This is a full version of the Pocket Handbook for Christian Apologetics written by the same authors. Recently updated with a fresh new cover, it doesn't appear that much else changed. Yet this has been considered a classic on the subject since its publication back in 1994. Used extensively in Campus ministries, and in both Catholic and Evangelical traditions, this book is very unique. This book used to be required reading for Campus Crusade for Christ Staff in Canada, and because it is an Intervarsity Press book, is used widely in that campus ministry also. Even the Navigators of Canada Resource center always keeps it in stock.
With such wide usage and varied acclaim, this book hardly even needs more of a plug. But it is truly a treasure. It answers hundreds of questions crucial to a deep understanding of Christianity and the claims of Christ. It tackles such large issues as: Do faith and reason conflict? Does God exist? Is the bible myth? Was Jesus more than a man? How can God allow evil to exist? Is there life after death? Miracles? And there are many more.
The sections of the book are:
· Part 1: Introduction
· Part 2: God
· Part 3: God & Nature
· Part 4: God & Grace
· Part 5: God & Glory
· Part 6: Conclusions
The chapters are nearly the same as the Pocket Handbook, and it also contains an extensive bibliography, scriptural index and subject index. These two indexes make the book great as a quick reference guide or for research purposes.
This book will become indispensable in your Christian toolbox. It is a valuable resource and well worth reading through, then going back to again and again. It will give you all the basics of the Christian faith in one book that has all the answers you will need. Check it out. Like all of Kreeft's other works I have reviewed, I would have to highly recommend this book. And I doubt that you will have a complaint after you have worked through it.
on 1 September 2012
I bought this book and it is the best summary available of Christian apologetics. The book is a demonstration of how poor Christian apologetics is. Above all it shows how Christian thinkers and clergy intentionally mislead their flocks for they repeat arguments for their religion that have been refuted decades ago.
The book simply refuses to deal with or mention any point of view it cannot handle. The weakest argument against the resurrection, that Jesus swooned on the cross and was buried alive and got out of the tomb is selected for criticism. Those who use this theory assume the New Testament is inaccurate. The Christians assume the New Testament is accurate and they try to refute the argument based on that guess. Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. The Christians oppose that piece of commonsense. But surely they can't oppose the fact that if extraordinary claims are made it is no good to look at some of the angles but not all? To pick out a few objections to the resurrection as the Christians do is just plain manipulative. It is deceitful because if somebody was found guilty of murder when the jury refused to look at all the possibilities we would consider that jury unjust and deceitful. The doctrine of the resurrection of Jesus certainly calls on us to be selective with evidence.
What about the idea that the stone at the tomb of Jesus rolled back accidentally or due to earth tremors and the women stole the body?
The claim of the book in chapter 9 that the Bible - and theirs is the Catholic Bible which is more contradictory than the Protestant - is without error is simply a lie. The vast majority of scholars see errors in the Bible and these authors would agree for being Catholics they accept the books of Jonah, Tobit, Additions to Daniel and Judith as scripture. These books contain many errors - which is why Protestants don't recognise them as part of the Bible. Believers might say these books didn't err for they were only religious novels but the books give no such hint. In fact the handbook sees the stories of Adam and Eve and Jonah as so absurd that it says they are probably literary fictions (page 212). So if a book errs or is ridiculous it's a novel! What a cop-out!
The handbook says that God is infinite and a spirit. He is his own power, he is wisdom and he is mercy - literally but he is still a personal God. Infinite means that there is no power but God. But then we are told God made all things out of nothing - not even his power. He just used his power to make all things and this creation is not God but separate from him and just depends on him to stay in existence. As the Greeks noted centuries ago, this is absurd. It contradicts the infinity of God. It is no answer to say that it happened therefore though our minds tell us it's impossible it is possible. If it makes no sense how can we say we know what happened? If it could happen then anything could be impossible. Maybe your dog went back in time and made all things?
To say God made all things by his power is really to say he just ordered things to exist and they came into being. Nothing comes from nothing. God's power can't make things from nothing for there is nothing to work on. The power can't work on what cannot be changed or what is not there. The only hope is to say all things appeared at God's command but that implies that God didn't cause anything to exist. To command something but to do nothing to make it happen is implying that some other power is doing the making or that the thing is popping into existence uncaused. If you use your power to pour a jug that there is no water in your power won't be working for there is no water in the jug. The doctrine of creation defends only one idea: magic. It really denies God.
If there is a force making things out of nothing then it follows that the same force may be skewing scientific experiments. It may for example be tricking the microscopes. Science cannot consider anything as proven if something could be tampering. Creation is against science.
The handbook says we must love the sinner and hate the sin but interestingly says we cannot do it (page 127). But then it gets weird and says Jesus takes the sin to himself and separates it from the sinner enabling us to do so (page 128). This is nonsense. A sin is not a thing. Strictly speaking it is not something that a person does. It's more to do with what the person has become than an act. The act just expresses what the person has become. Love the sinner and hate the sin means love the person but hate the sinner. This shows how contradictory it is. It is hatred disguised as love - which is the most dangerous and sneakiest form of hatred.
No truly good person holds that it is the crime that matters not what the crime says about the person. Indeed it would be evil to condemn an action and risk upsetting the person if it is only the action that matters. Those who believe in love the sinner and hate the sin are worse than those who admit that to hate the sin is to hate the sinner. They do justice great harm and make a laughing stock of morality. While they claim to love the sinner they show intolerance to the person who judges the sinner and who demands justice! What hypocrites they are!
