Saturday, July 26, 2008

Book Review: Testing Christianity’s Truth Claims by Gordon Lewis

Testing Christianity’s Truth Claims: Approaches to Christian Apologetics by Gordon Lewis is a somewhat hard-to-find but excellent book dealing with apologetics and apologetic methodology. It could be compared with Norman Geisler’s Christian Apologetics in that it seeks to evaluate the various ways of testing truth claims and then presents its own best solution.

The first chapter happens to be one of the best defenses, or cases, for apologetics that can be found. In fact Geisler himself seemed to use chapter one as an outline in speaking about the need for apologetics at an apologetics conference. Gordon Lewis lays an excellent Biblical and rational foundation for the need for apologetics.

The book is structured so that each chapter presents an apologetic methodology espoused by a particular Christian apologist. The author introduces each apologist, presents their basic methodology, shows how that methodology tests for truth, shows how each apologist defended Christianity, and then shows how that methodology answers Flew’s “invisible gardener” metaphor. Following each summary is a critical evaluation of the shortcomings and strengths of each system.

The book examines the following methodologies: pure empiricism, rational empiricism, rationalism, Biblical authoritarianism, mysticism, and the verificational approach. J. Oliver Buswell, Jr. uses observable evidence to test Christianity’s truth claims. Stuart Hackett seeks to prove that the human mind has some “built-in” principles that make valid conclusions certain. He also uses objective evidence like Buswell. Gordon Clark starts his thinking by assuming the existence of God and the truth of the Bible. From that presupposition he builds rationally. Cornelius Van Til also comes to the table with the presupposition that the triune God of Christianity exists. He argues that without this presupposition, all facts about reality become unintelligible. A form of Christian mysticism is used by Earl E. Barrett. His approach relies heavily on internal and immediate experience of God Himself.

One chapter is spent on each of the above apologists. However, when the author comes to Edward John Carnell’s verificational approach, he spends four chapters expounding on a different facet of the verificational method. Obviously, this is the system that the author prefers, and he makes his case for this method well. The verificational approach of Edward J. Carnell treats Christianity’s truth claims as hypotheses to be verified by man’s total experience. This hypothesis must account for all internal and external experience. It seeks consistency, adequacy, and satisfying values. In addition to this, Carnell expands the scope to include man’s relevant psychological needs and ethical considerations. Christianity alone resolves man’s total moral situation.

As a whole, Testing Christianity’s Truth Claims is a first-rate book that examines the very starting point of our apologetic. Certainly, each approach has its merits and weaknesses. This book can serve as a useful tool for the student to evaluate the core challenges facing the Christian apologist.


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