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on March 28, 2012
Ever since CS Lewis's classic work of apologetics, 'Mere Christianity,' there has been a slew of books that uses the 'mere' word in explaining the basics of a certain subject. There is 'Mere Discipleship' by Lee Camp, 'Mere Morality' by Lewis Smedes, and 'Mere theology' by Will Vaus. Most of these books will in some way make some reference back to the great Oxford don and oft-quoted Christian thinker-philosopher. Mere Apologetics is no different. Based on his work on Apologetics both at Oxford and at Regent College, McGrath gives the Christian public a glimpse of his teaching framework that he has used.

McGrath begins his book with some acknowledgement of CS Lewis's influence on him. Like a good teacher aiming to bring even the slowest student up to speed, McGrath defines some basic terms clearly. He talks about what Apologetics is. He makes a difference between 'evangelism' and 'apologetics,' in that the former moves towards commitment while the latter makes commendations for the faith. For McGrath, apologetics basically comprises of three themes: 1) Defending the Faith without being personally defensive; 2) Commending the faith to illuminate its beauty and truth; 3) translating the beliefs into a manner that is comprehensible. The approach McGrath adopts is through 6-steps.

1) Understand the faith;
2) Understand the Audience
3) Clear communications
4) Identify points of contact with the audience
5) Present the whole gospel
6) Continual practice.

McGrath takes the time to present the theological basis of Apologetics, the various contexts that Paul faced during the New Testament times to the Jews, Greeks, and Romans. He proves that Christianity is a very reasonable faith. When engaging an audience, he shows readers 8 clues that can be used to point to a Creator God. He highlights various 'gateways' to open the door to faith: Gateways of explanation, of argument, of stories,and of images. Finally, McGrath tackles some tough questions like suffering, and the criticism of God being used as a crutch for weak minded people. Occasionally, McGrath will drop a hint or two on the incredulous nature of the arguments used by world-renowned atheists like Richard Dawkins.

Closing Thoughts

This book is a good primer to use for any student of Apologetics. It is so clearly framed that anyone new will be able to hang on to the reasoning and relatively complex arguments used. McGrath makes the explanation so simple that one may think it is too easy. Truth is, the contents are serious and deal with hard material. So much so that I feel some of the most important things in Apologetics is not the content or information to say, but the way we say it. I appreciate the basic points McGrath makes with regards to being gracious, objective, be relevant, and be humble. Each chapter has a section to point readers forward to deeper research. Thus, there is something for everybody. For readers new to Apologetics, this book can be used as primer material. For those who are more advanced, this book points to many other helpful resources to build up our learning and our confidence to do apologetics.

Clearly written with wise advice, this book deserves to be on the bookshelves of teachers, pastors, leaders, and anyone interesting in learning how to defend the faith, and to be prepared to give anybody an answer for the hope that Christians have. McGrath is tough on critics but does so in a very respectful way. He has not only taught us how to do Apologetics, he has shown us what manner as well. This book has again showed us how McGrath is able to bridge scholarship, cultural contexts, and engagement techniques with the laypersons in mind.

Do not let the simply written material deceive you. It is backed by scholastic and loads of wisdom in sharing Christ.

Ratings: 5 stars of 5.


"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".
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on February 29, 2012
Alister McGrath is a prodigious author ' not a year goes by without him publishing at least two books. Thankfully, unlike other authors with similar output, McGrath's books always make important contributions to the discussion at the intersection of theology, history, and science. McGrath's recent book Mere Apologetics is no exception. It is both a crash course in Christian apologetics and a sorely needed tune-up of the practice. It is accessible to both pastors and lay people alike and at 208 pages, it is a relatively short, yet engaging, read.

McGrath does a solid job of outlining the various angles, components, and method of apologetics. In doing so, he goes beyond apologetics as usual. This is refreshing because it refuses to reduce apologetics to intellectual arguments. He includes works of fiction as part of the apologetic canon. And yet, what about other forms of art ' visual, music, etc. ' why does McGrath not include them as apologetic resources? Is it because they are considered too 'emotional' and therefore too subjective?

Despite the tendency of 'traditional' apologetics to over emphasize the mind, McGrath's emphasis on the importance of developing the intellect is nevertheless an important reminder to evangelicalism that they need to be intentional about academic formation that goes beyond sectarianism and fighting the 'culture wars' to developing a robust Christian worldview that is capable of engaging our culture both critically and appreciatively.

