A Little Primer on Humble Apologetics.
ASA associate member James Sire, formerly InterVarsity Press editorial director, with a Ph.D. from the University of Missouri, is the author of The Universe Next Door, Scripture Twisting, Why Good Arguments Often Fail, and many other books. This book is a "primer, a very first book exploring the nature of Christian apologetics, which, simply defined, is a defense of the Christian faith," according to the author. This short book, dedicated to the famous apologist, Francis Schaeffer, contains endnotes, a short bibliography in chapter five, scripture index, and subject index.
Its six chapters can be stated in the form of questions with Sire giving the answers.
Q: What is apologetics?
A: It is the simple presentation of a case for biblical truth, most notably the central truth of Jesus Christ as the Son of God and Savior.
Q: What is the value of apologetics?
A: Apologetics is good for the soul and character of the apologists and the character of the Christian community.
Q: What are the limits of apologetics?
A: Apologetics can offer reasonable evidence for the truths of the Christian faith, but it cannot offer knock-down proof.
Q: What are the contexts of apologetics?
A: Apologetics can be offered in formal or informal situations, to hostile or friendly audiences, and under time constraints or open-ended.
Q: What are the arguments of apologetics?
A: Apologetics offers the case for Jesus, the case for the historical reliability of the Gospels, the case for the coherence of the Christian worldview, the arguments for individual aspects of the Christian faith, and the case for a personal experience of God.
Q: What is the call to apologetics?
A: The call to be an apologist is from God, to God, and for God; it involves a focus on Bible study, prayer, and reading on issues relating to real life.
Sire writes in an engaging and insightful manner, with personal experiences included which make the reading relevant and interesting. He does not hold himself up as a highly successful apologist, but recounts occasions when he has witnessed to large groups and to individuals. Sire writes: "I must confess, though, that though I have accumulated thousands of frequent flyer miles, I have not been very successful in generating significant spiritual conversations" (p. 69).
Sire concludes his book with traits helpful to a Christian apologist. These include passions for truth, holiness, people, communication, positive judgment of Christian friends, success in academic work, and enjoying apologetic endeavors.
This is a welcome addition to books on apologetics. The word "humble" in its title calls attention to the words of Paul to Timothy: "The Lord's servant must not quarrel; instead, he must be kind to everyone, able to teach, not resentful" (2 Tim. 2:24). Any Christian seeking to carry out the Great Commission would profit from reading Sire's thoughts.
Reviewed by Richard Ruble, John Brown University, Siloam Springs, AR 72761.