Book Review - Love, the Ultimate Apologetic
About the Author
Art Lindsley is senior fellow at the C. S. Lewis Institute in Springfield, Virginia. He is a conference and retreat speaker, and he has taught extensively at several theological seminaries. He is also ordained in the Evangelical Presbyterian Church. His books include True Truth, C. S. Lewis’s Case for Christ and Classical Apologetics, which Lindsley co-wrote with R. C. Sproul and John Gerstner. He and his wife, Connie, partner in a teaching and discipleship ministry (Oasis) based in the Washington, DC area.
Apologetics, from the Greek word απολογία (apologia), means to make a defense. There are countless Christian books on apologetics. Many reside on bookshelves in my home. This book is a little different from the rest. Lindsley takes an approach that I have heard in passing but never really grasped until reading this book. His approach is “the apologetic of love.” The author got the idea for the book when traveling in Eastern Europe and Russia where he was speaking on cults and world religions.
Lindsley takes a unique approach in the book by beginning and ending each chapter with a fictional group that meets for seven weeks in a coffee shop to discuss love and what makes Jesus Christ’s teaching about love unique. The group includes John, who leads the group and is Christian; Mike, who is also a follower of Christ; and Annette, a young woman who has started going to church with her live-in boyfriend. If this not enough variety for you, the group also includes Julia, who committed to a blend of Eastern religions and New Age beliefs; and, finally, Simon, the atheist. This fictional sub-story keeps the reader intrigued and allows him to see how others may react to the apologetic of love.
An important premise of the book is that an atheist and pantheist find it difficult, if not impossible, to discover an adequate basis for love. This leads to one of the things I felt was lacking in the book. The book touches on the New Age and some of the Eastern religions, but does nothing to address Islam, the Jewish faith, etc. Lindsley acknowledges this deficiency in the book by stating he can only take the time to focus on materialism and pantheism. I hope he has plans for a future book that will address these other beliefs.
Lindsley says, “Practically speaking, love does not grow automatically. It requires following a path that is clearly marked. Love requires commitment, character, conscience, community and courage” (p. 26). From this statement the rest of the book flows.
How Will They Know
Chapter one (or week one if you are putting yourself in the shoes of the fictional characters) focuses on the question, “How will the world know we are Christians?” As Jesus said in John 13:34-35 “A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another. By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another” (KJV). Lindsley does a good job of pointing out relevant passages in each of the chapters.
Love and Commitment
In chapter two, Lindsley discusses the fact that love requires commitment. He mentions that atheists have no reason to commit. There is no fixed point in atheism to judge what is right or wrong or what is just or unjust. He then quotes two postmodern philosophers, Jacques Derrida and Richard Rorty. For example, Lindsley states, “Another postmodern philosopher, Richard Rorty, gives up on belief in God and comes to the conclusion that there is ‘no neutral ground’ by which we can judge that the Holocaust was evil” (p. 36). On the other hand, Eastern religions tell us that there is nothing distinct from ourselves and “If there is nothing distinct from ourselves, how can we be committed to it?” (p. 38). So what makes Christianity different? “If we seek to love that which is highest, we must look to the one who is of infinite worth” (p. 42). Who is of infinite worth? Lindsley points to the Christian God who has created us and redeemed us.
Love and Conscience
Chapter three concerns the idea that loving is never sane apart from conscience. This is supported by the argument that atheism and New Age philosophy deny objective sin and guilt. Because of this lack of an objective standard, there is no way of knowing what forgiveness really is. “Without conscience, right becomes wrong and wrong, right. Love—and life—then become insane” (p. 76).
Love and Character
In chapter four, the author takes up love and character. Lindsley quotes the classic saying, “Sow a thought, reap an act. Sow an act, reap a habit. Sow a habit, reap a character. Sow a character, reap a destiny” (p. 97). As mentioned in chapter two, there are no clear character guidelines in atheistic or New Age philosophy. One of Lindsley’s observations in this chapter really made me think: “You can trust someone only to the degree of the person’s character that is revealed in whomever they treat most poorly” (p. 104).
Love and Community
How do love and community come together? That is the topic of chapter five. Lindsley brings up the communities that started up in the ‘60s which were supposed to be all about peace and love. There was a problem though. The focus of love was more inward than outward. Eventually problems would arise, and the communities would break apart. Again, where others have no unchanging principles, Christians have the mandate for forgiveness lacking in these other worldviews.
Love and Courage
One of the last matters Lindsley discusses is love and courage. He says, “Neither atheism nor pantheism has any substantive basic for hope in the future, and thus no specific resources to foster courage” (p. 153).
The final chapter basically summarizes the previous six.
In summary I found Love, The Ultimate Apologetic to be a worthwhile read—especially for those who are interested in apologetics but have not looked deeply into the idea of Christian love serving as an apologetic toward unbelievers. The book is a quick read at 162 pages. The closing pages include a list of books that will help readers learn more about the worldviews of those represented in the book. As for what happened to the members of the fictional study group—you’ll have to read the book to find that out!
Matthew Christensen is a support and I.T. professional for a software company in Bloomington, Minnesota. He is married to Christa, and they have a son named Malachi. They attend and volunteer at Fourth Baptist Church (Plymouth, MN).