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Publication Date: 2013
In an age when the works of "New Atheists" such as Christopher Hitchens and Richard Dawkins fill bookstores and top best-seller lists, the topic of Christian apologetics has never been more timely. Yet the thought of defending the faith against the attacks of unbelievers is daunting to many Christians. Following in the footsteps of groundbreaking apologist Cornelius Van Til, Scott Oliphint has written an accessible introduction to Reformed apologetics, explaining the biblical and theological principles behind a distinctly "covenantal" approach and offering practical guidance for interacting with and persuading those who dont believe. Written for leaders and laypeople alike, this book will encourage and equip Christians to boldly proclaim the gospel and answer the challenges of skeptics in an increasingly skeptical world.
-Richard B. Gaffin Jr.,
Professor of Biblical and Systematic Theology, Emeritus, Westminster Theological Seminary
In a day marked by shallow thinking, weak reasoning, and arguments lacking in both theological and biblical depth, Oliphint offers an arsenal of apologetic insight. His affirmation and exposition of a covenantal apologetic brings a vital biblical and theological dimension to the apologetic task. Believers seeking to give an answer for the hope that is in us will enthusiastically receive this book.
-R. Albert Mohler Jr.,
President and Joseph Emerson Brown Professor of Christian Theology, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary
K. Scott Oliphint has done a service for the church in wonderfully translating the venerable Van Tillian apologetic approach into more accessible categories. By laying out the principles and practice of covenantal apologetics, Oliphint moves beyond mere description to the actual practice of apologetics in the contemporary world. Grounded in Scripture and Reformed theology, upholding the lordship of Christ in all of life, eschewing neutrality in our thinking, and tackling the hard cases of the problem of evil, naturalistic evolution, and Islam, Oliphint in a step-by-step way teaches us how to defend Christianity in a biblically faithful and persuasive manner. I highly recommend this work for anyone who is serious about engaging people with the truth of the gospel.
-Stephen J. Wellum,
Professor of Christian Theology, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary; Editor, The Southern Baptist Journal of Theology
Whatever your view and practice of defending your faith, Covenantal Apologetics will both motivate and equip you for the task in a way that is persuasive, winsome, clearly structured, thoroughly biblical, and most importantly, Christ-exalting. Dr. Oliphint explains how much we lose by seeking to engage unbelievers on their own turf of rational skepticism. He compares it to trying to get out of Oz by simply following the Yellow Brick Road of unbelief. Rather than giving a one-size-fits-all approach to apologetics, he roots us in the unequivocal authority of Gods existence and his self-revelation, and brings principles down to earth by providing potential conversations with a humanist, an atheist, an evolutionist, and a Muslim. If you want to grow in your confidence in Scripture, your evangelistic fruitfulness, and your love for the Savior, read this book.
Director of Worship, Sovereign Grace Ministries; author, Worship Matters: Leading Others to Encounter the Greatness of God
Engaging unbelief is the work of every believer in a post-Christian culture. In everyday conversations (offline and online) pluralism demands we give equal value to all religious beliefs. To stabilize us in this culture, we turn to Gods revelation in Scripture. Drawing from his own experience and offering concrete dialogues, apologist Scott Oliphint models a Christian response to unbelief and has delivered the type of book we desperately needbiblically grounded, God-centered, jargon-pruned, and clearly written. Covenantal Apologetics is an essential tool to meet unbelief with the hope inside usthe hope of the gospel.
Content Strategist, Desiring God Ministries; author, Lit!: A Christian Guide to Reading Books
With seismic changes in our societys perception of lifeand especially of human rightsthe need for Christians to give reason for their faith is even greater today. Scott Oliphint comes to our aid by bringing what is often food that only giraffes can eat (the field technically called apologetics) right down to the grasp of Christs lambs. Here is a book that will enable you to argue intelligently from Scripture, in the midst of a plethora of false philosophies and religions, as to why the world needs Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord. So come to the table, O lambs of Christ, and enjoy a culinary experience you once only wistfully watched at a distance!
