Christianity, in western culture, is experiencing an ever increasing hostility. In America, we give lip service to religious freedom, but would prefer that it remain out of the public square. Yet, as followers of Christ, we are called to be salt and light, ambassadors for Christ in both our private and public lives. For this reason, it is crucial for all believers to be ready to make a defense for the hope of the gospel (2 Peter 3:15). One of the biggest champions for the Christian faith in twentieth into the twenty-first century was the late R. C. Sproul. Throughout his ministry, Sproul was a vocal defender of the faith mainly through books, articles and teaching series. Thankfully, his legacy still continues through Ligonier Ministries. In 2003, Sproul published a brief, yet very adequate primer on apologetics titled Defending Your Faith: An Introduction to Apologetics. In 2018, the year after Sproul’s death, Crossway re-published the book with a new cover.
In the first section of the book, Sproul provides an introduction to the subject of apologetics: a defense of the Christian faith. He bases his premise on the biblical mandate of 2 Peter 3:15, which says, “But in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you: yet do it with gentleness and respect” (ESV). Sproul points out at that Christians throughout Church history, starting with the early church, have always had to be prepared to defend the faith. As long as there is a critique of Christianity, believers are called upon to provide a defense of the faith. Yet, as Sproul states, the task of apologetics is not merely to win an argument, but the purpose is to win the person to Christ.
In the second section, Sproul sets the ground rules for the discussion based on the four principles of knowledge. These are: (1) the law of noncontradiction, (2) the law of causality, (3) the basic reliability of sense perception, and (4) the analogical use of language. Each of these are important to understand as it relates to apologetics, because each of these have been a point of attack from opponents to Christianity. Sproul points out that if believers concede ground on any one of these principles, it is then easier for the opponent to gain the higher ground.
As it pertains to apologetics proper, Sproul only takes on two main points of discussion: the existence of God and the authority of Scripture. He argues that these two points make up the majority of Christian apologetics and if we can show someone these two aspects of the Christian faith are reasonable, then it is easier to persuade them on other points of difference. In discussing the existence of God, Sproul briefly touches on three of the traditional arguments namely the ontological, cosmological, and the teleological. He spends most of this section, however, addressing the position of agnostics and atheists, which are that God is an illusion, the universe happened by chance, and that it came about of its own volition. To each of these points he pokes holes in the argument and makes the case for a self-existent creator. He then discusses the moral argument, proposed by Kant. Sproul points out that this argument is very compelling because morality does not make sense without God.
The last section of the book discusses the authority of Scripture. This was the part of the book that I felt could have been expounded more. Sproul spends the majority of the section discussing the Bible’s validity based on the testimony of Jesus and the Apostle’s. However, I think that more time could have also been spent on the external proofs of the Bible, as discussed by Josh McDowell in his classic book Evidence that Demands a Verdict. The manuscript evidence for both the Old and New Testaments far exceeds that of other ancient texts and philosophical figures. While this does not prove the Bible’s divine origin, it does validate its reliability in that there are many manuscripts to which we can compare with minor differences. This evidence is very compelling and could have been discussed further in the book, rather than simply mentioned.
Defending Your Faith is a classic resource on apologetics. Although it is not officially, it can be considered a concise version of a more scholarly work by Sproul titled Classical Apologetics written with John Gerstner and Arthur Lindsley (Zondervan, 1984). That work not only provides an introduction to apologetics, but also provides a critique of presuppositional approach to apologetics. Defending Your Faith touches on some of the same points discussed in Classical Apologetics in a more approachable format. It does not, however, include the critique of presuppositional apologetics, which is more technical in nature.
I would highly recommend Defending Your Faith to all believers. As we live in a culture that is ever increasingly hostile to Christianity, this book provides some basic tools for engagement. For those who want to go deeper, it can serve as a launching point to more technical works like Classical Apologetics and others.
For a list of additional Apologetics resources click here.
Editor’s Note: I received this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.