Sunday, November 2, 2008

Review: No Doubt About It

Good introductory books on Christian apologetics are somewhat scarce. Excellent resources on the subject are even more difficult to locate. No Doubt About It: The Case for Christianity by Winfried Corduan (B&H, 1997) falls into the latter category, making it one of my favorite introductory apologetics books.

Although it is sometimes used in conjunction with introductory apologetics courses at the undergraduate and graduate levels, No Doubt About It is accessible enough for high school age and above. It is a particularly excellent introduction to apologetics for the adult layperson with little or no exposure to the rational defense of Christianity.

Consisting of thirteen chapters, Corduan covers a broad range of subjects including "Faith, Reason, and Doubt"; "Truth, Knowledge, and Relativism"; two chapters on the rudiments of knowledge (epistemology), with one of them devoted to testing worldviews; "The Existence of God"; "God and Evil"; "Miracles"; the New Testament; Christ, and more.

Corduan's writing style is inviting, but also scholarly enough to be thought provoking to the layperson while also serving as a helpful refresher to more experienced apologists.

I particularly enjoy the vignettes that Corduan uses to open and close each chapter. These are short descriptions of actual apologetic encounters that offer some objection or different perspective on an apologetic issue. The bulk of each chapter then addresses topics relevant to the vignettes, closing with Corduan's description of how the encounters concluded.

The vignettes are not only absorbing and often entertaining, they demonstrate apologetics on a practical, down to earth level -- something that too many other apologetics books fail to address. Apologetics is about more than knowing arguments and counterarguments. As I've noted before, the reasonable and relational are both important to the defense of the faith.

For example, the chapter on "Faith, Reason, and Doubt" opens with three vignettes, the first of which follows:

"My class in world religions was on its annual visit to a synagogue. We were listening spellbound as a young woman named Tina told of her spiritual pilgrimage and her decision to convert to Reform Judaism. She had grown up in a Christian church. As a child, she had made a profession of faith. When she became a teenager, she started to raise questions about what she believed. Is Christ really God? Does the Trinity make sense? What can we as modern people believe to be true? Her pastor had told her that she should not ask such questions. He said that it was wrong to doubt and she should simply believe what she had been taught to believe. Now she was abandoning Christianity for good."

Ouch. Unfortunately, this kind of attitude on the part of Christians is all too prevalent, particularly in an often anti-intellectual church climate in which apologetics is either unheard of or viewed with suspicion.

Fortunately, Corduan does not shy away from these kinds of objections and vignettes, but instead uses them as launching points for further discussion. In his closing response to the above vignette, for instance, he writes in part, "People who have genuine heartfelt questions are not helped by making them feel 'guilty' of their doubts."

Each chapter also includes thoughtful questions and a list of further resources for study.

I do take issue, however, with the title, though this is more of a quibble than a serious objection to the contents of the book. "No Doubt About It" makes it sound as though the Christian worldview is 100 percent certain, leaving no room for doubt, when, in fact, as even Corduan grants in the above vignette response, there is room for some doubt (but we do have good answers and responses to doubt). Nevertheless, I do grant that Christianity is the best explanation of reality, with the fewest problems.

Overall, No Doubt About It provides an excellent introduction to apologetics. It is also a useful refresher for seasoned apologists. No introductory apologetics book can cover every conceivable aspect of the topic, as by definition an introduction is not exhaustive. But Corduan's work establishes a solid apologetics foundation.


david said...

This was one of the first apologetic books I encountered - a very solid introduction. I liked how he devoted a chapter to historiography, which is something most apologetic book leave untouched.

I'm just curious of your opinion about presuppositional apologetics? Its funny since Corduan isn't presup., but his book title would be gladly affirmed by followers of Van Til and Gordon Clark.

Robert Velarde said...

Corduan's book Neighboring Faiths is also great as an introduction to world religions from a Christian perspective.

I am not a presuppositionalist, but more of a classical apologist who also incorporates other apologetic methodologies such as aspects of evidentialism. I offer, for instance, theistic arguments, historical evidences, reasonable lines of argumentation, etc.

I'd rather not get into critiques of presuppositionalism, as I view this as a family squabble within Christianity concerning apologetic methodologies.

For an intro to various apologetic positions see books such as Faith Has Its Reasons (revised edition), Testing Christianity's Truth Claims, and Five Views on Apologetics, as well as primary source material by apologists who hold to distinctive methodologies.

Martin LaBar said...

Thanks for the tip.