classic arguments for the existence of God, he provides much more. McGrath takes the would-be apologist to the next step by demonstrating how these are used in the real world. McGrath provides helpful advice on how to make the most of a conversation and gives warnings against some of the common mistakes. I appreciate that McGrath stresses the practice of apologetics. Apologetics is not something just be learned, collecting books and trips to conferences. Apologetics is something that should actually be done with real people. Even if you are seasoned apologist who knows the standard arguments inside out, I would recommend that you read Mere Apologetics as a reminder of why we do what we do. If you are a beginner, this book will give you the encouragement and some of the tools you need to get started. This is an excellent book and on an important topic written in an engaging manner. Highly recommended.
“Book has been provided courtesy of Baker Publishing Group and Graf-Martin Communications, Inc.
Available at your favourite bookseller from Baker Books, a division of Baker Publishing Group“.