Senior Pastor, Kabwata Baptist Church in Zambia, Africa
Covenantal Apologetics places the defense of the Christian faith where it belongs: in a rich texture of appropriate contexts, beginning with the self-revelation of the triune God in the Bible and his created universe, and the covenantal relationship of all people (rebellious and redeemed) with their personal Creator. Instead of offering formulaic arguments to win debating points, Oliphint urges Christians to bring a full-orbed theology of God and humanity, of creation and redemption, along with dependence on the sovereign Spirit of God, as we winsomely and forthrightly engage proponents of unbelief and other beliefs. Especially helpful is the opportunity to hear principles translated into practice by listening in on sample dialogues with spokespersons for humanism, atheism, and Islam.
-Dennis E. Johnson,
Professor of Practical Theology, Westminster Seminary California
Few people have thought as deeply and carefully as Scott Oliphint about the relationship between confessional Reformed theology and Christian apologetics. There has been much talk in recent years about covenantal apologetics, but it has consisted mainly of informal discussions scattered across the blogosphere. What has been sorely needed is a definitive book-length exposition by a well-regarded scholarly advocate. No one is better qualified than Dr. Oliphint to take on that task, and he has not disappointed. This book clearly explains the theological foundations of covenantal apologetics and illustrates its application in real-world conversations with unbelievers.
-James N. Anderson,
Associate Professor of Theology and Philosophy, Reformed Theological Seminary, Charlotte; author, Paradox in Christian Theology
Oliphints refreshingly Christ-centered approach to persuasively engaging unbelievers with the truth of God equips readers not merely for an intellectual contest of demolishing arguments, but also for a spiritual battle against the suppression of truth in the human heart.
Bible Teacher; author, Seeing Jesus in the Old Testament Bible study series
I am grateful to see Oliphint taking Reformed apologetics in a more accessible, less technical, and richly biblical-theological direction. His approach to apologetics is uniquely centered on Gods revelation in Christ and emphasizes persuasion aimed at the heart over argumentation targeting the head alone. The book goes beyond merely discussing principles to presenting thorough case studies demonstrating how the principles of covenantal apologetics can be put into practice. As a professor and pastor, I will recommend this to many people and assign it in my apologetics courses.
-Justin S. Holcomb,
Executive Director of the Resurgence; Adjunct Professor of Theology and Philosophy, Reformed Theological Seminary, Orlando
Scripturally based, historically informed, theologically astute, and contemporarily relevant, Covenantal Apologetics equips one intellectually and spiritually.
Editor, The Works of Jonathan Edwards; Director, The Jonathan Edwards Center, Yale University
Dr. Oliphints new book elegantly displays the theological consistency of covenantal apologetics while demonstrating the practical usefulness of this apologetic method in addressing a variety of contemporary challenges to Christian faith. Perhaps most importantly, this book provides sturdy motivation for engaging nonbelievers, directing us to place our confidence not in our own apologetic prowess, but in the gospels power, Scriptures authority, and the Holy Spirits activity.
Dean, Sovereign Grace Ministries Pastors College
I appreciate the way Oliphint deals with the necessity of the lordship of Christ. He is Lord of all, which means that while truth is not relative, as Gods truth it has relational implications and applications. Oliphints emphasis regarding covenantal apologetics standing on the truth of Christs lordship is critical to the task, especially in our postmodern culture.
-Charles H. Dunahoo,
Editor, Equip to Disciple Magazine; Former Coordinator, PCA CEP; Chairman, Westminster Theological Seminary Board of Directors; author, Making Kingdom Disciples: A New Framework
As a teacher I have been crying out for an apologetic primer that would help to demystify a presuppositional method, demonstrate the exegetical and biblical-theological basis for this method, and give some idea as to what this might look like in the real world with real people. Oliphints Covenantal Apologetics fills this need. It is not only principled and practical, but pastoral. For those looking to give reasons for hope, I recommend it.
Academic Vice Principal and Tutor in Apologetics, Oak Hill College, London
Covenantal Apologetics is carefully written, with close attention to detail. It is clear, compelling and cogent. I recommend it to every careful student of this important subject.
Senior Fellow of Theology, New St. Andrews College; Pastor, Christ Church, Moscow, Idaho
Every pastor and preacher is a persuader, and this book provides not only the theological rationale but also practical help in that task of persuasion. Those who are committed to a gospel-centered ministry will be both inspired and instructed by Scott Oliphints insights. Ministries will be strengthened and made more effective by adopting this biblically based and God-honoring paradigm of covenantal apologetics.
