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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
on 8 November 2013
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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15 of 17 people found the following review helpful
on 16 January 2012
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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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 22 April 2015
This book has definitely given me food for thought. It's very well written, setting out various styles of apologetics and explains how to construct & pitch answers suitable to your audience and where they're coming from.

My only criticism would be that much of the book is quite "wordy" and meant I had to re-read certain passages to grasp the meaning. I also needed to look a few words up but maybe that shows more about me than the book!

I would highly recommend this book to anyone wishing to learn more about the art and science of Christian apologetics.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 12 January 2014
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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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 25 April 2013
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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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 12 September 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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on 25 January 2015
Good stuff.
Allows for the complexity and variety of human nature as it interacts with the simplicity and complexity of faith.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 28 March 2013
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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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 29 May 2013
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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on 22 March 2015
Great product good price
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