Thursday, December 29, 2011
Saturday, December 24, 2011
Friday, December 16, 2011
Wednesday, December 14, 2011
Tuesday, December 13, 2011
Monday, December 12, 2011
Wednesday, December 7, 2011
It is difficult to provide an in-depth chapter-by-chapter review of any textbook, let alone a book that concludes at 752 pages. I will not be so naïve to think I could do such a thing either. Thus, this review will hit on what I believe to be the most important and substantial portions of the book. Groothuis divides the book into three sections and I will structure this review in accordance to that division. While a few critiques may be included in the sectional review, I will leave what I believe to be the most pressing critiques (and they are few and minimal) until the end of the review. As one would expect with a book of this size, this review will be lengthy. I will be as concise as possible; however, I will not devalue the examination this book deserves simply to be brief. It is my role as a reviewer to do diligence to both the author and text itself to be as objective and comprehensive in my examination as possible.
Part one of the book, entitled "Apologetic Preliminaries" examines the need and reasons to engage in apologetics. I would recommend this section to any Christian scholar, pastor, missionary and layperson alike. Groothuis begins by laying out the need for apologetics as not something that Christians can do if they so choose, but rather as a biblical mandate. The contemporary attitude towards apologetics is often hostile. We live in a culture that thrives on tolerance between different worldviews and the defense of one position seems to rub against the grain of what is now considered normal. Groothuis masterfully breaks down this misconception in the opening chapters of the book. While Christian apologetics is the defense of a particular position, it is not one that is meant to be hostile. Rather, Groothuis says that Christian apologetics is "the rational defense of the Christian worldview as objectively true, rationally compelling and existentially or subjectively engaging." Apologetics is shown to be crucial for both the presenter and receiver of the apologetic message. For the receiver, a logically and rationally compelling argument is given that promotes the objective truth of Christianity. For the presenter, the Christian, engaging in apologetics fortifies the Christian in their position as a Christian.
While apologetics is a field of its own, Groothuis makes the claim that an apologetic argument cannot be effectively presented without understanding its connection to philosophy and theology. Apologetics is not reducible to either of these fields but it greatly hinges on the content and discipline of these other areas of study. The systematic doctrine of theology is itself what is being defended. One cannot properly present an apology for Christianity without adequately understanding its truth-claims. In relation to philosophy, one must be skilled and trained in rational and logical styles of argumentation. This makes the argument itself sound and eliminates philosophical fallacies. Furthermore, Groothuis grounds the field of apologetics as biblically mandatory. He presents biblical examples of apologetic interaction - including Jesus himself.
Groothuis wisely includes a chapter of the apologetic method and its core reliance on philosophical logic. As previously stated, one cannot be a good apologist without being familiar with logical argumentation. Groothuis, then, follows up on that claim with the inclusion of a chapter devoted to basic logical principles necessary for apologetics.
Apologetics 101 is knowing the content of the worldview that one is defending. Thus, Groothuis lays out the foundational beliefs of Christianity. Quite a lot is discussed in one chapter as Groothuis examines the theist's belief of metaphysics, epistemological foundation, the human condition, salvation and morality. Countless books have been devoted to subsets of each of these topics and thus the finer details of these areas cannot be adequately included in this type of book. However, Groothuis hits all the main and foundation beliefs of Christianity that one needs to know in order to engage in apologetic discussion. It is a chapter filled with the basic truths of Christianity and is a chapter that will serve as a nice complimentary piece to James Sire's The Universe Next Door for anyone interested in comparative worldviews. Should one want a deeper examination of the details of the topics discussed in this chapter, one will need to consult other books.
As a philosopher that is as focused on objective truth, it is to no surprise that Groothuis includes a chapter on truth in postmodern culture. Building on one of his previous books, Truth Decay, Groothuis states that objective truth is a staple of humanity, the "intellectual oxygen we breathe." Here, Groothuis tactfully examines and breaks down the postmodern thought that truth is not objective. Identifying two main enemies of truth in contemporary American culture, apathy and tolerance, Groothuis states that objective truth is dismissed in favor of the lauded view of tolerance, which attempts to embrace all differing cultural norms, and apathy, the lackadaisical approach to knowing truth. The book wisely points out that these views are antithetical to sound philosophy. In philosophy, one is on the path of knowledge and engages in the discipline of knowing truth. The connection to Christianity is clear - the Bible presents truth-claims. If one believes these to be true, they must be objectively true. If one believes the Christian worldview to be true, it is the intellectual responsibility of the Christian to gain further knowledge about the worldview.