Minister, First Presbyterian Church, Portadown, Northern Ireland; former Moderator of the General Assembly, The Presbyterian Church in Ireland
Too often books on Christian apologetics get lost in a labyrinth of complications. Such is not the case with Scott Oliphints book. It establishes the biblical basis for apologetics by showing how Scripture and the lordship of Christ are vital for the communication of Christian truth. With its accent on apologetics as covenantal, it is clear, practical, coherent, and persuasivewhich is, after all, what one wants when looking for reasons for believing something. Oliphints approach does not remain in a theoretical comfort zone, but tackles problems of unbelief that confront us every time we access the media. If you have never read a book on apologetics, this is it!
Dean, Faculté Jean Calvin, Aix-en-Provence, France; author, Taking the Bible at Its Word and Cross Words
This book will become known as helpful among students and campus ministries. Oliphint effectively persuades the reader to defend the faith by his clear explanation of the loving covenantal relationship between God and his people, the redemptive work of Jesus, and the encouragement of the Holy Spirit.
National Coordinator, Reformed University Ministries
In attempting to put to rest the term presuppositional, Oliphint integrates the best insights from his philosophical expertise in the Westminster Seminary tradition with the best insights from the Westminster Assembly theological tradition. The result: a book that aims at both the mind and the heart. As a pastor, I welcome books that offer a consistently Reformed approach to a defense of Christianity, for they are few and far between. This may be the best one yet.
Senior Minister, Faith Vancouver Presbyterian Church; coauthor, A Puritan Theology
What sets this book apart is Oliphints insistence that the person and work of Jesus Christ take center stage in every apologetic discussion. Following Van Til, he relentlessly rallies us around the banner of the self-attesting Christ of Scripture. Although Oliphints apologetic approach is theologically and philosophically sophisticated, he makes it understandable and practical for ordinary Christians. Covenantal Apologetics is a great starting point for thinking about the gospel in the contemporary world of ideas.
Assistant Director of Academic Affairs, Sovereign Grace Ministries Pastors College
Dr. Oliphint has given us a very important presentation of Christian apologetics for our day. His discussions draw heavily from Scripture in ways that are accessible to a wide range of Christian readers. He stands in the stream of presuppositional apologetics, and he makes great strides toward dealing with contemporary challenges to the faith. Followers of Christ who want to reach the lost will find this book invaluable.
President, Third Millennium Ministries
Covenantal Apologetics succeeds in proving the biblical-covenantal terms for the framework of an unashamed Reformed apologetic. I heartily recommend it, especially those seeking a thorough introduction to this vital discipline. But let the reader be warned: this book will only repay careful and meditative reflection. It requires patient investment of time and mental energy. Those in or aspiring to pastoral ministry will find help to prepare Gods people for works of service, providing reasons to a dying generation for our hope in our Savior. Those tasked with teaching in seminaries will find both academic stimulus and exegetical broadening. All of us already persuaded by Van Til will do well to recast our presuppositionalism into this readily defensible and covenant-biblical frame.
Principal, John Wycliffe Theological College, Johannesburg, South Africa
Even those who do not embrace Reformed theology or presuppositional apologetics will realize that Covenantal Apologetics offers a consistent apologetic approach. It is internally coherent, but also in line with the scriptural message and with Van Tils heritage. The latter has often been discussed in highly academic terms, but until now I am unaware of a practical and fairly popular presentation of this approach. This text helps fill this gap, as it presents covenantal apologetics in an accessible way to church members, pastors, and others who may not have formal theological training. The book offers precious examples of apologetic practice and is therefore useful to equip every Christian to tackle concrete situations where a defense of the faith is needed. The more academically inclined, however, will enjoy the fact that the principles behind the concrete examples remain clearly visible and solid.
Professor, Philosophy of Science, North-West University, Potchefstroom, South Africa
Scott Oliphints Covenantal Apologetics is an important contribution to the literature on Van Tils application of Reformed theology to the discipline of apologetics. Judicious, well written, and refreshingly accessible, Oliphints analysis is a compelling translation of an approach to defending the faith that insists, among other things, that because human beings are covenant creatures who live and move and have their being in the world created and providentially sustained by the covenant-keeping God, The only way properly to see yourself, the world, or anything else, is through the spectacles of Scripture. Highly recommended.
