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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Great introduction to Christian apologetics
This book is an excellent introduction to apologetics. 'Apologetics aims to convert believers into thinkers, and thinkers into believers', (p.11), is one of McGrath's precise descriptions on this subject that offers a clear understanding of what apologetics aims to accomplish.

Since we now live in an age where the antagonists of the Christian faith are no...
Published 10 months ago by Dele Oke

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17 of 37 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars "The gospel according to C S Lewis" - an atheist review of Mere Apologetics
`Mere Apologetics' is written with Alister McGrath's customary grace and charm. It's an interesting insight into the industry and psychology of Christian apologetics. I was struck, however, by the number of references to C. S. Lewis compared to Jesus. Jesus, astonishingly, doesn't appear in the index. There are a few references to him in the text but Lewis appears on...
Published on 15 Jan 2012 by Mr. D. J. Warden


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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Great introduction to Christian apologetics, 8 Nov 2013
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This book is an excellent introduction to apologetics. 'Apologetics aims to convert believers into thinkers, and thinkers into believers', (p.11), is one of McGrath's precise descriptions on this subject that offers a clear understanding of what apologetics aims to accomplish.

Since we now live in an age where the antagonists of the Christian faith are no longer content on deriding the faith but actually want to dismantle it, the need for good apologetics is as urgent as ever.

McGrath points out that apologetics has nothing to do with 'saying sorry about something' but rather comes from the Greek word 'apologia' which means 'defense'. We find the term in 1 Peter 3:15 '... Always prepared to give an answer [apologia] to everyone who asks you to give the reason [logos] for the hope that you have...'(NIV).

Apologetics relevance is not just that it defends the faith, but it also aids the believer in understanding the gospel much more deeply, as we enrich our minds (Matt 22:37; Rom. 12.2).

Apologetics involves defending, commending and translating the Christian faith. McGrath stresses that apologetics is not evangelism, and is inadequate without it (p. 23).

The issues someone engaged in apologetics will face depends very much on the culture within which he or she is operating. In Western Europe the main challenge the apologist faces is whether God actually exists. This is closely followed by questions on why does God allow suffering.

McGrath is not a proponent of offering stock answers to common questions, as several other Christian apologists do. While he obviously appreciates the need to be prepared with answers, he advocates that it is essential we
1. Understand the faith
2. Understand the audience
3. Communicate with clarity
4. Find points of contact
5. Present the whole question.
6. Practice, practice, practice (p.35 - 38), if we are to be effective apologists.

The rest of the book engages with these issues and I will summarise a few of them here briefly.

Understand the faith.
When it comes to understanding the faith it is helpful to see what the cross has accomplished - the forgiveness of our sins (the past 1 Cor. 15.3), continuous victory over sin (the present Heb 2.14-15), brings healing to broken and wounded humanity (hope to individuals Mal. 4.2; Isa 53.4-5), and demonstrates the love of God for humanity (God's nature John 3.16, 1John 4.8).

Understand the audience.
The gospel has to be made relevant and understandable to the audience it is confronted with. This is crucial to an effective apologetic presentation. McGrath takes examples from Acts 2 - Peter speaking to Jewish audience; Acts 17 - Peter speaking to Greeks at Athens. Here he illustrates how the gospel was made relevant with examples native to the audience, yet did not compromise the integrity of the Gospel. He also used Acts 24 - 26 where Paul used legal speech with the Romans. McGrath uses this to establish three principles that can be applied to apologetic presentations. 1.
Address the specific audience. 2. identify and deal with the main authorities or views they consider important. 3. Use an approach of communication and words they can identify with.

The main task of the apologist is to show that Christianity is reasonable. It aims to remove the hindrance from people accepting that Christianity is a valid way. McGrath quotes many historical and academic sources to argue his case, sometimes it feels like too many, (page 71-78). (Bearing in mind that McGrath is a scholar at the top of his field, and used to much more in-depth scholarly writing, one can understand how so many references got into a book tailored for popular reading).

McGrath often reiterates throughout the book that while 'conversion is ultimately the task of evangelism. Apologetics is about preparing the way for such a conversion by showing that it makes sense to believe in God.' (p. 78).