McGrath's emphasis on taking a gracious and listening approach is also a welcome alternative to the typical modus operandi of Christian apologetics ' no holds barred intellectual pummeling. For McGrath, a gracious apologetic means that there is no such thing as a 'one-size 'fits-all' approach. Rather than the 'plug-and-play' approach where the apologist simply memorizes a response to a particular issue or problem, the apologist's first responsibility is to be a dialogue partner rather than an opponent looking for the jugular. Such a move necessitates moving from anti-thetical critique (you're wrong because your view is different than mine and therefore inadequate) toward transformational/irenic critique (here is how my viewpoint contributes to the discussion and illuminates potential weaknesses in your position; but I am also open to how your viewpoint challenges/corrects my own). The latter approach, I believe, is the most charitable approach. I suppose there is a place for polemics, but it has a tendency to turn nasty quite quickly and ends up amounting to a game of rhetorical brinksmanship that runs counter to Jesus' wisdom to avoid eye-for-an-eye confrontations. Rather than revealing Christ, the end game of apologetics is an apology for reason itself.

Overall, Mere Apologetics is a solid book worth reading for those who are interesting in pursuing the practice of apologetics. While I am still too much of a postmodernist to believe that apologetics is a worthwhile activity (and I would strongly argue that Anselm's Proslogion is more doxological than ontological), McGrath leaves me wondering about the impossible possibility of a 'postmodern apologetics'. Perhaps Mere Apologetics is the first step in that direction.

'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'.
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on February 29, 2012
I recently started church planting in a largely non-Christian neighbourhood of my city. When I got Alister McGrath's book, Mere Apologetics, I thought it would help me beef up my apologetic muscles. However, after reading it, I still can't tell whether I'm lots stronger or just more informed.

On the positive side, the book is a more humble approach to apologetics than those in the past. It doesn't overpromise the role of defending the faith with seekers. Rather it emphasizes its role of clearing the intellectual field of obstacles and painting a compelling picture of Christianity. It also puts it into context with evangelism, which calls people to make a decision. It gives practical tools and approaches and is well laid out, as many of McGrath''s books. I especially enjoyed his chapter on eight pointers to the faith; together they cover the gamut of what warrants belief in the Christian faith. Finally the book addresses the New Atheism movement of the last seven years with writers like Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens.

On the flip side, it lacks a personal tone and is a bit too didactic. It reads more like a book written by a scholar rather than an activist. For example, McGrath has a section for people who are doing apologetic lectures, which is not most of us. It would have been good to have more specific examples and stories of apologetics in action. Overall I''d recommend this book, but not without a more hands-on book to read alongside of it.

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.
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on April 3, 2012
McGrath, a theologian, priest and scientist, tackles what I see as the biggest challenging the church: speaking to people seeking purpose and/or wrestling with doubt. In this and other works, he does confront the issues raised by the new atheism, but without the invective that characterizes his antagonists, such as Hitchens and Dawkins. His main focus is on speaking to the hesitant,the inquisitive and the doubting about reasonable faith in the 21st century.
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on February 28, 2012
I need to confess I've stayed away from Modern Western Apologetics for a number of years. I found they tried to answer questions no-one was asking and answer questions to convince the convinced. It was in a moment of weakness that I agreed to review Mere Apologetics by Alister McGrath and I am so glad I did.

The book is written as an introduction to apologetics by a master of it. McGrath is a teacher who is passionate about having his students understand. At times when I read I was wishing I had him as my teacher when I studied apologetics.

He skillfully outlines the different ways apologetics can and are used and I began to see the reason for my dislike of how I've seen it used most often. I also agreed with his analysis of how it can be best used in various situations. Apologetics is not evangelism, but it goes hand-in-glove with it. I think I said,'Amen!' out loud on the bus when I read his call to love instead of argue people to the faith.

Mere Apologetics is written to introduce people to the field of apologetics. It's a good tool to regularly think about your faith and how to better explain it to those who ask. This book will help you.

"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".
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on February 27, 2012
In the spirit of C. S. Lewis's Mere Christianity, Alister McGrath's Mere Apologetics seeks in his own words to equip readers to engage gracefully and intelligently with the challenges facing the faith today while drawing appropriately on the wisdom of the past. Rather than supplying the fine detail of every apologetic issue in order to win arguments, McGrath aims to teach a method that appeals not only to the mind but also to the heart and the imagination. It is an introduction to apologetics.

Focusing on the core themes of the Christian faith and its effective communication to the non-Christian world, McGrath sees this as a mindset of engagement that interacts with the ideas of our culture rather than running away from them or pretending they can be ignored. His states that his aim is to convert believers into thinkers, and thinkers into believers, engaging our reason, imagination, and our deepest longings. He does not see this as a defence or hostile reaction against the world per se, but sees it as a welcome opportunity to exhibit, celebrate and display the treasure chest of the Christian faith. He encourages believers to appreciate their faith and to explain, and commend it to those outside the church, in all its intellectual, moral imaginative and relational richness. (p.11).