-Paul Kjoss Helseth,
Associate Professor of Christian Thought, Northwestern College; author, Right Reason and the Princeton Mind: An Unorthodox Proposal
In a pluralistic world, Covenantal Apologetics expertly equips pastors, teachers, parents, and students with a superior biblical and theological framework for defending the faith in the public square. For Christians who seek to have a credible voice at the Areopagus of our day, this book will help them to dismantle unbelieving worldviews with razor-sharp precision while honoring Gods redemptive mission. Oliphint reminds readers that any form of Christian apologetics divorced from the Triune Gods covenant realities will send the church on a fools errand. Covenantal Apologetics is faithful to the Bible, the gospel, and redemptive history. This book should be read widely.
-Anthony B. Bradley,
Associate Professor of Theology and Ethics, The King's College
J. Luis Dizon5 Stars Out Of 5Wonderful Intro to ApologeticsSeptember 21, 2015J. Luis DizonQuality: 5Value: 5Meets Expectations: 5Apologetics is thought of by some to be an arcane discipline, and the Presuppositional brand of apologetics to be even more so. However, that may be because the work of translating Van Tils thought into more understandable terms is still ongoing. Hence, a book such as K. Scott Oliphints Covenantal Apologetics: Principles and Practice in Defense of Our Faith goes a long way towards taking this apologetic methodology and translating it into terms that is clear, understandable and highly practical for the Christian living a world of unbelievers and false religionists.
In this book, Oliphint discusses a number of pertinent issues in this book. He discusses the biblical foundations for apologetics, as well as the importance of the rhetorical appeals (logos, pathos and ethos) in presenting ones case in a persuasive manner. He then discusses such topics as the problem of evil (showing how the Reformed answer to the problem makes more sense biblically than the Arminian free-will defense), as well as the modern atheist hi-jacking of reason and logic (where Oliphint shows that the atheist really has no grounding for his logical appeals).
A quick note, however, on his discussion of Islam: In chapter seven, Oliphint attempts a critique of Islam, but his discussion is philosophically bent and may not be overly helpful in witnessing to Muslims. For that, I would recommend first reading James R. Whites What Every Christian Needs to Know About the Quran (which I have also reviewed) before diving into Oliphints discussion of the same topic.
Overall, Covenantal Apologetics is a good introduction on how to do apologetics, and can serve as a textbook for both individual study and small group classes on the topic. Perhaps the most helpful part is at the end of chapter one where Oliphint lists other works on Presuppositional Apologetics (listed in order from easiest to most complex). So I would advise everyone to grab this book, and then to grab the rest of the books he lists.
DavidBecancour, QCAge: 25-34Gender: male3 Stars Out Of 5A BOOK REVIEW OF COVENANTAL APOLOGETICS BY K. SCOTNovember 15, 2013DavidBecancour, QCAge: 25-34Gender: maleQuality: 3Value: 3Meets Expectations: 4Christian Apologetics is, essentially, active evangelism. It is the presentation, explanation and defense of the Christian faith. K. Scott Oliphint, who holds a B.S. from West Texas State University, and a M.A.R., Th.M., and a PhD. from WestMinster Theological Seminary, and is professor of Apologetics and Systematic Theology at WestMinster Theological Seminary, has just published a book which seeks to present an introduction of the principles of Presuppositional Apologetics, as well as to provide examples of how to put this method into action. In this book review I will begin by explaining the authors purpose, how he goes about attaining his purpose, and I will finish with some remarks as to the positive and negative aspects of this book.