In pursuing the issue of the reasonableness of Christianity McGrath points out that in the late 19th century scientist tended to think that the universe had always existed. In the 20th century it became increasing clear that the universe actually came into being at what is now called the big band (p.64). This shifted the ground in favour of a designer.

McGrath provides, what he calls, clues to the existence of God that could be used by an apologist in discussion with an atheist. These are
1. The origin of the universe
2. Fine tuning - a universe designed for life
3. The structure of the physical world - the fact that the world is rationally understandable points to a rational designer with a mind. Someone in whose image we are created, hence we can comprehend his work. The 'reason within' - the rational mind, and the reason without - the logical structure in the universe, point to the mind of a creator – God (p. 102).
4. Morality - a longing for justice. As human beings created in the image of God we reflect, however dimly due to the fall, the nature of God.
5. Desire - a homing instinct for God. Here he quotes Augustine 'You have made us for yourself, and our hearts are restless until they find rest in you (Augustine confessions l.i.1) (p.109).
6. Beauty - the splendour of the natural world. (My note - it is incredible that random chance and nature can be credited by some to have produced something as elegant as this world).
7. Rationality - God as a person.
8. Eternity - the intuition of Hope
Throughout the book Mcgrath lays emphasis on how apologetics differs from evangelism. Apologetics begins the conversation, evangelism brings it to its conclusion (p.123).
Apologetics is about building bridges, allowing people to cross from the world they already know to the one they need to discover.

He offers some helpful tips to doing apologetics
1. Be gracious when discussing with none Christians.
2. Discover what is the real question.
3. Don't give pre-packaged answers to honest questions.
4. Learn from other apologists – such as William Lane Craig, Peter Kreeft, Ravi Zacharias and in true to form as a humble Irish man he neglects to mention himself - Alister McGrath. You can find excellent debates involving all these four fine apologists on youtube.

Considering why does God allows suffering, a common and pertinent question often posed by people, McGrath advises to identify whether the person is looking for an answer to deal with the emotions of it - how do I cope, or to get an understanding of it intellectually - why does it happen.
The emotional prompted question means the person may have experienced suffering personally and needs comfort and assurance rather than a deep intellectual and abstract answer. The ‘why does it happen question’ however would benefit from an intellectual answer (talk about fallen mankind and sin in the world).

I hope this brief summary has given you a taste of what you are likely to get from this book. Well worth reading.
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Alister Edgar McGrath is a British Irish theologian, priest, intellectual historian and Christian apologist, currently Professor of Theology, Ministry, and Education at Kings College London and Head of the Centre for Theology, Religion and Culture (Wikipedia).
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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Engaging and persuasive, 16 Jan 2012
This review is from: Mere Apologetics: How To Help Seekers And Skeptics Find Faith (Paperback)
McGrath brings scholarship to bear on the question, "How can normal Christians talk to normal non-Christians?" And the answer that he gives is superb. He is drawing on the conceptual analysis of CS Lewis, I think, but he has updated Lewis' apologetic approach for this moment in history. I believe that Lewis would love this contribution and that this should be at the top of your wish list if you want to engage with the people around you about the big questions of life and faith.

Some may fault this book for not being an analytic philosophy of religion text - I noticed another reviewer did so. But that is just like faulting tennis for not being chess. It just seems opportunistic and closed minded. The same review also alleges a 'controlling strategy' is employed, and I suspect this is because flaws in human nature or feeling are described. This is just ridiculous as a line of criticism; since you can point out a hole in the bottom of the boat, and suggest a solution, without asking that someone accepts the solution because they see the hole - even if it also happens to be true that they should - preferably as quickly as possible!