McGrath states that he is not committed to any particular school of apologetics but drawn on their collective riches. Although not defined as such, I would see his approach as primarily an evidentialism approach to apologetics with slight hints of presuppositionalism and classical apologetics. He takes great pains to avoid using such terminology and states that he will give "pointers to more advanced resources that will allow you, the reader, to take things further in your own time" (p.12).

Starting at perhaps a classical apologetic base, McGrath begins with Augustine, and quotes 1 Pt. 3:15 seeing apologetics is essentially "a defence" (15). He states the basic themes of apologetics, first with defending (p.17). Searching out the barriers to faith, arising from misunderstanding or misrepresentation he draws on apologetics like Pascal and shows how apologetics engages the mind (Mt. 22:37; Rom. 12:2). Secondly, in Commending, he sets out to allow the truth and relevance of the gospel to be appreciated by the audience (p.19). Third, in Translating, he draws on apologists like Lewis to show how the Christian faith is likely to be unfamiliar to may audiences and the need for it to be explained using familiar or accessible images, terms, or stories (p.20). He distinguishes apologetics from evangelism (p.21) and gives the limitations of apologetics (p.23).

Chapter two moves from Modernity to Post modernity showing how each age generates its own specific concerns and critiques of the Christian faith (p.28). McGrath defines his approach in first understanding the faith, the audience, communicate with clarity, find points of contact, present the whole gospel, and practice, practice, practice. He is helpful in specifics such as finding points of contact through the witness of history that are already embedded in human culture and experience (Acts 14:17) but misses a key opportunity to succinctly define what he means when he says in presenting the whole gospel. A simple, succinct, scriptural statement is woefully lacking on this point.

In the third chapter McGrath specifies that apologetics is not a set of techniques for winning people to Christ or a set of argumentative templates designed to win debates, but a willingness to work with God in helping people discover and turn to his glory (p.41). The approach almost seems anti-Christocentric, and frankly made me a bit nervous at this point. Thankfully he begins with setting things in context with a story from the ministry of Jesus in Mark 1. McGrath seems to be drawing on more presuppositional thoughts in specifying that conversion is not brought about by human wisdom or reasoning, but is in its deepest sense something that is brought about by God (1 Cor. 2:5). He is a little weak in saying that human nature is only wounded and damaged by sin (and not dead in trespasses and sin) yet accurately states that people are not capable of seeing thing as they are (2 Cor. 4:4). He concludes the chapter in a very helpful picture of how the cross and resurrection of Christ achieves victory over sin and death, brings healing to broken and wounded humanity and demonstrates the love of God for humanity.

Using Peter's Pentecost sermon (Acts 2), Paul's sermon to the Athenian philosophers (Acts 17), and Paul's legal speeches to the Romans (Acts 24-26) McGrath sums up their approaches to address specific audiences, identify the authorities and use lines of argument that will carry weight with the audience (p.68).

McGrath then goes on to show the "Reasonableness of the Christian Faith" showing how apologetics is an important tool in "persuading people that Christianity makes sense" (71). His evidential base shines here in his statements of how apologetics shows that there is a good argumentative or evidential base for core beliefs of Christianity. He sees such an approach to include developing intellectual arguments for the existence of God, or historical arguments for the resurrection of Jesus (p.72). His metaphysical treatment of science is insightful showing how science can give explanation as the identification of causes, the quest for the best explanation and the metanarrative of the unification of our view of reality. For someone who is so careful to avoid terms to classify each approach of apologetics, this chapter certainly defines elements of an evidentialism approach. .

Chapter six, Pointers to Faith: Approaches to Apologetic Engagement, has some of the best apologetics treatment in the book. In the section entitled Clues, Pointers and Proofs he moves into the concept of `worldviews` to signs pointing to the greater reality of God. He makes an important point that `No one is going to be able to prove the existence of God... yet one can consider all the clues that point in this direction and take pleasure in their cumulative force` (p.95). McGrath then gives clues from origins of the universe, design, structure, morality (ontology), desire-longing, beauty, relationally, and eternality in how they all weave together clues as to a pattern. These address "both the `reason within' and the `reason without'--the rationality of the human mind, and that embedded in the deep structure of the universe" (102). He contends that these identifying "clues about the meaning of the universe . . . are significant pointers to the capacity of the Christian faith to make sense of life" (121). He charges that the apologist then must demonstrate how these pointers actually direct us to the reality God has graciously revealed in his Word.

