First Peter 3:15 states, “But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear.” Apologetics is the formal study of how we are to “give an answer.”
William Edgar and K. Scott Oliphint, professors of apologetics at Westminster Theological Seminary, have done a great service to the Church in compiling a collection of writings from the New Testament era to AD 1500. This collection shows how writers from different eras, facing different challenges, have sought to defend the faith.
The volume here reviewed is the first of what originally was to be a two-volume set, and has 486 pages plus an 11-page index. In communications with someone working on volume two, I learned that the volume had grown to over 1,000 pages, and there is a possibility they will split the material from AD 1500 to the present into two volumes. If the second volume is of the same quality as the first, I hope that no material will be deleted in an attempt to limit the series to two volumes.
Making an anthology is like carving a statue. The editors, like the sculptor, must make many decisions regarding what to include and what to chisel away. In my judgment, Edgar and Oliphint have made very good—and in one case surprisingly good—selections from the material available. This book provides an excellent introduction to how believers have fought for the faith against pagans and atheists as well as against heretics and false religions.
The book begins with an excellent introduction to the overall project, providing both a short review of the state of apologetics today and the criteria for making the selections included. The editors state, “The twentieth century saw both significant development in apologetics and a measure of decline.” (p. 1) They cite the “onslaught of the Enlightenment, followed by Romanticism” (p. 2) as making both reason and faith independent of Scripture, calling for a need to develop new ways to explain our hope to the world around us. In our day, when many now associate taking religion seriously with violence, there are new challenges as well.