I would encourage you to buy two, you will want to give one of these away. It is a timely book that urges an integrated apologetic approach, that is drawn from wells of experience and academic learning and research. Enjoy!
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4.0 out of 5 stars Useful in a Post-Modern Era, 12 Sep 2014
We all want others to know the Christian faith but so often we do not know how to do it. Not only has our world largely forgotten the faith, it often does not want to know or is even antagonistic to it. We fear being challenged about some obscure area of faith, or being rejected out of hand. Mere Apologetics is a book designed to help us. [NB Apologetics is not apologising, but ‘persuading people that Christianity makes sense’ (p71), from the Greek word apologia = defence.]
Alister McGrath does this not by providing set answers to the kind of questions people ask, but by helping us see for ourselves what is reasonable about our faith and encouraging to explain all this, especially with the use of our own personal stories. These stories have a weight in this post-modern era that they did not have in the days when Mere Christianity by CS Lewis was written. (That book you may have read years ago and this book pays homage to it, hence the title). We are urged to offer our faith not from a position of arrogant knowledge but more in the manner of one beggar showing another beggar where to get bread.
Alister gives us a series of pointers to faith, which are not proofs, but aspects of the world which can be viewed as sympathetic to a belief in God, such as the nature of creation, a longing for justice and a homing instinct for God – three times he shares this quote from Augustine of Hippo “you have made us for yourself, and our hearts are restless until they find their rest in you.”
For many the Christian faith is like a black box, all mystery inside. Alister helps us see there are four doors that can open this box: explanation, argument, personal story and images, and these are to be used in some measure depending on the audience - the good news for a teenage Maori gang member will be different from the good news for an elderly pakeha widow.
The book is a little technical for readers not used to books of theology, and whilst angled towards those who might speak in public about their faith, it can easily be used in a one-to-one situation that most of us find ourselves in.
The book comes from a generally conservative Christian stable, but its approach can be used by anyone on the Christian spectrum; “never give an answer to a question that doesn’t satisfy you in the first place” (p159), is maybe at the heart of this book and applies to all of us.
If nothing else the book should stimulate readers into thinking about their faith and about how they could communicate it to others without either feeling inadequate or bombastic. If it does that it should help us convey what we believe to a world that actually, and possibly strangely, would like to know.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent resource for Christians who want to give a reason for why they believe, 28 Mar 2013
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This review is from: Mere Apologetics: How To Help Seekers And Skeptics Find Faith (Paperback)
I bought this for the course on apologetics I'm running after Easter - I will recommend it as the course book.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Does the job!, 12 Jan 2014
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Mr. J. C. Birch (Wales) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Mere Apologetics: How To Help Seekers And Skeptics Find Faith (Paperback)
As always with Alister McGrath he sets out with a clear vision of what he wants to say and does it well. Lots of useful pointers for any preacher, outreach worker, evangelist or in fact anyone who regularly shares matters of faith or gets into discussion with others about Christianity. Buy it!
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5.0 out of 5 stars A useful guide to thoughtful and intelligent defence of faith., 22 Sep 2013
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This review is from: Mere Apologetics: How To Help Seekers And Skeptics Find Faith (Paperback)
A practical guide to becoming more skilled at conversations in defence of Biblical Christian belief. It will be useful as a reference as well, without being prescriptive as far as learned argument. Rather it is a guide to using thought in developing approaches to different people and different situations that are comfortable and appropriate to the individual. Certainly this book will encourage you to be brave and have a go.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Table d'hote of apologetics, 29 May 2013
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I. T. Turner (South Wales, UK.) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Mere Apologetics: How To Help Seekers And Skeptics Find Faith (Paperback)
In this book Alastair McGrath writes with his usual grace and aplomb. Reasons he provides to show that theism offers better explanations for phenomena in the natural world, including those found within ourselves, are well-articulated and convincing. He updates Lewis by addressing challenges to the Christian faith from post-modernism. I am pleased to learn of his involvement as director of The Centre for Christian Apologetics. This important aspect in the proclamation of the gospel has long been neglected by churches of every denomination. However, as increasing numbers of its students graduate their impact within and beyond churches may be incalculable. Nonetheless, I'm not sure if gracious, reasonable advocates for Christianity will be given space in the media to express a differing worldview from that of raucous atheists. Moders viewers and readers, it appears, prefer vulgarity to graciousness.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Incredible, 25 April 2013
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Informed, inspiring, easy to read, exceptional responses and a great overview to 2000 years of apologetics and who best to use them today.
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17 of 37 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars "The gospel according to C S Lewis" - an atheist review of Mere Apologetics, 15 Jan 2012
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Mr. D. J. Warden "David Warden" (Bournemouth, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Mere Apologetics: How To Help Seekers And Skeptics Find Faith (Paperback)
`Mere Apologetics' is written with Alister McGrath's customary grace and charm. It's an interesting insight into the industry and psychology of Christian apologetics. I was struck, however, by the number of references to C. S. Lewis compared to Jesus. Jesus, astonishingly, doesn't appear in the index. There are a few references to him in the text but Lewis appears on nearly every page. It would not be too difficult to make the case that McGrath's preferred gospel is the gospel according to C. S. Lewis rather than the gospel according to Jesus. Jesus' `kingdom of God', arguably, is about the transformation of this life but McGrath's emphasis is on being translated from this world, which he compares to Plato's carceral cave, into a Narnian heaven of infinite truth, beauty and goodness. McGrath complains that the atheist vision of life is bleak but what could be bleaker than the Christian perception of human life as imprisonment in a cave of mere shadows? McGrath grumbles about the transience of life but for the atheist this is what gives life its special edge and savour. Christianity offers a cure but only for a psychological disease which it enthusiastically cultivates in its victims. It has to convince people they are sick in order to increase the appeal of its saving gnosis. Every apologetic work I have seen adopts this controlling strategy. Atheists, rather in the style of Jesus, prefer to say to people `You're well, you're OK'.