While much more can be said about the opening section of the book as I only highlighted crucial features of a few chapters, I can conclude this section encouraging anyone interested in apologetics consult this first section of Christian Apologetics. It provides the examination of the necessity for apologetics and is the portrayal of Groothuis' attitude towards the discipline. It is easy to deduce that Groothuis is passionate about the truth of the Christian faith and is direly concerned with its presentations to those outside the Christian worldview. If an academic book were to ever tug at one's heart and implore one to move, it will be found in this opening section.
Part two of Christian Apologetics is the heart of the book - the dense examination of the main philosophical arguments for the existence of God. Again, it would be irresponsible for me to do a quick and flippant review of each chapter and thus I will examine what I believe to be the most important and pertinent content.
Groothuis starts off with an ancient and controversial argument: the ontological argument. Hinging on both of Saint Anselm's arguments as well as the reformed version by Alvin Plantinga, Groothuis presents the ontological argument as one that is both rationally captivating and successful. I currently remain in limbo on the success of this particular argument. It his been widely (and unwarrantedly) ridiculed and yet has remained defended for centuries. The ontological argument works entirely off the notion of the existence of God without relying on empirical claims. If nothing else, the ontological argument gives evidence to the brilliance of human reason. This particular argument logically guarantees that God exists from the premise that one can conceptualize a Perfect Being. The (Anselmian) argument, deductive in form, can be summed up by saying that a person can think of a greatest possible being. From this, a thing either exists only as knowledge construct, or, as something that exists in reality. It is greater for a thing to exist in reality rather than merely in the mind. But, God is the greatest possible being and he therefore exists in reality.
Groothuis provides a few examples of critiques of the argument and goes into a lengthy exploration of Kant's critique. While Groothuis, I believe, accurately dismisses Kant's critique, I have found little persuasiveness in this chapter that would lead me to accept the ontological argument as a success. This is no reflection on the author's ability to engage with difficult subjects. The very fact that Groothuis included a chapter devoted to this difficult concept exemplify his skill as a philosopher. The area that lacked, however, was a detailed examination on how the mind can construct a supposed reality about an immaterial Perfect Being from human reason alone. While I come to the same conclusion, that of believing God is a Perfect Being that is logically necessary, I still am not persuaded by this argument. Furthermore, Saint Thomas Aquinas' critique of this argument is quite compelling and is not examined in this book.
The chapter on cosmological arguments is superb and only further qualifies Groothuis as a proficient thinker. This chapter without question is the chapter I learned the most from. Groothuis engages very difficult scientific and philosophical concepts and communicates them in a way that even the beginner will be able to grasp. Though there are many different versions of the cosmological argument, the chapter hones in on the kalam cosmological argument as put forth by William Lane Craig. The kalam argument is superior to other cosmological arguments in that it supposedly secures the theistic doctrine of ex nihilo if the arguments proves successful (note: a minor quibble of this chapter is that Groothuis purports that the Thomistic cosmological argument does not endorse ex nihilo. I believe this to be false). This specific chapter was sensational - however I was left disappointed that no time was given to addressing the cosmological argument posited by Aquinas. In some respects, the Thomistic cosmological argument is the simplest form for people new to apologetics. The Thomistic version does not get into the technical issues of the metaphysics of time and Big Bang cosmology that the kalam version uses, nor does it require knowledge of the principle of sufficient reason that the Leibnizian version necessitates. While the kalam and Leibnizian versions are logical and sound arguments, they may confusing to people new to apologetics. Because of this, beginners ought to take the time to read this chapter slowly and more than once because of the finer technical details.
Chapters 12-14 are devoted to the design argument and issues relating to it. Groothuis opposes macroevolution and thus goes to great extent to battle Darwinism. Those interested in the philosophy of science will be drawn to these chapters. The chapter focused on intelligent design relies heavily on the work of William Dembski and Michael Behe. These chapters serve as a valuable introduction for those new to discussion between Christian and naturalistic sciences.