Chapter seven moves into Gateways for Apologetics in Opening the Door to Faith. McGrath states how the classical rational defence of the faith is largely ineffective in the contemporary post-modern culture. He states that ``Apologetics is about building bridges, allowing people to cross from the world they already know to one they need to discover. It is about helping people to find doors they may never have known about, allowing them to see and enter a world that exceeds anything they could have imagined`` (p.127). He states how we must answer questions such as: Who am I? Do I really matter? Why am I here? Can I make a difference? It must be kept in mind that: ``Neither science nor human reason can answer these questions. Yet unless they are answered life is potentially meaningless... There are times when it is just as important to show Christianity is real as it is to show it is true' (p. 138). We must remember that ``Many Christians... prefer to use commend our faith. Yet we need to be aware that, in a post-modern context, images [have] special authority and power, transcending the limitations placed on words' (p. 149). Linking historical examples, he moved from approaches of explanation, argument (from design, origination, coherence and morality), stories to images. He provides some of the most balanced treatments in this section giving both arguments, examples and critiques of each approach.

If it is not quite evident at this point, the challenge of apologetics is enormous: ``Apologetics is about communicating the joy, coherence, and relevance of the Christian faith on the one hand, and dealing with anxieties, difficulties and concerns about that faith on the other`` (p. 157). McGrath encourages the apologetics to develop a personal approach in reflecting on: ``the questions being asked, the situation of the people asking them, and the resources available to answer them, yet never to give an answer to a question that doesn't satisfy you in the first place`` (p.159). He then proceeds to give some basic points to be gracious, consider the real question, and don't give pre-packaged answers to honest questions. Real biblical wisdom is employed here by McGrath: ``One way of dealing with this issue that I have found helpful is to welcome the question, and then ask the questioner if he would mind sharing why this is a particular concern for him. This helps me work out what the real question is and address it properly (p.161). Finally, McGrath suggests we learn from other apologists, in noting both the tone and content of their responses. In putting the theory to practice, McGrath considers two of the most common challenges in apologetics of why God allows suffering, and if Christianity is just a crutch. He considers these topics theologically and then provides apologetic responses. If this wasn't insightful enough, McGrath explains why he approached these question in the manner in which he did.

The final paragraph sums up the book well: ``This short book can never hope to teach you everything about the science and art of apologetics. It can only get you started. yet hopefully if will have gotten you interested in this field, and helpful you to appreciate why apologetics is to stimulating and important. Don't be discouraged if you have found the ideas difficult to master or apply. This book simply maps out the territory, now it's up to you to explore in depth and in detail-something that is both fascinating and worthwhile. And how many things in this life are like that? (p. 185). The sections ``For Further Reading`` at the end of each chapter enable the research to continue. The rest is up to each apologist. The rationale, theory, and explanations are given for the task. There are no excuses left. This is no mere theoretical exercise, souls are at state.

My only wish, was that McGrath would have included the technical categories, at least in footnotes, to allow for precise classification and further study. Without these, the book becomes limited for formal study in a seminary or bible college. For the everyday reader, it is hard to come up with a more comprehensive yet readable volume for defending the faith. May God use this work to change lives for His kingdom.

"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".
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on February 24, 2012
C.S. Lewis wrote a highly respected piece of literature titled 'Mere Christianity' which carried with it an apologetic tone. Alister E. McGrath has followed suit in writing his book 'Mere Apologetics' modeled after C.S. Lewis' work. In his book, subtitled 'How to Help Seekers & Skeptics Find Faith', McGrath elaborately provides the definition of Apologetics and its uses. The term comes from the Greek word 'Apologia' which means the defense of the faith. McGrath fulfills reader expectations by thoroughly defining apologetics along with its proper uses alongside evangelistic techniques. He aids the reader in understanding some modern terms such as Post-Modernity in the 21st Century, provides the theological basis for apologetics, and instructs the reader to abide by wisdom when interacting with different audiences. To put it plainly, Mere Apologetics is a handbook for Christians to not only understand the realm of apologetics, but to also put it to good use.

I have personally found the book to not only be enriching in knowledge, but also insightful in application. As a post-secondary student you discover that basic knowledge and experience in apologetics is absolutely necessary to witness to classmates and professors. My library collection contains quite a number of books on apologetics, however none have provided a clear-cut strategy and biblical basis for carrying it out effectively as Alister E. McGrath has in his penning of Mere Apologetics. I highly recommend this to every reader and every student whose interest lies in evangelism and apologetics, it is an absolute must-read.

This 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.
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