Saturday, September 11, 2010

Book Review: Faith Has Its Reasons: An Integrative Approach to Defending Christianity by Kenneth Boa & Robert Bowman

Faith Has Its Reasons: Integrative Approaches to Defending the Christian FaithFaith Has Its Reasons: An Integrative Approach to Defending Christianity by Kenneth Boa & Robert Bowman is an apologetics handbook weighing in at over 600 pages. The book contains twenty-three chapters. The authors systematically define apologetics, outline a brief history of apologetics, and then do an in-depth survey of five categories of apologetic methodology. A full inspection of all the contents of this book is beyond the scope of this review, which will aim simply to outline the Boa and Bowman’s content and judge the book’s overall usefulness.

First Boa and Bowman define apologetics, its related terms, and functions. This is something most apologetics books do, but the authors provide a chapter defining apologetics that stands head and shoulders over most, due to their clear style and thorough treatment. The authors then offer a brief history of apologetics that covers the New Testament, Early Church Fathers, Augustine, Aquinas, Anselm, and the Reformation, closing with a discussion of modern apologetics.

Before going into the real meat of their book, the authors lay out the core foundation in chapter three, as they explain what they see as four main types of apologetic systems: Classical, Evidentialist, Reformed, and Fideist apologetics. They also explore two sets of questions. First, what they call metapologetic questions. These are “foundational questions about the stance apologetics should take toward human knowledge and experience.” (39) Second, they look at apologetic questions, which are “the most common questions or objections that non-Christians (or Christians dealing with doubt or confusion) raise to the Christian truth claim.” (39) These questions are the core of the book because each of the apologetic systems they have outlined are evaluated according to these metaopologetic and apologetic questions.

Some of the metapologetic questions are: On what basis do we argue that Christianity is the truth? What is the relationship between apologetics and theology? Should apologetics engage in philosophical defense of the Christian faith? Can science be used to defend the Christian faith? (40-42) Each system answers these questions in some way. Some of the apologetic questions are: Why should we believe the Bible? Don’t all religions lead to God? How do we know that God exists? If God exists, why does he permit evil? Why should I believe what Christians claim about Jesus? (42-44)

Boa and Bowman now begin their exposition of apologetic methodologies by dedicating four chapters to each of the systems. So each methodology has its own section, split into chapters. They dedicate a chapter in each section to discussing the primary apologists who emphasize that method, along with their unique approaches. In addition, the metapologetic questions are dealt with before moving on to showing how each apologetic system typically approaches the standard apologetic questions. Then, each methodology is demonstrated or illustrated by means of a faux dialogue between the apologist, a skeptic, and a Hindu. These dialogues show the method in action. Finally, the strengths and weaknesses of each methodology are assessed, along with some common areas of conflict with the other methods.

In Part Six: Integrative Approaches to Apologetics, Boa and Bowman explore a number of apologists who incorporate elements from each of the different approaches. They “integrate” elements from the different methodologies: “Typically, these apologists integrate two or more approaches by expanding one approach to absorb elements (usually not the whole) of the others.” (481) This is also the approach that Boa and Bowman favor, as they point out: “We suggest that this practice of expanding or enriching one apologetic approach by incorporating elements of other approaches is just what apologists should do.” (481)

In this reviewer’s assessment, Faith Has Its Reasons makes an extremely useful apologetics textbook, ideal for students of the discipline. First, Boa and Bowman not only discuss the full landscape of apologetic approaches, but they also introduce the reader to the leading thinkers within each approach. In addition to this, they offer thorough “additional reading” recommendations at the end of each chapter, making this a perfect starting point for further study. Second, the authors offer what seems to be a very objective assessment of each approach, not showing noticeable favoritism to any one method (beyond their admission at the end that they favor an integrative approach). So this book is not a competition between rival approaches; rather, it is a guided tour of a wide panorama by authors who clearly value the contributions of each approach. Finally, it is hard to find a book like this in size, scope, and completeness. Faith Has Its Reasons is arguably the best book on apologetic methodology available to date and a must-own textbook for serious apologetics students.

Kenneth Boa & Robert Bowman, Faith Has Its Reasons: An Integrative Approach to Defending Christianity (Waynesboro, GA: Authentic Publishing, 2005).


Glenn said...

Thanks for the book review, Brian. Did they happen to say in the beginning of the book what has changed from the first edition to the second edition? I have the first and just wanted to know if there were any dramatic changes. Thanks.

Brian said...


It says that the second edition has been "thoroughly updated," and in other respects revised. They have drawn on more recent publications wherever possible, and made note of recent studies pertaining to apologetics.

They also mention taking into consideration some insightful criticisms from 1st edition reviewers.

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