3 “Apologetic” Highlights

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So, I’m involved in a “Thinktank Event” for an apologetics organization, and one aspect of this event is to read and respond to the recent book edited by Sean McDowell titled, A New Kind of Apologist. This book review is a way to get me started… My three favorite chapters in this book were the following:

  • Chapter 6 by Dan Kimball titled, “‘Don’t Blame Us, It’s in the Bible’ – Understanding New Strategies for Shaking Up the Faith of New Generations.” In this chapter Dan talks about the importance of going beyond “good worship bands and even loving churches” and challenges us to listen to how our friends are processing the “troubling” passages of Scripture. Part of this process includes helping readers to read well – and to notice the context of what they are reading. He illustrates this masterfully in his “Mary Poppins” example on page 72. He writes,

“Mary Poppins is a wonderful movie about a caring, magical nanny who helps a dysfunctional family. Mary is kind and loving and everyone loves her. But I saw a fascinating movie clip where someone took short scenes from Mary Poppins and arranged them out of context. A scene of a group of nannies being blown away as Mary looks out sternly through a window at them. A boy being sucked into a closet and the doors shutting a sMary stares at him. A girl being sucked up into a chimney. Children running in fear. The clip ends with the words, “Scary Mary” and then the line, “Hide your children.” Someone who had never seen the whole Mary Poppins might assume it’s a horror film.” 

Similarly, taking bits of the Bible out of context paints an altogether different narrative than the true one of the God of compassion who is slow to anger and abounding in love.” 

2. Chapter 7 by Jeff Myers titled, “Shepherd is a Verb – The Role of Relational Mentoring in Communicating Truth.” Perhaps I’m biased to this chapter as I recently read another book on this topic, or because I’m a Pastor. Nevertheless, I loved this chapter because I felt the tone was perfectly humble. Myers quotes professor Linda Hill from Harvard Business School who said, “A leader is like a shepherd…He stays behind the flock, letting the nimble go out ahead, whereupon the others follow, not realizing all along that they are being directed from behind.” Similarly, “shepherding leaders guide and nurture with a light touch that helps their followers conquer timidity and live out their design more fully” (79).

He doesn’t want us leaders to make the Christian life sound easy by teaching a “gospel devoid of a context of social struggle.” He believes, “those I’m influencing have to struggle. They have to watch ME struggle. Growth happens when we walk with one another in our struggles” (80).

As he has thought about influence, leadership and what it takes to facilitate true faith growth, he has a takeaway:

“Academic training piles up kindling; personal life-on-life influence lights the match. Apologetics training is invaluable for this generation, but transformation takes place when that truth is experienced in relationship.” 

3. My **favorite** chapter in the book was by Matthew Anderson – “Why We Should Love Questions More than Answers.” His thesis is fairly simple. I’d summarize it as:

  1. We are all looking for an intellectual home
  2. Questions are the means by which we travel
  3. We should care about the means of travel, not just the intellectual destination.
  4. We shouldn’t just care about other peoples’ questions, we should continually ask questions ourselves. This is in and of itself an effective apologetic.

Essentially: questions are important, and we should love to ask them, and love when people ask them.

After all,

  • “a question reveals more than what a person thinks, though; it also exposes the person’s attitude.” (150)
  • “questions are windows into what people want…the question is an expression of desire” (150)
  • “We must be Christians first and apologists second, which means our intellectual lives must be primarily shaped by seeking to understand the faith we live within rather than debating, disputing or even persuading those who do not believe it” (151)
  • “What we win people with is what we will win them to.” (151)
  • “Somewhat paradoxically, the method of answering the objections and questions from skeptics actually risks undermining their discipleship if they become Christians, as it can convey that having a satisfactory resolution to every question is a necessary criterion to believe. But who among apologists has achieved such a blessed state? The whole joy of Christianity is that it provides answers that keep the questions alive, deepening them and renewing them so that its adherences can go on seeking deeper understandings of the world forever” (152)
  • “Apologists should be more familiar with questions than any other tool in their rhetorical toolbox” because “questions are invitations to conversations. An apologist who only has answers is playing chess without a queen.” (153)
  • “The point of questions is to understand what the other person is saying and to help the other person understand what they are saying.” (154)
  • “Questions are among our most widely used forms of speech” (154).

And on and on it goes. This chapter was very affirming for me – such a delight to read! Matthew Anderson is such a gift to the church!

Other particularly helpful chapters in my mind were Chapter 8 by Brett Kunkle who recommends our training be similar to a classical education model, Chapter 10 by Holly Ordway as she discusses the value of storytelling for Apologetics. I’m particularly intrigued by her dissertation in the value of imagination in all of this – will look into her more as my post-graduate degree is in this area as well. And last but not least, Scott Smith’s Chapter titled, “The Scientific Naturalist Juggernaut and What to Do about it” presents a succinct explanation and “history of” the western naturalistic worldview and as such is very helpful.

 

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