Chapter 15 is perhaps the most successful chapter of the entire book as it deals with the moral argument. It is my belief that the moral argument is the most successful argument for the existence of God as it appeals to everyone, Christian, atheist, and non-Christian religious persons. Ethical theory may perhaps be the most widely debated philosophical topic throughout history and thus Groothuis could have taken many approaches when discussing the moral argument. The way he structured his chapter, however, is nearly flawless. Building off his chapter examining truth in the postmodern culture (chapter 7), Groothuis correlates the denial of objective truth to the ridding of objective moral value. He unmercifully attacks moral relativism and brilliantly shows its dangers. He states that cultural relativism reduces to individual relativism, which, in turn, ultimately rests on nihilism. The setup of this reductio ad absurdum points the reader to a moral system that does not reduce to nihilism. Thus, a worldview that embraces objective moral truths must be embraced. Groothuis makes the claim that the source of objective moral truths is found in the absolute Being - God. Groothuis puts for the notion that God is the source of all perfect moral code because he himself is incapable of an evil act as it would be a contradiction of God's Being.
Also included is an argument from religious experience. It is refreshing to see this argument given the attention that it deserves as it is not as predominately seen in apologetics as some of the other arguments already discussed. Groothuis supports the claim that one can know God through some experience of divine reality. He supports this by using the argument from divine longing and numinous experience. The argument from numinous experience is defended well via a phenomenological triad that correlates a revelatory experience to an intentional religious experience. That is, numinous experience, as intentional, find their source outside the person who is experiencing - thus correlating objectively to a divine Being.
The remaining chapters of section two surround arguments of the person and ministry of Jesus Christ. This includes the chapter from Professor Craig Blomberg. Groothuis includes a defense of the incarnation, Jesus' miracles and the resurrection - all while refuting common arguments against these issues. These chapters are an appropriate end to a magnificent examination of the main apologetic methods.
The last section is contains chapters related to a few common objections to Christian theism: religious pluralism, issues surrounding Islam and the perennial problem of evil. The chapter on religious pluralism is wonderfully laid out and carefully examines the American ideal that all religions be treated equally and all lead to salvation. As Groothuis points out, "the dizzying plethora of religious pluralism has led many to believe that no religion can claim to be the only way of salvation. Religions should succumb to a more humble estimation ... in order to avoid religious dogmatism, controversy and strife." Such a statement is a profound summary of the current ideal. Groothuis goes to great lengths to argue against this worldview and states that the Christian worldview is objectively true and the only source of salvation. This chapter not only serves well as a stand-alone chapter, but the material is heightened when read in light of the opening chapters about truth in postmodern contexts. Groothuis examines other world religions and the worldview of perennialism to combat the pluralistic claims - including that of liberal theologian John Hick. This chapter serves well when read in the company of Harold Netland's Encountering Religious Pluralism.
I have attempted to examine and review this monumental work in as much detail as I can. I have left out many things that could otherwise be noted in this review. However, I tried to touch on what I felt was most important. This books lives up to its name and is truly a comprehensive case for the biblical faith. The mastery of difficult topics shows that Groothuis is highly qualified and profoundly motivated in the field of apologetics. This books comes with many treats that other apologetics texts do not offer, such as the argument from religious experience, a chapter on Pascal's anthropological argument and also chapters on Islam and Hell.
No book is perfect, and while Christian Apologetics offers much, it does have a few flaws worth pointing out. Many of my critiques within the main body of this review were centered around exclusion of topics I felt worthwhile. Obviously, Groothuis could not hit on every topic, but the exclusion of subjects like the Thomistic cosmological argument leaves that specific chapter with a hole. Groothuis, at times, also too quickly passes over important objections to Christianity. This is evident in his dealing with the Euthyphro dilemma in the chapter on the moral argument (I believe his response can be considered question-begging by atheistic opposition). His chapter on the problem of evil is perhaps the chapter that kept me wanting most. Considering the book has 26 chapters and two appendixes (including the contributions of Blomberg and Hess), one chapter which lacks is not a bad feat. The problem of evil is only examined significantly under a compatiabilist and Calvinistic standpoint. While I hold neither of these positions, I understand their viewpoint and do not feel as though the problem of evil is argued away sufficiently with these views held.
