Book Review: Mere Apologetics by Alister E. McGrath

An Outstanding Primer on Apologetics to Post Moderns

What C.S. Lewis’ “Mere Christianity” was to “Moderns” this book is a very helpful primer in how to communicate and build foundational bridges of truth leading to the gospel in a postmodern context. Tim Keller’s book “The Reason for God” would be the 21st equivalent of Lewis’ aforementioned book – addressing post moderns, rather than moderns. In McGrath’s book we have a bridge building handbook of sorts in how to show post moderns that the Christian ship is safe to board and sail in troubled waters and land on islands of truth in this journey of life.

Dr. McGrath shows how apologetics has changed over the years, what remains the same, and what we can learn from the biblical and historical apologists as they have cogently articulated the faith in their own cultural milieus, as we seek to reach post moderns in the 21st century with the unchanging gospel. He makes an excellent case for the fact that we need many approaches as we address the differing mind-sets of those we encounter with the gospel – just as Jesus, Paul, Peter, Jonathan Edwards, and C.S. Lewis did in their times. He then gives numerous examples from our own times in how we can dialogue and build bridges with the “new atheists” and others to pave a way for the gospel.

Throughout the book McGrath weaves in and out of discussions applying the benefits of apologetics as a precursor to evangelism. Perhaps the best description of this aspect of the book is noted in chapter five where he writes, “Yet conversion is ultimately the task of evangelism. Apologetics is about preparing the way for such conversion by showing that it makes sense to believe in God. It’s about clearing away rubble and debris in the path of evangelism. We may not be able to prove—in the absolute sense of the word—that there is a God. But we can certainly show that it is entirely reasonable to believe that such a God exists, in that it makes more sense of life, history, and experience than anything else—and then we can invite someone to respond to this loving God and trust this God’s promises.”

McGrath has written cogently, concisely, and lovingly in this outstanding handbook of how we can build bridges with our hearers to pave a way for the gospel, and how we can do this successfully where God has placed us in an ever changing world of ideas, with a never changing gospel. I highly recommend this book as a resource that Christian apologists can benefit from for years to come with an amazing array of helpful examples of how to tackle the issues of our day defensively, offensively, and most importantly with gentleness and respect so that it may benefit our hearers and give them a reason for our hope in Christ.

Funny Story: Pastor On Salary By Faith

I heard about a pastor who candidated at a church and was called, provided that he lived by faith. He asked the six men on the committee what they meant by living by faith. What it meant was that he would have no stated salary but that he would simply trust God for his needs. The candidate made a suggestion that cost him the church: “Each of you men has a salary, so why don’t we put all of our salaries together, divide the total by seven and all of us can live by faith.” (God Isn’t In a Hurry, by Warren Wiersbe, p. 23)