The author's proposed purpose is to "set out (what has been called) a presuppositional approach to apologetics. As will become clear, however, I hope to do that in a way that is relatively free of technical vocabulary. (p. 25)" At the beginning of the first chapter Oliphint breaks down this goal into two aspects. First, "to lay out the primary biblical and theological principles that must be a part of any covenantal defense of Christianity. (p. 29)" Secondly, "to demonstrate how these principles might be applied against certain objections. (p. 30)" The author says that, in order to accomplish this goal he will, first of all, "attempt to move past a somewhat common description of apologetics and apply a new label. (p. 25)" Secondly, "move discussions about a Ã¢â¬Ëpresuppositional' approach to apologetics past simply laying out the principles that must be included in it. (p. 25)" Thirdly, "translate the language, concepts, and ideas set forth in Van Til's Reformed apologetic into language, terms and concepts that are more accessible. (p. 26)" This will include translating "much of what is meant in Van Til's own writings from their often philosophical and technical contexts to a more basic biblical and theological context. (p. 26)" The author hopes to show that "apologetics must (1) be Christian and (2) have a theological foundation.(p. 38)"
Oliphint divides this task into seven main sections. Chapter 1 seeks to set the stage for the rest of the book by grounding the task of Apologetics on a properly Biblical and Christian foundation. In the first chapter he explains how the lordship of Christ should control the entire apologetical enterprise, provides the reasons why he would like to change the name of his method from "presupposional" to "covenantal". He goes onto provide what he sees as the biblical context for knowledge of God, and the ten foundational principles of covenantal apologetics. Chapter 2 seeks to ground covenantal apologetics in an appropriate understanding of the nature of God. In so doing he interacts with Immanuel Kant's division between faith and reason. He also explains how to interact with an argument, and demonstrates how this is to be done, first, by explaining an event that involved Richard Dawkins and a skeptical society, and secondly by interacting with an argument presented by Anthony Kenny against classical theism. Chapter 3 seeks to "clarify ways in which our basic principles (the ten tenets) relate to the notion of proof in apologetics.(p. 87)" This is done primarily through a discussion and application of Paul's address to the Greeks at the Aeropagus, in Acts 17. In this chapter he provides a brief analysis of what a proof is and is capable of accomplishing, as well as the notion of burden of proof. This chapter finishes with a brief look at some classical demonstrations for the existence of God, and an example conversation between a humanist and a Covenant Apologist. In chapter 4 Oliphint discusses the trivium of the ancient and medieval world, and then introduces what he calls the trivium of covenantal apologetics. In this chapter he discusses the use of rhetoric in apologetics, and argues that apologetics is much more about persuasion than about demonstration. Here he considers Aristotle's three aspects of Rhetoric in their application to Christian apologetics. In Chapter 5 Oliphint describes how to engage in negative apologetics (destroying arguments against Christianity), and positive apologetics (recommending Christianity). In order to demonstrate how to engage in negative apologetics he interacts with the problem of evil that is frequently brought against Christianity. In this chapter we are also provided with another example of how a Covenantal Apologist would interact with an atheist on the question of evil. In chapter 6 Oliphint explains the attitude that we should have as we interact with unbelievers, and seek to persuade them of the truth of Christianity. We are given a example of these principles through a fictitious conversation between a Covenant Apologist and Daniel Dennett. He finishes with a discussion of plausibility and possibility, and the question of how competent one must be to engage a person in conversation. In the final chapter Oliphint seeks to show how a Covenant Apologist would engage a religious person and seek to persuade them of the truth of Christianity. After providing a number of principles for discussion, Oliphint gives an example of how a conversation might go between a muslim and a Covenant Apologist.
This book is written to render Van Tillian Presuppositionalism accessible, and to show how it can be put into practice. It seems that the intended audience would be lay-people who have no training in apologetics, however, this book will be useful for students in a Bachelor program, and of interest for scholars engaged in apologetics, as it is the most accessible explanation, in a relatively easy to read format, of Presuppositional Apologetics. It is well structured into chapters and subdivisions making it easy to follow. In each chapter he provides examples of how he would put his principles into action. There is an interesting Foreward written by William Edgar. The book includes a bibliography, a general index, and a scripture index which allow the researcher to easily find important quotations and discussions of key subjects.
Oliphint provides interesting discussions of many important areas of apologetics. He constantly reminds the reader Christian apologetics is primarily Christian - that is, what we are seeking to show is that Christianity is true. As such, all Christian apologetics needs to take account of the Christian perception of the world, and remain founded in the Bible. His discussion, and application to Christian Apologetics, of the three parts of the Aristotelian understanding of rhetoric will be of interest to all budding apologists.