The book significantly can enhance one's knowledge of the argument and it deeply examines arguments not prevalently seen. The book, however, will be an influential source to any person that needs an introduction to this important field. All in all, this is a great book and one that I would highly recommend to anyone.
Tuesday, December 6, 2011
Friday, December 2, 2011
God, who owns everything, prevail on behalf of your impoverished servant who is in danger of losing his house at the holidays. He is working for your to educate the church on Islam. Come to his aid, Oh God of mercy and provision. Oh, God, restore, renew, and bless supernaturally. Amen
Thursday, December 1, 2011
Tuesday, November 29, 2011
Friday, November 25, 2011
Naturalism and Truth
Charles Darwin: “With me the horrid doubt always arises whether the convictions of man’s mind, which has been developed from the mind of the lower animals, are of any value or at all trustworthy. Would any one trust in the convictions of a monkey’s mind, if there are any convictions in such a mind?” 
Tuesday, November 22, 2011
Monday, November 21, 2011
Sunday, November 20, 2011
Douglas Groothuis, Ph.D., Professor of Philosophy,
Putting Truth to Work: the Biblical View of Truth
Truth is so obscure in these days, and lies so well established, that unless we love the truth, we shall never know it.—Blaise Pascal Pensées.
I. Truth in Christian Witness: Apologetics
A. Jesus is Truth Incarnate and an apologist (John 14:1-6). See Douglas Groothuis, On Jesus, chapter 3.
B. His followers must know the truth and make it known (John 8:31-32;
1 Peter 3:15; Matthew 28:18-20).
Christian worldview: creation/fall/redemption/consummation. Christian Apologetics, chapters 2-3.
II. Truth and Today’s Culture
A. Knowing our culture, for example,
“From Issachar, men who understood the times and knew what
B. Two types of unbelief
1. Postmodernism (Richard Rorty): Truth is socially constructed and variable (relativism or non-realism)
2. Philosophical materialism (Richard Dawkins): Truth is what materialistic science describes (realism); there is no supernatural realm, e.g., God, the soul, spirits, the afterlife
III. The Christian View of Truth: the Nature of Truth
A. A true statement is one that reflects or matches reality (realism or the correspondence view of truth). See Christian Apologetics, chapter 5; Groothuis, Truth Decay, chapter 4.
“And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith”—1 Corinthians 15:14.
B. Truth is objective; not merely subjective
Truth-claims stake out portions of reality through words: “Jesus Christ is Lord” (Philippians 2:5-11).
C. Truth is antithetical, either/or
"He who is not with me is against me, and he who does not gather with me scatters—Matthew 12:30.
D. The Holy Spirit is the Spirit of Truth (John 14:17; 15:26; 16:13). Depend on the Spirit to give us an intelligent and virtuous witness (Acts 1:8).
IV. Against the Postmodern View of Truth
A. Postmodernism often refutes itself: claims truth is not objective, but then claims to be the objective account of truth: “There is no objective truth.”
a. If this statement is true objectively, then it is false. It is, therefore, self-refuting, self-stultifying as an objective truth claim.
b. If the statement is true subjectively, then there no reason to hold the postmodern view of truth as the claim applies to everything as objective, universal claim.
2. Counterexamples against postmodernism showing universal, objective truths:
a. Laws of logic: identity (A=A); noncontradiction (A is not non-A).
b. Objective moral goodness or evil: Mother Theresa or Osama bin Laden; sadistic torture or famine relief; murder or love
B. Challenge postmodernists to pursue the truth and put off laziness: truth counts forever (Luke 9:25). See Christian Apologetics, chapters 6-7.
V. Against Scientific Naturalism
A. If the brain is not designed for truth, and if organisms can survive and reproduce without consciousness or rationality, there is no reason to think our material brains know the truth. Charles Darwin. See Christian Apologetics, chapter 18.
1. We were designed to know God and the world; there is a fit between our being and our knowing of the world (Genesis 1:26-28; Psalm 8).
2. Laws of logic are not physical, but universally and absolutely true ideas (that is, immaterial things).
B. Morality is more than instinct and social conditioning (materialism): values are immaterial truth beyond mere matter. See Christian Apologetics, chapter 15.
