Apologetics means to defend the faith which, obviously, implies conflict. But is the ultimate goal of apologetics to win the battle? If we can come up with airtight, ironclad reasons to believe, will we have succeeded as apologists? Will we have succeeded as Christians? What if there was another way?
John Stackhouse is convinced there is. Early in his apologetic career, he realized he was heading toward becoming a victorious apologist, in the sense of winning every battle. But, more importantly, he realized that winning every battle was likely to make him less like Jesus, the one he thought he was defending. And in the end, that was unacceptable, for if we do not exhibit the character of Christ when we defend Him and the faith he represents, then we are doing more harm than good.
So what does that mean for apologetics? This book is a cogent attempt to answer that question. Stackhouse displays a wonderful ability to understand the current cultural situation, which is balanced by his ability to express the Christian faith to that culture. His insights on our contemporary world, and the effects of postmodernism and consumerism on it, are intelligent and articulate, and his suggestion that Christianity really does have something to offer will encourage all believers. His idea of humble apologetics, of modeling the character of Christ and offering His shalom to all, Christian and non-Christian alike, is not new, but it does bear the promise and potential of great effectiveness.
Stackhouse looks at three major issues confronting the Christian apologist in our contemporary world. He discusses the challenges we face, what conversion is and how it should affect apologetics and how best to communicate what we have been entrusted with. His proposal is an interesting conglomeration of friendship evangelism, agapē love, and apologetics. He calls us to understand our culture, and to know how to speak to it effectively, but he also calls us to care, to offer in any way we can, God's shalom to all people ("I have become all things to all men, so that I may by all means save some" 1 Cor 9:22b).
Is it still possible, in an age of religious and cultural pluralism, to engage in Christian apologetics? How can one urge one's faith on others when such a gesture is typically regarded with suspicion, if not outright resentment?
In Humble Apologetics John G. Stackhouse brings his wide experience as a historian, philosopher, journalist, and theologian to these important questions and offers surprising--and reassuring--answers. Stackhouse begins by acknowledging the real impediments to Christian testimony in North America today and to other faiths in modern societies around the world. He shows how pluralism, postmodernism, skepticism, and a host of other factors create a cultural milieu resistant to the Christian message. And he shows how the arrogance or dogmatism of apologists themselves can alienate rather than attract potential converts. Indeed, Stackhouse argues that the crucial experience of conversion cannot be compelled; all the apologist can do is lead another to the point where an actual encounter with Jesus can take place. Finally, he shows how displaying an attitude of humility, instead of merely trying to win religious arguments, will help believers offer their neighbors the gift of Christ's love.
Drawing on the author's personal experience and written with an engaging directness and an unassuming nature, Humble Apologetics provides sound guidance on how to share Christian faith in a postmodern world.
John G. Stackhouse, Jr. is Professor of Religious Studies at Crandall University in New Brunswick, Canada. His previous book, Can God Be Trusted?: Faith and the Challenge of Evil (OUP, 1998) was named one of Christianity Today's books of the year.
"This book is an aplolgetics that has internalized the legitimate concerns of postmodernity, religious relativism, and human freedom, and thus manages to reveal apologetics not as the theological blunderbuss that it once was, but as a loving engagement with people, driven by a desire to share belief, not overwhelm the opposition." --Religious Studies Review