McGrath gets into a philosophical muddle when he argues that belief in God is like belief in justice, neither of which can be proved but both of which are reasonable. This is obviously wrong. God is not a mere abstract concept like justice. We know that justice has no ontological existence but it doesn't need to `exist' in this sense. But the ontological existence of God does need to be established in some sense for the Christian claim to have a relationship with him to be meaningful.

I agree that both atheism and Christianity are `grand narratives', neither of which can be conclusively proved. Both are `working hypotheses'. But it seems to me that the hiddenness of God is a severe difficulty for Christianity. The fact that God remains hidden, except for what McGrath discerns as `clues' to his existence, is what gives atheism its prima facie justification. McGrath's clues include the Big Bang, fine tuning, the rational intelligibility of the universe, the existence of objective moral values, the human experience of emptiness and yearning, the splendour of the natural world, and the transience of life. Each one of these demands extensive commentary but let me pick just one - the assertion that theism guarantees the `objectivity' of morality. This argument is refuted by the obvious cultural relativism of morality when comparing biblical culture and modern culture. The Bible has no particular problem with concubinage, stoning and slavery. Martin Luther had no problem with vicious anti-Semitism. John Calvin had no problem with setting light to heretics. Yet today's Christians would be horrified by all such practices. The `objectivity' of morality turns out to be a chimera.

Perhaps the saddest passage in McGrath's book is this: "We are not meant to be here. This is not our homeland. We really belong somewhere else". What a tragic, impoverished vision of human life, whether God-given or not. I'm not even sure it qualifies as Christianity. It sounds more like a version of Gnosticism.
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2 of 7 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars A disappointing ramble, 27 Nov 2013
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I left Christianity two years ago after forty years of being an active member in the church. I had gradually come to the view that there is just no evidence to support a belief in God. Faith - that is belief without evidence - just isn't enough. I am comfortable with regarding myself as an atheist, however I hope I will always have an open mind generous enough to consider what Christians have to say to recommend their faith to other people. I have read several of McGrath's books, which have generally confirmed the rightness of my decision to leave Christianity, but this is in my view the worst one. The title (with a nod to C.S. Lewis Mere Christianity)is misleading, it would be reasonable to expect that there was going to be a fair amount of the book devoted to covering what McGrath sees as evidence/reasons for belief, but this is confined to one short chapter. The major part of the book is devoted to doing apologetics,encouraging potential apologists,and encouraging the faithful. This book is of no use to anyone looking for a reasoned defence of Christianity.
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Mere Apologetics: How To Help Seekers And Skeptics Find Faith
Mere Apologetics: How To Help Seekers And Skeptics Find Faith by Alister E. Mcgrath (Paperback - 1 Jan 2012)
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