Some things to keep in mind as we read this book are, first of all, Oliphint presupposes the truth of the reformed understanding of scripture. He notes in the introduction that "The biblical and theological principles that will be laid out below belong, historically, to the theology that gained its greatest clarity during the time of the Reformation.(p. 30)" Furthermore, Oliphint notes, "Our entire discussion will assume that Reformed theology is the best and most consistent expression of the Christian faith. (p. 30)" We are frequently reminded of this fact as the book progresses. We are reminded that the foundational claims for presuppositional apologetics are grounded in the notion of total depravity, and the other elements of the Calvinist TULIP. One gets the impression that presuppositionalism is so tied to Calvinism that if one rejects the basic interpretation of scriptures that are advanced by Calvinism, then one must also reject presuppositionalism. (In fact, it seems that if Total Depravity, as described by traditional Calvinistic theology, is false, then Presuppositionalism is necessarily false. (Even though it still provides us with numerous important insights into how to interact with people who do not Ã¢â¬Ëunderstand' the world in the same way that we do.)) This, of course, is not strictly true (though Calvinism seems to be the only coherent theological position that a thinker can accept, if that thinker wishes to maintain presuppositionalism, and the traditional Christian faith) as presuppositionalism is an essentially post-modern philosophy that finds its roots in thinkers such as Martin Heidegger and his followers, who claim that all of humanity interprets the world, necessarily, from their particular perspective.
The primary main difficulty with this book is that Oliphint does not clearly define any of the most important and most used terms in this book, such as "know", "knowledge", "exist", "existence", "nature", "essence", "truth", "real", "freedom", "rational", "attribute", or "character". Yet he consistently uses these terms to talk about man's knowledge of God, of this world, of what is real, of man's nature, God's essence, etc. The fact that these terms are undefined, yet used in many ways that are obviously different, leaves the attentive reader with the impression (whether it is true or not) that Oliphint is guilty of constant equivocation, ambiguous claims(See, for example, pp.74, 84, 169, 185.), and self-contradiction(See, for example, his claim on page 155, ÃÂ« It is certainly true, in other words, that God is the first cause, the necessary being on which all contingency depends, the designer of all that is, and so forth. But these truths can only be true if framed in terms of the real world, the world that God has condescended to make and control. ÃÂ»).
In spite of the difficulties that I see with this book, I would recommend this book as a great introduction to Presuppositional Apologetics. It is a pleasure to read, and much of what Oliphint has to say will be helpful to apologists of any stripe.
mojoTexasAge: 35-44Gender: male3 Stars Out Of 5A very heavy readSeptember 23, 2013mojoTexasAge: 35-44Gender: maleQuality: 4Value: 4Meets Expectations: 4K. Scott Oliphint is a Professor of Apologetics and Systematic Theology at Wesminster Theological Seminary and the author of the book "Covenantal Apologetics; principles and practice in defense of our faith."
By and large this book is a defense of Reformed covenantal apologetics. And if you didn't understand that last sentence, this book might be a big bite to swallow. Not only is this book aimed at reformed theologians, but it very weighty in both doctrine and language. Remember, the author is a seminary professor and I am sure that this book is now required reading in his classrooms. If you're looking for a lightweight book to help you share your faith with your friends - this book isn't it!
That said, if you are looking for something more and are interested in broadening your mind in the field of apologetics, this book might be for you.
1 Peter 3:15 says "In your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect." The author begins with this passage, and the idea that we should always "be ready" to share our faith.
The author begins on bedrock - the bible and speaks to the bible's authority and accuracy. He then stands on scripture with the argument that its words are true and therefore Christ's words are true. Therefore - if Christianity is true, this contradicts all other forms of faith and thus renders them false. The author then argues that inherently each person knows God and desires a relationship with him, but the world and darkness and sin - hides that truth and keeps the unbeliever shrouded in what they perceive.
As a person who is "always prepared to give an answer" our job then is to pull the veil off of truth and to reveal it. To help others find the truth in scripture and the words of Christ.
I did like this book - it contains some great insight. Although out of school and no longer in an academic setting, I found myself drifting at times and terribly wishing for something lighter and a little more easier to read.