VI. Take Biblical Truth to the Streets!
A. Understand the biblical view of truth (realism) and what is true (creation/fall/redemption/consummation) as opposed to postmodernism and scientific naturalism.
B. Therefore, defend Christian truth with competence, confidence, courage, compassion, and creativity (2 Tim. 1:7). There is much at stake (Matthew 25:46).
Sources: Douglas Groothuis, Christian Apologetics A Comprehensive Case for Biblical Faith (InterVarsity Press, 2011); Truth Decay: Defending Christianity Against the Challenges of Postmodernism (InterVarsity Press, 2000); On Jesus (
Friday, November 18, 2011
Douglas Groothuis, Ph.D., Doug.Groothuis@denverseminary.edu
How to Spot a Cult
I. Discerning Truth from Error
A. Christ, the church, and the truth
1. Jesus is Truth Incarnate (John 14:1-6)
2. The church is the pillar and foundation of the truth
3. The truth about God, salvation, ethics, and history is found in the Bible (2 Timothy 3:15-16; 2 Peter 1:20-21)
B. The challenge of theological error
1. The wide road to destruction (Matthew 7:14-14)
2. Paul’s farewell address to the Ephesian elders (Acts 20:20-28)
3. Being rooted in the truth (1 John 4:1-6)
II. What is a Cult?
A. Historically: groups that split off from an established religious body
Christian cults: significant deviations from Christian orthodoxy
B. Scaling the language barrier (Walter Martin)
Cults use Christian vocabulary without using our dictionary (the Bible’s meaning of these terms)
C. Theologically: teachings deny key orthodox beliefs about God and salvation
1. Source of authority: the Bible alone (sola scriptura) or the Bible plus another source?
a. Mormonism: Book of Mormon,
b. Jehovah’s Witnesses: Watchtower Society pronouncements
c. Christian Science: Science and Health with a Key to the Scriptures
d. Other Mind science groups: Unity, Religious Science
2. Understanding of human nature
a. Cults always demote God and promote humans (Walter Martin), thus denying the need for the Cross of Christ
b. Cults deny total depravity and original sin (Mark 7:21-23; Romans 3:9-20)
3. Redefining the person and work of Jesus Christ
a. Cults diminish the work of Christ for our salvation (Galatians 1:6-11)
b. Deny his deity (John 1; Colossians 2:9)
c. Deny his full atonement for sins (Romans 5:1-8)
d. Deny his physical resurrection from the dead (1 Corinthians 15:1-8)
4. Cults deny the gospel of Jesus Christ (Galatians 1:6-11; 2 Corinthians 11:14)
a. The gospel (1 Corinthians 15:1-8; John 3:16-17; Romans 5:1-5; Ephesians 2:8-9)
b. Faith plus good works or mystical experience
Mormons: We do all we can—and God makes up the rest
c. Salvation is found only in Christ (Acts 4:12) and received only by faith (Ephesians 2:8-9)
III. Reaching Those in Cults
A. Know what you believe and why you believe it (Romans 12:1-2)
B. Be prepared for spiritual warfare (Acts 13:1-12; Ephesians 6:10-19; 1 Peter 5:8-9)
C. Be filled with the Holy Spirit (Acts 1:8)
D. Treat the cultist as a human being needing salvation, not on object for evangelism
E. Discern the cultists beliefs and gently challenge them with biblical truth and apologetics (1 Peter 3:15; Jude 3; 2 Corinthians 10:3-5)
Walter Martin, The Kingdom of the Cults. Several editions.
Gordon Lewis, Confronting the Cults (P&R Publishing).
Robert Bowman, Orthodoxy and Heresy (Baker, 1992).
Ron Rhodes, The Challenge of Cults and New Religions (Zondervan, 2001).
Francis Schaeffer, True Spirituality (Tyndale) A classic on living the Christian life biblically. I have read this many times.
Magazine: The Christian Research Journal. See www.equip.org
Thursday, November 17, 2011
Tuesday, November 15, 2011
Sunday, November 13, 2011
Saturday, November 12, 2011
55O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?
56The sting of death is sin; and the strength of sin is the law.
57But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.
58Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye stedfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord.--1 Corinthians 15:55-58, King James Version.
(For more on the problem of evil, see chapter 25 of Christian Apologetics.)