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Book review: Christian Apologetics: An introduction by Alister E. McGrath

23 February 2024

John Inge commends a book about the wise practice of apologetics

PROFESSOR Alister McGrath is one of the foremost theologians of his generation and also a very considerable scientist. Latterly, he has devoted much of his immense wisdom and energy to apologetics, having been President of the Oxford Centre for Christian Apologetics from 2006 until 2013. This book is essentially a considerably reworked edition of lectures given to student audiences during that time.

Not only is the author extremely erudite: he also has an exceptional gift for clear communication, which makes him a brilliant apologist. His accessible style, evident throughout this volume, makes the book an ideal introduction to Christian apologetics. It succeeds, with flying colours, in the aim articulated in the title.

One very unfortunate problem about apologetics is that many intelligent Christians would not even know what it was. With characteristic clarity, the author explains that apologetics aims “to establish the plausibility of the proclamation of the salvation of Christ”, clearing the ground for evangelism.

Today, more than ever, Christians need to be able to give an account for the faith that is in them, one that is not only plausible, but attractive, because, as McGrath rightly observes, truth may convince people, but beauty attracts people (his italics). He points out more than once that apologetics is both a science and an art: it involves a solid understanding of the Christian faith, and the ability to commend it attractively.

The book gives an introduction and covers some historical themes before considering the rationality of faith. It then looks at connecting the Christian faith with the human situation, and explores points of human contact for the Christian faith. It considers the power of story and the importance of taking account of different audiences, before, finally, looking at common apologetic debates (e.g. the problem of suffering, God as wish-fulfilment) and giving some case studies from wise apologists such as G. K Chesterton, Dorothy Sayers, and Charles Taylor.

I recommend this book to anyone who wants to reflect on their faith, whether or not they have to defend or commend it. I hope that the fact that it is unashamedly designed as a textbook will not put off the general reader who does not need or want to use it for that purpose.

Dr John Inge is the Bishop of Worcester.

Christian Apologetics: An introduction
Alister E. McGrath
Wiley Blackwell £23.99

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