Hating the sin means you have to fear the sin and be angry with it. But to claim that you fear the sin but not the sinner and are angry with the sin not the sinner is so ridiculous that one should question your sanity. It shows the power of religious manipulation and conditioning. When the conditioning is that strong and that dangerous, religion should be opposed as full of harmful potential.
If we cannot love the sinner and hate the sin there can be no God for there is no force that cares about right and wrong. You can love and hate a person at the same time and some people want to kill their lovers out of hatred though they also love them. Suppose we hate our enemies. We love these enemies in the sense that it is because we value them that they are able to upset us. Hate was condemned by Christ but he sneaked it back in again with his love sinner and hate sin hypocrisy.
A God who treats sin as if the sinner had nothing to do with it is refusing to admit the dignity of the sinner as a responsible agent.
And a God who hates sin as if it were a thing and as if there was nothing personal about it might as well torment himself over a block of ice. His hate shows self-hatred for it ruins his happiness. Self-hatred makes you a threat to other people.
Traditional Christianity is not good news. It lies that it puts truth above all, and Jesus called himself the Truth. Yet it is marked by more concern for dogma than truth. And more concern for dogma than people. For example, do you really believe that if the Catholic Church saw that its contraception ban was bad for people that it would change it? Bigotry and arrogance are underneath it all. The Mass is more focused on teaching religious myths and says little about morality.
Christianity is not faith in Jesus at all. It is faith in what prophets and Churches say about him. Or those who do the interpreting to be more precise! The book says we all have original sin and original sin implies we are spiritually insane which is why we can choose Hell forever and not happiness with God (page 303). So we are expected to believe that this spiritual insanity is cured in baptism but what if it isn't? Then it follows that the Church is probably leading us astray. Also even if it is cured, the Church says the insanity is still there in some form and we can still go to Hell forever. If we are made insane by original sin, then how do we know that baptism really cures us? Perhaps our thinking it works is down to our insanity as well?
You need absolute proof before you can accuse anybody of being insane enough or bad enough to go to Hell as the book does. Otherwise you are just insulting that person. Jesus commanded we love our neighbour as ourselves and then made sure we would not be able to keep it with his doctrine of Hell, to name one, getting in the way. It is hardly love to believe that it is better for all the political systems of the world to disappear than for the Church to disappear for it is God's true Church. That is fanaticism.
The book deceitfully claims that God does not make Hell but that beings that turn against him do that (page 302). The book contradicts the Bible where Jesus says that the evil people will go to the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. So God prepared the fire. Obviously the devil and the angels wouldn't do it.
Page 31 says that Martin Luther and St Paul and the Catholic Church believe in salvation by faith alone if you take faith to mean a believing response to God in which you give him your love not mere belief. For Luther this response gave once for all salvation even if you fell many times into sin in the future you were still saved. Catholicism agrees but differs in that it believes in mortal sin which breaks the connection with God. Sins like heresy, idolatry and wilful sexual desire outside marriage are held to be mortal sins. The main point is ignored - Luther said you can be saved despite being an unrepentant sinner and Catholicism says different.
Page 65 says there is no proof for the truthfulness of the Christian religion from miracles. The evidence for God and his indicator of what the true religion is comes from the factors surrounding the miracle, its context. So it is not the miracle itself. It's the context. So if a statue of Abraham Lincoln starts bleeding supernaturally it is evidence for nothing. If a statue of Mary starts bleeding supernaturally it is a miracle showing that Mary should be honoured as the mother of God. Is this not rather arbitrary? It is like saying that if the sun eclipses in the twentieth century it is a sign from God and if it eclipses in the twenty-first it is not a sign from anybody. If miracles are so useless, reporting them is superstition not godliness. Anybody that doesn't want to provide justification for deceitfulness would say nothing. The authors of the book would cruelly support the pope for preferring a rapist to rape without a condom and the other terrible doctrines of their Roman Catholic Church with INSUFFICIENT EVIDENCE that God speaks through him or his Jesus. The resurrection of Jesus would prove that he was not a person to be respected as an exemplar and teacher if it really happened. He was a showman.
The book uses reason to back up faith. Now nobody can be blamed then if they come up with a different faith to the Catholicism of the authors for its all about what you think. But the book says that they can be blamed! So the reasonableness the book boasts of for Christianity is just a smokescreen.
The claim of the book that every argument that has come up against Christianity has been refuted (page 171) is boastful, insulting and patronising. The book adds that people disbelieve because they have reasons for rejecting him that have nothing to do with the arguments. Page 202 lists 5 reasons for unbelief. The reasons given are basically saying that unbelievers are just bad people. No suggestion is given that a person can reject Christianity because they are good people and the faith is not their cup of tea. The contrary is what is suggested. Christianity is an intolerant faith. If we are allowed to doubt that a doctrine really came from God and we are, it follows that this faith seeks power over minds in a way it is not entitled to.
When you read books like The Puzzle of Ethics by Vardy and Grosch, you see that Christianity's obsession with dogma is just criminal for it would be a full-time job trying to work out what really is moral and the time would be better spent on that than silly dogmatic books such as The Handbook. Answers to those things is far far more important. It is better to persuade a person that abortion is wrong if it is indeed wrong and there are hundreds of arguments that it is not wrong than to persuade a person that Jesus Christ rose from the dead.
The Handbook of Christian Apologetics is simply a pile of cosmetic intended to make it look like Christianity is worth believing in. That's all.