Thanks to Crossway Publishers for the complimentary review copy of this book in exchange for review.
JudeLondon, ONAge: 35-44Gender: male4 Stars Out Of 5A solid intro to Oliphint's apologeticAugust 22, 2013JudeLondon, ONAge: 35-44Gender: maleQuality: 4Value: 4Meets Expectations: 5Book Review - Covenantal Apologetics
Since reading his exceptional book on God's condescension, God With Us, I have been compelled to get my hands on and read all of Scott Oliphint's material. I have finished several of his other books and have others in queue. And for this reason-a desire to become familiar with all of Oliphint's writings-I have been eagerly anticipating his 2013 offering, Covenantal Apologetics: Principles and Practice in Defense of Our Faith. I have now crossed this book off my "to read" list and gladly endorse it.
Oliphint sets out two main goals for this book: "to lay out the primary biblical and theological principles that must be part of any covenantal defense of Christianity and then to demonstrate how these principles might be applied against certain objections" (29-30). As the book's subtitle suggests, this work is about the principles and practice of covenantal apologetics.
In the first chapter Oliphint lays out some key concepts and ideas as he introduces his self-named approach to apologetics. He indicates immediately that there is a conflict which all humans participate in and as Christians we are called to the task of "defending and commending the truth of Christianity" (32-3). We are to defend and commend the Christian truth which is the only true and real perspective available to humans. Oliphint introduces covenantal apologetics by looking at ideas around God's aseity, His condescension, covenant, sin, and humanity's innate knowledge of God and our suppression of that knowledge. Perhaps the most important content in this book comes in this chapter with Oliphint revealing the Ten Tenets of covenantal apologetics. Oliphint delivers these crucial tenets and effectively explains them. This first chapter does a thorough job of demonstrating the author's apologetic approach.
The second chapter expounds on ideas integral to this defense of Christianity that were introduced in the first chapter. Oliphint discusses the transcendent otherness of God and God's condescension in creating and relating to creation (He is excellent on these topics_as good as or better than anyone I have read). Oliphint then moves from principles to practice and gives two examples where we can see this defense in action. He also considers two foundational tactics; undermining erroneous presuppositions (non-Christian) and reinforcing true presuppositions (Christian).
Chapter three attempts to clarify how the ten tenets of Oliphint's apologetic relate to proofs for arguments by elaborating on the principles themselves and locating them in some historical debates. His analysis of Paul's address to the Athenians in Acts 17 is enlightening and enjoyable. He presents what it means to prove things in general and to prove the existence of God in particular. And he demonstrates how this might work with actual recorded discussions between a humanist and a Christian. The discussion is evaluated and then reconfigured from the Christian's perspective in a manner that is more aligned with Oliphint's own approach. These examples are very helpful in bringing clarity.
Chapter four is an in-depth look at how we are to persuade others as we defend and commend our faith. This was a fascinating chapter that I thoroughly enjoyed reading and contemplating. Oliphint discusses the ethos of persuasion which is basically the persuader's character, the pathos of persuasion which involves an understanding of those being addressed, and finally the logos of persuasion which is the content in defense which is, of course, God's Word. This paradigm was new to me but I found it aptly explained and quite intriguing.
Chapters 5-7 are mostly concerned with the practice of this apologetic and in them we are given detailed examples of covenantal apologetics in action. Sometimes the imagined scenarios became quite complex, but I never felt lost or in the dark even though it was some intellectual work to get through. It is encouraging to see how this defense deals with some of the most difficult questions and attacks a Christian will face. Though the responses given in defense of Christianity might be largely beyond what the reader is presently capable of, they give a would-be apologist hope and direction.
This book was, as I said earlier, eagerly anticipated and it did not disappoint. It successfully delivers and defines the principles of covenantal apologetics and demonstrates how they could work in the real world. Oliphint brings clarity with his concise and accessible explanations and his examples are readable and relatable even if they are beyond what many of us are capable of. It is clear that Oliphint hopes that Covenantal Apologetics will be used by the Lord to help the reader generate "a holy, persuasive, gentle and respectful response to unbelief" (262). I believe his hope is not in vain. I definitely recommend this book.
I was given a copy of this book by the publisher for the purpose of review.
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