McManis believes that the five traditional apologetical approaches (classical, evidential, cumulative case, Reformed and presuppositional) make major mistakes. Each approach attempts to defend the Christian faith by largely ignoring the Bible and offering philosophical answers instead. Even presuppositionism, with which McManis identifies, tends to be mostly philosophical rather than biblical. Therefore the author provides a sixth view which he calls “biblical apologetics.” He writes, “In the following pages I propose that apologetics needs to be explained from a biblical perspective, not a philosophical one” (p.28). He defines biblical apologetics as the “biblical mandate for every Christian to advance and defend the gospel of Jesus Christ…exposing and subjecting all contrary beliefs to Christ’s revelations as found in Scripture” (p.29).
Throughout the book McManis exposes in great detail what he sees as flaws in the five major apologetical views, offering numerous quotes from key apologetics within each system. He especially dislikes natural theology to which he devotes a long chapter (72 pages). Natural theology “is the practice of philosophically reflecting on the existence and nature of God independent of divine revelation or Scripture; thoughts about God developed through discursive reasoning and ratiocination without the contribution of the Bible (pp. 141-142).
One of the primary weaknesses of traditional apologists is they ignore the effects of sin, depravity, and spiritual blindness. Thus they attempt to pre-evangelize the lost (something the author rejects) through use of philosophical arguments and logic, rather than through Scripture, which is God’s means of creating faith and belief (pp. 255-295). Unfortunately this philosophical approach has deep roots going all the way back to Justin Martyr and continuing to the present (pp. 293-369). However McManis believes both Luther and Calvin rejected philosophical apologetics and held views similar his (pp. 343-358). They, like McManis, drew their apologetical views from Scripture and took Romans 10:17-18 seriously (pp. 389-418). Faith does not spring from reason and logic but is a gift from God and a by-product of special revelation (pp. 424-429).
The author does not totally reject evidences, but sees them as means of helping and edifying the saints rather than tools to convince unbelievers (p. 453-456). And since many today see the problem of evil and pain as the major obstacle to the Christian God, McManis devotes chapter ten to explaining that evil is not a problem for God, and that He allows it for His own purposes (pp. 479, 489). However, many traditional apologists today are denying the historical fall of man and McManis believes that the historicity of Christianity cannot be maintained if we reject the historicity of the Genesis account (pp. 494-495).
The final chapter is devoted to the importance of the gospel in apologetics. Sadly most apologists ignore the gospel in their systems and seldom address 1 Corinthians 15:1-4. Not only does McManis carefully exegete this central passage, he also offers five essentials of the gospel (pp. 552-574) as found in the New Testament.
Biblical Apologetics could use some editing. While it approaches 700 pages the print is unusually large and spacing between the lines too much, making it difficult to read. There is some redundancy that could be eliminated as well as several colloquialisms. With such editing the actual pages may be reduced by half. This aside, the volume deserves a place at the apologetic table. I believe McManis is on target. He has taken presuppositional apologetics and added a needed biblical foundation. I hope this book is read and absorbed by many.
Biblical Apologetics, Advancing and Defending the Gospel of Christ by Clifford B. McManis (Xlibris Corporation, 2012) 634pp. paper $23.99
Reviewed by Gary E. Gilley, Pastor-teacher, Southern View Chapel