A History of Apologetics Paperback – 1 Aug 2005
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"The historical information he gathers and his penetrating analyses of apologetic methods make this book an invaluable resource for Christian apologetics today."
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A HISTORY OF APOLOGETICS may be the only work available in English that surveys apologetics (that is the defense of the Christian faith) from the New Testament to contemporary times. Dulles treats both Catholic and Protestant thinkers, although the emphasis is on Catholic ones. For example, Calvin and Luther get a combined total of about five pages, which is the same as the eccentric Jesuit Pierre Teilhard de Chardin.
This emphasis is particularly noticeable when Dulles gets to contemporary Protestantism. Cornelius van Til and Gordon Clark are rather uncritically grouped together in spite of their legendary dustup in the 1940s. Neither gets nearly as much space of liberals such as Bultmann, Tillich and the brothers Neibuhr. For those who have been introduced to apologetics through studying orthodox Protestants, this part of the book will be a disappointment.
I was also surprised that Cardinal Dulles didn't discuss Eastern Orthodox thinkers. What about Berdyaev, or more recent thinkers such as Fr. Seraphim Rose or Nicholas Arseniev?
The above limitations shouldn't detract from the value of this work. The discussion of apologetic controversies in France from 1600-1800 is worth the price of the book.
I do not doubt that many readers will appreciated that Dulles does not approach inner-Christian polemic apologetics. Instead, he tries to retain a spirit of presenting it as a defense to the world and as a whole. History is littered with such polemic arguments between Protestants and Catholics, Catholics and Orthodox, etc. He does not deny that these exist but does not wish to even open that road up. He instead wants to outline the currents of thought in Christian apologetics to the world from various views.
The footnotes for the text are absolutely wonderful. The reader is given the chance to see many different sources to further their investigation of apologists of their choice. I think that the primary aim of this text is just that. It introduces the reader to the generalities of apologists throughout history and opens the door to deeper investigation.
Although it does seem that much of the East is not given heavy treatment, I cannot respond greatly to this, as I am not as familiar with the general currents of the Orthodox communities. Nevertheless, when it is possible, Dulles does speak of eastern theologians. Perhaps the role of Eastern theology since the break in the West would be helpful. It seems that Dulles concentrates on Protestant and Catholic apologetics only after that point.
Overall, I suggest this text as a great introduction to the history of Christian apologetics. It provides a full picture from which the reader can proceed to further reflection.
I grew more in knowledge about how apologetic waves changed and took on a new mode during/after reformation and enlightenment and modern period. I would not suggest to read this book if you looking to learn about different methods of apologetic or even theology. Read it to learn about the different waves in the history of apologetic/theology in the last 2000 yrs beginning with the times of our Lord and the blessed apostles.