Though there are a few dissenters, it is a commonly held belief, across a wide spectrum of Christian denominations and theological persuasions, that Christians are to engage in apologetics. In short, Christians are commanded to defend the faith once delivered to the saints against the attacks of unbelief, in response to questions by those genuinely seeking to understand it, and for believers to be built up in their faith. While the command to do apologetics is clear, it is not so clear as to how to do apologetics. This is where the unity around doing apologetics as an aspect of discipleship turns into vast diversity on the method of apologetics.
Just like there are many theological systems through which to view systematic or biblical theology, so there are many different apologetic methods championed by a diversity of Christian apologists. There are many books supporting each method and even within the same method there can be several branches with diverging views on various aspects. Make no mistake, there are many believers and unbelievers who have been genuinely helped through all of the apologetics methods. There are genuine Christians who support each view and who, at times, strongly disagree with some views to the point that they believe they are detrimental to the Christian faith. Everyone believes their method is the best. Some of these approaches complement each other and some of them are at great odds with one another. With so many views and books to read, where does one begin to weight the pros and cons of each method?
This is why I am excited about Mapping Apologetics: Comparing Contemporary Approaches by Brian K. Morley (IVP, 2015). Morley is a professor of philosophy and apologetics at The Master’s College in Santa Clarita, CA and is the founder of the apologetics ministry . “The focus of the book,” says Morley, “is on understanding the theories and how they see each other.” (11) Of the ten major views which Morley believes are most prominent he judiciously lays out the details of five of them (presuppositionalism, reformed epistemology, combinationalism, classical apologetics, and evidentialism), giving fair critique from his own evaluation, and, perhaps most beneficially, gives critique of each view from those who support the other views he presents.
There are a number of different ways in which one could chart and compare each apologetic method. Morley has chosen to chart the views according to how each view appeals to independent evidence to support their conclusion(s) (25). So, what evidence does said view have for the certainty with which it holds to belief in God? While fedism and rationalism are the exact opposites on the chart, neither is addressed in the book at length. Therefore, the opposites of the book are presuppositionalism (which appeals to the transcendental argument for its certainty but not independent evidence) and evidentialism as its opposite (which appeals to multiple lines of independent facts as support for its certainty).
There are a number of reasons why I think this book is beneficial to those interested in apologetics. First, avid readers of apologetics will immediately notice that Morley has gone out of his way to accurately present the positions of each person he interacts with. The footnotes are evidence of this along with his mentioning of the numerous emails and in-person discussions he has had with most of the apologists mentioned in the book. I believe each apologist mentioned would be pleased with Morley’s presentation of their positions.
Second, as mentioned earlier, I think one of the most beneficial aspects of the book is the critique Morley gives to each view and that he presents from other apologists. One would be hard pressed to determine Morley’s own view (he does not give it) from the book because of how fairly he critiques each. Morley’s ability to judiciously critique each position shows that he gets what each view is saying. He does not offer straw-man critiques but rather, fair and substantive interaction with what he believes are weaknesses with each view.
Third, repetition, repetition, and more of it. While usually repetition in a book can become distracting, Morley is intent on using it as a means of effectively communicating his points. He wants to be clear enough for those without an apologetics background to be able to grasp the core beliefs of each method. He uses repetition to be clear and keep the reader from needlessly bouncing back and forth throughout the book in order to review what has been previously discussed.
Finally, this book, in many ways, gets to the heart of the dividing line between the various apologetic methods in a way that is not achieved in many comparative views books (though those are beneficial). Morley ably points to enough of the theological underpinnings of each view to show how they shape the structure and direction of the method. This gets at a point which comes to the forefront of discussions on methodology: ones theology (especially on the nature of man and the Bible) shapes ones apologetic method.
Mapping Apologetics is a must have for every student of apologetics. It will serve as a great textbook for apologetics classes and serves as a good basis from which to launch further into each view. Though at times I don’t think he has quite reach his goal, Morley has for the most part been clear and understandable enough for someone just getting into the subject to walk away with a satisfactory understanding of each view. This will be a book I will return to time and time again to further my understanding of the various apologetic views.
Further, any good book like this leaves the reader itching for more. Morley does not have, nor would he says he has had, the last word on what he has addressed. Maybe others in a similar position will be inspired to write in a similar vein. More can be said and I hope he returns pen to paper to explore more issues within the various methods. Morley is a person I would want to learn more from even where I might disagree with him.
I received this book for free from IVP for this review. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”